Creating a healthy stockpile

You know that it is important to have an emergency stockpile of food in case an influenza pandemic or some other disaster hits your area. Hopefully, you've already created a stockpile, and if so, that's great. But what kinds of foods did you toss in? Are they healthy? Or are they high in sodium and sugar?

Many people mistakenly believe that good nutrition has to go out the window when an emergency situation arises and they're told to "shelter in place."

Not so, says Capt. Laura A. McNally, MPH, RD, FADA, a dietitian with the U.S. Public Health Service, who spoke with APHA's Get Ready campaign about healthy stockpiling recently.

Even when sheltering in place and dining by the glow of a battery-driven flashlight on foods that have been sitting in a plastic bin for several months, it's still possible to eat healthily, McNally says. All it takes is a little planning and some creativity.

When it comes to creating a healthy stockpile, lots of options are available today, says McNally. Ideas include low-sodium, low-fat canned soups and canned foods packed in their own juices, such as canned fruits, and low-sodium canned veggies. Don't forget healthy snack packs and plenty of water.

Check out the complete Q&A now for more great advice on healthy stockpiling.

Merry Christmas from Toyland

Yesterday I was caught rummaging around in a junk shop when I should have been doing my Christmas shopping. Lo and behold, I found a stash of mid 1950's John Bull magazines underneath a pile of obscure Victorian song sheets. Imagine my joy when I opened the December 7th 1957 issue and saw this advertisement for Dinky Toys. Or perhaps you can't. I suppose you have to be as grizzled as I am to know what all this was about, but Dinky Toys were the creme de la creme in diecast model vehicles. Forget Corgi Toys with plastic windows, forget Spot-On with its obsessively correct detail, these were the ones. Bronze green telephone service vans, deep blue BOAC coaches, yellow and green Austin taxis and one I still lust after- the Morris J van delivering Capstan cigarettes. Seen here flowing colourfully around Eros, they were the staple of my Santa Claus lists, and many a Christmas morning breakfast was spent manoeuvering the latest addition to my collection around the pork pies and mustard pots. And for the fetishists amongst you, there was simply nothing like the first whiff of new paint as you rolled the new toy back out of its bright yellow box. Merry Christmas everybody.

Health officials keeping tabs on new virus strain

U.S. health officials are keeping their eyes on an emerging virus strain that has been linked to illnesses in four states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in November that a type of adenovirus, called adenovirus serotype 14 -- or Ad14 for short -- has been linked to severe and sometimes deadly cases of illness.

Adenoviruses have been around for awhile (there are more than 50 types) and they cause many common illnesses like colds, pinkeye and stomach flu. The new Ad14 strain, which news reports have linked to more than 1,000 cases this year, can develop into a serious respiratory infection or even death.

CDC says there is no cause for alarm, as Ad14 infections are not common and most cases aren’t serious, and says that the public “should not be concerned.” Just in case, scientists and health departments will be keeping a watch out for Ad14 to make sure there are no outbreaks.

If you want to ensure you don’t get sick from adenovirus or any other type of infection, practice healthy habits, including regular handwashing. And of course, if you develop a bad cold and your symptoms get worse, be sure and see your doctor.

Winter a wonderland for the flu

Why is it that so many of us get the flu in the winter? Is it because we spend more time indoors and pass the virus to one another? Or because we get less sunshine and vitamin D on those shorter winter days?

A study published in October finds one reason the flu virus spreads in the winter is that -- like Frosty and the Abominable Snowman -- it actually prefers the weather. Conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the study found that the flu virus is transmitted best when it is at an oh-so-chilly 41 degrees. In fact, the virus is more stable in colder weather and in low humidity, when it stays in the air longer, the October study found.

If you live in warm area, don’t think this means you are safe from the flu, however. Your best bet for protecting yourself no matter where you live or play is to follow simple precautions: Get your seasonal flu vaccination and practice healthy habits such as regular handwashing.

As of tomorrow, winter is officially here in the United States. So as you make plans to dig out your winter shovel, snowshoes or skis, check out our Get Ready Helping Handouts for more tips on how to stay healthy.

Why you don't need to worry about mercury in your flu shot

Since it's flu season, it's a good time to clear up concerns people might have about mercury. This topic comes up as some parents inquire about the safety of flu shots and, in particular, about thimerosal. This is a kind of mercury used in very small amounts as a preservative in most flu vaccines.

In the late 1990s, the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics and vaccine makers agreed to eliminate or reduce using thimerosal in vaccines for kids as a precautionary measure. Today, almost all the childhood vaccines sold in the United States have no thimerosal or only trace amounts. The only exception is the flu vaccine.

But research shows there is no reason to worry about getting a flu shot with thimerosal. The known health risks from mercury mainly come from a type called methyl mercury. Thimerosal contains ethyl mercury, a different form of the chemical. Ethyl mercury is processed by the body differently and leaves the body faster.

The important thing to know is that "there is no convincing evidence of harm" caused by the small amount of thimerosal in flu shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most you need to worry about is a little swelling and redness at the injection site due to sensitivity to thimerosal. Drug companies make a small number of flu shots without thimerosal each year and plan to make more in the future.

So don't let worries about mercury stop you from making sure that both you and your kids get a flu shot this year. Still have questions? Learn more about flu vaccines and thimerosal from CDC.

Silent Stars

A walk around my local churchyard on a frosty but bright morning revealed this slate gravestone. Of course in the early nineteenth century nobody would have thought twice about a Richard Burton marrying an Elizabeth, but from our 'modern' perspective the coupling is always going to grab attention. Old churchyards are happy (yes, happy) hunting grounds if you're interested in lettering and the decorative arts. In my local it's the Swithland blue slate ones that have survived the best, those carved from nearby limestone gradually becoming worn smooth by westerly rains. I go on about them in More from Unmitigated England, now stacked-up in your local bookshop. Oh, and I nearly forgot. In a village churchyard just down the road there's a Harry Potter. I won't say where it is in case coach loads of Potter Addicts turn up like others do to the Rosslyn Chapel to see if they can find the Da Vinci Code in the vestry.

Make your holidays flu free

Hoping to stay healthy for your holiday visit to Grandma's? While there's no foolproof plan to prevent you from getting sick during the coming weeks, there are simple steps you can take to greatly reduce the chances.

For those traveling, here are suggestions to help guard against germs and viruses:

*Drink lots of water before and during your flight.
*Try to catch some sleep on the way.
*Bring a scarf or a small blanket on the plane, train or bus to bundle up with in case you get cold.
*Turn up the air on a plane or bus. It can help push away the germs that might float into your space.
*Keep to your schedule. Try not to change your daily eating, exercising and sleeping habits.

And here are tips we all should follow:
*Wash your hands often. Viruses can survive on your hands for hours and washing your hands often decreases your chances of getting sick. Use warm water, wash with soap for at least 20 seconds and, if possible, use a towel to turn off the faucet. If you are not near soap and water, an alcohol-based gel will do.
*Get vaccinated. Get a flu shot to protect yourself and your family over the holidays. October and November are the best months to get vaccinated, but it's never too late.
*Use care when cooking. Use a meat thermometer to make sure your holiday bird is cooked all the way through. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other items. Wash your cutting board, knife and countertops with hot, soapy water after cutting meat. And finally, sanitize cutting boards by using a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.

