The Right Accessories for Your #SunSafeSelfie

HEADER PHOTO_SunSafeSelfie_Public Health Matters

CDC is encouraging everyone to show off their favorite ways to stay sun-safe. Snap a photo of yourself, your friends, and your family using sun protection while outdoors and share on social media. Be sure to tag the photo with #SunSafeSelfie and check out other photos with the hashtag. Most importantly, practice what you post year-round by planning ahead, so you are always prepared to protect your skin when spending time outdoors!

Check out these sun-safety “props” you can toss in a beach bag, backpack, or your car to stay protected wherever you go (and feature in your next #SunSafeSelfie):

  • Sunscreen to slather on. Use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher on any skin that will be exposed to the sun. And remember: it’s not a magic umbrella! You should reapply every 2 hours no matter what, and also after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
  • A large-size lid.
  • Sleeves for safety, pants for protection. Long-sleeved shirts and clothing that reaches the ankles are great ways to block those rays. There’s plenty of breezy clothing that has built-in sun protection, too.
  • Squint-stoppers. Bright sunlight can damage your eyes as well as your skin. Pick a pair of shades with lenses that block 100% of the sun’s rays and go safe in style.
  • Portable protection. Staying in the shade is also a great way to block the rays. Umbrellas, shade tents, and awnings make a big difference when you bring them along to parks, concerts, and festivals. Be sure to take advantage of permanent shade structures, too. Have your picnic under that overhang or your pick-up game of hoops in a covered pavilion.

You’ll want to use these all together for the best protection. Even if your face is shaded in your selfie—that’s the point! Use your pic to encourage friends and family to keep their skin sun-safe and healthy.

The 1918 Flu Pandemic: Why It Matters 100 Years Later

Group photo of Red Cross nurses in Boston wearing personal protective equipment.

100 years ago, an influenza (flu) pandemic swept the globe, infecting an estimated one-third of the world’s population and killing at least 50 million people. The pandemic’s death tollAmerican soldiers returning home on the Agamemnon, Hoboken, New Jersey was greater than the total number of military and civilian deaths from World War I, which was happening simultaneously.  At the time, scientists had not yet discovered flu viruses, but we know today that the 1918 pandemic was caused by an influenza A (H1N1) virus. The pandemic is commonly believed to have occurred in three waves. Unusual flu-like activity was first identified in U.S. military personnel during the spring of 1918. Flu spread rapidly in military barracks where men shared close quarters. The second wave occurred during the fall of 1918 and was the most severe. A third wave of illness occurred during the winter and spring of 1919.

Here are 5 things you should know about the 1918 pandemic and why it matters 100 years later.

1. The 1918 Flu Virus Spread Quickly

500 million people were estimated to have been infected by the 1918 H1N1 flu virus. At least 50 million people were killed around the world including an estimated 675,000 Americans. In fact, the 1918 pandemic actually caused the average life expectancy in the United States to drop by about 12 years for both men and women.Flu patients in Iowa

In 1918, many people got very sick, very quickly. In March of that year, outbreaks of flu-like illness were first detected in the United States. More than 100 soldiers at Camp Funston in Fort Riley Kansas became ill with flu. Within a week, the number of flu cases quintupled. There were reports of some people dying within 24 hours or less. 1918 flu illness often progressed to organ failure and pneumonia, with pneumonia the cause of death for most of those who died.  Young adults were hit hard. The average age of those who died during the pandemic was 28 years old.

2. No Prevention and No Treatment for the 1918 Pandemic Virus

In 1918, as scientists had not yet discovered flu viruses, there were no laboratory tests to detect, or characterize these viruses. There were no vaccines to help prevent flu infection, noPolicemen patrol the streets in masks in Seattle to ensure public safety. antiviral drugs to treat flu illness, and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with flu infections. Available tools to control the spread of flu were largely limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI’s) such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limits on public gatherings, which were used in many cities. The science behind these was very young, and applied inconsistently. City residents were advised to avoid crowds, and instructed to pay particular attention to personal hygiene. In some cities, dance halls were closed. Some streetcar conductors were ordered to keep the windows of their cars open in all but rainy weather. Some municipalities moved court cases outside. Many physicians and nurses were instructed to wear gauze masks when with flu patients.

3. Illness Overburdened the Health Care System

An estimated 195,000 Americans died during October alone. In the fall of 1918, the United States experienced a severe shortage of professional nurses during the flu pandemic because large numbers of them were deployed to military camps in the United States and abroad.A black-and-white advertisement for the Chicago School of Nursing. This shortage was made worse by the failure to use trained African American nurses. The Chicago chapter of the American Red Cross issued an urgent call for volunteers to help nurse the ill. Philadelphia was hit hard by the pandemic with more than 500 corpses awaiting burial, some for more than a week. Many parts of the U.S. had been drained of physicians and nurses due to calls for military service, so there was a shortage of medical personnel to meet the civilian demand for health care during the 1918 flu pandemic. In Massachusetts, for example, Governor McCall asked every able-bodied person across the state with medical training to offer their aid in fighting the outbreak.

