Tips & Tricks to Protect Yourself—February 2017

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F E B R U A R Y  2 0 1 7


CDC's Emergency Partners newsletter provides updates, resources, and useful tips to subscribers interested in emergency preparedness and CDC's emergency responses.

Don't keep this great resource to yourself! Please share it with your colleagues and networks. If you would like more information on Emergency Preparedness and Response, visit CDC's Emergency Preparedness & Response website.





 See below for emergency preparedness updates, tips, and interesting facts.

The Risk of Bioterrorism

Bill Gates_Emergency Preparedness

The Link between Health Security and International Security

Click the image (left) or here to read the Washington Post's article on Bill Gates speaking at the Munich Security Conference. In his speech, Gates emphasized the growing threat of bioterrorism and the need to prepare sooner rather than later.


Protecting Yourself from Norovirus

Norovirus video

Tips to Protect Yourself from Norovirus

Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that can cause gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This can lead to cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Every year, norovirus makes 19­–21 million people sick. Norovirus season in the United States peaks in the winter months, but you can get sick at any time during the year.

Click the image (above) or here to see a video about norovirus.


family eating dinner

You can get sick with norovirus by having contact with an infected person, eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, or touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then putting your fingers in your mouth.

Norovirus spreads quickly, especially in places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships. A tiny amount of the virus on your food or hands is enough to make you sick.


Tips for protecting yourself from norovirus:

  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. However, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.
  • When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others. You should not prepare food for others or provide care while you are sick and for at least two days after symptoms stop. This also applies to sick workers in settings such as schools and daycares where they may expose people to norovirus.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using an appropriate disinfectant.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, and cook seafood thoroughly. Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them. Norovirus can survive temperatures as high as 140°F, and quick steaming processes are often used for cooking shellfish. Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly. Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or feces. You should handle soiled items carefully without agitating them. Wear rubber gloves while handling soiled items. Wash the items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length.


Click the image (above) or here to learn more about protecting yourself from norovirus.


Use CDC's Clear Communication Corner and CERC Corner tips to improve the clarity of your public health messages.

Clear Communication Corner

plain language

How to Use Plain Language

Plain language means using words or phrases that your audience understands easily the first time. Communicators often use language that exceeds the comprehension level of the audience or is confusing to understand the first time the reader sees it. It is essential to keep the reader in mind when you make decisions about the organization, word choice, and presentation of your material.


Here are a few tips you can use to make sure you are using plain language in your communication materials:

Organize material to serve the audience

  • Know your audience and the purpose before you begin.
  • Put the most important message first.
  • Present other information in order of importance to the audience.
  • Break text into logical chunks and use headings.

Choose words carefully

  • Write in the active voice.
  • Choose words and numbers your audience knows.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
  • Include “you” and other pronouns.

Make information easy to find

  • Use heading and text boxes.
  • Delete unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs.
  • Create lists and tables.


Click the image (above) or here for access to plain language materials and resources.



Building Partnerships

Many partners are trusted sources of information for their communities. Building strong partnerships before an emergency helps reach more people with consistent messaging through different channels. In the midst of a crisis, it will be too late to establish a smooth, coordinated system with established roles. Partnerships should be rooted in the shared purpose of serving and reaching the most people in an emergency.

Partners—like community-based organizations, religious groups, and schools— are the gatekeepers to communities your organization may serve. They are familiar, trustworthy, and influential figures for their members.


What are some ways to develop and strengthen emergency response partnerships?

Build relationships for a response before a crisis takes place.

  • Assess the audience your organization will aim to reach during an emergency and identify their trusted sources of information.
  • Identify your organization’s current community, social, and professional networks. Start the discussion with existing partners on how you can work together in an emergency.

Design a plan for communicating with partners during an emergency.

  • Establish key points of contact or liaisons for each partnership.
  • Schedule regular meetings and conference calls.
  • Determine how you will give updates.
  • Determine a process for joint decision-making.


Building partnerships strengthens your organization’s credibility and ensures that your messages are consistent and received through multiple channels. Thoughtful planning and specific communication strategies will foster thriving, manageable, and long-term partnerships.

For more resources and information on CERC, please see Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication, 2014 Edition or Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Pandemic Influenza, 2007.

