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-- National Volunteer Week --
April 12-18 is National Volunteer Week, an event organized every year in both the US and Canada to show appreciation for volunteers. Across the country, volunteers play a key role in disaster response and recovery. The volunteer organizations that respond to disasters are diverse, and range from large, national-level groups like the Red Cross, the Medical Reserve Corps, and Community Emergency Response Teams to local community-based organizations to groups formed spontaneously after a disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) includes volunteer organizations in its Whole Community approach to emergency management, and includes information on how to volunteer as part of its Ready campaign.
Please see NCMDPH’s Workforce Report to learn more about how volunteers contribute to the disaster healthcare workforce. The NCDMPH would like to thank all volunteers for their time, effort, and enthusiasm!
April 7, 2015
-- Food Safety after Floods and Power Outages – World Health Day 2015 --
April 7th is World Health Day 2015, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen to focus this year’s topic on food safety. The WHO notes that unsafe food is linked to about two million deaths annually around the world, and the safety of food can be compromised by viruses, bacteria, parasites, or chemicals.
It is important to consider food safety during and after disasters such as floods and hurricanes, as floodwaters can contaminate food supplies and electricity outages can result in frozen and refrigerated foods reaching unsafe temperatures. The CDC recommends that any food that has touched floodwater should be thrown out, as floodwater can contain pathogens as well as unsafe chemicals. If the power goes out and refrigerators and freezers are kept closed, food will only be safe to eat before four hours in the refrigerator, 24 hours in a half-full freezer, and 48 hours in a full freezer. The USDA has provided preparedness recommendations to ensure food safety, including storing foods on high shelves to avoid contamination from floodwaters.
March 31, 2015
-- Spring 2015 Flood Preparedness --
Flooding can happen in any season, but for much of the United States the risk of flooding is greater during the spring and summer. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted a moderate risk of flooding for the spring of 2015, and they predict that rivers in New England and western New York have the greatest risk of flooding due to large amounts of snow combined with predicted spring rains.
The outcomes of flooding depends on many factors, including water level, water speed, duration of the flood, the built environment, terrain, and soil conditions. Floods can damage homes and businesses, block roadways, disrupt services such as power and gas, erode structures, and pollute drinking water. Additional disasters in the form of landslides or mudslides can occur, and fatalities can occur as a result of these additional events or as a result of people becoming trapped or being swept away by flood waters. FEMA recommends that people be prepared to evacuate prior to a flood, and you can go to their website to learn more about flood preparedness. CDC also provides information on flood preparedness and response.
Stay tuned for more flood preparedness information next week, when NCDMPH’s News and Events will celebrate World Health Day 2015 by discussing how to ensure your food supply is safe during and after a flood event.
March 24, 2015
-- Avian Influenza Infections Reported in Domestic Poultry Flocks and Wild Birds --
Starting in December of 2014 and continuing into this month, there have been multiple reports in the United States of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 infections in domestic and wild birds. H5 refers to the specific hemagglutinin proteins on the flu virus' surface, and H5 infections can include several different influenza strains with different neuraminidase designations (e.g. H5N1). While these recent infections have currently not caused any known human infections, the CDC reports that "similar viruses have infected people in other countries and caused serious illness and death in some cases." Those at greatest risk for infection from sick birds are people who work with or around poultry, and the CDC is working with health departments and animal health professionals to minimize risks to the public.
The CDC has provided guidance for health professionals and laboratorians in regards to avian influenza, including information on preventing, detecting, and treating avian influenza in humans. For more information about educating and training the domestic healthcare workforce on influenza, please refer to our Resilience Through Learning page.
March 17, 2015
-- Tropical Cyclone Pam impacts Vanuatu --
On Friday March 13th, Tropical Cyclone Pam made landfall on the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. An equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, the cyclone’s winds reached 166.9 miles per hour and caused catastrophic devastation to the nation's infrastructure. Vanuatu, which is a group of more than 80 islands 1,223 miles from Australia, is home to over 250,000 people.
