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Sharing our stories on preparing for and responding to public health events
Updated: 2 days 14 hours ago

Preparing to quit: 10 tips to help you quit smoking

November 13, 2017 - 9:06am

Each year, on the third Thursday of November, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to quit during the Great American Smokeout. Most people who smoke want to quit, but they also know quitting is hard…it can take several attempts to succeed.

Here are some tips to help you quit for good:

  1.  Find Your Reason to Quit
    To get motivated, find your reason to quit. It may be to protect your family from secondhand smoke. Or to lower your chance of getting cancer, heart disease, or some other serious health condition. Find a reason that is strong enough to outweigh the urge to light up.
  2. Set a Date
    Once you’ve made the decision to quit, set a “quit date” within the next month. Most smokers have tried to quit before, and sometimes people get discouraged thinking about previous attempts. Instead, treat them as steps on the road to success. Learn from what worked and what didn’t work, and apply these the next time you try to quit.
  3. Medication can help
    Using nicotine replacement products (such as nicotine gum and nicotine patches) or FDA-approved, non-nicotine cessation medications can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and increase the likelihood that you will quit. Ask your doctor about what option is best for you.It’s more than just tossing your cigarettes out. Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nearly all smokers have some feelings of nicotine withdrawal when they try to quit. Knowing this will help you deal with withdrawal symptoms that can occur, such as bad moods and really wanting to smoke.
  4. You don’t have to quit alone
    Telling friends and family that you’re trying to quit and getting their support will help the process. Expert help is available from a number of groups. 1-800-QUIT-NOW offers free telephone support; and Smokefree.gov is an on-line resource. There’s even a quit smoking app for your phone! Check out CDC Tobacco Free on Facebook for on-line support.
  5. Be prepared for challenges
    The urge to smoke doesn’t last long – usually only 3 to 5 minutes, but those moments can feel intense. Before you quit, plan new ways to occupy your time. You can exercise to blow off steam, listen to your favorite music, connect with friends, treat yourself to a massage, or make time for a hobby. Try to avoid stressful situations during the first few weeks after you stop smoking.
  6. Clean house
    Once you’ve smoked your last cigarette, remove any triggers or things that remind you of smoking. For example, throw out all your ashtrays and lighters. Wash any clothes that smell like smoke, and clean your carpets, draperies, and upholstery. If you smoked in your car, clean it out, too. It is best not to see or smell anything that reminds you of smoking.
  7. Get moving
    Some research shows that being active can help ease some withdrawal symptoms. When you feel the urge to reach for a cigarette, get active – try a yoga class or put on your jogging shoes instead. And you can burn calories, too!
  8. Quitting can save money
    In addition to all the health benefits, one of the perks of giving up cigarettes is the money you will save. There are online calculators that can help figure out how much you will save.
  9. It’s never too late to quit
    As soon as you quit, your health can immediately start to improve. After only 20 minutes without smoking, your heart rate drops. Within 12 hours, your blood’s carbon monoxide level falls back to normal. In just two to three months, your chance of having a heart attack starts to go down. In the long run, you will also lower your chance of getting cancer and other serious diseases. While it’s best to quit smoking as early as possible, quitting at any age will improve the length and quality of your life.
  10. Try and try again
    Most people make several attempts before giving up cigarettes for good. If you slip, don’t get discouraged. Instead, think about what led to your relapse. Use it as an opportunity to step up your commitment to quitting. Think about what helped you during those previous tries and what you’ll do differently the next time. Above all, don’t give up.

Remember this good news!

More than half of all adult smokers have quit, and you can, too. Millions of people have learned to live without cigarettes. Quitting smoking is an important step you can take to protect your health and the health of your family.

Resources:

Everyone can be a flu vaccine advocate!

November 6, 2017 - 8:00am
Children, especially those younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications. The flu vaccine offers the best defense against getting the flu and spreading it to others.

