updated: Jan 4, 2016
Several popular travel destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Big Island of Hawaii are currently experiencing outbreaks of mosquito-borne viral diseases. Dengue and Chikungunya have made appearances in returning Washington state vacationers. SOOoooo, in addition to sunscreen, please consider insect repellent as well... and the same tips for West Nile Virus apply.
Seems like flu season is either just starting or stopping.... so far this year the flu levels have been quite low. Flu Shots can help. This year's vaccine is a better match to circulating viruses detected this year, but it's always mportant to remember what grandma told you as well: Cover Your Cough, Stay Home When You Are Sick, Wash Your Hands. Recent study data has suggested nasal spray vaccine for kids no longer be recommended. And here is a link to the Washington State Health Department about flu shots: flu shot information. The CDC reminds us that flu shots are recommended for everyone over the age of six months, and they can be particularly beneficial for pregnant women and young children. If at high risk (elderly, underlying health problems, etc), anti-viral medications can also be considered. Unfortunately, just as with many other antibiotics, the antiviral medications are potentially losing their effectiveness against influenza, so as always: Prevention is the best medicine.
CDC weekly update (Current Influenza status)
Hmmm… Doesn’t sound like something to mess with. Washington State just reported it’s first death this year from West Nile Virus in a man in Benton County who was in his 80’s. There have been ten other reported human cases. Typically found in south-central Washington counties, here are some tips to reduce risk locally:
A few simple precautions can help reduce your chances of being bitten by a mosquito:
· Stay indoors around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, if possible.
· Use a mosquito repellent when spending time outdoors.
· Wear long sleeves and long pants outside when mosquitoes are most active.
· People who spend a lot of time outdoors working, hiking, fishing, or hunting should take precautions to avoid insect bites.
· Be sure that door and window screens are in good condition so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.
· Reduce mosquito habitat around the home by dumping stagnant water out of old buckets, cans, flower pots, or old tires, and frequently changing water in birdbaths, pet dishes, and water troughs.
Just because it's a little cloudy doesn't mean you don't need sun block! Here's a link to some good information from the Washington State Department of Health.
Puget Sound, if it were a state by itself, would rank fourth in the nation for skin cancer rates. That’s because of a misconception that cloudy weather means people don’t have to protect themselves from the sun.The state Department of Health advises that protecting you and your family from skin cancer is something that must be done all year, regardless of whether it’s sunny or cloudy. Ultra Violet (UV) light exposure, the most preventable cause of skin cancer, occurs even on cloudy days.Although children are rarely diagnosed with skin cancer, sunburns in childhood are associated with melanoma later in life. So, it’s important to protect children from UV light and establish healthy behaviors early. Reducing exposure to UV at early ages is among the reasons for a new law that went into effect this month banning kids under 18 from using tanning beds without a written prescription from a doctor.UV-B rays penetrate the top layers of skin and are most responsible for sunburns; UV-A rays go through the deeper layers of the skin. Both types of UV rays/light are emitted by lamps in tanning beds.You can help prevent skin cancer by using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher; staying in the shade, especially during midday hours; covering skin with clothing that covers your arms and legs or a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.You can learn more important facts about skin cancer and how to prevent it on the Washington Cares about Cancer partnership page and on the Department of Health website about comprehensive cancer control.
In part because of the warm weather, there have been several shellfish collection/beach closures because of marine biotoxins. Washington State Department of Health has established an online map with up-to-date look at biotoxins, pollution, and bacterial levels at public beaches. Here is a link to this excellent resource. You can also contact Island County Public Health for local beach information. Here is a link to general shellfish safety. Recreational harvesters should check for biotoxin closures by checking the department’s Shellfish Safety Map or the biotoxin hotline at 1-800-562-5632. Harvesters should also look for and obey warning signs that have been posted at recreational beaches along the coast.
Who knew there were so many bats in Island County? Bats are benficial to our environment both as pollinators and excellent bug exterminators. Unfortunately, they are also the only reservoir of rabies in Washington State. We have had one bat test positive for rabies so far this summer in Island County. If you think you have had an exposure to put you at risk, if at all possible, please capture the bat (safely, wearing thick gloves, put the bat in something like a tupperware container) and store in the refrigerator (not the freezer) and contact Island County Public Health, 360.679.7350, for information about whether the bat needs to be brought in for testing. The most common reason for needing to test the bat is if you wake up in the morning to find a bat in your bedroom. Their teeth are so tiny you may not feel a bite. Also if the bat is found in a room with an impaired/intoxicated/mentally incapacitated person or child, the bat may need to be tested. Please also make sure your pets are vaccinated (dogs, cats, ferrets) as they may be exposed, particularly if they are outside. If necessary, we will work with your physician to arrange for vaccination.