At least eight people are reported deceased; however that number is expected to rise. In regards to the damage, estimates are still ongoing. The head of Oxfam in Vanuatu has stated that a lack of clean water and sanitation are the most pressing needs, more than 90% of houses are damaged in Vanuatu’s capital city, and it is estimated that more than 100,000 people are homeless.
Please check our Resilience Through Learning page on hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones for more information on preparing for and responding to these disasters. Trainers, educators, and responders can engage with this resource in preparing for the next event.
The National Center extends our thoughts to the families affected by this tragedy and thanks the responders working in dangerous conditions.
March 10, 2015
-- NCDMPH in the National Health Security Strategy --
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) recently released the 2015-2018 National Health Security Strategy and Implementation Plan (NHSS) and the National Health Security Review from 2010-2014 (NHSR). The NHSS, which was first released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2009, identifies a national strategy with the goal of achieving a health-secure and resilient nation. The NHSR, which assisted in informing the NHSS 2015-2018, summarizes the progress and continued challenges in national health security from 2010 to 2014.
NCDMPH was mentioned prominently in both documents. In the NHSS, the Center is tasked under priority 4.4 – "Strengthen competency and capability-based health-security-related workforce education." These duties include working with stakeholders to develop a national plan for disaster health education and training, working with stakeholders to establish disaster health education credentials in fields that currently lack them, and reviewing, adapting, and disseminating existing Incident Command System and other training materials to healthcare and public health personnel.
The NHSR mentions many of the NCDMPH’s efforts, including but not limited to the work on the development of an updated set of all-hazards disaster health competencies, national Pediatric Disaster Preparedness Curriculum Development Conference, Learning in Disaster Health Workshop, and research on long-term community recovery following Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. The NCDMPH is proud to be the "'action arm' for leading federal efforts in developing and propagating core curricula, training, and research in disaster medicine and public health."
February 14th, 2015
-- NCDMPH Attends Congressional Briefing on Outbreaks --
This week, NCDMPH staff attended a Congressional briefing on a new report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation titled Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases . Speakers at the briefing included: Jeffrey Levi, PhD, Executive Director, Trust for America’s Health (TFAH); Paul Kuehnert, DNP, RN, Director, Bridging Health and Health Care, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF); and Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH , Executive Director, Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES).
The speakers discussed a wide range of issues during the briefing. Topics spoken about included the overall findings of the report, such as the key finding that recent outbreaks have exposed serious underlying gaps in the nation’s ability to manage severe infectious disease threats, institutional reforms that could help improve preparedness and fill those gaps, and personal experience regarding these issues and how to solve them at the state, local, and federal level. All agreed on the key point that more sustained funding and resources are needed at the foundational level, with a response infrastructure in place prior to any emergency, as opposed to funding and resources that appear during an emergency, are not fully prepared, and disappear post-crisis.
It was a very insightful and informative briefing, and NCDMPH looks forward to continuing our work towards a more prepared nation with TFAH, RWJF, and HCPHES in the future.
February 4th 2015
-- 2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record --
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, announced this week that 2014 was the hottest year on record worldwide. Average temperatures over land and sea surface in 2014 were over a degree higher than the long term average of 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit. While it may still be cold across much of the United States right now, warmer weather will be here before you know it. And the best time to get prepared for summer heat and possible heat related emergencies is now.
Heat can be just as dangerous as more heavily publicized natural disasters such as tornadoes, lightning, floods, and earthquakes. In an average year, around 175 Americans die due to the effects of summer heat. In order to help people prepare to beat the heat, the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health will soon be releasing extreme heat resources as part of our Resilience Through Learning series. The pages will have resources to help make sure people are ready before, during, and after any dangerous heat events. The page will be launching soon, so please check our Facebook and Twitter feeds often for more information about this exciting new content!