As the numbers of sick rose, the Red Cross put out desperate calls for trained nurses as well as untrained volunteers to help at emergency centers. In October of 1918, Congress approved a $1 million budget for the U. S. Public Health Service to recruit 1,000 medical doctors and more than 700 registered nurses.

At one point in Chicago, physicians were reporting a staggering number of new cases, reaching as high as 1,200 people each day. This in turn intensified the shortage of doctors and nurses.  Additionally, hospitals in some areas were so overloaded with flu patients that schools, private homes and other buildings had to be converted into makeshift hospitals, some of which were staffed by medical students.

4. Major Advancements in Flu Prevention and Treatment since 1918

The science of influenza has come a long way in 100 years!A man dress in personal protective equipment in a laboratory. Developments since the 1918 pandemic include vaccines to help prevent flu, antiviral drugs to treat flu illness, antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia, and a global influenza surveillance system with 114 World Health Organization member states that constantly monitors flu activity. There also is a much better understanding of non-pharmaceutical interventions–such as social distancing, respiratory and cough etiquette and hand hygiene–and how these measures help slow the spread of flu.

There is still much work to do to improve U.S. and global readiness for the next flu pandemic. More effective vaccines and antiviral drugs are needed in addition to better surveillance of influenza viruses in birds and pigs. CDC also is working to minimize the impact of future flu pandemics by supporting research that can enhance the use of community mitigation measures (i.e., temporarily closing schools, modifying, postponing, or canceling large public events, and creating physical distance between people in settings where they commonly come in contact with one another). These non-pharmaceutical interventions continue to be an integral component of efforts to control the spread of flu, and in the absence of flu vaccine, would be the first line of defense in a pandemic.

5. Risk of a Flu Pandemic is Ever-Present, but CDC is on the Frontlines Preparing to Protect Americans

Four pandemics have occurred in the past century: 1918, 1957, 1968, and 2009. The 1918 pandemic was the worst of them. But the threat of a future flu pandemic remains. A pandemic flu virus could emerge anywhere and spread globally.A crowd of people with the Washington Monument in the distance.

CDC works tirelessly to protect Americans and the global community from the threat of a future flu pandemic. CDC works with domestic and global public health and animal health partners to monitor human and animal influenza viruses. This helps CDC know what viruses are spreading, where they are spreading, and what kind of illnesses they are causing. CDC also develops and distributes tests and materials to support influenza testing at state, local, territorial, and international laboratories so they can detect and characterize influenza viruses.  In addition, CDC assists global and domestic experts in selecting candidate viruses to include in each year’s seasonal flu vaccine and guides prioritization of pandemic vaccine development. CDC routinely develops vaccine viruses used by manufacturers to make flu vaccines. CDC also supports state and local governments in preparing for the next flu pandemic, including planning and leading pandemic exercises across all levels of government. An effective response will diminish the potential for a repeat of the widespread devastation of the 1918 pandemic.

Visit CDC’s 1918 commemoration website for more information on the 1918 pandemic and CDC’s pandemic flu preparedness work.

4 Tips to Stay Healthy Around Your Pet

Father Reading Book With Son And Daughter And Pet Dog At Home

Pets, whether covered in fur, feathers, or scales, are an important part of our lives—most American households own at least one pet. Many people see their pet as a member of the family that brings joy and amusement to their life. But did you know that having a pet can even help improve your health? Having a pet can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness. Pets can also encourage you to be active and get outside, and provide opportunities to socialize.

The risk of getting a disease from a pet is low for most people, but some groups are more likely to get sick from the germs spread by pets, and their illness may be more severe. Young children, older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to certain zoonotic infections.While there are many benefits to pet ownership, animals can sometimes carry germs that make us sick. Zoonotic diseases can spread between people and animals—even our pets. In the past decade, we’ve seen outbreaks of illness in people linked to pets such as puppies, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles, lizards, geckos, hedgehogs, and even water frogs.

You might not realize that the everyday activities involved in caring for your pet can result in the spread of germs from pets to people. Handling pet food and toys, cleaning cages, and yes, even kissing your pet, can pass germs from the pet to you. Pets can spread germs even if they look clean and healthy.

All of this may sound scary, but knowing about zoonotic diseases and the simple things you can do to reduce the risk will help you enjoy your pets and stay healthy. Adopt these four simple habits to help you, your family, and your pets stay healthy and happy.

