Protect Yourself and Your Family from the Current West Nile Virus Outbreak
As of September 4, 2012, 87 deaths caused by West Nile Virus have been reported in the United States. There have been 1,993 cases of West Nile Virus in people, with 70 percent of those cases occurring in six states: Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan.
Forty-eight states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes.
West Nile Virus is a potentially dangerous illness that is primarily spread by bites from infected mosquitoes. The mosquitoes themselves become infected when they feed on infected birds.
About one in 150 people infected with the virus will develop severe illness that could cause permanent neurological effects or death. About 20 percent of people can have symptoms for up to several weeks. Eighty percent of infected people show no symptoms at all. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms.
The easiest and best way to avoid West Nile Virus is to prevent mosquito bites.
Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, you should know about Group B Strep (GBS).
In the U.S., about 1 in 4 women carry Group B Streptococcal bacteria. Without a test, you wouldn’t know that you were carrying Group B Strep because there are no symptoms and it is usually not harmful to women. However, Group B Strep can be passed on to your baby during childbirth and lead to a deadly infection in your newborn.
If you test positive for Group B Strep, you can protect your baby by getting IV antibiotics during labor.
Contaminated Tattoo Inks can Cause Dangerous Infections
Tattoo inks and the pigments used to color them can become contaminated by bacteria, mold, and fungi. In the last year, inks contaminated with a family of bacteria called nontuberculous Mycobacteria have caused serious infections in at least four states. Some bacteria in this family can cause lung disease, joint infection, eye problems and other organ infections. The skin ointments provided by tattoo parlors are not effective against them.
Typical symptoms appear 2-3 weeks after tattooing: a red rash with swelling in the tattooed area, possibly accompanied by itching or pain. It often just looks like an allergic reaction, but without prompt and proper treatment, an infection could spread beyond the tattoo or become complicated by a secondary infection.
If you suspect you may have a tattoo-related infection, the Food and Drug Administration recommends you:
Contact your health care professional
Report the problem to the tattoo artist
Report the problem to MedWatch, on the Web or at 1-800-332-1088
Tattoo artists can minimize the risk of infection by using inks that have been formulated or processed to ensure they are free from disease-causing bacteria, while also avoiding the use of non-sterile water to dilute the inks or wash the skin. Non-sterile water includes tap, bottled, filtered or distilled water.
When people say something occurs just once in a blue moon, they mean it’s very rare. These days, the speaker is often referring to the modern folklore that, whenever there are two full moons in a calendar month, the second one should be called “a Blue Moon.” Going by this definition, the United States will experience a Blue Moon on the evening of August 31. The first full moon of the month already happened on August 1.
Most months have only one full moon. The 29.5-day cadence of the lunar cycle matches up almost perfectly with the 28 to 31-day length of calendar months. Indeed, the word “month” comes from “moon.”
Occasionally, however, the one-to-one correspondence breaks down when two full moons squeeze into a single month. This happens on average about once every 2.5 years, which…. is actually not all that rare, really.
Will the moon truly appear blue in color tomorrow? Smoke from volcanoes and forest fires can cause a change to blue from the usual pale gray, but it’s unlikely, despite all of the wildfires burning in the hot, dry United States this month. The amount of smoke to create the effect has to be unusually massive. Some kinds of blue moons are rarer than others, it turns out.
Some immigrants who were brought to the country as children can now apply for deferred action, a program that allows you to remain in the country and apply for work permits.
The program has strict requirements and includes filing several forms, as well as a background check and evidence of eligibility. Here are the basics of the program, and links to official government information for more details.
What Is Deferred Action (And What Isn’t)
Deferred action allows certain people who were brought to the United States as children to remain here and apply for renewable two-year work permits. It does not give beneficiaries a path to citizenship or lawful permanent residency. The program will remain in effect at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security.
Who Can Benefit from the Program
To qualify for the program, you must be under 31 years as of June 15, 2012 and arrived in the United States before turning 16. You must also undergo a background check to show that you did not commit certain types of crimes. The program is also open to certain people who are currently under deportation proceedings. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency in charge of implementing the program, has a list of the requirements for deferred action (PDF).
