Category Archives: USA

Florida | DoH emphasizes risks of using illegal synthetic drugs

The Florida Department of Health urges all residents and visitors to consider the health risks of using illegal synthetic drugs.

Taken to achieve the high associated with drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine, these synthetic substitutes are life-threatening and addictive. Within the past week, up to 30 individuals in Alachua County became severely ill after using such substances.

“As we have seen recently in Gainesville, these illicit synthetic drugs are dangerous to Florida’s children, adults, families and visitors,” said Dr. John Armstrong, State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health. “These drugs destroy lives and threaten public health and safety.”

Synthetic marijuana, often known as “K2” or “Spice,” is one of the substances whose popularity is “alarmingly high,” according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Labels on Spice products often claim that they contain “natural” psycho-active material taken from a variety of plants. Spice products do contain dried plant material, but chemical analyses show their active ingredients are synthetic cannabinoid compounds.

The adverse effects of synthetic marijuana use may include agitation, extreme nervousness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a racing heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, tremors and seizures, hallucinations and dilated pupils. Spice may also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart. In a few cases, it has been associated with heart attacks. Regular users may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms.

Anyone experiencing an adverse reaction to an illicit synthetic substance should contact their local poison center as soon as possible by calling 1-800-222-1222. If there is a life-threatening situation call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

Florida | Residents reminded of dangers of Naegleria fowleri

The Florida Department of Health cautions those who swim frequently in Florida’s lakes, rivers and ponds during warm temperatures about the possible presence of Naegleria fowleri.

Contact with this amoeba is rare, but the organism targets a person’s brain and usually results in death. Adverse health effects on humans can be prevented by avoiding nasal contact with the waters, since the amoeba enters through the nasal passages.

Though there are only 34 reported cases in Florida since 1962, Naegleria fowleri can cause Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) disease which usually leads to death once infected. As a precaution, health officials recommend the following:
• Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs and thermally polluted water such as water around power plants.
• Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
• Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
• Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
• Please note exposure to the amoeba may also occur when using neti pots to rinse your sinuses of cold/allergy-related congestion or conducting religious rituals with tap water. Use only boiled and cooled, distilled, or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ritual ablutions.

If you experience any of these symptoms after swimming in any warm body of water, contact your health care provider immediately: headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, or hallucinations. It is essential to seek medical attention right away, as PAM usually becomes fatal within five days of exposure.

Remember, this disease is rare and effective prevention strategies can allow for a safe and relaxing summer swim season.

For the latest information about the amoeba please visit the CDC’s website at
www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html.

To find out more about the use of neti pots, visit
www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm316375.htm.

Delaware | Two more fentanyl-laced heroin overdose deaths confirmed

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed two more overdose deaths related to fentanyl-laced heroin during April, bringing the total to eight deaths in Delaware this year.

Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is often mixed with heroin to produce a stronger high, Fentanyl-laced heroin has been blamed for dozens of deaths across the United States this year, including 28 confirmed deaths in Philadelphia in March and April, and 22 confirmed overdose deaths in western Pennsylvania this year. Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Michigan also have reported fentanyl-related overdose deaths.

The Medical Examiner’s Office said toxicology reports confirmed two additional deaths on April 2 in Millsboro and April 5 in Claymont. Between March 20 and April 5, eight people have died from fentanyl-tainted heroin overdoses. The deaths involved six men and two women, ranging in age from 28 to 58. Five of the deaths occurred in New Castle County; three in Sussex County. Seven of the individuals were Delawareans; one from Maryland. During the last outbreak of fentanyl-tainted heroin overdoses in 2006, Delaware had seven confirmed deaths.

“The warning needs to get out that fentanyl-laced heroin is here in Delaware and that people are dying from it,” Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said. “For those who suffer from addiction, the state and private providers are prepared to support individuals who are ready to seek treatment. At the same time, we thank law enforcement agencies, including the Delaware State Police, for targeting heroin suppliers and dealers to disrupt the supply chain.”