By taking a few extra precautions, you can help prevent the spread of viruses and reduce your odds of catching the flu. Enjoy a happy, healthy and safe holiday season! What additional tips do you have for travelers to avoid getting sick during the holidays?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Cardboard Dreams

A rainy morning, big water drops spattering against the window, blurring my view of sheep huddled-up under the trees. So I start rummaging about in cupboards and staring at bookshelves in the hope of finding something inspiring. Normally the spine of a book tells its message quite clearly, and one moves on. But books without a traditional spine can all too often get neglected, presenting just a few leaves of faded cardboard and the odd rusty staple to the outer world. And so it is this morning as I prise open a gap between volumes and pull out the Pop-Up Train Book. Published by Purnell circa 1950, a line of type advocates the use of a paper clip to keep the book open. I used a bulldog clip so that I could share this 3D railway station with you. Just to give you the back story, John and Mary are sitting next to their luggage by the Booking Office, on their way to visit Granny 'who lives far away in the North of England'. I particularly like the book stall, with its ranks of colourful magazine covers. When publisher Victor Gollancz launched a cheap paperback imprint in the Thirties he spent an afternoon going round all the station bookstalls in London to discover the predominant colour used in print. So was born the classic yellow Gollancz covers. Goodbye John and Mary! Have a happy holiday!

The Quiet Caravan

Gamekeepers leave some odd things lying around. Old oil drums and plastic dustbins for keeping feed in, mouldering timber sheds and somewhere to have a stiffener on a pheasant shoot. I'm not quite sure what this caravan was used for, slowly succumbing to lichen and moss in a woodland clearing in a lonely Northamptonshire wood. There is something very eerie about the curtains still up at the windows, and the neat bow of net on the door has chilly undertones of Miss Havisham's wedding dress. And it's hardly a love nest for Mellors and Lady Chatterley either, although round here you can never be quite sure. Somebody may recognise it from long gone holidays- perched on a clifftop at East Runton perhaps, or holding up the traffic on the Fosse Way. Nearby is a Zetor tractor that is virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding trees and undergrowth. Nature takes over quite quickly when left to its own devices.

Pandemic flu vaccinations: No time for ‘cutsies’ in line

If a pandemic flu hits and there is a vaccine available, who will get vaccinated first? According to the federal government, people working on the front lines — such as health care workers, firefighters and police, among others — will be first in line. That’s good, because they will be the ones out there trying to help during a crisis. Also at the head of the list for receiving vaccinations are those who are at higher risk of becoming very sick, such as pregnant women, infants and toddlers.

What about the elderly, and other adults? In a severe pandemic scenario, children between the ages of 3 and 18 will be vaccinated before people who are 65 and older, according to plans that are now in place. Healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 64 will come in last.

Depending on the type of pandemic we’re faced with, however, this order may shift. For example, healthy adults could become a higher priority if the pandemic looks anything like it did during the 1918 flu pandemic, during which nearly half of all deaths that occurred were among people ages 20 to 40.

Because vaccines may not be easily available during a pandemic, vaccination won’t be the only way to fight disease. Simple acts such as washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying home when you are sick will make a huge difference. That’s not just sound advice while living through a pandemic. It’s a good lesson for your everyday life.

Do you think the government’s plan makes sense? Is this the right order? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Castles in the Cabbages

It must have seemed as though England woke up one morning in 1940 to find the countryside suddenly littered with anti-tank barricades, vehicle traps and the ubiquitous pill box. The threat of German invasion in 1940 resulted in 28,000 of these little concrete fortresses being placed in strategic locations- hidden in spinneys on the crests of fields, on the bends of rivers and at road junctions. All for a war that never came. And so instead of heroic tales of rattling machine gun fire raking across canals and cabbage fields, there must be countless tales of rehearsal, all-to-real manoeuvres or simply just rotas of guard duty that involved enamelled coffee pots and poaching in surrounding woods. I can't be precise as to the exact location of this one (this is the fens after all) but it can't be far from my smoking railway carriage. Just one of less than 6,000 still extant in the countryside. Find out more at

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: More bird flu outbreaks reported in poultry

More cases of H5N1 bird flu were reported in poultry around the world this week, with at least five countries experiencing new or reoccurring outbreaks, according to headlines reported by APHA’s Get Ready news Twitter. The bird flu cases came as more and more countries work to come up with pandemic flu plans and as world health leaders struggle to reach common ground on virus sample sharing.

Among the week’s bird flu highlights reported by the Get Ready news Twitter are:
South Korea reports new low pathogenic bird flu case
Japan bans poultry from South Korea
Myanmar reports fresh bird flu outbreak
Another case of bird flu in Hong Kong
Deadly bird flu found on Saudi poultry farm
Bird flu found in market near Saudi capital
Cull ends at bird flu-hit farms in UK
UK bird flu poses no food safety risks, officials say
UK poultry owners urged to register in fight against bird flu

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Railway Echo No 5

A very evocative find out on the fens. An abandoned railway carriage sits at a deserted platform as if having collapsed on its final run up from March to Spalding. Sun-bleached peeling paint, cobwebbed windows, but still the sandblasted glass firmly saying 'It's OK, come in here and light up your Woodbine, Churchmans, Passing Cloud or Sweet Afton. No 'customer services team member' to report you to the Tobacco Police, no disapproving looks from your travelling companions. Now it's just the wind through the hawthorns blowing in from the quiet fields, the occasional badger or fox stopping momentarily to sniff the cold air. Do they catch the ghost of the last blue wreath of smoke curling up out of the ventilator? I do hope so.

Guest blog: Today is first-ever National Children’s Flu Vaccination Day

Today's blog entry is authored by Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, former U.S. surgeon general and chair of the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition; and Carol J. Baker, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and moderator for the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition.

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, which was created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage more people to get vaccinated against influenza, also called the flu, in November, December and beyond.

For the first time ever, CDC, along with Families Fighting Flu -- both members of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition -- created a day within National Influenza Vaccination Week that focuses on children. Children's Flu Vaccination Day is today, Nov. 27.

Americans are for the most part unaware that influenza can be a serious risk to the health of our children. Children are two to three times more likely to come down with the flu than adults because their immune systems are less developed. Children are also very good spreaders of the flu since they wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes less frequently than adults.

Seasonal flu is very serious. Each year, thousands of Americans are hospitalized and some even die due to the flu and its complications.

Annual influenza vaccination is safe and effective and is the best way to protect anyone from getting sick with the flu.

So get vaccinated against influenza every year, beginning in the fall and continuing through the winter -- December and beyond. Creating healthy family habits will help protect our nation from influenza each season and in the case of an influenza pandemic.

On behalf of the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition, we thank our members, including APHA, for the important work they do throughout the year to educate people about the importance of flu vaccination.

It’s not too late to get your seasonal flu shot

Still haven't gotten your seasonal flu shot? Well, now's the perfect time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named this week National Influenza Vaccination Week. This week is here to remind us why it is important to get our flu shots. It is also a good time to make sure that everyone who hasn't gotten their shot yet gets them through the months of November, December and into the new year.