  1. Choose the right pet
    Not all pets are right for all people. In addition to thinking about the pet’s needs, consider who will be around the pet at home. Are there young kids in the house, or maybe a relative over 65? Certain pets, including reptiles, amphibians, and rodents, are not recommended for children 5 years of age and younger, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with weakened immune systems because they’re more likely to get sick. Rodents and cats can carry diseases that cause birth defects, so think about waiting to adopt one of these pets if you or someone in your home is pregnant. Talk to your veterinarian about choosing the right pet.
  2. Keep your pet healthy
    Keeping your pet healthy helps to keep you healthy. Make sure pets get a good diet, fresh water, shelter, and exercise. Regular veterinary care is also important for your pet. Many pets need routine vaccinations, de-worming, and flea and tick control to protect them, and their owners, from certain diseases. Every pet—whether it’s a dog, cat, hamster, ferret, or iguana—should receive life-long veterinary care. If you think your pet might be sick, talk to your veterinarian. Also, remember to include your pets in your emergency preparedness plans so you can keep them safe and healthy in an emergency.
  3. Practice good hygiene
    Washing your hands is one of the best ways to stay healthy around pets and can also protect you against other diseases. Always wash your hands after playing with, feeding, or cleaning up after your pet. Pets can contaminate surfaces in your home with germs—you don’t have to touch your pets to get sick from the germs they might be carrying. Keep your pets away from people food and areas where food and drink are prepared, served, consumed, or stored. Always clean up dog feces (poop) from your yard and public areas to prevent the spread of parasites and other germs to people. If you’re pregnant and have a cat, avoid changing the litter box.
  4. Supervise kids around pets
    Always supervise young children around pets, even trusted family pets. Children, especially those 5 years of age and younger, can be at higher risk for pet-related illnesses because they often touch surfaces that may be contaminated, put objects in their mouths, and are less likely to wash their hands. Children are often the victims of bites and scratches and are more likely to get seriously ill from certain diseases spread from pets. Don’t let kids kiss pets or put their hands or objects in their mouths after playing with pets. Help them to wash their hands after they interact with any animal.

We all love our pets, but it’s important to know the risks that come with any animal contact, especially for people who are more vulnerable to certain diseases. Practicing healthy pet habits can help you enjoy your pets while staying healthy.

You can learn more about pets on CDC’s Healthy Pets Healthy People website, and be sure to check out this feature for more tips on staying healthy around pets.

 

Raising Awareness to Prevent Prescription Opioid Overdoses

A jumble of orange prescription pill bottles with white labels and lids.

In 2016, 115 Americans died every day from an opioid overdose – that is more than 42,000 drug overdose deaths that involved an opioid including prescription opioids, heroin, and/or illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Prescription opioids (like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but have serious risks and side effects.Using prescription opioids can have a number of side effects, even when taken as directed: • Tolerance—meaning you might need to take more of the medication for the same pain relief • Physical dependence—meaning you have symptoms of withdrawal when the medication is stopped • Increased sensitivity to pain • Constipation • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth • Sleepiness and dizziness • Confusion • Depression • Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy, and strength • Itching and sweating

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. Families across the county are dealing with the health, emotional, and economic effects of the opioid epidemic. The opioid overdose epidemic is a public health emergency and Americans of all races and ages are being killed by opioid overdoses.

Rx Awareness campaign tackles prescription opioids

Rx Awareness is CDC’s latest effort in the fight against the opioid overdose epidemic. Rx Awareness aims to:

  1. Increase Americans’ awareness and knowledge about the risks of prescription opioids, and
  2. Prevent inappropriate use of prescription opioids.

Rx Awareness uses the tagline, “It only takes a little to lose a lot” to educate the public about dangers of prescription opioids, including misuse, abuse, and overdose. The campaign features real-life accounts from people recovering from opioid use disorder and from people who have lost loved ones to prescription opioid overdose.

Public awareness campaigns, like Rx Awareness, are important in the fight against opioids. The more equipped people are with information and resources about the risks of opioids, the more we can support those affected by this epidemic. The cornerstone of Rx Awareness is a series of testimonial videos, and the campaign also includes radio advertisements, digital advertisements, billboards, posters, newspaper advertisements, and a website.

States are on the frontlines of the opioid overdose epidemic

CDC created the Rx Awareness campaign for states, coalitions, and communities to implement across the country. When the campaign was launched in 2017 it included an implementation guide to support CDC-funded states to use the campaign materials. State and local health departments and community organizations can take part in the Rx Awareness campaign and use the tested campaign materials and resources to launch local campaigns, support local prevention activities, and raise awareness about the risks of prescription opioids.