January 28th 2015
-- WHO to Introduce Crisis Management Reforms --
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Sunday that it will introduce reforms intended to strengthen the agency’s ability to respond to and contain health emergencies worldwide. A resolution aimed at overhauling the organization’s ability to respond to outbreaks and other health emergencies was unanimously endorsed by the 34 representatives of the WHO executive board.
The WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations concerned with international public health. In addition to its work preventing communicable diseases, such as the eradication of smallpox and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and others, the WHO responds to any sort of disaster or emergency around the world in order to reduce any consequences the event may have on world health. The resolution passed on Sunday aims to strengthen that emergency response ability by creating a global cadre of emergency public health workers, the establishment of an emergency fund that could be tapped quickly, and increase support for the development of vaccines and treatments for emerging infectious diseases.
The proposed reforms will now go before the full World Health Assembly, made up of the 194 member countries of the WHO, for consideration at the body’s annual meeting in May.
January 20th 2015
-- Measles Outbreak Stresses Importance of Vaccines --
A measles outbreak is sickening dozens in the western United States and Mexico, and the highly dangerous and contagious disease continues to spread. The number of cases linked to the outbreak was at 52 as of Monday, January 19, with Orange County, California the hardest hit. Cases have also been found in the California counties of San Diego, Los Angeles, Alameda, Ventura, Riverside, Long Beach, San Bernardino, and Pasadena, as well as in Utah, Washington, Colorado, and across the border in Mexico.
Measles is very infectious, potentially deadly disease, and can be especially severe in babies and toddlers. A highly effective and safe vaccine was introduced in the United States in 1963, and the disease was considered largely eliminated in the United States by 2000. But 2014 saw the largest number of cases in the United States since 2000, with 23 outbreaks resulting in 644 cases in 27 states.
The best way to prevent future outbreaks of measles and other contagious diseases is to make sure everyone is vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated put themselves and the community around them at risk. If you have young children, or you yourself have not been vaccinated, for measles or any other vaccine preventable disease, please speak to a physician about receiving immunizations today.
January 13th 2015
-- 5 year Anniversary of Haiti Earthquake --
This past weekend marked the 5-year anniversary of the January 12, 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake which struck Haiti, leaving over 200,000 people dead, 300,000 people injured, and well over 1 million people displaced from their homes. Five years later, the country still has not fully recovered, with thousands of people still living in displacement camps, piles of rubble all over the country, and lingering public health issues such as a cholera outbreak that is still infecting thousands of people each year. The catastrophe unleashed an unprecedented amount of aid - over 13 billion dollars from other donor nations and private charities - but the recovery process is still far from complete.
This anniversary is a chance for everyone to remember that there is no wrong time to prepare for a disaster. While we may not be able to predict or prevent all disasters, we can still be ready when they strike. Whether in Haiti, the United States, or anywhere in the world being prepared for all types of disasters can help reduce damage and speed up recovery time.
NCDMPH is proud to have supported, and to continue to support, Haitians on their long road to recovery. For more information about earthquakes in general, please visit our Resilience through Learning - Earthquakes page. If you would like to learn more about the ongoing recovery process in Haiti, and how you can help, please visit the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Haitian Earthquake Overview page.
January 7th 2015
-- NCDMPH Launches New Influenza Page --
The National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health (NCDMPH) recently created a new page: Resilience Through Learning - Influenza, with resources relevant to protecting people from and preventing the spread of seasonal influenza during an already severe 2014-2015 flu season. The page is part of the NCDMPH Resilience Through Learning series, which provides NCDMPH and outside resources centered on specific all-hazards events. Other disaster types in the series include Winter Weather, Wildfires, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Tornadoes, and Explosions & Mass Gatherings.
The page includes resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), among others. Information on the page is relevant to both the current flu season and influenza in general, and has links to specifics about flu prevention, flu treatment, and public health impacts of the flu.
Visit our Influenza page for more information, and remember, it’s not too late to get your flu shot today!
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