With the holidays quickly approaching, there will be more opportunities to spend time with family and friends.  Now is the time to ensure that you and those around you are protected from flu. Now is the time to get your seasonal flu vaccine if you haven’t already gotten it. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.—so it’s  important to get vaccinated now, before the flu begins circulating in your community.

Whether you are a doctor, school nurse, grandchild, best friend, or coworker, you can play a role in reminding and encouraging  other people to get their flu vaccine. Get your flu shot and talk to others about the importance of everyone 6 months and older getting a flu shot every year.

Talking to Friends and Family about Flu Shots

Need some tips for talking about the importance of flu vaccine? CDC is a great source of information about the serious risk of flu illness and the benefits of flu vaccination, as well as information to correct myths about the flu vaccine. Below are several examples of the benefits of flu shots and corrections of common flu myths. Find out more about the benefits of getting your annual flu vaccine on CDC’s Vaccine Benefits webpage, here.

  • Flu can be a serious illness, even for otherwise healthy children and adults. While most people will recover from flu without complications, anyone can experience severe illness, hospitalization, or death. Therefore, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking serious illness for yourself or those around you.
  • The flu vaccine CANNOT give you the flu. Flu shots do NOT contain flu viruses that could infect you and cause flu illness. Flu shots either contain flu vaccines viruses that have been “inactivated” (or killed) and therefore are not infectious, or they do not contain any flu vaccine viruses at all (recombinant influenza vaccine).
  • Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu. Flu vaccines can reduce your risk of illness, hospitalization.
  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also help protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
Making a Flu Vaccine Recommendation to Your Patients Talking to patients about vaccines can be difficult. CDC has resources to help you make a strong flu vaccine recommendation.

For health care providers, CDC suggests using the SHARE method to make a strong vaccine recommendation and to provide important information to help patients make informed decisions about vaccinations. Remind patients that it is not too late for them to get vaccinated, and follow the SHARE strategies below:

  • S- SHARE the reasons why the influenza vaccine is right for the patient given his or her age, health status, lifestyle, occupation, or other risk factors.
  • H- HIGHLIGHT positive experiences with influenza vaccines (personal or in your practice), as appropriate, to reinforce the benefits and strengthen confidence in flu vaccination.
  • A- ADDRESS patient questions and any concerns about the influenza vaccine, including side effects, safety, and vaccine effectiveness in plain and understandable language.
  • R- REMIND patients that influenza vaccines protect them and their loves ones from serious flu illness and flu-related complications.
  • E- EXPLAIN the potential costs of getting the flu, including serious health effects, time lost (such as missing work or family obligations), and financial costs.

Be an advocate for flu vaccination. Get your flu vaccine and remind those around you to do the same! Visit www.cdc.gov/flu for more information and tips on flu vaccination and prevention.

Interested in learning more about flu? Check out other CDC Flu Blog-a-thon post throughout the week for personal stories, advice, and tips on flu and flu prevention. You can see all the participating blogs here: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/toolkit/blog-a-thon.htm.

Loving Someone With Epilepsy

November 1, 2017 - 10:08am

When Zayan first told me that he has epilepsy, I didn’t believe him.  “You mean seizures, right?”  I was embarrassed at how much I didn’t know.

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that triggers recurrent seizures. It can be caused by different conditions that affect a person’s brain. A person is diagnosed with epilepsy when they have had two or more seizures that are not caused by another medical condition such as a high fever or low blood sugar.

Zayan was thirteen years old when he had his first seizure in his school computer lab in Dhaka, Bangladesh. “The moments leading up to my seizure are hazy, but when I woke up in the hospital, my mind was wiped clean.  I didn’t recognize my own father, whose tear-strewn face was fixated on mine.  I couldn’t even remember how to talk.”

Zayan Shamayeen, 22, encourages others to not let an illness prevent them from reaching their full potential. Photo credit: Dear World

Following the incident, Zayan took a long break from school to seek medical care.  He was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, which is caused by an unknown factor that may be genetic. Epilepsy can be caused by different conditions, including stroke, brain tumor, brain infection, or traumatic brain injury. Zayan is one of the 60% of people where the cause of epilepsy is unknown.

