Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

FEMA will use social media through all stages of a disaster

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Image via Wikipedia

FEMA will use social media through all stages of a disaster

From the next.gov article

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is set up to use Twitter at all stages of a disaster, before the event strikes, during the event and after, Administrator Craig Fugate tells Nextgov.

The agency maintains a Twitter page with just under 30,000 followers, and the administrator himself has a personal page, CraigatFEMA, with almost 6,600 followers.

Before a forecast storm hits, today’s FEMA can monitor local weather reports and Tweets to advise the public in the affected area. On Tuesday, for example, the agency issued a message about a winter storm likely to hit Oklahoma, New Mexico and North Texas through Wednesday. The agency instructed its followers to be sure to follow the affected state’s emergency management offices: “Another #winterstorm for OK, north TX & New Mexico tonight/tmrw. Prepare at http://go.usa.gov/akw & follow @okem @txdps @NMDHSEM.”

Fugate said his agency is careful to rely only on official information, such as forecasts from the National Weather Service and links from official emergency management agencies. “It’s really important I don’t try to pose as a weather service,” he said.

The agency also uses social media to anticipate what a state might need to prepare for a predicted disaster. For example, as Hurricane Earl moved up the East Coast in September 2010, Fugate could see by monitoring Twitter that tourists on North Carolina’s Outer Banks were evacuating, but many long-term residents were adamant about staying put. That gave the agency a heads-up that there would be people left on the barrier islands, and search and rescue plans were readied.

During an event, FEMA looks for what people are saying on Twitter by tracking the service’s hash tags***, which an eventual consensus of users assigns to mark a given event. During the major snow and ice storm that moved across the United States in early February, the most commonly used hash tag was #snomg……

Here is an explanation of Twitter hashtags (from Twitter)

Definition: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

Hashtags: helping you find interesting Tweets

  • People use the hashtag symbol # before relevant keywords in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets to show more easily in Twitter Search.
  • Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets in that category.
  • Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet.
  • Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.

Example: Below, @VegNews added the hashtag before the word “vegan” in their message. The word is now a link to search results for all Tweets containing “#vegan” in the message.

Screen_shot_2010-07-26_at_3.21.34_PM.png

Using hashtags

  • If Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet.
  • Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practicesrecommend using no more than 3 hashtags per Tweet.)
  • Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic.

Further Discovery and Reading

  • The third party site hashtag.org offers an overview of popular hashtags used on Twitter. Find out about trends, look at small, pretty graphs, and search to see if the hashtags of your fantasies exist.
  • You may also want to read this article about hashtags, which appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five food safety myths — debunked!

Five food safety myths — debunked!

From the Daily Need

By Anastacia Marx de Salcedo February 8, 2011

 

 

 

1. Food safety is worse than it used to be.

Food safety has actually improved since the mid-1990s when the Centers for Disease Control first began its national monitoring program, with net incidence of the major illnesses falling by 20 percent. On a disease-by-disease basis, that means 30 percent less campylobacter, 41 percent less toxin-producing E. coli and 10 percent less salmonella. In fact, the only increase — by 85 percent — has been in vibrio, contracted by eating raw shellfish. (You heard it, people, shuck and slurp and you’re on your own.) And even though the CDC recently tripled the number of major foodborne pathogens it monitors from 9 to 31, it reduced its estimate of annual illnesses from 76 to 48 million.

2. The biggest danger to your health comes from livestock feeding practices, food industry negligence and the terrorist threat to our food supply.

More than 90 percent* of foodborne illnesses occur within a vast, loosely organized network of rogue microbe breeders: restaurants! (about half of all outbreaks) and a motley assortment of workplaces, banquet facilities, caterers, churches, nursing homes, schools and others. Almost 60 percent of these — 5.5 million illnesses — are caused by norovirus, about which the CDC observes, “In many of these cases, sick food handlers were involved in the spread of the virus.” A 2004 study by the FDA found that 56 percent of fast food and 72 percent of full-service restaurant personnel did not wash their hands often or well enough. Ten viral particles with your soup, sir? (Or fork or menu or credit card?)

3. OMG! I’ve got salmonella! I’m going to DIE!

Just calm down, get plenty of rest and keep hydrated. Your risk of death isextremely small — half of one percent for salmonella, one tenth of one percent for campylobacter and half of one percent for even the most virulent variety of E. coli. In fact, the total annual number of deaths from foodborne illnesses is about 3,000, or the number killed by the flu in a very, very good year. (In a bad year, flu can kill up to 50,000 people.) As with influenza, most food-pathogen-related deaths are among the very old, the very young and the immunologically compromised. That guy whotestified before Congress that his mother died from eating contaminated peanut butter? Shirley Almer may have had a lot of sisu, Finnish for spunk, but she also had lung cancer and a brain tumor and was far more susceptible to infections, including the UTI she was hospitalized for when she contracted salmonella.

4. From now on, I’m scouring every tomato! Pressure-washing every pepper!

Go right ahead if it makes you feel in control — and to remove some pesticides and grit. But unless you’re plunging your produce in boiling water or immersing it in a 10 percent bleach solution, those little salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli bacteria are going to go right on doing the things organisms like to do — ingesting, reproducing, excreting. Speaking of which, most major foodborne illnesses are transmitted through feces — campylobacter: chickens; E. coli: cows; salmonella: the whole barnyard; norovirus: us — and some are perfectly normal residents of animal guts. They only cause mayhem when we insert them — via dirty food or hands — in places they shouldn’t be, e.g. our mouths.

5. Anyway, now that the Food Safety Modernization Act’s been signed into law, I don’t have to worry about this stuff, right?

Of course not! Faster recalls, more frequent inspection of food processing facilities, greater importer accountability and high-tech food-chain tracking are going to eradicate all foodborne illnesses…. Except for those 58% that come from norovirus and the other unknown percent — probably substantial — that are caused or exacerbated by risky food service practices such as cross-contamination through utensils, work surfaces and equipment; storage at improper temperatures; commingling of foodstuffs; and, of course, poor hygiene. What with 42% of our food budget spent on meals outside the home, you know what would have really made sense? A national safety-training program for food service workers.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

Hospitals Often Fail to Follow Up on Tests, Study Says

Hospitals Often Fail to Follow Up on Tests, Study Says
Findings point to a ‘substantial problem, which impacts on patients’ safety’

HealthDay news image

 

TUESDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) — As many as 75 percent of hospital tests are not followed up and this failure can have serious consequences for patients, including delayed or missed diagnoses and even death, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed 12 international studies and found that between 20 percent and 61 percent of inpatient test results, and between 1 percent and 75 percent of tests on emergency care patients, were not followed up after patients were discharged.

Follow-up was least likely for critical test results and results for patients moving between health care settings, such as from inpatient to outpatient care or to general practice.

Rates of missed results were equally high for paper-based records systems, fully electronic systems and those that used a combination of paper and electronic records.

The study is published Feb. 8 in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety.

“There is evidence to suggest that the proportion of missed test results is a substantial problem, which impacts on patients’ safety,” the researchers concluded in a journal news release.

SOURCE: BMJ Quality and Safety, news release, Feb. 7, 2011

 

 


February 10, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

US Department of Defense Patient Safety Program

The US Department of Defense Patient Safety Program was “was created [in 2001] to identify and report actual and potential problems in medical systems and processes and to implement effective actions to improve patient safety and health care quality throughout the MHS [Military Health System].

The Welcome Statement stresses that they “encourage a systems approach to creating a safer patient environment; engaging MHS leadership; promoting collaboration across all three services; and fostering trust, transparency, teamwork, and communication.”

The Home Page has a well organized Site Map with essential links, social media links, education/training links, and links to research and news items.

While many educational resources (as continuing education courses) are closed to the public, these educational items are freely available to all.  [Descriptions are from the Patient Safety Program Web Page]

Click here for more information about the Patient Safety Learning Center (PSLC).

  • Patient Falls Reduction Toolkit: Falls have been the number one harm event reported to the Department of Defense (DoD) Patient Safety Analysis Center (PSAC) since its inception. These tools are offered as guidance and are designed to assist you with creating an institutional awareness and response to patient falls – education, prevention, assessment, reassessment, intervention, and continuous improvement.Click here to access the Patient Falls Reduction Toolkit.

  • Professional Conduct Toolkit: The toolkit is designed for health professionals who may be serving in leadership roles or who are seeking resources for addressing behaviors that negatively impact patient safety and that disrupt the clinical work environment.

Click here to access the Professional Conduct Toolkit

  • Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation (SBAR) Toolkit: Evidence shows that use of a structured communication tool known as SBAR can improve information exchange among healthcare team members and reduce the rate of adverse events.

Click here to access the Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation (SBAR) Toolkit.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Professional Health Care Resources | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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