Each year in the United States, around 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized because of seasonal flu. People who don't get a flu shot are putting themselves at risk for the flu, which can be a serious illness. If they get sick, they are also placing their close contacts at risk for flu. And even though our families might drive us crazy at times, we don't want to make them sick!

Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself and the people you love from seasonal flu. And there is still plenty of time left in this flu season to make getting the flu shot worthwhile.

Also, tomorrow, Nov. 27, is set aside as Children's Flu Vaccination Day. Each year, more than 20,000 kids younger than age 5 are hospitalized because of the flu. This day will focus on making sure that everyone knows how important it is that all kids get their flu shot.

Record amounts of flu vaccine are available this season, so call your doctor or health clinic and schedule a time for you and your loved ones to get your flu shots. Take the flu seriously and make sure you get ready for this flu season by getting your shot!

Harbouring Thoughts

All the horrible stuff going on in a Margate back garden reminded me that I'd been there once. Veering away from Dreamland and the pleasure beaches I came across this marvellous little building on the harbour. Once the Customs House, it was built in 1812 and sported the official coat-of-arms with its motto 'Dieu et Mon Droit' (God and My Right). Known ever since as the Droit House, it is now the worryingly- titled 'visitor intrepretation centre' for the planned Turner Contemporary Art Gallery which I think was once going to be a huge sail-like building anchored to the sea bed. Turner lived in Margate for twenty years. The only other astounding fact I know about Margate is that the railway once proudly claimed that it had the longest station lavatories in Britain, to accommodate the urgent rush of daytrippers from trains arriving from London. Ron Combo, a frequent visitor to the comment pages of this blog, and myself can attest to the fact that not only is it no longer true but on our desperate visit it was also locked.

Creaking Oars

Old boathouses are wonderfully evocative places. Once alive to the sound of laughter as the picnic baskets of house guests were loaded into skiffs and rowing boats, many lie forgotten on the banks of lakes and rivers. I even remember finding one falling to pieces on a beach up on the west coast of the Isle of Arran at Dougarie, with a boat half-submerged in the water and sepia photographs of parties from the nearby big house still in broken frames on the wall.
This example is at Elvaston near Derby, quietly rotting away thanks to the vagaries of Derbyshire County Council who used the excuse of foot and mouth to point to falling visitor numbers in order to close the castle (designed by James Wyatt in 1812) and its museum, just so they could lease the whole estate to a private developer. How many times have we heard that one? The park is still open, and it's worth a trip off the M1 just to lap up the atmosphere and discover the 1860 Moorish temple hidden in the gardens. Ken Russell shot scenes for his memorable film Women in Love (1969) here, but if you want to find out who's shooting who now, take a look at

Sunday's End

Merchant Ivory films tend to get judged as 'Laura Ashley dramas'. Comments which are as obtuse as they are ignorant. So after a magnificent Sunday lunch with loved ones of roast pig and parsnips I retired to my village fastness and, after having poured myself a large snifter, I put on my DVD of Howards End. This must have been the fourth or fifth time I'd watched it, but yet again I was utterly absorbed. Everyone dresses up because this is Edwardian England; the period detail is as meticulous as it is unsurpassed. The social mores of the turn of the century brought to life by superb performances from everybody. But in particular I like Samuel West as Leonard Bast in his ill-fitting bowler and the infinitely watchable James Wilby who, with his eye-rolling, pipe-smoking characterisation of Charles Wilcox manages to overtly steal every single scene he's in, from even the august Mr.Hopkins and Emma Thompson. And of course there are veteran cars with original AA badges, steam trains and a walk-on part for St.Pancras as it was, complete with the wooden panelled booking office and a trainshed wreathed in smoke. I first saw this film when I scived off work to watch it in the Curzon cinema in Mayfair, (is there a better place to watch films?), and found myself alone in the red plush seating. And not a popcorn remnant in sight.

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Time to get your seasonal flu shot!

Reports of seasonal flu cases are trickling in from across the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting elevated flu activity in the Mountain and New England regions and localized outbreaks in three states as of Nov. 10. Headlines reported this week by APHA’s Get Ready news Twitter show that now is the time to find a flu clinic and get your vaccination.

Among the week’s seasonal flu highlights are:
Seasonal flu outbreaks in three U.S. states
National Influenza Vaccination Week is Nov. 26 to Dec 2 in U.S.
• Have you received your seasonal flu shot yet? Take our poll!
Flu season hits Lower Hudson, N.Y.
How to find a seasonal flu shot: Web site helps find flu vaccine
Delaware’s first flu cases of season reported
Florida flu season is under way
Central Florida worst in U.S. for seasonal flu

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready news Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Glass in the Face

I learn from the inestimable 'Piloti' in Private Eye that the oafish Abingdon Council in Oxfordshire want to put a glass lift up to the second floor of the old Town Hall, built by one of Wren's masons in 1678-82. On the outside, if you can possibly believe it. Of course it's the usual insistence on disabled access, whatever the cost and accusations of vandalism. And on top of all that the curator of the 'museum' upstairs thinks that the open space at the bottom, framed by the arcades, is 'dark and dismal' and so wants it all glazed in. Doubtless to let out to a burgher franchise or dodgy building society. And the cost? £5 million. Thank God English Heritage have now got involved. But I do hope that if ever I have the awful misfortune to be unable to climb the stairs through either a disability, or from being morbidly obese, that I will either forgo the experience or be able to summon a couple of council officials to take me up there piggy-back style. They've patently got nothing better to do.

When planning for a pandemic, let's not forget the kids

When planning for a pandemic, there's one item you should be sure not to leave off the list: the kids. But a recent report suggests that's exactly what's happening.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Trust for America's Health, children are being left out of pandemic flu planning around the world. Even the U.S. flu plan does not fully address how to care for children if we have a pandemic.

Making matters worse, since 2003, nearly half of the more than 200 people who have died from H5N1 bird flu -- the strain scientists have considered being the greatest pandemic threat -- have been younger than age 19. Children are more at risk for contagious diseases, including the flu, because they have less immunity. They also are more likely to spread the virus because they come in close contact with other children.

To improve flu planning for kids, the report recommends that the U.S. government:

*include pediatricians in pandemic flu planning;
*test vaccines, medicine and medical equipment to make sure they work and are safe for children;
*store enough vaccine and medicines to treat at least 25 percent of children in the United States -- about 18.4 million people;
*teach children in school to wash their hands, cover their mouth when they cough and other ways to prevent viruses from spreading; and
*figure out what would happen if schools close for a long period of time.

If you are worried about what you can do to keep your kids safe from infections, check out this Q&A from APHA experts with tips you can use.

What special planning have you done to protect your children? Let us know by clicking the "comment" button below, and sharing your experiences!

