Category Archives: USA

Illinois | IEMS encourages parents to include emergency preparedness in back-to-school plans

School bells soon will be ringing as students across the state begin the new school year.  The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is joining with local emergency management agencies throughout Illinois during August to encourage families to include emergency preparedness in their back-to-school plans.

“No one likes to think about the possibility of an emergency happening while children are in school or at daycare,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken.  “But as we saw with the May 2013 tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma and other incidents, it can happen.  A few minutes of your time now can help you and your child deal with emergencies that may occur during the school day.”

Monken offered several back-to-school planning tips for parents of school-aged children, including:

• Know your child’s school or day care emergency plan.
• Find out where children will be taken in the event of an evacuation during school hours.
• Ensure your emergency contact information is up-to-date at your child’s school.
• Pre-authorize a friend or relative to pick up your children in an emergency and make sure the school knows who that designated person is.
• Have a family communications plan and review the plan periodically with your child.  The plan should include contact information for an out-of-area family member or friend, since local telephone networks may not work during a major disaster.

Many college campuses offer email and text messages to alert students of potential dangers, such as severe weather and other threats.  Encourage your college student to sign-up for such alerts.  Some colleges also provide alert messages for parents so they also are aware of potential dangers at their child’s school.

Additional preparedness information is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov

Ohio | Toledo lifts drinking water advisory

Following Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins’ decision this morning to lift the drinking water advisory which the city originally issued early Saturday morning, Gov. John R. Kasich and Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler stated support for the decision.

Ohio EPA officials worked with city officials this morning to analyze the results of tests the city ran overnight and agreed with the city’s conclusion that Toledo’s water is safe to drink.

The following statement is attributable to Gov. Kasich:

“The people of Toledo came together unselfishly to support one another over the past two days and are great examples of the Ohio spirit. My compliments also go to Mayor Collins and his team. They served their city well and we will continue to work with them closely and support them going forward. My hat is also off to all who worked around the clock to distribute water and other essentials. They made a big difference. Over the past two days we’ve been reminded of the importance of our crown jewel—Lake Erie—to our everyday lives. We must remain vigilant in our ongoing efforts to protect it.”

The following statement is attributable to Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler:

“After exhaustive testing, analysis and discussions between Toledo water officials, the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA, we support the city’s decision to lift its drinking water advisory. Throughout the difficulty of the past few days everyone involved has demonstrated the utmost professionalism and commitment to solving this problem. The mayor and his team, U.S. EPA and the other scientific and academic leaders who lent us their expertise worked in a constructive way to turn the water back on for the people of Toledo. In the days ahead, we will continue to work closely with Toledo and others to better understand what happened and support their effort to supply safe drinking water to its customers.”

Ohio EPA’s memo to the city confirming its recommendation to lift the advisory can be viewed here: http://epa.ohio.gov/Portals/28/documents/habs/ToledoDrinkingWaterAdvisoryAug2014.pdf .

Texas | Cyclospora illnesses prompt investigation

A recent surge in reports of illnesses due to the parasite Cyclospora has prompted the Texas Department of State Health Services to begin an investigation into the infections in hopes of determining a common source.

DSHS has received reports of 77 Cyclosporiasis cases from around Texas this year, including 69 in the last month. The department is collaborating with local health departments to gather information and identify the cause.

Last year, Texas had 351 cases, more than any other state. In most previous years, the number of cases reported was in the single or low double digits.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the Cyclospora parasite. The major symptom is watery diarrhea lasting a few days to a few months. Additional symptoms may include loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, vomiting and a low fever. Symptoms may come and go multiple times over a period of weeks.

People who think they may have a Cyclospora infection should contact their health care provider. DSHS encourages health care providers to test patients for Cyclospora if they have diarrheal illness lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by a severe loss of appetite or fatigue. Cases should be reported promptly.

DSHS recommends thoroughly washing fresh produce, but that may not entirely eliminate the risk because Cyclospora can be difficult to wash off. Cooking will kill the parasite.

Although no common exposure source has been identified yet, past outbreaks in the United States have been associated with imported fresh produce, including pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, basil, snow peas and mesclun greens. A 2013 outbreak in Texas was linked, at least in part, to fresh cilantro from Puebla, Mexico.

Arizona | Dry weather anticipated for Deer Head Fire

The Deer Head Fire remained at 850 acres on Sunday, with low fire activity due to lingering moisture from the previous day’s storms.

Yesterday, firefighters concentrated on improving control features already in place and reducing fuels along key park trails outside of the current fire area. Clearing brush and undergrowth from these trails now will give firefighters a head-start, should fire activity levels increase this week. Today’s work includes widening and improving the control lines already in place, and more fuel reduction as needed.