States are critical in preventing opioid overdoses. Through the Overdose Prevention in States (OPIS) effort, CDC is working with 45 states and Washington D.C. to provide scientific expertise, enhanced surveillance activities, and support resources to prevent risks of opioid use disorder, overdose, and death. The resources and information from this effort help combat prescription and illicit opioid abuse and overdose and is the heart of the CDC’s work on this epidemic.

Everyone can help stop opioid overdoses

The best ways to prevent opioid overdose are to: (1) improve opioid prescribing practices, (2) reduce exposure to opioids, (3) prevent misuse, and (4) treat opioid use disorder. Anyone can take action to help end the opioid overdose epidemic. You have a role in preventing opioid-related overdoses.

You can take steps to reduce your risk for prescription opioid misuse and help prevent opioid overdose deaths in your community:

  • Learn more about prescription opioids so you can help those at risk for opioid use disorder and overdose in your community.
  • Practice responsible use if you are prescribed opioids for pain and work with your doctor to ensure you are getting the safest, most effective pain management possible.
  • Help those struggling with addiction find the right care and treatment. Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted and help is available if you or someone you know is battling opioid use disorder.
  • Spread the word and increase awareness in your community about the risk and dangers of prescription opioids. By sharing campaign materials you can broaden the reach of the message that, “It only takes a little to lose a lot.”
  • Know the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose to help prevent opioid overdose death. If you suspect someone is overdosing, it is important that you don’t leave the person alone and that you call 911.

Learn more

We want to hear from you!

Comment below if you have you noticed the Rx Awareness campaign in your community.

Evaluating Communication Campaigns

Black man holding belly of his pregnant wife making heart. Pregnant woman and loving husband hugging tummy at home. Heart of hands by multiethnic couple on pregnant belly.

Health communication and marketing campaigns that promote positive behavior change are a cornerstone of public health and behavioral science. Designing and implementing quality campaigns on a tight budget and in an urgent timeframe is a challenge that most health communication professionals share. Research and evaluation are critical for a successful campaign. CDC is using leading research and evaluation methods to develop quality campaigns, while keeping costs low and sticking to tight timelines.

A great example is CDC’s design and implementation of The Domestic Readiness Initiative on Zika Virus Disease, also Domestic Zika Campaign: By the Numbers. Since its launch in early summer 2016, the campaign has generated over 350 million impressions and nearly 555,000 clicks across search, social, and display in the United States. In Puerto Rico, the campaign got over 10 million impressions, and 26,000 clicks on a range of media buys that covered the entire island.known as the Domestic Zika Campaign. This bilingual digital campaign sought to increase Zika awareness among the general population and expectant parents in the United States and its territories. Campaign messages were also developed to change knowledge and attitudes regarding Zika transmission, beliefs about the risks of Zika, and the perceived ability (self-efficacy) to protect oneself against Zika.

CDC identified several methods to get tailored messaging to our target audiences. Based on the work for this campaign, there are 10 methods that can help you reduce costs and improve the efficacy of your communication or health marketing campaign.

Formative Research

  1. Use “mixed” methods or alternative approaches. When feasible, mixed assessment techniques can enhance and complement different types of data collection. Your budget may not allow you to conduct in-depth formative research, but you can use one primary research or evaluation method and then supplement with other methods that are less costly. For example, conducting qualitative focus groups might not account for all of your audience segments, but you could perform a literature search to complement your qualitative data. Additionally, when circumstances dictate, sometimes substituting one evaluation activity for another may be just as effective (or close to it). During the Domestic Zika Campaign we used “triad” interviews, which only involved three participants, when we did not have the time or the budget to conduct a full suite of focus groups, and this was supplemented with previous survey data on closely related topics.
  2. Invest in market data. Public, non-proprietary market data, such as data from the US Census, PEW, and Gallup, allow you to get to know your audience at no cost. Outside marketing firms may also be willing to share “older” proprietary data that may be from a year or two ago at little or no cost. During the Domestic Zika Campaign, secondary data donated from Annenberg surveys(?) were key to our analysis of each of our target demographics’ media habits and informed the mass media and digital media strategies and plans. The cost is your time in building relationships with like-minded partners and analyzing the data for a specific purpose.
  3. Identify alternative data. When traditional surveying of knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors is not feasible, sometimes you can use alternative data (usually less expensive). During the Domestic Zika Campaign, we did not have sufficient time to get approval for our survey from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and field a traditional campaign evaluation survey. Instead, to meet our tight timeline, we acquired data about our audiences’ insecticide purchasing behavior in the stores where our advertisements had been placed, and compared them to similar product purchasing data from stores that did not display our advertisements. Building partnerships with organizations who have data, even from related issues, that can offer insights to you is a great long-term investment in both implementing and evaluating programs—especially when we have a shared commitment to protecting people from diseases.

Monitoring & EvaluationDigital Media in an Emergency. During a public health emergency or disease outbreak, even a small number of strategically placed, paid digital media spots can deliver messages to those who need them most. This type of message can often be placed within 24 – 48 hours. During the Zika response, CDC developed and executed behavioral intent studies using data collected by Google Health and Nielsen to study the effect of media exposure on audiences’ intent to take action to protect themselves from Zika. • We monitored exposure to digital campaign banners on the Google Display Network and compared those exposures to an increase in internet search for specific Zika-related terms. • We employed channel-targeted messaging, which helped to amplify CDC’s weekly Zika theme content on Facebook to reach audiences beyond the people who were already following the CDC page. This cost-efficient strategy extended the reach of posts to tens of thousands more people within the specific geographic areas.

  1. Take advantage of social media analytics. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google AdWords allow you to target specific geographic areas and have built-in analytics tools that the user has access to at no additional cost. The Domestic Zika Campaign used data analytics to look at the performance of specific advertisements and the corresponding click-through rate to Zika-related campaign websites. Using social media platforms as a primary channel for the campaign allowed for more precise audience targeting, rapid message modifications, and real-time metrics. Using the data, we developed tailored advertisements that engaged key audiences and encouraged them to take preventive actions. For example, one of our treatments, the “carousel advertisement format” on Facebook, had the highest engagement with our target audience and provided a platform to communicate in-depth information about actions people could take to prevent Zika infection. Most organizations have access to someone who specializes in web analytics who can offer their insight.
  2. Conduct A/B testing. A/B testing is a way to compare two versions of something to figure out which performs better. A/B testing is used to assess different options of campaign messages or creative concepts in real time and measures which one people actually use more among different channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. The Domestic Zika Campaign tested messages and materials on a number of social and digital platforms to determine which channels our audience preferred. For example, we conducted an A/B test of an existing “Cover Your Body and Use Repellent” advertisement against two new advertisements that presented the “Cover” and “Repellent” content as two separate messages. We conducted a qualitative analysis of user comments on the advertisements and found that users had a negative reaction to the “Cover” action step given the high temperatures in areas with risk of Zika.
  3. Refresh your materials. Build in regular measurements to track and observe public response and evaluate public complacency towards your campaign to avoid a decrease in behavioral change outcomes. This can occur for two reasons: 1. Message fatigue, when the attention of your target audience is reduced because they have had repeated exposures to the campaign messages; or 2. Risk fatigue, when your audience no longer receives or responds to messages about the health threat.  You can refresh and adjust your campaign messages without creating new messages from scratch. During the second phase of the Domestic Zika Campaign we revised materials that were targeted towards men by adding images of males with their pregnant partners because we were informed by both women and men that they had become complacent about behaviors men could perform to protect both themselves and their partners from Zika virus infection and transmission.

General Rules of Thumb

  1. Do not reinvent the wheel. Know what is available in your organization.  Do you have existing contracts in place to purchase things quickly.  If you have to get permissions to do research, do you have processes in place to navigate them efficiently? As a federal agency, anytime we want to ask more than 9 people a question, we have to get approval from the Office of Management and Budget, which typically takes many months. Knowing this, CDC set up a process called the Health Message Testing System, which is generic request set up in advance with OMB that programs can use to quickly get permission to test a specific message with a specific audience. These approvals can be obtained in days instead of months.
  2. Track current events. Scan and track prominent news and social media. Be aware of current events and issues that arise over the course of your campaign. The news media will cover what is timely, and you can take advantage of this coverage to enhance your campaign efforts. During the initial phase of the Domestic Zika Campaign, the proposed use of the chemical pesticide Naled in Puerto Rico created a controversy for public health and government officials on the island. Tracking the controversy allowed us to address this issue by adding a media relations effort to the campaign and provided more opportunities to disseminate the most effective prevention messages.
  3. Partner with influential bloggers. Influential bloggers can help enhance and further disseminate your campaign messages, increasing the reach to and saturation of your target audience. One of the main goals of the Domestic Zika Campaign was to amplify CDC’s Zika prevention messages. We worked with a well-known television news celebrity who was pregnant and chose not to attend the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We pitched the story to mom and parenting bloggers and packaged it with CDC-branded messaging and the opportunity for an interview with a CDC subject matter expert. The cost of working with a blogger can vary, and you need to vet them carefully, but there can be great benefits by partnering with someone who is a natural fit for your cause and/or message content AND who is already reaching your target audience.
  4. Welcome donated media. Opportunities may arise for you to take advantage of “value-added” or donated media, which can help extend your communication efforts and increase the number of measurement points to evaluate. If you purchase a large number of services, the outside vendor might be willing to add additional advertising or other activities so the campaign will not incur any additional costs. For instance, we acquired donated time for the public service announcements developed by the Domestic Zika Campaign to run in movie theaters in Puerto Rico.