How the Application Process Works
To apply, you must file three forms:
821D to request deferred action
I-765 to apply for employment authorization
I-765WS, a worksheet to establish the applicant’s employment needs
Be careful not to make mistakes when applying for deferred action. Errors might delay the process or worse; it might result in the denial of an application. Although there is a process to reconsider applications denied due to certain mistakes, USCIS’s decisions are final, and cannot be appealed. Applicants who misrepresent themselves on the applications to benefit from deferred action will be considered a high priority for deportation.
Scammers Are Promising Quick Processing Times
Scammers might promise expedited processing of deferred action for a fee. Applicants should know that this program does not offer expedited processing. The best way to avoid scams is by only trusting official government information. Applicants who need legal advice can find an accredited immigration attorney and other legal services at USCIS.
For more information on deferred action visit USCIS.gov or call 1 (800) 375-5283.
College students spend a lot of time worrying about their studies that sometimes they can forget the importance of taking care of their health. While college life involves new challenges, responsibilities and excitement, it can also be a stressful time. Students often deal with the social pressures of drinking, drugs and sexual activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer the following tips for staying healthy and safe while in college:
Eat a balanced diet
Get enough sleep
Get regular physical activity
Maintain your health with checkups and vaccinations
If you decide to have sex, practice safe sex
Make smart choices about alcohol and drugs
Get help if you are stressed or depressed
Physical stress from sleep deprivation, making poor eating decisions, substance abuse and more can lead to stress in relationships, classes and overall well being. Knowing who and where to look for help when feeling overwhelmed is one of the first steps to taking control. The Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health is offering free publications for college students on topics ranging from sunscreens and tanning, sexual health, depression and much more.
Why Women Don't Have to Register with the Selective Service
We recently posted that men between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service System. The Selective Service System is only used in the event of a crisis requiring a draft and men are required to register by law.
A few people on Facebook and Twitter asked why women don’t have to register too. The answer is because the law specifies “male persons.” In order to include women, Congress would have to change the law.
First, we want to clarify the rules. The FTC has laws forbidding any sales robocall unless you’ve given your express written permission to receive it.
Some other types of robocalls are legal, such as informational calls from your doctor, calls from legitimate charities, and political messages. (In general, by the way, political robocalls are protected by the First Amendment.)
One commenter asked about calls from those claiming to be doing a research survey – the answer is that these calls are legal if the purpose of the call truly is to conduct a survey, but if the call is ultimately trying to sell you something, it’s illegal.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in calls from fraudsters who are apparently willing to both violate the laws against robocalls and ignore the Do Not Call Registry.
This is because over the past two years, new technologies have made it cheap and simple to send out millions of calls with just the click of a mouse. These technologies also make it easier to hide one’s location and evade law enforcement. With the combination of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, cloud computing, auto-dialing software, and other advances, it is now possible to make robocalls for 1 cent per call or less, while also obscuring one’s identity quite effectively.
In the face of these changes, the FTC has continued its aggressive law enforcement efforts against robodialers. The agency has brought 12 enforcement cases targeting illegal robocalls, and violators have paid $5.6 million in total penalties so far.
Since January 2010, the Federal Trade Commission has shut down the companies responsible for more than 2.6 billion illegal telemarketing robocalls. We continue to pursue this approach, targeting high volume offenders and focusing on “chokepoints” in the calling process to stop the largest number of illegal calls. We use consumer complaints to do our targeting, which is why it helps us if you report illegal robocalls to donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
In addition to these law enforcement activities, the FTC is pursuing technological solutions. We’ve been holding meetings and calls with engineers, technologists, and industry experts to discuss how we can better trace calls, combat caller ID spoofing, and stop illegal robocalls.
In addition, we’re hosting a public Summit in Washington, DC on October 18, 2012, which will bring together law enforcement, legitimate industry, consumer groups, and other stakeholders in pursuit of the same goal. Please visit ftc.gov/robocalls to look for up-to-date information about the different initiatives underway.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for your interest in this topic. Here at the FTC, we share your frustration and are doing everything in our power to stop illegal robocallers in their tracks.
Teach Your Kids and Teens the Dangers of Underage Drinking
By Chris Kuhn, manager of programs at The Century Council
Back to School is an exciting time for both students and parents as they prepare for a new school year and new challenges both in and out of the classroom. It also serves as a great time to remind students about the importance of staying safe and making healthy lifestyle choices.