Cast Iron Constitution

Drink was taken yesterday at the all-new St.Pancras railway station. Ejected from the 'champagne bar' (which looks like the kind of dull cabin favoured by Costa Coffee) for attempting to jump the patient queue that stretched down the platform, (in line for the shock of bubbly at £6 a glass), my friend and I repaired to the slightly queezy-sounding Baby Betjeman Bar. The station itself is astounding, bright Midland brick and Ancaster stone showing off the cast iron buttresses that support the stupendous glass roof, now finished in the sky blue as originally applied in the early 1870s. We needed a few vodkas ('Do you want ice in that?' 'No, you should be keeping it in the freezer') and glasses of fizz to contemplate it all. We liked the Betjeman statue in classic pose looking up at the arch of roof, but had mixed feelings about the nine metre high couple nearly snogging under the clock. I liked her legs but my companion complained bitterly that it was just too Jack Vetriano. There's something in that. Anyway, I scooted off to catch my local train, (thirty four quid for a single ticket to Market Harborough), running past the sleek streamliners humming out to Liege or wherever, to where it's still the same old Midland Misery Line. Pushed out of sight like the branch line it has now become. But do go and see the station, and raise at least one glass up to the roof.

Railway Echo No 4

These days 'luggage', to train operators at least, means something that's left behind a seat at the terminus or destroyed in a controlled explosion if we leave it in the toilets by mistake. We trundle and stagger about with cabin trunks on our backs and induce hernias by lifting our Globetrotter suitcases onto aluminium racking. As our fellow passengers groan because they can't get by and the automatic carriage door keeps opening and shutting with robotic randomness. Nobody wants to know anymore. Once, every station had a big set of pigeon holes that contained printed luggage labels for every other station in the country, even if it was on another company's railway. So our cases, trunks, parcels, bicycles and pigeon baskets could be sent on in advance. Or the valise we'd left on the string rack in our compartment could be forwarded to the correct destination. With a porter to help us out with it all. Imagine the present day soulless franchisees trying to get their heads round that one.
Really expensive railway relics today can cost the price of, oh, a single ticket from Market Harborough to the gleaming new St.Pancras. But old luggage labels will only set you back the loose change you'd otherwise find being snatched by a platform vending machine without delivering your bar of Nestles. Not only are they a wonderful gazetteer of railway topography, they are also simple reminders of just how rich an everyday piece of print could be in terms of typefaces and texture. Porter!

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Seasonal flu vaccinations on agenda

Seasonal flu is here, and health workers around the globe are using innovative methods — from drive-thru clinics to talking posters - to encourage people to get their annual vaccinations, as evidenced by some of the news headlines reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter.

Among the week's seasonal flu highlights are:

*Scotland uses talking posters, graffiti to promote flu shots
*Free flu shots will be given in Paris
*Children's books to help fight bird flu in Australia
*Baltimore to monitor severity of flu during season
*Banks, nurses team up to give out flu shots in Michigan
*Flu vaccination should reach more people says U.S. CDC

Have you received your seasonal flu shot yet? Take our poll now on the right-hand side of the Get Ready for Flu blog!

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Help make sure the nation is ready for pandemic flu

It's important that each and every one of us takes steps to prepare for pandemic flu. But what is the government doing to help? Quite a bit, actually. In fact, a few years ago, U.S. leaders released an ambitious plan that lays out the steps that the government- along with states, communities, businesses and families- should take to get ready for a flu pandemic. It's a wise start, but the plan needs more money.

Congress has already given the plan some funding, which is being used to stockpile drugs called "antivirals" that are used to help treat people with flu. Some is being used to store vaccines that would protect people against H5N1, the strain of bird flu that is causing concern around the world. And some of the money is also being used to increase our nation’s ability to make vaccines- which are all positive steps.

Unfortunately, not enough money is going to help states and communities prepare for a flu pandemic. Funding is especially needed to make sure that there are enough health workers on hand if a pandemic occurs and that hospitals have enough medical supplies and beds. That way, you, your family and your community will be protected. And isn't that what we all want?

You can help make sure that there is enough money in place to prepare the nation for pandemic flu. Let your legislator know you support preparedness and public health by contacting them via phone, e-mail or even old-fashioned snail mail. You could even go a step further and set up a meeting with your elected official and deliver your message face-to-face. Legislators are working on budgets now, so this is the time to make your voice heard!

Won't you be my neighbor? Community preparedness and pandemic flu

Neighbors. Whether we live in a city, suburb or rural area, we've all got 'em. Whether or not we've actually met any of them is another story. But recent work by public health students at Indiana University suggests that now may be the time to whip up a batch of cookies and make a call on the folks next door, as getting to know your neighbor can play an important role in the event of a flu pandemic.

Working at the request of a community in Indianapolis, students at the university's School of Public Health developed a plan known as "Healthwatch" that can be used to link up neighbors. At the heart of Healthwatch is the idea that neighbors can work together on preparedness, communication and awareness and rely on one another during a flu pandemic. Even though the plan was created for a specific community, it can serve as a model and be used elsewhere, according to Victoria Russo, MPH, who discussed the approach during the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting this month.

"Our world is now faced with a deadly disease," Russo said. "The impact will be local, therefore preparedness must be at the local level also."

Based on the Healthwatch plan, here are some tips that you can use in your neighborhood:

*Bring together residents on pandemic flu planning through a community or neighborhood organization, which can serve as the coordinator for the effort.

*Getting a handle on a whole community of residents at once can be daunting. Try organizing neighborhoods into smaller units, such as 10 households each (be they apartments, mobile homes or houses). Then pick a captain that will serve as the head of each unit.

*Ask residents to provide details such as how many people live in each home and contact information to the unit captain. Create a phone tree so that residents can stay up-to-date on the situation and check up on those who need help.

*Come up with a way that sick households can be identified during a pandemic, such as a flag on a mailbox or sticker on a door, and ask residents to call in their symptoms to their captains, who can relay requests for help.

*Encourage residents to plan ahead and stock up on supplies for their households now, and to think about who in their homes might have special needs, such as the elderly or pregnant women.

The bottom line? Get to know your neighbor today. Because in the event of a disaster- be it pandemic flu or a hurricane- your nearest neighbors may turn out to be your closest allies.

Photo courtesy iStockphoto

Mosquito Coast

It's that time of the year again when autumn winds presage the dusting down of dark overcoats and the button-holing of red paper poppies. Three years ago I wrote and photographed a little book on war memorials called Lest We Forget, and whilst putting a few pages front and back cataloguing a random selection from thousands of stone crosses, I was mostly concerned with discovering the more unusual memorials. I certainly found a perfect candidate out on the flatlands of the Dengie Peninsular in Essex. This aeroplane marks the passing of those serving at RAF Bradwell Bay where Spitfires and Hurricanes fought on the front line of aerial defence in the Second World War. This, however, is a depiction of a Mosquito, painted in the colours of an RAF Northern Europe day fighter. I find the image of what looks like a plane embedded nose-down in the earth slightly disturbing, but in its own way it perhaps reflects the outstretched arms of a more conventional cross.

Bamboo & China Doves

Oxfam shops can be showcases of startling juxtapositions. The genteel cast-offs of an English country town posed next to stark reminders of why the shop needs to empty our pockets. The impromptu window dressing can act as an almost surreal collage of objects: the paper flowers thrust into a tabletop ornament, plates with what look like Margaret Tarrant-inspired decoration balanced in a rickety bamboo bedside table. I tend to go in to scan the bookshelves or to rummage for pegtop high-waisted trousers discarded by retired colonels (I've never found any, and if I ever did they wouldn't fit me without an unseemly struggle). One of the best Oxfam bookshops is of course the one on St.Giles in Oxford, appropriately where the charity started. We don't think we'll ever get a bargain, and if we do discover something wildly under-priced we will of course alert the staff. Won't we? No, one has the distinct impression here that all incoming stock is severely scrutinised by someone with glasses on the end of their nose. Although once....