Do you have any other suggestions to improve the quality and timeliness of health marketing and communication campaigns on a budget? Please leave a comment below.

Fred Fridinger is a Senior Health Communications Specialist in the Office of the Associate Director for Communication (OADC). During his 22- year career at CDC, he has worked on various campaigns and communication efforts, including those addressing moderate physical activity and healthy eating, genetics, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Zika prevention. In his current position, he oversees the market research function for OADC, which involves the Porter Novelli Styles and Nielsen Scarborough syndicated data bases.

The Communication Research and Evaluation blog series highlights innovative research and evaluation methods used at CDC to improve behavior change campaigns.

7 Ways to ‘Be Gutsy’ this March!

Let’s face it: your colon isn’t exactly a dinner party topic. It takes a lot of guts to bring up colorectal cancer—to your parents, your spouse, your doctor, your friends. Don’t be afraid to pipe up about the second-leading cancer killer of both men and women, because it’s proven that simple steps save lives.

Here’s how you can Be Gutsy for colorectal cancer prevention:

  1. Digest some information. CDC’s Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign gives you the lowdown on what colorectal cancer is and who can get it. (Hint: it’s anybody, but there are ways to lower your risk.) You can hear celebrities like Meryl Streep share how colorectal cancer has affected their lives, share graphics and facts, and even test your knowledge with a quiz.
  2. Get yourself a little screen time. Be famous for smart choices—there are lots of different screening tests for colorectal cancer. Most colorectal cancer cases happen in people 50 and older, so if you’re between 50 and 75 years old, experts say you should be screened. Remember, the best test is the one that gets done!
  3. Go history hunting. Some people are at higher-than-average risk for colorectal cancer. If you or a family member has had it before, you could be at risk. You’re also more likely to get it if you have an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s or certain genetic illnesses. Talk to your doctor about whether you should be screened.
  4. Trust your gut. The point of recommended colorectal screening is finding growths called polyps that can turn into cancer if left alone. But if you’re having symptoms like stomach pains or weight loss for no reason, or if you see blood when you use the bathroom, talk to your doctor. Other problems than cancer can cause these symptoms, too.
  5. Scale it back. Here’s one a lot of Americans still don’t know: being overweight or obese is associated with at least 13 different types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Healthy eating and physical activity help keep weight down and lower risk.
  6. If you drink, think. Drinking too much alcohol can cause your health to take a hit. That includes a higher risk of colorectal and other cancers, as well as other problems that might come up now or later in life.
  7. Quit for quality of life. Cigarette smoking can cause colorectal cancer and other cancers outside the lungs. If you smoke, you can cut your cancer risk by quitting now. You’ll do friends and family a favor, too, by keeping them away from damaging secondhand smoke.

You have the tools and know-how to lower your risk of colorectal cancer. Be Gutsy and spread the word!

Responding to Emergencies One Behavior at a Time

A group of Ebola response volunteers in Nigeria.

To improve the health and safety of people in the United States and around the world, we have to influence and change behaviors. It can be difficult to try new things, or stop old things as behaviors range from simple to complex, but one way to consider behavior change is to think of any change as a passive or active choice.

Public health practitioners must think about interventions in terms of the behaviors they are asking people to adopt, stop or continue. What would encourage someone to change what they are currently doing? Before you can influence someone’s behavior or change their choices about a behavior (risky or protective) you need to know how their judgments and decisions are made about that behavior in the first place.

Behaviors are rooted in traditions

During the Ebola response behavior change was critical to prevent people from getting sick and ultimately stop a disease threat. In the wake of the outbreak, communities in West Africa were encouraged to give up or change their traditional burial practices. Some of these longstanding rituals, like washing the body, proved dangerous because the virus can live on the skin of a victim after death. Communicators developed public health messaging to help change social norms and customs for burials. It was important to understand behavioral science and anthropology in order to communicate about safe burial practices in a way that would make people choose to change a behavior that was ingrained in their culture.

Behaviors are rooted in social 7 Things to Consider When Communicating About Health. Trust: Will people trust the information? Who is the best source to put the information out? Information: What information is necessary, and how will people find it? How much is enough, or too much? Motivation: How relevant is the information to the people we’re trying to reach? Environment: What are the conditions that surround and affect the audience? Capacity: What is people’s ability to act on the information? Are there barriers? Perception: What will the audience think about the information? What will inspire them to act on it? Response: How will people respond? What can we do to stay engaged with them and give them support as they take action?norms

The 2016 Zika virus outbreak is the first time in more than 50 years that a virus has been linked to serious birth defects. Due to the impact of Zika virus infection during pregnancy, social norms and perceptions around provider visits had to be addressed to alleviate concerns about the cost of screening. Clinicians were educated about the risks associated with Zika virus, how to prevent infections, and reporting suspected cases to their state, local, or territorial health departments and women were offered free clinical services, education, and access to Zika prevention kits.

Behaviors are rooted in beliefs

The fight to eradicate polio teaches us the importance of beliefs in behavior change during a response to a public health threat. Creating an effective polio vaccine was only the first step in the effort to eradicate polio. Of course an effective vaccine was necessary to prevent polio virus infections, but getting communities to accept the vaccine was equally important. Public health practitioners created messages that build on cognitive, developmental, and social psychology to persuade parents to bring their children into clinics to get vaccinated.

Behaviors inform preparedness and response

Responding to emergencies effectively requires combined expertise in many fields, including behavioral science. Epidemiology, for example, allows us to understand how many people have a disease and characterize the disease, while behavioral science identifies the role of human behavior and psychosocial factors. Behavioral science expertise can identify methods to communicate and design campaigns to change behavior that are culturally and socially acceptable.

It is important that we maintain humility when we try to understand why people do or think what they do. We often assume that we understand human behavior, but we must remain open-minded when working with people from all different backgrounds and cultures. Who’s to say that what our culture considers right and true necessarily translates to the same belief systems elsewhere? Thus public health ethics is also an important consideration when suggesting behavioral change interventions. When we are in situations that are particularly dangerous or stressful, our assumptions about other people’s behavior can lead to recommendations or actions that seem counterintuitive or wrong to them. Careful application of behavioral science is critical to any mission that seeks to improve public health and safety, here and around the world.

The Communication Research and Evaluation blog series highlights innovative research and evaluation methods used at CDC to improve behavior change campaigns.

6 Things You Need to Know About This Flu Season

Sick boy lying in bed having his temperature taken with a thermometer.

Seasonal flu activity has been intense this season.  As of February 16, 2018 most of the United States continues to experience intense and widespread flu activity, with record-breaking levels of influenza-like-illness and hospitalization rates recorded. While H3N2 viruses are still most common, there is an increasing number of influenza B viruses being detected. It’s not uncommon for second waves of B virus activity to occur during a flu season. It’s likely that flu activity will continue for several more weeks.

Here are some important things to know right now to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu:

1.  What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes onIf you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. These include: In children • Fast breathing or trouble breathing • Bluish skin color • Not drinking enough fluids • Not waking up or not interacting • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough • Fever with a rash; In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs: • Being unable to eat • Has trouble breathing • Has no tears when crying • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal; In adults • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen • Sudden dizziness • Confusion • Severe or persistent vomiting • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough. suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

2.  What do I do if I get sick?

Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get flu symptoms, in most cases you should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care.

CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.

3. Is it too late to get a flu shot?

No!  As long as flu viruses are still circulating, it is not too late to get a flu shot.  Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent flu illness and serious flu complications, including those that can result in hospitalization. Unfortunately, flu vaccines don’t work as well against H3N2 viruses, which means that some people who got vaccinated will still get sick; however, there are some data to suggest that flu vaccination may make illness milder. Flu vaccines usually work better against H1N1 viruses, which is another good reason to get vaccinated, since H1N1 is circulating too.

4.  Why should I get a flu shot?

In addition to protecting yourself, getting vaccinated also protects people around you, including people who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.

5.  Does the flu shot work?

Vaccine effectiveness data for this season are not available yet, but we know that flu vaccines do not work as well against H3N2 viruses, which are predominant so far this season.

6.  What else can I do to protect myself from flu?

Definitely try to avoid close contact with sick people.  If you do get sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing drugs (unless you need medical care or other necessities).

Other tips for stopping the spread of germs:

  • Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way!
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

In Case You Missed It: Top 10 Posts From 2017

 

In honor of the New Year, we are rounding up the blogs that were most viewed by you, our readers, in 2017.

  1. America’s Hidden Health Crisis: Hope for Those Who Suffer from ME/CFS
    Public Health Matters recognized the 25th anniversary of International Awareness Day for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Fibromyalgia. Between 825,000 and 2.5 million Americans are estimated to have ME/CFS, yet this debilitating illness remains largely invisible to most Americans.


  2. John Snow: A Legacy of Disease Detectives
    In 1854, John Snow was the first to use maps and records to track the spread of a disease back to its source. Today, his ideas provide the foundation for how we find and stop disease all over the world. Public Health Matters highlighted the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service in honor of the birthday of the father of epidemiology and the first true disease detective.


  3. Tips to Protect Yourself from Norovirus
    Every year, 19 to 21 million people get sick with diarrhea and vomiting caused by norovirus. Public Health Matters shared five steps you could take to help protect yourself and others from this virus that can lead to dehydration or more serious illness, especially in young children and older adults.