In May, the Medical Examiner’s Office announced the first confirmed fentanyl-laced heroin overdose deaths in the state this year. Steve Dettwyler, PhD, DHSS’ Director of Community Mental Health and Addiction Services, said individuals should not be ashamed or embarrassed to seek treatment. “Addiction is a disease,” he said. “It can be treated, and people do recover.” If you or a loved one needs treatment in New Castle County, call (800) 652-2929. In Kent and Sussex counties, call (800) 345-6785.

When a user injects fentanyl-laced heroin, like other opiates, it affects the central nervous system and brain. Because it is so powerful, users often have trouble breathing or can stop breathing as the drug sedates them. If someone is too drowsy to answer questions, is having difficulty breathing, or appears to be so asleep they cannot be awakened, call 911 immediately.

In January, the Delaware Information and Analysis Center distributed an alert to all law enforcement agencies warning residents that fentanyl-laced heroin was likely to arrive in the state. Because illicit fentanyl can come in white powder form like heroin, users don’t know the fentanyl is mixed in.

New Hampshire | Unregulated contaminant found in Pease Tradeport water system

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Public Health Services, and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) are today announcing a positive test result for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) from a well that serves the Pease Tradeport and the New Hampshire Air National Guard base at Pease.

PFOS is one of a class of chemicals known as PFCs or perfluorochemicals. Because the level of PFOS exceeds the “provisional health advisory” set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the well was immediately shut down by the City of Portsmouth.

The water in the other two wells servicing Pease also contained PFCs but not above the provisional health advisory level. Out of an abundance of caution, the water system for the City of Portsmouth was also recently tested, since the systems at Pease and Portsmouth are linked, however, water from the Pease wells is rarely used to service the city of Portsmouth. The results were that no PFCs were detected in any of the other supply wells or surface water sources that serve the Portsmouth water system.

“The City of Portsmouth takes water quality and safety seriously and is working closely with the agencies to learn more about this unregulated compound. In the meantime, the Haven Well will remain off line,” said Brian Goetz, the City of Portsmouth Deputy Director of Public Works who is overseeing this effort with water operations staff.

PFCs have been used for decades in many commercial products, such as stain-resistant carpeting, fire-fighting foam, nonstick cookware, fabric coatings, and some food packaging. As a result, they are found throughout the environment. They do not break down readily in the environment or in our bodies so low levels of PFCs can be detected in the blood stream of most people.

“There is very little known about the health effects if any on people from these compounds,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS. “Some animal studies have been conducted but have not led to any recommendations for people, and further studies are needed.”

The water in the wells that serve Pease Tradeport is routinely tested according to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. PFCs are not covered in the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, although six of these compounds are being evaluated by U.S EPA to see if a drinking water standard is warranted, and EPA’s Office of Water established and released a Provisional Health Advisory for PFOS. Provisional Health Advisories reflect reasonable, health-based hazard concentrations above which action should be taken to reduce exposure to unregulated contaminants in drinking water.

“DES is working closely with the City of Portsmouth to address the presence of PFCs in the Pease Tradeport wells so that all health-based standards and advisories are met for water being served to their customers,” said Sarah Pillsbury, Administrator of New Hampshire’s Public Drinking Water Program at DES.

The Pease Tradeport previously operated as an Air Force base from 1956 to 1991. It is suspected that firefighting foam used by the Air Force starting around 1970 for plane crashes and training exercises contained PFCs that leached into the ground and consequently contaminated the well. The Former Pease Air Force Base is currently a Superfund site being cleaned up by the U.S. Air Force with oversight by DES and EPA. Investigations into the source(s) of this well contamination will be undertaken by the Air Force and overseen by DES and EPA.

DES, in collaboration with DHHS, the Pease Development Authority, and the City of Portsmouth will continue to monitor the wells at Pease to ensure the water continues to meet all EPA and State standards. Any new findings will be made available to the public.

For more information, visit http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/investigation-pease.htm. For questions about the well water testing, people can call (603) 271-9461. For more information about the monitoring by DES, go to http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/waste/hwrb/fss/superfund/summaries/pease.htm.

Georgia | Officials urge Georgians to ‘Look Again’

Gov. Nathan Deal, first lady Sandra Deal and leaders of several state agencies are calling for parents and caregivers of children to have heightened awareness this summer of the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles.

Officials hope a new YouTube video titled “Look Again,” featuring Georgia parents who have lost children to vehicular heatstroke accidents, will help raise awareness and prevent similar incidents in the future.

“During Georgia’s hot summer months, there is a higher risk of serious injury or death as a result of a child being left alone inside a vehicle,” said Deal. “Since 2010, seven children in Georgia have died due to vehicular heat stroke. I ask that all Georgians join me in preventing future loss of life by being aware of your surroundings and never taking the chance of leaving a child in a car, even for just a minute. Lives can be saved if we take the time to Look Again.”

“We as parents and grandparents work hard to keep our children safe and out of harm’s way,” said Mrs. Deal. “By increasing awareness and reminding your family and friends to Look Again, together we can prevent future tragedies here in Georgia.”

Bobby Cagle, Commissioner of Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), said more than 375,000 children across the state depend on approximately 6,000 child care providers daily, most of whom transport children on a regular basis to and from home, after school to the child care center and on field trips.

“We receive calls about incidents where children are left in vehicles from a few minutes to several hours and we investigate each incident,” Cagle explained.  “According to our records, in 2012, 21 children were left in vehicles by child care providers, 17 in 2013 and already 18 in 2014. While thankfully we have not seen any child deaths in child care centers since 2011, we want these dangerous close calls to decrease.  Consequently, safely transporting children will remain a focus for our agency.”

Cagle said “Look Again” is a message to anyone caring for a child – child care programs, teachers, parents and grandparents – to always account for the children in their care as they drive them from place to place.

“When you arrive at your destination, check the front and back of your car, and after you’ve looked, just to be sure, look again.  There is absolutely no reason for a child to suffer or die in these conditions,” he said.

Featured in the Look Again video are interviews with Jenny Stanley, mother of 6-year-old Sydney Marie Stanley of Evans, Georgia, who died in August 2010 when she became trapped in the family car while it was parked in the garage, and Charles Green, father of 2-year-old Jazmin A’mya Green, a toddler who died in June 2011 after being left for two hours on a daycare van in Jonesboro, Georgia.

Officials are also asking the public to be their eyes and ears in the community, and if they see a child left alone in a vehicle, call 911 immediately; emergency personnel are trained to respond.

For more information about the Look Again campaign, visit DECAL’s website.

Florida | Residents encouraged to prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season begins June 1 and lasts until November 30. The Florida Department of Health encourages Floridians and visitors to keep their health concerns in mind as they prepare to have a healthy and safe season.

“Now is the time to prepare your family for Hurricane Season,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “Prior to a disaster, create an emergency plan for your family and pets, identify locations of special needs shelters and prepare an emergency supply kit with first aid, healthy meals, and water.”

Recently Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 5601 that creates a nine-day sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies, beginning May 31. Floridians will be able to purchase items such as flashlights, batteries, weather radios, and other essential items as they prepare for hurricane season.

Before a disaster happens, build an emergency supply kit that includes healthy, nonperishable foods and supplies that meet your family’s and pet’s health and medical needs. Talk with your health care provider and pharmacist about receiving emergency medication supplies. Under a federally-declared emergency, you can get an extra 30-day supply with no price increase, even for recently filled prescriptions. Other items to include in your emergency supply kit are:
Water- at least one gallon per person, per day for a minimum of three days.
Healthy foods like canned vegetables, fruits and nuts. Store at least a three day supply of foods that require no refrigeration, preparation, or cooking, and little or no water.
Prescription medications and required equipment/supplies like syringes, coolants, alcohol wipes, etc.
First aid kit.
Glasses, hearing aids and medical devices with extra batteries.

If you or someone in your family requires daily medical assistance like routine nursing care, help with medication, oxygen therapy, or electricity for life-supporting medical equipment, be sure to pre-register for a special needs shelter. Contact your local emergency management office to learn more about special needs shelters and to pre-register-
http://www.floridadisaster.org/disability/snshelterlist.html.

For more suggestions on medical-related items to include in your emergency supply kit, and for tips on how to prepare for an emergency, get a copy of the Florida Department of Health Emergency Preparedness Guide at http://www.floridahealth.gov/preparedness-and-response/_documents/prepareguide-eng.pdf.

Delaware | State hosts full-scale anthrax exercise

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness section hosted a real-time, operations-based Receipt, Stage, and Store (RSS) warehouse exercise on May 13, 2014.

The exercise was based on a fictional anthrax release at Dover Downs on race day, and is part of a multi-year practice drill series designed to enhance Delaware’s public health response.

The successful, full-scale exercise focused on warehouse operations receiving packages from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The SNS is medicine and medical supplies stored in strategic locations around the nation in order to support multiple state and local health departments in a severe health emergency. These assets are ready to be shipped and delivered anywhere within the United States within 12 hours of the deployment order.

The DPH exercise planning team requested SNS training materials be shipped to an RSS site in Delaware, where the materials were then successfully processed for re-distribution. The exercise evaluation will be used for improvements to the public health preparedness program. The continuing focus for these exercises is to mitigate the effect of public health emergencies. Federal, state, and local stakeholders are encouraged to participate with DPH in future events. For more information about the exercise schedule, visit www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/php/excalendar.html.

Washington | Valley Fever fungus found in soil samples

The fungus that causes “Valley Fever” (coccidioidomycosis) has for the first time been detected in soil samples in Washington, much further north than its expected range.

The Valley Fever fungus, called Coccidioides, is typically found in the semiarid climates of the southwest U.S., such as Arizona and California, and in Central and South America. The fungus lives in the soil and its spores can be breathed in when dirt is disturbed by digging, excavating, or dust storms. Inhaling the fungus can make people sick.

In 2010 and 2011, the state Department of Health received reports of three unrelated cases of Valley Fever in residents of Walla Walla, Benton, and Franklin counties. These people hadn’t recently traveled out of state. An investigation conducted by local and state health officials determined that these patients were most likely exposed in south-central Washington. The Department of Health and Benton-Franklin Health District collected and preserved soil samples from the suspected exposure locations in Benton County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with colleagues at Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Arizona, recently developed the first method to test soil samples for the fungus. Test results showed that the soil samples were positive for the Valley Fever fungus, and that these cultures genetically matched samples of the fungus obtained from one of the patients. This confirmed that the patients were exposed in Washington.

These findings are important because the Valley Fever fungus has never before been found in Washington soil. However, DNA analysis suggests that the fungus has been here for a while.

There is still much to learn about the extent of this fungus in the environment in Washington. Yet, state public health officials want to remind people that only a few cases of Valley Fever are reported among Washington residents each year, and nearly all who develop the illness have recently traveled to the southwest or Mexico.

“The risk of getting the disease in Washington appears to be very low, and we’re working with local health partners to track and investigate cases of the disease,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy at the Department of Health. “We’re developing a plan for additional soil testing, which we hope will provide us with a better understanding of the environmental conditions that support the growth of the Valley Fever fungus in our state.”

The Department of Health is working with local public health agencies and the CDC to notify health care providers about the potential for locally-acquired Valley Fever. The agency has notified health professionals and laboratories, asking them to report cases and send positive cultures to public health officials. Because Valley Fever can also affect animals, the advisory was sent to veterinarians statewide. Reporting human and animal illnesses helps health officials identify and investigate potential in-state exposure sites.

Most people exposed to the Valley Fever fungus don’t become ill, but some develop a mild flu-like illness with fever, cough, headache, and body aches or pneumonia. Less commonly, people can develop more severe infections including meningitis, bone or joint infections, skin lesions, or chronic pneumonia. Health care providers can test and treat patients with antifungal medications, though mild illnesses often get better without any treatment. The disease is not spread from person-to-person. More information on Valley Fever is available online.

California | San Diego County Animal Services rescues dozens of animals from wildfires

Nearly all the animals rescued by the County Department of Animal Services during the recent wildfires are back home with their owners.

Animal Services rescued more than 50 animals when fires broke out across North County last week. In all six cats, four goats, 18 dogs, 21 horses, an emu and a bird were taken in to the department’s care. Only three cats remain.

Animal Control officers also helped a couple dozen owners evacuate their horses to locations other than the shelters. Officers evacuated between 40 and 50 head of cattle from just one ranch alone.

“We help people evacuate themselves and their horses out to an alternate facility,” said Animal Services Deputy Director Harold Holmes. “We do not provide vehicles or trailers but we’ll help you load a horse that might be a little spooked by the smoke or one that is not used to a trailer into one and direct you to an evacuation center.”

Animal Control Officers also responded to reports of animals “at large.” In one case a woman turned her horses loose because she didn’t have time to load them. When Animal Services arrived, someone had already managed to contain them and get them out of the area. In another instance, two dogs were turned loose in Carlsbad because a resident couldn’t get anyone to drive them out. Officers found one and rescued it. The owner found the second dog Wednesday. The animal was still running the streets when he recognized his owner and went to him. The dog is OK.

“This is going to be a very long fire season. We have the potential for more and bigger fires,” said Holmes. “This incident serves as a wake-up call to review our disaster plans and get better prepared.”

Animal Services says pets should always be a part of your disaster planning. Microchips have shown time and again their ability to reunite lost animals with their owners quickly.

“It could save your pet’s life,” said Animal Services Director Dawn Danielson. “We have rescued hundreds of animals during past fires and the first thing we do is check for a microchip.”

Every Thursday, the department’s three shelters microchip and register dogs, cats and rabbits for $10. The department also holds microchipping and registration events at various locations throughout the year.

Another new tool is a smartphone app called Finding Rover. Animal Services is the first sheltering organization in the nation to begin using the free app, which uses facial recognition to match lost and found pets and can be used by anyone. Animal Services updates its database of animals with Finding Rover several times daily so if your pet is turned into the shelter, you can check your smartphone or computer to see if he’s there. For more information on Animal Services, visit sddac.com.

California | In memory of Lee Sapaden, Disaster Medical Services Assistant Division Chief

Lee Sapaden, assistant division chief in EMSA’s Disaster Medical Services Division, passed away on April 24, 2014 at the age of 64.  Lee is irreplaceable as a gentleman, friend and colleague.

Lee_1Since 2010, Lee has been instrumental in developing and executing disaster medical response planning, exercises and training for EMSA. His over 30 years of experience in emergency management and response were of true significance for EMSA and made him a highly valued partner to many local, regional, state and federal partners during his distinguished career.  Lee responded to over 25 federally declared disasters in a variety of roles and his knowledge of all aspects of emergency management seemed endless.  Though Lee received much acclaim for his professional achievements; he was a humble, unassuming man whose warmth, wisdom and calm demeanor were treasured by his colleagues.  He is greatly missed.

Lee met the love of his life and best friend, Annabelle Marcelo, when he was five years old.  She became his playmate, constant companion and wife for the remainder of his life.  They resided primarily in Sacramento and traveled the world.  The couple had one son, Lee Simeon “T.K.” of whom Lee was very proud.

In addition to having passion for his family and helping people affected by disasters; Lee enjoyed travel, history and sports.  He was a true Dodger fan and was proud of having attended at least one game each season since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1959.

Lee graduated from Precious Blood School in Banning, California.  He graduated from high school in 1968 and attended California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and the University of Uppsala.  He completed course work for a master’s degree in political science at California State University, Sacramento.

Lee is survived by his wife of 38 years, Annabelle “Ana” Marcelo of Sacramento; his son, Lee Simeon Sapaden of Banning and Sacramento; his brother, Glenn Sapaden of Elk Grove, California; and his sister-in-law, Susan Nonaka of Elk Grove.

A “Celebration of Life” will be held on June 7, 2014 from 12:30-3:30 at the South Natomas Community Center at 2921 Truxel Road in Sacramento.  This will be an informal gathering consistent with Lee’s laid back style.  Food will be provided and because of Lee’s affection for “pot lucks,” friends may choose to also bring a dish to share.