Wall of Silence

I suppose because I've known this wall (in Fleckney, Leicestershire) virtually all my life, I've tended to take it for granted. But looked at objectively, as I did the other day, it is rather odd. I know that there's a factory behind it (I'm not really sure what they make) and the pink rainwater heads and pipes correspond to the gutters that run between gabled roofs in traditional style behind the wall. Why did someone want to disguise the factory? Is this wall any better? What were they doing behind it? This being west Leicestershire it could be hosiery- Wolsey made socks in the village for Scott's Antarctic Expeditions or perhaps it's something to do with Furnival's of Fleckney Mineral Waters. Is it something so secret it only gets talked about in hushed tones? Maybe I should have found out properly before writing all this, but it's the wall that really worries me.

Creature Feature 1

I'm gradually putting together yet another collection, this time of architectural animalia, if there is such a word. Pride of place at the moment is this stunning three-dimensional swan that stares out over a car park near Boston railway station. This was once Fogarty's 1877 factory, manufacturing pillows and mattresses that utilised feathers from the poultry that this part of Lincolnshire had in abundance. The name Fogarty disappeared for a while when the company was taken over by Coloroll, but a management buy-out means that the Fogarty name is back, and duvets and pillows are still made in Boston. This slightly ugly red brick building is now an apartment block. Ugly duckling perhaps, turning into a graceful swan against the sky.

Bonfires, Bangers and Beefburgers

Now that we don't let off fireworks in our back gardens anymore, living in fear perhaps of the Thought Police coming round and hosing us all down, we tend to gravitate towards our local recreation ground. So my boys and I stood around whilst two men ran about with a box of matches and a lot of rockets went up out of milk bottles (I assume). We tucked into big fat beefburgers with slices of processed cheese melting in them, but the bonfire was the best bit. There's something very primitive about a blazing pile of wood and straw bales, and I noticed a thoughtful, if slightly worrying, gleam appear in my four-year-old's eyes. He then thought that it would be a good idea to watch the display from one of the swings, so out in the peripheral blackness I pushed him higher and higher on his rubber tyre seat, a little black silhouette gazing up into the heavens as if he was part of the performance. Fantastic. When he started to fight with his elder brother on a seesaw, and I realised they weren't going to burn an effigy of a Pope, or anybody else come to that, I said 'Shall we go and watch Robin Hood?' and with shouts of glee they ran off back to the car, backlit by Whizzbangs and brilliant white Catherine Wheels.

Tulane student named as winner of APHA Get Ready Song Contest

A public health student and amateur song writer has been named as the winner of APHA’s Get Ready Song Contest.

“Get Ready,” an original song written and performed by Tulane University public health student Joy Elizabeth Sadaly, was chosen as the first-place winner of the contest. Judges praised the song, which featured Sadaly performing acoustically with a guitar, for its appealing tune, creative lyrics and “great hook.”

The contest, held in summer 2007, called on APHA members and the public to write and record a song in support of the Association’s Get Ready campaign. The campaign is working to help Americans prepared themselves, their families and their communities for pandemic flu and other emerging infectious diseases.

“Pandemic Blues,” by Lance Waller, PhD, and the Sinners for Disease Control, was named the second-place winner in the contest. Waller, a biostatistics professor with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, and his friends, John Cowden and Michael Starling, performed the song using primarily guitars and a piano.

Four songwriters also earned honorable mentions in the song contest: Glenn Hildebrand, Marina Kamen, Jenifer Kirin and Douglas Slaten.

You can listen to the songs online now via the Get Ready Web site.

Kirby Grips

Sometimes a building takes hold of you for many reasons, beyond the initial acts of appreciating architecture or landscape. Kirby Hall in north east Northamptonshire is probably the one 'heritage' building I've visited more than any other. It helps by being only a few miles from the two homes I've occupied over the last eleven years. Alone in the fields near Corby (the wretched Rockingham Raceway looms on the horizon) you approach it as if in a dream, finally walking down a rook-haunted avenue of chestnuts to the Weldon stone gateways. On the surface this is an Elizabethan prodigy with gables, obelisks and chimneys against the sky- started by Sir Humphrey Stafford in 1570, finished by Elizabeth's favourite Sir Christopher Hatton. In recent years many will have seen it, but probably not recognised it, as a film location: Mansfield Park, A Christmas Carol and A Cock and Bull Story. Inside, the bare wooden floors and the stunning curves of the bowed-windows are for me the backgrounds to thirty years of happy memories: girls sitting in window seats looking out over the fields, little children stamping their echoing feet from room to room. If you want a test bed for, say, a new relationship, and you love this sort of thing, then Kirby Hall is a good laboratory. If you've never been, get to grips with it soon.

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Drug-resistance an increasing danger to health

Drug resistance is a growing concern worldwide, especially in the context of infectious diseases. Recent news headlines have drawn attention to issues such as the global threat posed by drug-resistant tuberculosis and the increasing number of cases of multidrug-resistant staph in the United States.

Among the news stories related to drug-resistance reported recently via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

*South Africa study predicts major rise in XDR-TB
*Drug-resistant MRSA developing into medical crisis
* Number of MRSA cases in pets increasing
* Anti-TB program 'led to resistance' in South Africa
* Superbug putting schools to the test in U.S.

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Tidal Reaches 2

Once it gets into October you can almost hear the North Norfolk coast heaving a well-earned sigh of relief as most of the population retreats back to Chiswick. Here on Brancaster Staithe they just quietly get on with gutting fish, doing something to bags of mussels and putting village notices up in an old Eastern Counties bus timetable frame. And of course abandoning their boats so that they can lean with the weather like the Norfolk trademark pines on the horizon. I did wonder if this vessel ever uprighted itself on the higher reaches of the tide, listening as I did to the first gurglings in the reed-bound mud as the sea once again started to push against the hull of an active fishing boat, (short-wheel based Landrover in attendance). I had to buy a big fresh crab in a brown paper bag for my fish-obsessed ten-year-old from a little wooden hut.

Autumn Ascents

Reaching 478 feet at their highest point, the Langton Caudles (that's the one with the sheep) in south east Leicestershire are hardly the Malverns. But round here this, and Slawston Hill (426 feet), are the big ones. If you want to get a bird's eye view of what's going on in the surrounding villages (not much) then a brisk climb up to their summits is suitably rewarding, even if it's only to see Range Rovers not giving way on the narrow lanes to gargantuan John Deere tractors with equally frightening implements sticking out the back. I've just been out to get essential Sunday afternoon supplies, and the cloud formations contrived to give spectacularly stage-set lighting to their slopes. A timely reminder to never go out without a camera in your pocket.

New flu vaccine means there will be plenty of shots this year

Good news! The Food and Drug Administration has approved another seasonal flu vaccine! Why is that good news? Because it means we will have plenty of flu vaccine to go around. In fact, the United States is expected to have a record supply of flu vaccine this year.

This is important because not too long ago, during the 2004 to 2005 flu season, there was a flu vaccine shortage in the United States. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped saying that everyone should get a flu shot and started saying "wait, not you." People started to doubt whether getting a flu shot was all that important, even though it really is. Each year, 36,000 people die and 200,000 are hospitalized as a result of seasonal flu.

In recent years, public education campaigns have called for everyone to get vaccinated. It's just good common sense and good public health. Now, with a record supply of flu vaccine expected, we can say "everyone should get a flu shot!"

One reason that we have the new vaccine to choose from this season is thanks to a special process at FDA that lets the agency "fast track" a drug review when the medication is really needed. The new vaccine, called Afluria, met that definition, so it was "fast-tracked" through FDA, and subsequently, to doctor's offices, health departments and flu vaccination clinics around the country. The new vaccine is just one kind that's available, so ask your health care provider which one is best for you.

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Pandemic flu preparations

With early cases of seasonal flu already popping up, much of the recent health news has been focused on flu and what can be done to prevent it. This week, several stories took it a step further and focused on preparations for a potential flu pandemic. Among the news stories related to pan flu reported this week via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

*Kids overlooked in flu pandemic
*Millions at risk as flu pandemic conditions ripen in China, health official warns
*Experts advise companies: Plan for flu pandemic
*South Dakota capital city hires flu expert
*Scarce pandemic vaccine to be given in order

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Promising Practices to help you prepare for pandemic flu

With so much information out there about preparing for pandemic flu, how do you recognize strong advice? Well, a new tool is now available to help communities learn from one another when it comes to planning for a pandemic. And it includes great tips for individuals, too.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, along with the Pew Center on the States, created Promising Practices, an online database of more than 130 peer-reviewed practices to enhance public health preparedness. Many are geared toward people working in public health and related fields, but several are useful for personal and family preparedness planning. You can start today by asking these questions:

*How do I create a family preparedness plan?
*What food should I stockpile?
*What can I do to reduce the risk of catching a respiratory illness like influenza?
*How do I care for ill family members at home if it becomes necessary?

You can find answers to these questions and more on the Promising Practices site. Click on personal preparedness, home care or vulnerable populations to learn more.

One of the resources is a link to the Get Ready blog, which contains useful posts. Others include a video on family preparedness planning; a thorough, easy-to-read pandemic influenza guide; and a family preparedness booklet you can complete.

Preparing for an emergency can mean the difference between struggling to reclaim your life and forging ahead after a fire, a tornado or even a flu pandemic. This new resource can speed your journey along the path to preparedness.

Amy Becker, MPH, is the project coordinator for Promising Practices at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Promising Practices was conceived and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Center staff collected and reviewed materials, with expert guidance from an advisory committee of public health and pandemic influenza experts nationwide.

Where to Find Local Emergency Preparedness Info

Ok, so by now you probably know the importance of being prepared for a flu pandemic or other emergency. But do you know where to go to find information and resources in your state or hometown? Don't worry – we're here to help!

There are several good Web sites to point you in the right direction as you develop a preparedness plan for you and your family:

*Here on the Get Ready site, visit our resource section to find links to state-level resources and campaigns addressing pandemic flu.

*Ready America, a program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, offers a clickable map to find out whom to contact in your state for information on preparedness. On the site you'll also find information about Citizen Corps, a way to volunteer and get involved in preparing your community.

*Your state or local health department is also a great place to look for resources and information about preparedness. From the CDC site you can link directly to your state health department's website.

*Another good option is to visit the Red Cross Web site to find the contact information for your local Red Cross chapter.

*If you are interested in finding local disability-related emergency preparedness resources, check out the interactive map on the National Organization on Disability Web site.

These sites will connect you to the information you need to find out what kind of disasters could happen where you live and what resources are available in your community to help you prepare for any emergency.

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Flu season

With fall upon us and flu season just around the corner, there are lots of news stories about the availability of the flu shot and the role it can play in keeping us healthy. Among the news related to flu season reported this week via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

*Scientists, flu renew annual combat
*Studies show flu shot helps
*Parents feel more urgency to vaccinate children from flu
*Diseases in kids linked to flu
*Pennsylvania investigates possible early seasonal flu cases
*North Carolina residents praise drive-thru flu clinic

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Colorado reality competition spotlights preparedness

Colorado public health officials recently took advantage of America's fascination with reality television by producing and airing their own real-life competition.

In September, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment pitted nine state residents against one another in an online competition focused on preparedness. The competition, held Sept. 20–23 in Denver, was part of the state's "What If? Colorado" campaign, which encourages residents to become prepared.

During the competition, competitors lived and were filmed as they reacted to sudden emergencies such as a severe snowstorm or power outage as well as more long-term emergencies such as an influenza pandemic. Contestants learned how to survive for a night without power and participated in a demonstration illustrating how quickly an infectious virus can spread, among other exercises. One challenged featured teams racing to kiddy pools filled with Styrofoam packing materials to find color-coded clues, writing the clues on a readiness profile and compiling a family communication plan.

The reality competition was important, state officials said, because a majority of residents are not prepared for emergencies. A survey of almost 1,000 state residents found that 73 percent do not have an emergency preparedness kit.

Episodes of the reality competition are online now and can be viewed on the What If? Colorado Web site.

Photo courtesy What If? Colorado campaign

Cartoon Smithfield

Everytime I duck through Smithfield Market I see this building on the corner of Lindsey Street, just before I dive down Rising Sun Court to the pub at the end. Suddenly you forget the humming refrigerated trucks and the sides of beef disappearing down greasy alleys. Obviously Art Deco in intent, but when I first saw it the fascias had been re-painted, looking for all the world like a background for an early Disney or Tex Avery feature. Indeed it could very easily have been lifted straight from Aldo Rossi's 1991 proposals for Disney's offices in Orlando, Florida. But in case one gets carried away and starts waiting around to see bulbous yellow cars and impossibly bendy red fire engines driven by round-eared mice or sailor-suited ducks, you can bring yourself back to reality by looking next door at Edmund Martin's tripe-dressing premises.

Perplexed about pandemic? The Get Ready Glossary can clear things up!

Confused about the difference between pandemic flu and seasonal flu? Wondering what exactly H5N1 is? If you think that reading about pandemic flu and other infectious diseases can seem like reading Greek, you are not alone! While news stories and preparedness guides are chock full of technical flu and disease terms, many of us are still unsure what they all mean.

Luckily, a new tool is available from APHA to help clear up the confusion. Let the Get Ready Glossary be your guide! The new glossary, on the Get Ready Web site , features a wealth of terms with both easy-to-understand and scientific and technical definitions. So the next you are flummoxed about the difference between endemic and epidemic, drop in on the Get Ready Glossary for a quick answer!

Have other terms for us to add to the glossary? Let us know by adding your comments to this blog entry.