Have you used CERC in your work? To share your CERC stories, e-mail Your stories may appear in future CERC Corners.


See below for some of CDC themes, events, and series that occurred during the month of February.

Communicating to African-American Communities During an Emergency

On February 9, NPHIC and CDC held a joint webinar for public information officers about communicating to African-American communities during an emergency. This topic was chosen because racial and ethnic minority populations often suffer disproportionately throughout each stage of a disaster. During this webinar, culture and how it can affect communication was discussed extensively.

As communicators, it is our jobs to understand the role of culture—beliefs, values, customs, or ways of thinking, communicating, and behaving specific to a group—in how people prepare, respond, and recover from an emergency. With African-American communities, it is important to consider that they may distrust or fear government and health institutions because of current or past injustices.

Building or re-establishing trust is often a difficult task, especially during an emergency. It is best to try to mend relationships before the next emergency occurs.


Key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Conduct research to better understand your organization’s reputation, and be open to listening and implementing any feedback.
  2. Listen and learn from local leaders, social service workers, and community members from the cultural group about values, family norms, traditions, community politics, etc.
  3. Associate your organization with valued and accepted organizations and involve trusted community members to enhance credibility.
  4. Focus on problem-solving and concrete solutions. Be action-oriented and empower clients through education and skill building.
  5. Allow time and devote energy toward gaining acceptance.


Being trusted in the communities you serve allows your messages to be more effective. The culturally sensitive messages you send can inspire people to act on the information you provide, potentially reducing the casualties and damages caused by emergencies and saving lives.


See below and visit CDC's Zika website for the most current updates and information about Zika virus.



Zika Deployment Spotlight

Lisa Romero

Name: Lisa Romero

Deployment Site: Puerto Rico

“When I came on the response, it was a natural fit.”

Lisa Romero and her team know how important it is that women, who live in areas where Zika is spreading and want to delay or avoid pregnancy, have the resources to prevent pregnancies. Romero’s team worked nonstop to improve birth control access in Puerto Rico, where about 138,000 women are at risk of unintended pregnancy, and more than 2,840 locally acquired Zika cases from mosquito bites had been reported by mid-July 2016.

Romero, a health scientist with the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, has been at CDC for nearly 12 years and was already working on improving access to reversible contraception in the continental United States when she joined the Zika response in March 2016. Around that time, CDC published an article that addressed the need for birth control access in Puerto Rico.

Romero immediately began developing a program to improve birth control access in Puerto Rico. The program is called the Zika Contraception Access Network (Z-CAN) and is a collaboration among CDC, the CDC Foundation, the Puerto Rico Department of Health, and other local organizations. It’s an important program in an area where birth control options are limited, expensive for patients, and often require a long wait to receive after it is prescribed. As part of the program, Romero deployed to Puerto Rico multiple times to train clinicians on how to provide certain types of birth control and how to counsel patients about using birth control.

Now, donated birth control products are being shipped to healthcare offices in Puerto Rico, and plans are in place to further educate women of childbearing age about their birth control options.

“We’re hoping women will be excited about the program,” Romero said, “and will share it with their friends, their sisters, and their daughters to help to ensure the health of the next generation of mothers and their babies.”    

Click the image (above) or here to read more about Lisa's deployment experience.


CDC's Strategic National Stockpile Responders

strategic national stockpile

During the Zika virus outbreak that emerged in early 2016, CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile—the nation’s largest repository of medicines and supplies for use in public health emergencies—stepped outside of its traditional role and helped CDC’s agency-wide response to Zika in a new way. Rather than providing medicines and supplies on hand, stockpile responders contributed specialized expertise and knowledge of medical logistics and supply chain operations in support of the Zika response. During the early stages of the response, stockpile personnel worked with its contract staff to rapidly assemble and ship an initial shipment of 5,000 Zika Prevention Kits to areas with known Zika virus infections.

Click the image (above) or here to learn more about Strategic National Stockpile responders.






Pregnant women or families who would like to speak to someone about a possible Zika virus infection or diagnosis during pregnancy and potential risks to the baby can contact MotherToBaby, a service of the nonprofit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS). MotherToBaby is not affiliated with CDC.

MotherToBaby experts are available during business hours to answer questions in English or Spanish by phone or talk about Zika:



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