Caring for someone during a seizure

As my friendship with Zayan grew, I became passionate about understanding how epilepsy impacted his daily life. One morning I witnessed a seizure suddenly take over his body and it was one of the most frightening moments we shared together. That experience made learning seizure first aid a priority for me so that I could take care of Zayan if and when he had another seizure.

If you know someone living with epilepsy, you might have to care for them during or after a seizure. The goal of seizure first aid is to keep the person safe until the seizure stops on its own. Stay with the person until the seizure ends and he or she is fully awake. After it ends, help the person sit in a safe place. Once they are alert and able to communicate, tell them what happened in very simple terms. Comfort the person and speak calmly.

You can take action to help someone during a seizure:

  • Ease the person to the floor.
  • Turn the person gently onto one side.  Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make it hard to breathe.
  • Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp to prevent injury.
  • Put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his or her head.
  • Remove eyeglasses.
  • Time the seizure.
  • Check to see if the person is wearing a medical bracelet or other emergency information.
  • Keep yourself and other people calm.

    Data Source: National and State Estimates of the Numbers of Adults and Children with Active Epilepsy — United States, 2015, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

Call 911 if…

  • The person has never had a seizure before.
  • The person has difficulty breathing or waking after the seizure.
  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • The person has another seizure soon after the first one.
  • The person is hurt during the seizure.
  • The seizure happens in water.
  • The person has a health condition like diabetes, heart disease, or is pregnant.

Knowing what NOT to do is also very important for keeping a person safe during or after a seizure. Never do any of the following things:

  • Do not hold the person down or try to stop his or her movements.
  • Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. This can injure teeth or the jaw. A person having a seizure cannot swallow his or her tongue.
  • Do not try to give mouth-to-mouth breaths (like CPR). People usually start breathing again on their own after a seizure.
  • Do not offer the person water or food until he or she is fully alert.
Supporting someone with epilepsy Zayan and me enjoying our visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee

After his first seizure, Zayan struggled to understand how epilepsy would affect his life – Can I still play soccer?  Will my friends still like me? Will my friends and family look down on me or look at me differently?  Will the cost of my medicines be a burden to my family?  Will I be a burden to my family?

The first medicine Zayan was prescribed helped his seizures, but caused a lot of side effects, including rapid weight gain. After finding a medicine that worked for him, Zayan spent years learning to overcome the medicine’s effect on his mood and relationships. He is grateful for the support he received and that those close to him were able to come to terms with his condition.

With the support of his family and friends, Zayan has learned to keep his seizures in check and lead a normal life.  Today he has aspirations to become a pharmaceutical researcher who finds effective treatment methods for coping with epilepsy.

Resources for family, friends, and caregivers

If you have a loved one with epilepsy you can:

  • Learn about epilepsy.
  • Learn seizure first aid.
  • Listen. Sometimes this is the best form of support.
  • Ask what you can do to help.

People who take care of someone with epilepsy should learn everything they can about the disorder, and the specific type of seizures their loved one has.  Caregivers can work with their loved one’s healthcare provider to learn about treatment options, manage medicine side effects, and address other medical conditions the person may have. Caregivers may also benefit from connecting to others in their community who also deal with epilepsy.

Learn more

Partner, Train, Respond: Increasing Global Emergency Management Capacity

October 30, 2017 - 8:43am

Countries in Africa are no strangers to major disease outbreaks that can result in illness and death of millions of people.  In the past two years alone the continent has experienced infectious disease outbreaks of cholera, meningitis, Ebola Virus Disease, Lassa fever, and Yellow fever, and other public health emergencies such as drought and famine.

Understanding the big picture Training participants from Zanzibar discuss the development of an emergency management program.

It is vitally important to have a big picture perspective on emergency management and response – if one country is not prepared for a public health emergency, then all the countries in the region are susceptible to public health threats that can easily cross borders and impact surrounding countries. This is where public health emergency management (PHEM) comes in. In-country PHEM capacities and systems can be strengthened to support global health security. When the workforce is trained, emergency management infrastructure is in place, and functional systems exist, a country is better positioned to execute a coordinated response that can mitigate risk and save lives.

CDC and other international partners support ongoing efforts to help countries across Africa build capacity in outbreak detection and response. This includes preventing avoidable epidemics, detecting public health threats early, and responding rapidly and effectively to outbreaks of international concern. CDC provides expertise in PHEM to train emergency management technicians, provide input on emergency management operations, and guide development of functional processes and systems for ministries of health around the globe.

Getting the workforce ready to respond

In August 2017, CDC spearheaded a 5-day PHEM workshop in partnership with the World Health Organization, the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and Public Health England.  The workshop brought together 55 emergency management staff members from across Africa to learn from experts in the field about how to enhance coordination and response capabilities of their country’s PHEM programs.

Participants came from seven countries – Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria – which all share common interests and challenges related to emergency response. The training focused on developing core principles in PHEM, including trained staff, physical infrastructure, and processes to run a fully functional Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC). The training highlighted best practices, but since many of the participants had first-hand accounts of responding to public health events in their own countries, they were encouraged to share experiences and network with their peers.

Sharing knowledge and expertise

Public health professionals who work in emergency response know that it’s important to build relationships before an incident so that during a response you work effectively and efficiently with partners. One participant noted that the “rich, valuable contributions from other people’s experiences to build upon what I already knew” was one of the most rewarding parts of the workshop.

The tabletop exercises at the end of the workshop emphasized the importance of information and idea sharing. Participants engaged in tabletop exercises that simulated a response to a Yellow Fever outbreak in northern Tanzania. Participants were divided into 7 teams: management, plans, logistics, operations, finance and administration, communication, and partners. Each team had a mix of participants from different countries.  Teams utilized information they had learned throughout the workshop to developed response products, including an organizational structure chart, objectives for the response, and an initial situation report. This exercise led to a robust conversation about different approaches to public health emergency response.

Seeing response in action Public Health Emergency Operations staff survey the scene after mudslides in Regent, Sierra Leone.

A highlight of the training was when Dr. Ally Nyanga, the Tanzania Ministry of Health PHEOC Manager and an alumni of the CDC Public Health Emergency Management Fellowship, took workshop participants on a tour of the Tanzania PHEOC, a small room on the third floor of the Ministry of Health building. Previously used as a storage area for the library, the 10 x 20 foot PHEOC is now an efficient space that staff can use when they respond to public health emergencies and outbreaks.  To date, Tanzania’s PHEOC has been activated to respond to widespread cases of Aflotoxicosis, a type of severe food poisoning, and cholera outbreaks in Tanzania.

While the workshop is over and participants have returned home, the work that they do to prepare for the next public health emergency is ongoing. The workshop highlighted some important takeaways – you do not need a big space and high-tech equipment to respond quickly and efficiently to a public health emergency.  Instead, coordination to share information, resources, and ideas is vital to a successful emergency response, both in-country and across an entire region.

Learn more

Halloween Rules of the Road

October 27, 2017 - 9:35am

Halloween is an exciting time for kids and adults – the delight of dressing up in a fun costume, all of the spooky decorations, and of course let’s not forget the candy. Traditionally, kids trick-or-treat at night – going house-to-house in their costumes. On average, children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Children are at greater risk of injury than adults because they are small, have trouble judging distances and speeds, and have little to no experience with traffic rules.

On the Trick-or-Treat trail?

As a parent or caregiver, there are a few important things you can do to protect your trick-or-treaters on the Halloween trail.