An Oxfordshire Idyll

To Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire. A pre-lunch (Falkland Arms, Great Tew) walk in the park, alone except for two Aussies who kept saying 'awesome' every ten seconds. And awesome it is, an early fourteenth century fortified manor house (with a Tudor frontispiece) on a spectacular moated site. A very heady experience, particularly after I'd poked my nose into the church porch and found it awash with lilies. I'd always wanted to see Broughton after Tony Richardson shot scenes for his 1977 Joseph Andrews here. This became the home of the Wicked Squire (Kenneth Cranham) who lures the heroes and heroine to unwittingly take part in his satanic pleasures. Richardson marked the decisive moment between good and evil by having the entourage race through the tower gatehouse (seen here to the right of the church), David Watkin's camera whip-panning into the dark interior of the gateway as the door swings shut against the sunlit church spire. But Henry Fielding's eighteenth century seemed, oh, nearly three hundred years ago on this bright, fresh October morning, with the only sound the gentle drone of a tractor behind the trees. Awesome.

Cafe Society

Right. It's time to stop staring at the minutiae of scruffy old Penguin Books and empty Gold Flake packets and get back out there. On the road, seeing what happens; Fear and Loathing On The A1.
I saw on someone's blog the other day that a top ten of roadside caffs was being assembled. One of the candidates put forward was a very up-market pub, the Olive Branch at Clipsham in Rutland. Anything further from a transport cafe cannot possibly be imagined unless under mind-altering drugs, and in any case it's a good way off the four lane blacktop that is the Great North Road. But not much further north is the real thing. A wheezing shack roofed in red corrugated iron at the Cromwell Halt just north of Newark. The lettering (obliterated in the war in case the Third Reich fancied dropping in with high explosives) automatically triggers the senses. It says, as boldly as possible: bacon, sausage, two fried eggs, black pudding and a mug of tea you can stand a spoon up in. On my first visit thick-set truckers with arms like Popeye's shovelled breakfasts down whilst aiming expletives at Tony Blair (remember 'im?) preening himself on a the ceiling-slung telly. I daren't get the camera out inside in case I found the lens slowly clearing of HP Sauce, but in conversation with the owner I learnt that next door to the shack was an air raid shelter, just in case a stray Heinkel interrupted the mopping-up with fried bread. Marvellous. I shall return.

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Dengue a global concern

With climate change and warmer weather influencing the spread of infectious disease, mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue are becoming a growing concern around the globe. Among the dengue news reported this week via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

* Dengue fever surges in Latin America
* WHO urges Asia-Pacific nations to step up dengue control
* Climate change spurring rise in dengue
* 71 dengue cases, 76 chikungunya cases, in Delhi, India
* Vietnam reports more dengue fever cases
* Pediatric Dengue Initiative and Inviragen partner to prevent dengue fever

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter .
New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Martian Chronicle

I needed an excuse to put a classic Penguin Book on my blog, and this morning I read about Nicole Kidman remaking The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. This lead me to thinking about other adaptations of seminal science fiction. A few years ago I heard that Mr.Spielberg was thinking of making a film of The War of the Worlds with the diminutive Tom Cruise, and having recently read the book I thought I would give him some advice about how to do it. I think my letter is behind a radiator in Burbank or somewhere, but the gist of it was that here was a golden opportunity to both make a truly awesome film and also line my pocket as Special Adviser. The trick was to simply follow the book. One world in H.G.Wells' novel is late Victorian England, the other is Mars with terrifying ultra modern destructive power. Put the two together and you have gigantic computer-controlled metal legs crashing down on butcher's boys and grocery shops in Weybridge High Street, Heat Rays scorching-up vicars and melting down Shepperton church. The future would have looked frighteningly authentic, a very literal war of the worlds. Needless to say an English classic novel was rendered down to be yet another great American Idea with no connection to its literary origins.

Norfolk Melancholy

What is it about these big Norfolk churches in the middle of nowhere? If in the very unlikely event you ever drive between Tilney All Saints and Tilney-cum-Islington in West Norfolk you will see Wiggenhall St.Mary the Virgin across the fields. It stands out against a backdrop of trees surrounding the Hall and a towering cedar black against the sky. You'll find it on a cul-de-sac lane that leads out of the village, and then down a footpath that's also someone's driveway. You expect any minute that a dog will remove the seat from your trousers. The church is basically Perpendicular of around 1400 in rubble and plastered brick, and is sadly and forlornly closed and unused. But that remarkable institution The Churches Conservation Trust does care for it, and everything they do should be vigorously supported. The all-pervading atmosphere here is one of deep melancholy. It's very easy to conjure up past congregations walking up the tree-lined road from the village to their beloved church, all of them finally finding rest as the long grasses slowly cover their graves.

Brighton Clock

I've been knocking about in Brighton recently. I have to say I love it. Not just watching waves crashing up on the shingle whilst stuffing moules and Kir Royales down in early evening promenade bars, but the whole ambience that comes from that heady cocktail of architectural bon surprise and dodgy raffishness. Regency terraces, steep-laned Kemp Town. Graham Greene's Kolley Kibber hiding his card under teashop table cloths, Pinkie flicking open his knife in back floor apartments smelling of gas. As Keith Waterhouse said, Brighton always looks as if it's helping the police with their enquiries.

Running for an early morning train last week I looked up and just had to snap Brighton's station clock. Four 'Big Ben' style faces mark the minutes over the platforms with the gilded LBSCR letters reminding us that Brighton was once the terminus of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. What scenes must this clock have presided over. Racegoers in trilby's, murderers with torsos in cabin trunks. Laurence Olivier and Dora Bryan glancing up at it as they alight from the Brighton Belle. Always with the incessant cry of gulls over the ornate iron trainshed.

APHA holds Get Ready Day celebration

APHA celebrated its first-ever Get Ready Day in September by sponsoring a Get Ready Fun Fest at Tubman Elementary School in northwest D.C. The fun fest was held in support of APHA’s Get Ready campaign, which is working to help Americans prepare for pandemic influenza and other emerging infectious diseases.

To highlight the Get Ready theme, APHA provided fact sheets on preventing flu and infectious diseases and hosted games, such as "germ tag," that underscored the importance of handwashing. The first 20 parents at the event received first aid kits, compliments of the American Red Cross. Students also received a copy of APHA's new Get Ready Kids Fun Pack, with games on preparedness and disease prevention.

Special guests included Talon, the mascot for the D.C. United soccer team. The event was held in conjunction with the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association.

Photos from Get Ready Day are online now.

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease news: Livestock and disease

Livestock that live in close proximity to humans can help infectious disease make the jump from animals to people, which puts veterinary and public health workers on high alert for such diseases. The risks will only grow as the global demand for meat products grows, according to new predictions from global food and agriculture officials.

Recent news reports highlighted by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter show livestock diseases are common worldwide, from blue-ear pig disease in China and South Africa to bluetongue sheep disease in Montana . Among the livestock-related infectious disease news reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter:

*Greater global demand for meat could increase risk of diseases
*Additional 10,000 birds to be culled in Guangzhou, China
*Vaccination is best cure against bluetongue
*Pig disease in China worries the world
*New U.K. Foot-and-mouth case 'same strain'
*Disease concern leads Montana vet to prohibit sheep transport
*Blue-ear disease ravaging Western Cape, South Africa, pig farms
*Cue a mystery as Q fever strikes 28 in U.K.