The Ask, Listen, Learn program provides materials for parents and instructors on how to start and continue the conversation with young people. The program also offers youth the opportunity to play fun kids’ games, download printable activities, and read about Superstars like Olympian Steven Lopez, Soccer Hall of Famer Julie Foudy, and swimming champion Rebecca Soni.
According to the 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, nearly one third of 8th graders report they have tried alcohol once in their lifetime and 15 percent report they have been drunk. In a separate study, a majority (65 percent) of today’s youth who have consumed alcohol in the past year report family and friends as the leading source from which they get alcohol.
Make no mistake, tweens know what’s going on and they’re more than just a little curious about it. So before they’re presented with the opportunity, it’s critical to give them the information they need to make the right decision. Help support them by teaching them how to say “Yes” to a healthy lifestyle and “No” to underage drinking. Make sure that either as a parent, teacher, or caregiver, you get involved.
Sunday Marks the 92nd Anniversary of Women's Voting Rights
Every year on August 26th, the United States honors and celebrates Women’s Equality Day. This Sunday marks the 92nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 19th Amendment guarantees American women the right to vote, and was passed on August 26, 1920.
The passing of the amendment came after 70 years of fighting for women’s rights. Women’s rights were first addressed at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, where more than 300 men and women met at the very first women’s rights convention.
Update on Tropical Storm Isaac and Tips for Preparing for a Storm
Tropical Storm Isaac is churning in the Caribbean Sea, and the storm is currently tracking south of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We will have a better idea if and where it might hit the United States mainland in the next 12 to 24 hours.
If you live in an area that is in the current path of the storm or in coastal regions that could be affected, the Federal Emergency Management Agency advises you to listen to your local news to monitor weather updates and warnings and follow the instructions of local officials.
FEMA offers the following tips to prepare for tropical storms:
Tropical weather systems can bring heavy rains, flash flooding, and high winds, so if you haven’t already, visit Ready.gov for tips on creating your family emergency plan and getting an emergency kit.
Rains from tropical storms can cause flooding. A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles. This includes pickups and SUVs.
High winds from tropical storms can cause power outages. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and U.S. Fire Administration urge consumers to use portable generators outdoors. Never use portable generators indoors or in garages. The exhaust from generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide that can quickly incapacitate and kill.
Everyone should also familiarize themselves with the terms that are used to identify a severe weather hazard. A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours. If local officials give the order to shelter in place, take action immediately; and if the order from local officials is to evacuate, leave immediately. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
If you served in the active military, naval, or air service and were honorably discharged or released, you may qualify for VA health care benefits, including hospital services. Certain Reservists and National Guard Members may also qualify. Check your eligibility.
A wage garnishment is when your employer is required to withhold some portion of your earnings in order to pay off a debt. Wage garnishments do not include voluntary wage assignments—that is, when you voluntarily agree that your employer may turn over a specified amount of earnings to a creditor or creditors.
Most garnishments are made by court order. The IRS or a state tax collection agency can garnish your wages for unpaid taxes. Your wages can also be garnished if you have defaulted on student loan debt.
Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act limits the amount of earnings that can be garnished and protects you from being fired if your pay is only being garnished for one debt.
For questions about wage garnishment, contact the Department of Labor or call 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security began accepting requests for “deferred action” status from people who were brought into the United States as children. Deferred action status would allow these people to remain in the United States and make them eligible to receive a work permit.
Children are often prescribed codeine for pain relief following surgery. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents and caregivers to be on the lookout for possible serious side effects after giving a child codeine.
At least three children between the ages of 2 and 5 died after receiving codeine for pain relief following surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids. This danger exists for children who are “ultra-rapid metabolizers,” which means that their liver converts codeine to morphine in higher-than-normal amounts. There are tests to check for ultra-rapid metabolism.
If you give your child codeine after surgery and observe any of the following danger signs, take your child to the emergency immediately or call 911:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is soon launching weather emergency alerts to your mobile devices. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government authorities through your mobile carrier.
Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.
You will be able to sign up for weather-related emergency alerts through your mobile carrier. The alerts will include extreme weather warnings, local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action, AMBER alerts and Presidential alerts during a national emergency. The alerts will look like a text message, but will include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice.
You can also receive alerts based on your phone’s current location. While most older phones are not WEA-capable, new mobile devices are. For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable, please visit http://www.ctia.org/wea or contact your wireless carrier.