  4. Why Diarrhea & Swimming Don’t Mix
    While sunburn and drowning might be the health risks that first come to mind when you think about swimming, diarrhea is another culprit. Outbreaks of diarrheal illness linked to swimming are on the rise. Public Health Matters shared five important facts about diarrhea-causing germs at aquatic venues and how to protect yourself and loved ones during Healthy and Safe Swimming Week 2017.


  5. Keep your pets safe in an emergency: 5 things to know
    Many pet owners are unsure of what to do with their pets if they are faced with extreme weather or a natural disaster. June was National Pet Preparedness Month and Public Health Matters highlighted five things you can do to keep your pets safe during and after an emergency.


  6. Get a Flu Shot to Protect Your Heart and Your Health
    People with certain long-term medical conditions, such as heart disease, are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu. Public Health Matters discussed the complications of flu and the important steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you including getting a flu vaccine.


  7. Predicting Community Resilience and Recovery After a Disaster
    After a disaster, the number of people with psychological trauma exceeds the number of people with physical injury by as much as 40 to 1, but there is much more research and emergency response focus on the physical effects of a disaster rather than the psychosocial effects. Public Health Matters interviewed a professor from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health about their innovative model and index to measure resilience in the United States.


  8. Safety Tips Every Contact Lens Wearer Should Know
    Forty-five million people in the United States who wear contact lenses to correct your vision. Eye infections related to improper contact lens wear and care are serious and can lead to long-lasting damage, but they are often preventable. Public Health Matters discussed the science behind some of the important contact lens wear and care recommendations in observance of Contact Lens Health Week.


  9. Preparing for College Life: A Healthy Guide
    Public Health Matters invited our David J. Sencer CDC Museum Intern from the Walker School to guest write a post with tips for fellow graduating high school seniors to prepare to head off to college.


  10. Rural America in Crisis: The Changing Opioid Overdose Epidemic
    In America, 15 out of 100 people live in a rural area. The rate of drug overdose deaths in rural areas has surpassed rates in urban areas, and it is a huge public health concern. Public Health Matters explored how rural areas are different when it comes to drug use and drug overdose deaths, including opioids and CDC’s response to this epidemic.

 

We want to hear from you!

The New Year is not just about reflecting on the past, and as we look ahead to 2018 we want to know what topics you would like to see on Public Health Matters. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send us an email so we can make sure that we are sharing content that is useful and interesting to you.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter, follow @CDCemergency, or visit us on Facebook so you are the first to hear about new blogs.

Norovirus Illness is Messy – Clean Up Right Away

Hand in pink protective glove wiping tiles with rag in the bathroom.

When norovirus strikes in your own home, you can be prepared by having the supplies you need to immediately clean up after a loved one vomits or has diarrhea.

Norovirus is a tiny germ that spreads quickly and easily. It causes vomiting and diarrhea that come on suddenly. A very small amount of norovirus can make you sick. The number of virus particles that fit on the head of a pin is enough to infect over 1,000 people.

You can get norovirus if poop or vomit from an infected person gets into your mouth. You can get it by:

  • Caring for a person who is infected with norovirus and then touching your hands to your mouth
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hands in your mouth

Clean up the splatter!

Vomiting and diarrhea are messy, especially with norovirus. If you get sick from norovirus, drops of vomit or poop might splatter for many feet in all directions.

It’s extremely important to clean up the entire area immediately after you or someone else vomits or has diarrhea. You must be very thorough so you don’t miss any drops of vomit or poop that you can’t see.

If you find yourself in this situation, follow these steps from start to finish to protect other people from getting sick with norovirus:

Step 1 – Put on disposable plastic gloves and a face maskNorovirus spreads when a person gets poop or vomit from an infected person in their mouth.

Step 2 – Wipe up vomit and poop with paper towels and throw them away

Step 3 – Clean all surfaces thoroughly with a bleach cleaner, or make your own solution (¾ cup of bleach plus 1 gallon of water)

Step 4 – Clean all surfaces again with hot water and soap

Step 5 – Remove your gloves, throw them away, and take out the trash

Step 6 – Wash all laundry that may have vomit or poop on them with hot water and soap

Step 7 – Wash your hands with soap and water

Thorough clean up helps prevent norovirus outbreaks

Cleaning-up immediately after someone with norovirus vomits or has diarrhea protects others from getting sick, and prevents norovirus outbreaks. It’s important for everyone to know the clean-up steps and other ways to prevent norovirus.

CDC and state and local health departments help to raise awareness among healthcare providers and the general public about norovirus and how to prevent it. Learn more about how health departments, CDC, and other agencies work to prevent and stop norovirus outbreaks.

To learn more about norovirus, see CDC’s norovirus website and infographics, videos, and other resources, and state and local health department websites.