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready News Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Lighting-up Time

Recent events in my life have made me think about taking up the smoking arts once again. I've forgotten exactly when it was I threw the last empty Marlboro packet in the fire, but it's within a timeframe that means that I'm still hesitating as I buy a paper and see the ranks of cardboard boxes whispering at me 'Go on. The odd one won't do any harm'. Of course it would, which is why I gave up in the first place. Not because of hectoring Government advice, the Tobacco Police or being patronised by ASH. And certainly not because of the heinous demands that have been forced on a totally legal product in terms of on-pack health warnings and lurid pictures of strangers' diseased offal. I almost lit up again on the 1st July when smoking was banned in pubs, another bullying directive based on extremely suspect science. But if I do succumb (and I hope I don't) then I want it to be a totally subversive activity. Putting untipped cigarettes into one of my collection of empties, (Gold Flake or Capstan Full Strength favoured) driving at night to an isolated country church and exhaling blue smoke out amongst the branches of a graveyard yew. Just to make some obscure point.

Plenty of flu shots available, U.S. health officials say

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention kicked off its seasonal flu vaccine campaign this week with good news: There should be plenty of flu shots on hand this year.

Although shortage and distribution issues have caused problems with flu shots in the United States in recent years, a whopping 132 million doses should be available in the United States for the upcoming flu season, according to CDC.

The U.S. flu season typically begins in October, which means now is a good time to start thinking about getting your flu shot. But because seasonal flu peaks in February, you can get a vaccination through January and beyond and still see a benefit, said CDC Director Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, at a Washington D.C. news conference.

"The vaccine works," Gerberding said. "It should be used." Sometimes people don't get vaccinated because they think the vaccine causes flu, Gerberding said, which is simply "not true."

Because kids and seniors are at a high risk for flu, it's especially important that they get vaccinated. Unfortunately, during the 2005–2006 flu season, only one in five children ages 6 months to 23 months was fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates for seniors also lagged below national targets.

If you do get sick from the flu, antiviral medications can help, especially if you have asthma or other chronic conditions, health officials said. Antiviral medications, which can be obtained with a prescription from your doctor, can make flu symptoms lighter and the illness shorter if you take them within 12 to 48 hours of showing flu symptoms.

Every year, about 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die because of seasonal flu. To find a flu vaccination clinic near you, call your local health department or pharmacy and ask for their flu shot schedule.

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease news: International spread of disease

Infectious diseases aren't stopped by international borders, recent news shows. Whether it is a little-known mosquito-borne disease gaining a foothold in Europe because of an international traveler, or U.S. troops bringing home infections from Iraq and Afghanistan, news reports show how quickly and easily diseases can spread around the world.

Among the infectious disease news reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter:

*Pig Disease in China Worries the World
*Europe may see more outbreaks of chikungunya virus
*Cholera cases in Iraq keep rising
*Search in Congo for more possible Ebola victims
*Dermatologists identify North Texas leishmaniasis outbreak
*Two cases of plague strike N. Arizona
*CDC case count: 1,395 West Nile virus cases, 38 deaths so far this year in U.S.
*Texas case of severe dengue prompts warnings

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready News Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Going Mad in Bedfordshire

Wandering down Bedfordshire lanes one day I glanced through a gap in the trees and saw this building catching the intermittent late afternoon light. It's Hinwick House, built in 1709-14 for Richard Orlebar. But I only knew this when I got home and looked it up in Pevsner. As I stood on the grass verge waiting for just that moment when the house would be isolated in a shaft of sunlight, I had a very eerie feeling that I was somehow photographing the past. I've been in a number of places where this has happened, doubtless fuelled by an over-active imagination. Here perhaps was a real-life dust jacket image for a re-issue of L.P.Hartley's The Go-Between, or for H.E. Bates The Distant Horns of Summer. Deer moving slowly through long grass, the unsettling choking cry of a pheasant in woodland margins. Or maybe it's just the first signs of the onset of madness. I blame those white window shutters on the ground floor, fastened against the sun.

Beach Life No.1

So we come to the end of summer. Buckets and spades hung up in the beach hut, the Primus stove put back on the garage shelf as autumn winds sigh through the marram grass. I love the make-do-and-mend atmosphere of beach architecture, the vulnerability, the feeling that it might just not be there anymore when we return next year. I think this is because the bungalow we stayed in at Anderby Creek in Lincolnshire ended up on the front page of the Daily Sketch in 1953, leaning over a sand dune like a nervous diver about to plunge into the sea, a casualty of the East Coast floods (albeit a survivor). Here in Old Hunstanton the sea gives back more than it takes. The original coastline was right back where the pines silhouette the skyline in their truly North Norfolk fashion, and successive rows of beach huts mark the progression of subsequent shores. The next line of defence can be seen in the dunes building up in front of the latest huts.

Pythouse Straw Girl

The Pythouse estate is situated in that curious (even slightly spooky) countryside that sits in a green triangle between Wilton and Mere, in Wiltshire, and Shaftesbury in Dorset. The odd one-eyed town of Tisbury is at the centre and down increasingly narrow lanes you'll also find Old Wardour Castle. But I got waylaid at Pythouse where I got distracted by a ruined gothick chapel and dovecote in the woods. The grounds here are private, but I sort of got 'permission' to have a quick look. On my way back to my car from the woods I spied this ghostly white figure through the trees, standing in an enclosed cottage garden. But what really struck me was the dress. So Victorian, (or maybe so Laura Ashley), here was a latterday Miss Havisham, jilted on her wedding day and condemned to sightlessly rebuke the birds in a lonely clearing in Wiltshire woods.

Magic Numbers

I can never drive past King's Lynn in Norfolk without turning off and having a look around the quayside. All spruced up now, it's basically a car park overlooked by one of the finest seventeenth century buildings in the country- the Customs House. Wandering about in West Norfolk yesterday I thought I'd see it all from a different perspective, so I went down onto the opposite bank of the Ouse at West Lynn. Before I found a way to the shore via a recreation ground I found myself in a cul-de-sac, and confronted by this iron gate. Looking like the entrance to a vanished football ground I can only imagine it once led onto a defunct dock. On each gate pier was a letter in the same style, 'D' and 'C', so I suppose there's another entrance nearby, probably now under a housing estate. Actually, it does look very footbally. But whatever it is, my friends who manage to get to their sixtieth birthdays in a couple of year's time at least know what to expect on their greetings cards.

Railway Echo No.3

Amidst all the railway franchise changes in our meaningless 'customer service' culture, it's good to see a reminder of when it was all very different. This is Eridge station, on the branch line to Uckfield in East Sussex and opened in August 1868. One half of the station has been restored to its Southern Railway livery, as once seen from 1923 to 1948. Cream weatherboarding, green detailing on doors and window frames and what is apparently a reproduction Southern enamel 'target' station sign made by a member of the nearby Spa Valley Railway. The platform canopy is supported by ornamented cast-iron columns, and once served the branch that lead off to Tunbridge Wells West station from where the SVR now run steam trains through High Rocks and Groombridge. There is currently much fundraising going on so that they can run their trains into Eridge once more. Another positive note is that the new 'Southern', whose trains run through on the other platform, have invested in decently-designed signs and an evocative logo. So all is not completely lost.