Meteorologists predict a temporary lull in monsoon moisture this week along with increased temperatures, which may lead to elevated fire activity. With the fire continuing to be managed for the benefit of natural resources, fire managers plan to conduct burnout operations later in the week to protect Manning Camp should the fire move in that direction. With a drying trend in place, and the plan for burnout operations, residents and visitors may see additional smoke in the fire area this week.

Although the 30-acre Jackalope Fire was declared fully contained Saturday afternoon, firefighters continue to monitor the area for fire activity within the perimeter. As a result, the Tanque Verde Trail and Juniper Basin Campground will remain closed until further notice. A decision to reopen both Tanque Verde Trail and Juniper Basin Campground will occur after the Jackalope Fire is declared controlled. All of the Rincon Mountain District backcountry closures remain in effect for the duration of the Deer Head Fire to ensure public safety.

For additional fire information visit: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/ or: http://Facebook.com/SaguaroNationalPark or call the Fire Information Hotline at (520) 733-5150.

 

Maine | Saco domestic violence murders highlight need to take threats of suicide seriously

As more is becoming known about the circumstances that led up to a husband shooting his wife and three children before killing himself, one reported detail is all too familiar to police, prosecutors and advocates for victims of domestic violence: threats of suicide preceded the murders.

Recent reports by the Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel noted a pattern connecting suicidal behaviors and the potential for homicide. Of the 21 cases the Panel reviewed for the most recent report, 14 of the perpetrators, or 66%, exhibited suicidal behavior prior to committing or attempting to commit homicide and seven of those killed themselves after committing or attempting homicide. These suicidal behaviors included giving large sums of money away, saying goodbyes, making amends, purchasing a handgun, threatening suicide and or/ previous threats or attempts to commit suicide.

The Department of Public Safety today reported that Heather Smith, the wife of Joel Smith, had told a family friend the night of the shooting that Joel Smith had threatened suicide earlier in the week by pointing a gun at his head. There is no indication that any assistance was sought after that incident, according the Department.

“The news from Saco over the last twenty-four hours is absolutely devastating,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “My heart breaks for the people and the communities involved. As we learn more details about the four victims, I am sure our grief will only grow. This horrific incident must serve as a reminder to all of us that threats of violence and threats of suicide must be taken seriously. Telling your boyfriend or girlfriend, ‘I can’t live without you,’ can quickly cross from the innocuous to the devastating. In the context of an abusive relationship, these utterances are veiled threats of violence, with a strong undercurrent of manipulation and control. Recognizing the signs of abuse – and acting upon them – is key to preventing future tragedies like this.”

If you or someone you know needs help or would like to talk to an advocate, call your local law enforcement agency or the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence: 1-866-834-4357. It is free, it is confidential and it is available 24/7.

As more is becoming known about the circumstances that led up to a husband shooting his wife and three children before killing himself, one reported detail is all too familiar to police, prosecutors and advocates for victims of domestic violence: threats of suicide preceded the murders.

Recent reports by the Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel noted a pattern connecting suicidal behaviors and the potential for homicide. Of the 21 cases the Panel reviewed for the most recent report, 14 of the perpetrators, or 66%, exhibited suicidal behavior prior to committing or attempting to commit homicide and seven of those killed themselves after committing or attempting homicide. These suicidal behaviors included giving large sums of money away, saying goodbyes, making amends, purchasing a handgun, threatening suicide and or/ previous threats or attempts to commit suicide.

The Department of Public Safety today reported that Heather Smith, the wife of Joel Smith, had told a family friend the night of the shooting that Joel Smith had threatened suicide earlier in the week by pointing a gun at his head. There is no indication that any assistance was sought after that incident, according the Department.

“The news from Saco over the last twenty-four hours is absolutely devastating,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “My heart breaks for the people and the communities involved. As we learn more details about the four victims, I am sure our grief will only grow. This horrific incident must serve as a reminder to all of us that threats of violence and threats of suicide must be taken seriously. Telling your boyfriend or girlfriend, ‘I can’t live without you,’ can quickly cross from the innocuous to the devastating. In the context of an abusive relationship, these utterances are veiled threats of violence, with a strong undercurrent of manipulation and control. Recognizing the signs of abuse – and acting upon them – is key to preventing future tragedies like this.”

If you or someone you know needs help or would like to talk to an advocate, call your local law enforcement agency or the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence: 1-866-834-4357. It is free, it is confidential and it is available 24/7.

Georgia | Deaths related to drug ODs decrease while deaths related to illicit drugs increase

An analysis of autopsies performed by the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office in 152 counties, in which drug overdose was the cause of death or a significant contributing factor in the death has been completed. 

