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News From The Health Officer

Updated May 26, 2015

 

SKIN CANCER PREVENTION

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.

 

SHELLFISH SAFETY

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.

 

RABIES PREVENTION 

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.

 

 

PERTUSSIS

Again, there are some cases of both laboratory confirmed and clinically suspect cases of Pertussis in the community.  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.

Pertussis status statewide, current data

     (Distinguish the sounds of various coughs)
             Pertussis Billboard (English) ( En Español)
                    Surround Your Baby With Protection
 

Antibiotic Resistance

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.

 Emerging Antibiotic Resistance
 

FLU SEASON ....

Flu season is winding down, and hopefully you and your family missed it. But it is still a miserable way to spend a week or more feeling like every molecule in your body is staging a minor coup.   Flu Shots can help. Unfortunately, this year's vaccine is not a perfect match to the most common strains of circulating viruses, SO, it's even more important 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.   (Please note, this influenza is not related to the H5N2, H5N8 avain flu that has been seen sporadically in Washington State.  The nearest is a small volume poultry farm in Port Angeles with multiple bird varieties affected  Avian Flu in US wild birds )

 CDC weekly update  (Current Influenza status)

Washington State and Local .

 

 MEASLES...

Unfortunately, there's a "rash" of measles going around, with 100+ cases in the US, and 8 in Washington State, none in Island County.  There have been no recent cases, however and this outbreak may be coming to an end.  This has occurred mostly among un-immunized individuals, and some of them, though not all, traceable back to an exposure in Disneyland, in California.  THE best prevention of this highly contagious disease is getting 2 doses of MMR vaccine which gives about 99% protection against one of THE most infectious diseases...!  (>90% of folk who are susceptible, will become ill if exposed, and that can be simply being in the room within 2 hours of a contagious person leaving that room!!!) Here's a link to the CDC web page re: measles    cdc measles link

 

Traveler's Health App for smartphones

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

 

HEAD INJURY/CONCUSSION 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.

 

HEPATITIS C SCREENING AND BABY-BOOMERS

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!

 

Drug Take Back Programs

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.

 

West Nile Virus…

Hmmm… Doesn’t  sound like something to mess with.  Here’s some tips on how to avoid being one of our state’s (luckily small) statistics:

west nile virus prevention tips

 West Nile Virus in Washington
(annual reports accumulated daily since 2002)

 

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

      Do you know which vaccines you may need?
               Read more about Communicable Disease
                        State-wide Data and Statistical Reports

 

EBOLA outbreak in Africa

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.  The risk for any members of our community is extremely low. 

 Here is a link to the CDC guidelines for hospitalized patients with known or suspected Ebola Virus Disease.  Please note, this only applies to patients within the healthcare setting. 

Here is a general link for explanation about the Ebola Virus itself.  This website has a lot of good links for people involved with airline travel including industry workers, working and living abroad, and health care workers.

There is a lot of ongoing communication at the federal, state, and local levels, and local providers are encouraged to review the information as it comes out from the CDC and Washington State DOH.

 

Healthy Families / Healthy Communities

   Region 1 Communicable Disease Monthly Report
  Region 1 Communicable Disease 2014 Year End Report
             State Department of Health Newsroom 

Pertussis status statewide, current data
                               County Health Ranking  

 

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

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