News and Events Archive - 4th Quarter 2010

December 28, 2010

-- Eighth Annual "Ready or Not?" Report --

The eighth annual "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism" report was recently released, and the findings show continued improvement for preparedness.

The report, produced by Trust For America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), found that 14 states scored nine or higher on 10 key indicators of public health preparedness. Three states (Arkansas, North Dakota, and Washington State) scored 10 out of 10, 25 states and Washington, D.C. scored in the 7 to 8 range, and no state scored lower than a five.

The improved scores were attributed to increased efforts to prevent, identify and contain new disease outbreaks, bioterrorism threats and natural disasters, as well as real-world experiences during the H1N1 flu pandemic.

These scores mark continued improvement over the last ten years, but the report also finds that the progress is being threatened by severe budget cuts in public health staffing by federal, state and local governments. Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C. cut public health funding from fiscal years (FY) 2008-09 to 2009-10, with 18 of these states cutting funding for the second year in a row.

Other findings from the report that show areas for improvement include:

  • Seven states cannot currently share data electronically with health care providers;

  • 10 states do not have an electronic syndromic surveillance system that can report and exchange information to rapidly detect disease outbreaks;

  • Half of states do not mandate all licensed child care facilities have a multi-hazard written evacuation and relocation plan;

  • Only four states report not having enough staffing capacity to work five, 12-hour days for six to eight weeks in response to an infectious disease outbreak, such as novel influenza A H1N1

The full report, including individual scores for each state, can be viewed courtesy of TFAH and RWJF.


December 21, 2010

-- Be Prepared and Safe for Winter Weather and the Holidays --

With the holidays and cold weather fast approaching, it's the time of the year when you and your family should make sure that you are prepared for an emergency. Already, the nation has seen heavy rain in the Southwest and sleet and snow storms in the Midwest.

In addition to the usual supplies in your emergency toolkit, it's important to add winter-specific items such as rock salt to melt ice on driveways and walkways, sand to improve traction, snow shovels and other equipment to remove snow and adequate clothing and blankets to stay warm in the event of an emergency.

Winter driving can also be hazardous; it's important to make sure your vehicle has been checked out to ensure your safety during the winter months. Some important items to look over include the antifreeze levels, brakes, and the heater and defroster. Depending on the area of the country you live in, putting snow tires on your vehicle may be important as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also announced its annual holiday drunk driving crackdown. According to NHTSA, there were 10,839 people killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2009, including 753 in December alone.

The agency would like to remind everyone to please use a designated driver or call a taxi if you've been drinking. By calling #Taxi (#8294), you can skip busy signals and be connected to the first cab company in your area.


December 14, 2010

-- CDC Vaccination Data on Adults Released --

Coming on the heels of last week's National Influenza Vaccination Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2009 adult vaccination survey is shedding light on the vaccination habits of adults.

The National Health Interview Survey tracks the influenza immunization rates of adults 19 years and older, and compares them to the 2008 data. The survey found that, although influenza vaccination rates improved in adults from 2008, the number of adults getting vaccinated still falls short of the Healthy People 2010 goals.

Estimations from the survey also found that of those who aren't at high-risk for complications from the flu, only 19.7% of those aged 19-49 and 34.2% of those aged 50-64 received a vaccination shot, despite the fact that the CDC recommends everyone over age six months should receive one. However, for those who do have a high-risk of complications from the flu, the vaccination numbers were higher (33.4% for those 19-49 and 51.5% for those 50-64).

As the flu season approaches, the NCDMPH would like to remind you to find a nearby vaccination location to protect yourself and your family.


December 7, 2010

-- National Influenza Vaccination Week is Dec. 5-11 --

As the flu season approaches, it is important to protect yourself and your family from getting sick by utilizing flu vaccinations. During the week of December 5-11, known as National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that everyone over the age of six months get vaccinated.

The CDC has identified three strains of flu this season, including last year's H1N1 pandemic strain; approximately 160 million doses of vaccines that protect from these strains have already been distributed nationwide. Flu.gov has a web resource which allows you to find locations in your community to get vaccinated.

As part of NIVW, the CDC is aiming for each day of the week to target at-risk populations who normally wouldn't receive vaccinations, including older adults, young adults and those with high-risk, chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart problems.

In a time where public health has the tools to prevent the flu, the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health encourages everyone to take the proper steps to ensure a healthy winter season for themselves and their families.


December 1, 2010

-- December 1st is World AIDS Day --

This December 1st marks the 22nd annual World AIDS Day — an international day designated for "raising awareness, commemorating those who have passed on, and celebrating victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services."

As part of the 2010 World AIDS Day, the Facing AIDS initiative is being launched in an effort to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and promote HIV testing. Facing AIDS encourages people all over the world to download a sign, take a photo with the sign and explain how you're facing AIDS, upload the photo to the Facing AIDS Flickr group, and share the photo via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networking sites.

AIDS is a global health problem that affects everyone. There are currently 33.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and more than 25 million people have died from AIDS worldwide since the first cases were reported in 1981. Although AIDS is truly a global problem, 97% of those infected with HIV live in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States, an estimated 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV; yet one in five don't know it.

AIDS.gov offers a number of helpful resources and facts on HIV/AIDS, including an HIV/AIDS Prevention & Service Provider Locator, a World AIDS Day event planning guide, the National HIV/AIDS strategy and posters, brochures and images for World AIDS Day 2010.

As a National Center concerned with public health preparedness, the NCDMPH is obviously concerned about the ongoing AIDS epidemic affecting millions. The United States government recently authorized up to $48 billion over the next 5 years to combat global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, an initiative being led by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an interagency collaboration that began in fiscal year 2004.