Again, there are some cases of both laboratory confirmed and clinically suspect cases of Pertussis in the community, and Washington state continues to have ongoing problems with whooping cough. This is especially important if you are around or care for infants or are pregnant! (Also grand-parents or others who may be care-givers.) Vaccination can help minimize the illness and early treatment with antibiotics may help at least reduce the rate of infecting others if not reduce your own illness. Here is a link to the CDC information about Pertussis. CDC Pertussis info Recent studies from the 2012 Washington State Pertussis outbreak shows that, unfortunately, the effectiveness of acellular pertussis vaccine (found in Tdap) wanes over time, to approximately 34% effectiveness after 2-4 years. Because of this, and the fact that infants are most at risk, the recommendations now include that pregnant women should receive a Tdap booster in the third trimester of EACH pregnancy, to protect their newborn when it is at highest risk of this disease which can be deadly for infants.
is becoming increasingly a problem, especially for certain at risk populations, hospitalized patients, and patients with artificial joints. Here's a CDC site which discusses the "bad old days" before antibiotics, the magic era of antibiotics, and the unfortunate potential for a world of infection post antibiotic effectiveness. This is a problem that may be approached both from the doctor and the patient end of things.... not all respiratory infections will benefit from antibiotics, a good number of infections are viral for which antibiotics do nothing except expose the patient to potential drug reactions (which can be worse than the disease!) and may increase the chance of drug resistance among bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control has made available a smartphone "Can I Eat This?" app for travelers that may help prevent "Delhi Belly" or "Montezuma's Revenge". This website also has the "yellow book" which is the primary resource for traveler health issues. Can I Eat This? app
Did your kid "get his/her bell's rung"? Now what to do? Here's a link to downloadable apps for your android or apple device.There has been a lot of interest in this with lawsuits agains the NFL and a full on movie. If your child is involved in contact sports, consider talking with the coach to assess their awareness of the risks associated with head injuries.
If you've watched TV lately, you've likely seen ads for Hepatits C screening. Here's the background, and why it's pretty darn exciting: It's estimated that 3.2 million people in the US have chronic Hepatitis C and most of them do not know it. And it's not just folks traditionally considered to be at high risk. Prior to 1992 (when Hep C was discovered and preventive measures were put in place) baby-boomers (born 1945-65) were young adults and may have been exposed through blood transfusions, in health care settings, through drug use, or sexual activity.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?: There is now a comfortable, effective, short course treatment available with oral medication, which allows treatment of the illness and previnting progressive liver disease and liver cancer. Best of all, since this screening has been recommended by governmental groups, there is a good chance private health insurance may cover this as a no cost preventative program. It's estimated that if everyone was screened appropriately it could prevent 120,000 premature deaths! Here's a link to the CDC web site: CDC Viral Hepatitis C Consider asking your health care provider if this is appropriate for you!
Oak Harbor Police Department has a drug take back station which is open 24/7. There are often drug take back days through out the year at facilities that may be closer to you. This is an excellent way to keep drugs, particularly narcotics or pain killers, anti-anxiety or other popular drugs of abuse from being used inappropriately and putting folks/kids at risk for accidental or intentional overdose.
Vaccinations help prevent illness! What is your status? A lot of adults forget about the benefits of keeping current with vaccines. Tdap, yearly influenza, Zoster "shingles" shot, if over age 60 are worth considering. There are also special situations where other vaccines may be of benefit. CDC.gov has an excellent travel page for vaccinations that may be recommended for travel outside the US, as well as other travel tips for staying healthy. Health Tips for Travellers
For more information regarding all vaccines, click here
Island County Public Health continues to work with State and Federal experts as well as our local health care providers, hospital, and emergency responders to assure timely sharing of guidelines and monitoring of any potential Ebola virus exposure. There is no longer any requirement for active monitoring of returning travellers as the 3 West African countries with Ebola have now been declared disease free.
Health Status Indicators
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services maintains data on Island County Health Status Indicators. All said, we're doing fairly well, but regular exercise is the best medicine. Just do it!
Click here for Island County data.
Washington State County Health Rankings