  • Light the way. Bring glow sticks or a flashlight with extra batteries so your trick-or-treater can see (and be seen) in the dark.
  • Be visible. Put reflective tape on clothes, costumes, and trick-or-treat bags so your trick-or-treater can be seen by passing motorists.
  • Use the crosswalk. Cross the street at a crosswalk or intersection. Never cross the street from between parked cars and don’t assume you have the right-of-way.
  • Stay on the sidewalk. If available, use the sidewalk. Otherwise walk on the shoulder facing traffic.
  • Pay attention. Distracted walking can be as hazardous as distracted driving so watch where you are going.
  • Review traffic safety. Talk to your trick-or-treater about basic traffic laws before leaving the house.
Driving on Halloween?
  • Remove distractions. Put your phone in the glovebox or the back seat.
  • Practice defensive driving. Be cautious and stay alert to reduce your risk of getting into a crash. Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
  • Watch your speed. Pay attention to the speed limit and drive slower when you are around pedestrians.
  • Be prepared to stop. Trick-or-treaters may ignore crosswalks and traffic signals so stay alert. Do not pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk – they may be stopped for a pedestrian.
  • Do not drive under the influence. Every 51 minutes, one person in the United States dies in a motor vehicle crash that involves an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Properly buckle kids no matter how short the trip. Properly buckling children in their car seats, booster seats, and seat belts when transporting them and making sure that their costumes don’t interfere with them being properly buckled.
Learn more Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Building the Future Preparedness and Response Workforce

October 23, 2017 - 11:38am

 When I think about public health preparedness and response I ask myself three questions:
  • Who provides the infrastructure to train public health responders?
  • Where do they learn what they know?
  • Who helps a responder fulfill their mission?

The answers to these questions may rest in the TRAIN Learning Network (TRAIN). After the September 11th terrorist attacks, public health departments needed a way to track the preparedness-related training of professionals in their state, region, or locality. TRAIN was established in 2003 to offer a solution to the tracking challenge and help train the next generation of the public health workforce.

This network IS the track on which the trains run (pun intended)! If we equip responders with as many skills and as much knowledge as possible before an incident, we can expect:

  • Increased expertise during a response,
  • Just-in-time training that is more readily available,
  • Quicker response and recovery efforts, and
  • Greater resilience.
What is TRAIN?

TRAIN is a national learning network of agencies and organizations that deliver, track, and share trainings for professionals who protect and improve the public’s health. The network identifies, develops, and promotes opportunities for professionals to build their skills and knowledge.

TRAIN is an open platform, meaning that anyone, anywhere can access the training. Learners have access to thousands of health knowledge and skill-related courses. An emergency management specialist at a state health department can take courses in other disciplines or topic areas with content that is curated by the CDC or another partner in the network.

Learners are able to search TRAIN for courses that are tagged with PHEP Capabilities or PHPR Core Competencies. You can register as a learner through your state’s TRAIN affiliate or through CDC TRAIN.

How does TRAIN work?

TRAIN is a collaboration between 27 state health agencies and partners, as well as 3 federal partners – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Veterans Health Administration, and Medical Reserve Corps – who serve as TRAIN Learning Network affiliates. More than a thousand CDC-developed learning opportunities are available to all the registered learners in the TRAIN network.

TRAIN affiliates operate branded online portals, which allow them to:

  • Identify specific groups of learners for targeted courses or training plans
  • Monitor training and completion of specific groups of learners, including the use of custom reports
  • Partner on training with state, tribal, local, territorial, national, and international providers

Meanwhile, organizations that provide training, including other government agencies, academic institutions, and nongovernmental organizations can:

  • Assign training to a specific group of learners and monitor their progress towards completion
  • Test knowledge and collect feedback, develop custom curricula, and access course data

The TRAIN approach fosters collaboration, saves cost by reducing duplication, and reaches learners across jurisdictional lines. This ensures that together, we can train the entire workforce with all the tools at our collective disposal.

Get more information

If you have additional questions, please send an email to training@PHF.org.