This investment, as part of the U.S. President's Global Health Initiative, will help, "save the greatest number of lives by increasing and building upon what works and, then, supporting countries as they work to improve the health of their own people."


November 23, 2010

-- NCDMPH Urges Safe and Prepared Travel for Holidays --

With the holidays approaching, and last year's attempted terrorist attack still fresh in the country's minds, the NCDMPH would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone to travel safely and plan for extra time and security precautions at airports.

Notably, at a number of airports across the country, passengers will now be given the choice to be screened by Advanced Imaging Technology , an increasingly controversial topic in the news, or pat-down search that includes the crotch and chest. For those curious about the screening processes at their departing airport, the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) website has a list of airports currently using imaging technology.

TSA's website also has a number of tips for how to get through airport lines faster - including how to pack, how to dress and what documents to have with you.

As always, if you are traveling and see something suspicious, please don't hesitate to call the TSA's hotline at 1-866-GA-SECURE.

November 2, 2010

-- Thwarted Terrorist Plot Reminds Everyone to Prepare for All Disasters --

In light of the recent thwarted terrorist plot in which cargo planes with two packages of explosives were in transit to Chicago, the NCDMPH would like to remind families all over the country that the threat of a man-made disaster is very real, and there are steps that can be taken to prepare your workplace, school, community or home for such an event.

FEMA's website offers a number of links and resources for preparing communities, workplaces, schools and other organizations for a man-made attack or disaster. Some pertinent recommendations for everyone to be aware of include what to do if you receive a bomb threat, how and why to be suspicious of a package or letter , and what to do during and after an explosion.

Citizens can also stay up to date on homeland security updates by signing up for the Family Preparedness e-mail which offers "tips and guidance on preparing for and responding to a variety of threats."

With the holiday and winter season fast-approaching, now is the perfect time for businesses, schools, families and organizations to make sure their plans are updated and intact for all kinds of disasters, whether it me public health crisis or a man-made attack.

October 29, 2010

-- Potential for Public Health Crisis on Heels of Earthquake in Haiti --

After already being devastated by the massive earthquake that destroyed much of their capital in January, the people of Haiti are now facing the potential for a public health crisis if an outbreak of cholera occurs at the survivor camp in Port-au-Prince.

A recent laboratory-confirmed outbreak that has left 250 dead and 3,000 sickened is threatening to reach camps of the nation's capital where nearly 1.3 million survivors are living in squalid conditions. There have already been five reported cases of cholera in the city, but so far it appears that all of the patients contracted the disease outside of Port-au-Prince.

Based on the poor sanitation and hygiene practices, the camps are a breeding ground for an infection such as cholera which can be caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water. This can occur by failing to wash hands or scooping up standing water and using it to wash fruits and vegetables.

The infection can cause extreme vomiting and watery diarrhea so severe that the dehydration can kill a person within hours.

In a post-disaster world, particularly in a poverty-stricken area such as Haiti, the ramifications of a disaster are long-lasting and far-reaching. This is especially relevant with the recent tsunami and volcano eruption disasters in Indonesia and the tornados sweeping the United States.

The NCDMPH sees this potential public health crisis as another example of how the response to and recovery from a disaster extends far beyond the immediate search for survivors and identification of the deceased.

The need to develop safe sanitation and promote proper hygiene efforts is a major undertaking, and is one of the reasons the NCDMPH was proud to participate in Operation Continuing Promise 2010. Hopefully, the joint efforts of the Haitian government, U.S. armed forces and non-government organizations on-site can control the outbreak of cholera.

For more information on cholera and the potential outbreak in Haiti:

Pan America Health Organization's Cholera in Haiti Center

Press briefing on the cholera outbreak in Haiti by Dr. Jon Andrus (Oct. 27, 2010)

World Health Organization's treatment of cholera

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2010 Haiti Cholera Outbreak Center

National Library of Medicine's Health Resources for Haiti

October 21, 2010

-- NCDMPH Participates in Collaborative Multi-Agency Exercise --

On October 14, the NCDMPH staff took part in the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC)'s annual Collaborative Multi-Agency Exercise (CMAX), an exercise that prepares area hospitals for the influx of patients during a mass-casualty event.

The scenario being utilized, a multi-site terrorist attack in Washington, DC, is aimed at testing 28 area hospitals in patient transfer capabilities, surge capacity, resource sharing and informatics/communications research projects.

NCDMPH staff participated in varying ways, including as Evaluators at the Hospital Command Center, Family Reception Center and Immediate Care Unit. Some staff even got a little acting work in by playing the role of the sister of a missing person .

Conducting the annual exercise is an important event to continually improve the response efforts of area hospitals and staff. Further information on the NCDMPH's involvement in the 2010 CMAX exercise will be detailed in the upcoming Fall 2010 newsletter.

October 7, 2010

-- Full Report on Children and Disasters Now Available --

In August, the National Commission on Children and Disasters (NCCD) released the executive summary of its report to the President and Congress which contained recommendations for the NCDMPH. Earlier this week, the NCCD released the full report to the public.

The NCDMPH is specifically named in Recommendation 3.3, which calls for the President to direct the Federal Education and Training Interagency Group (FETIG), working through the NCDMPH, to prioritize the development of pediatric core competencies, core curricula, training and research.

In a recent CNN article, NCCD chairman Mark Shriver emphasized the importance of the report by saying, "Children are 25 percent of our nation's population but they are neglected when it comes to disaster management. If we're not prepared to protect children during disasters, then we're simply not prepared for disasters as a nation."

Read more about the NCCD's landmark report to the President and Congress..