The Flu and You

Posted at 11 a.m.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. While seasonal flu viruses can be detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase this time of year.

People who have the flu often experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Fever (It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.)

The CDC recommends the following preventive measures to stay healthy this flu season, including:

  • Get a flu vaccine. The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Everyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu vaccine. Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.
  • Take daily actions to stop the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often with soap and water.

Reprinted from FEMA’s Oct. 6 edition of “Individual and Community Preparedness e-Brief” email newsletter.

Four Ways to Fight the Flu

4 ways to fight the flue

Learn more about influenza and how to fight the flu from the Fairfax County Health Department.

Cyber Monday Shopping Tips: Keep Your Information Secure

Posted at 3 p.m.

The holiday shopping season is upon us. Many people choose to avoid the hassles of traffic and crowds by shopping online, especially tomorrow – Cyber Monday. However, the Internet is also convenient for criminals, giving them multiple ways to access the personal and financial information of unsuspecting shoppers.

Online shopping safety for Cyber Monday

You’ll want to keep your information secure – and beware of online scams and identity thieves. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team offers several tips:

  • Do business with reputable vendors – Some attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear to be legitimate, so you should verify the legitimacy before supplying any information.
  • Make sure your information is being encrypted – Many sites use secure sockets layer (SSL) to encrypt information. Indications that your information will be encrypted include a URL that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. Some attackers try to trick users by adding a fake padlock icon, so make sure that the icon is in the appropriate location for your browser.
  • Be wary of emails requesting information – Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through cyber-securityemail. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, instead of clicking on the provided link, directly log on to the authentic website by typing the address yourself.
  • Use a credit card – There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. Also use a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet or Apple Pay.
  • Check your shopping app settings – Look for apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure. Keep in mind that there is no legal limit on your liability with money stored in a shopping app (or on a gift card). Unless otherwise stated under the terms of service, you are responsible for all charges made through your shopping app.
  • Check your statements – Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

Find additional shopping or basic online safety and security tips with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Stop. Think. Connect. Toolkit.

Reprinted from FEMA’s “Individual and Community Preparedness e-Brief” email newsletter, Nov. 22 edition

Thanksgiving Cooking Safety

Posted at 2:15 p.m.

As you plan your Thanksgiving menu don’t forget about fire safety.

Did you know Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires? The number of home fires double on Thanksgiving. So, let’s add a pinch of fire safety to the menu.

Safe Cooking This Thanksgiving

Keep these safety tips in mind as you prepare your meal.

Turkey

If you’re roasting your turkey, make sure you set a timer. This way, you won’t forget about the bird as you watch the parade or a football game. If you’re frying your turkey:

  • Use a fryer with thermostat controls. This will ensure the oil does not become over heated.
  • Thaw your turkey completely. Ice on the bird will cause the oil to splatter.
  • Don’t overfill the pot with oil. If you do, the oil will overflow when you add the turkey causing a fire hazard.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the fryer.
  • Also, always use the fryer outdoors.

Stuffing and Potatoes

Stand by your stove when you’re boiling your potatoes or frying onions for stuffing. It is best to stay in the kitchen when you’re frying, boiling or broiling. If you’re in the kitchen, it is easier to catch spills or hazardous conditions before they become a fire.

  • Keep the area around the stove clear of packaging, paper towels, and dish cloths; anything that can burn.
  • Be sure to clean up any spills as they happen.
  • Be prepared. Keep a large pan lid or baking sheet handy in case you need to smother a pan fire.
  • Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove so you don’t bump them.

By following these safety tips, you will have a delicious and fire safe Thanksgiving. Let the firefighters have dinner with their families, not yours.

Recipe for fire-safe cooking

Reprinted from FEMA’s “Individual and Community Preparedness e-Brief” e-newsletter, Nov. 17 issue

This Weekend, Change Your Clock Back One Hour and Check Your Smoke Alarm

Posted at 2 p.m.

Is your smoke alarm still working? A smoke alarm with a dead or missing battery is the same as having no smoke alarm at all.

A smoke alarm only works when it is properly installed and regularly tested.

On Sunday, Nov. 6 when resetting your clocks for Daylight Saving Time, make sure your smoke alarms work and replace the batteries, if necessary. Take care of your smoke alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and follow these tips from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA):

Smoke alarm powered by a nine-volt battery

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Replace the batteries at least once every year.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years.

Smoke alarm powered by a 10-year lithium (or “long-life”) battery

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Since you cannot (and should not) replace the lithium battery, replace the entire smoke alarm according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Smoke alarm that is hardwired into your home’s electrical system

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Replace the backup battery at least once every year.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years.
working smoke alarms

Test smoke alarms monthly and replace alkaline batteries at least once each year. Most home fire deaths happen when people are asleep (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.). Keep your family safe by installing smoke alarms and testing them monthly to make sure they work.

For more information on smoke alarms, visit the USFA Smoke Alarm page.

Reprinted from FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness e-Brief email newsletter, Nov. 3 edition.

Register Now for Southeast ShakeOut Earthquake Drill

Posted at 10:45 a.m.

At 10:20 a.m. next Thursday, Oct. 20, the Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill will be held. The annual drill is the time for us to practice our drop, cover and hold on skills in case we were to encounter an actual earthquake.

Over 1.2 million Virginia residents registered to participate last year. And Fairfax County has always led the way in registered participants — so let’s do so again this year. Register now to participate in this year’s drill.

Southeast ShakeOut Drill Oct. 20, 2016, 10:20 a.m.

Drop, Cover and Hold On

Drop, cover and hold on is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes. The ShakeOut drill is our opportunity to practice how to protect ourselves during earthquakes and learn what to do — and what not to do.

  • Drop where you are, onto your hands and knees. This position protects you from being knocked down and also allows you to stay low and crawl to shelter if nearby.
  • Cover your head and neck with one arm and hand.
    • If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter.
    • If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows).
    • Stay on your knees; bend over to protect vital organs
  • Hold on until shaking stops.
    • Under shelter, hold on to it with one hand; be ready to move with your shelter if it shifts.
    • No shelter: hold on to your head and neck with both arms and hands.Drop, Cover and Hold On for earthquake safety

Virginia Earthquake History

Virginia and much of the East Coast experienced a widely-felt earthquake at 1:51 p.m. eastern daylight time on Tuesday, August 23, 2011. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter of the quake was located near Cuckoo, in Louisa County. With a magnitude of 5.8, this is the largest Virginia earthquake recorded by seismometers. More than 80 aftershocks have been reported by the USGS and the area is currently being monitored by geophysicists from several leading science institutions.

The U.S. Geological Survey is now reporting that this is the most widely-felt earthquake in U.S. history.

Fairfax Alerts

If you’re not already registered for Fairfax Alerts, which sends emergency alert messages via text, email and phone, sign up today. You’ll not only get severe weather alerts, but also a reminder message about next week’s earthquake drill. Sign up at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts.