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.