The analysis revealed drug overdose deaths in 2013 were lower than the previous five years while the overdose deaths attributed to illicit drugs were higher than they have been during the same period.

Of the 630 drug overdose deaths in 2013, there were 461 deaths which involved prescription drugs only.  The analysis also showed that 106 drug overdose deaths in 2013 involved only illicit drugs and 63 deaths were attributed to a combination of both prescription and illicit drugs.

Note: These statistics do NOT include autopsies performed by medical examiners in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, or Rockdale Counties.

For overdose drug deaths in 2013, the drugs found through toxicology tests in the highest numbers were as follows:

Drug

Number

Alprazolam (For anxiety, Xanax)

211

Oxycodone (Narcotic Pain Reliever)

164

Hydrocodone (Narcotic Pain Reliever)

125

Methadone (Narcotic Pain Reliever)

118

Methamphetamine (Stimulant, Illicit)

86

Cocaine (Stimulant, Illicit)

62

Morphine (Narcotic Pain Reliever)

62

Fentanyl (Narcotic Pain Reliever)

47

Diphenhydramine (Antihistamine, Benadryl)

54

Citalopram (For anxiety, Celexa)

45

NC | Residents reminded to take precautions following first locally acquired cases of chikungunya virus in Florida

State health officials are urging North Carolinians to remain diligent in personal efforts to protect themselves from mosquito bites. The reminder comes on the heels of Thursday’s announcement by Florida health officials that they have confirmed the state’s first two locally acquired cases of the mosquito-borne virus known as chikungunya (chik-en-gun-ye).

Sometimes referred to as CHIKV, the virus has been spreading throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America, and has now reached the continental United States.

“Until now, people in this country who have become sick with the virus were travelers who acquired the infection abroad,” Acting State Health Director Robin Gary Cummings said. “The cases confirmed in Florida shows that the virus could eventually be transmitted in North Carolina as well.”

So far this year, the nine cases that have been confirmed in North Carolina were people who recently traveled to the Caribbean. Chikungunya virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, and the Asian tiger mosquito that is commonly found in North Carolina could effectively transmit this virus. At this time, there have not been any cases of the disease known to have been acquired in North Carolina.

Dr. Cummings strongly encourages residents to take precautions against mosquito bites at home as well as when traveling to places that already have chikungunya and other mosquito-borne viruses.

“Perhaps the easiest and most effective thing to do around the home is to empty any containers that can hold water where mosquitoes breed,” Dr. Cummings said. “When traveling to areas known to have mosquito-borne viruses, we recommend that people take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites and to immediately consult a medical provider if they develop a fever in the two weeks after their return home.”

Symptoms of chikungunya usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms typically include the sudden onset of fever and severe, often disabling, joint pains in the hands and feet. Many patients feel better within a week; however, the joint pain may persist for months in some people. Newborns exposed during delivery, adults over 65 years and people with chronic medical conditions have a greater risk for a severe form of the disease.

To protect yourself and your family against mosquito bites in North Carolina and abroad:

  • Wear light-colored long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Reduce time spent outdoors, particularly during early morning and early evening hours when mosquitoes are most active. However, you should exercise precautions against mosquito bites at all times.
  • Apply EPA-approved mosquito repellents such as DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 to exposed skin areas. Always follow guidelines when using mosquito repellent.
  • Since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection.

DHHS’ Division of Public Health strongly recommends that all North Carolina residents take measures to decrease environmental conditions favorable to breeding for the species that could transmit this infection, the Asian tiger mosquito. This mosquito is an aggressive daytime biter, breeds in small water containers and does not travel long distances.

To reduce mosquito breeding areas around your home:

  • Remove any containers that can hold water;
  • Change the water in bird baths and pet bowls frequently and repair leaky outdoor faucets;
  • Cover rain barrels with tight-fitting screens or lids;
  • Keep gutters clean and in good repair; and
  • Use screened windows and doors and make sure screens are not torn and fit tightly.

To learn more about how to prevent mosquito bites, click here.

Click here for frequently asked questions on chikungunya.

To learn more about chikungunya virus, click here.

To learn more about chikungunya and its introduction into the Americas, click here.

WA | Wildfires hold steady; fire victims begin to get help

The state’s lead fire fighting agencies—the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the State Fire Marshal’s Office of the Washington State Patrol (WSP)—continued to lead state government’s response today to multiple wildfires in central and eastern Washington today.

Okanogan County: Fires were cooler this morning on the Carlton Complex, but were bad yesterday as 41 homes were destroyed near Alta Lake. County emergency management estimates a total of 150-200 homes have now been destroyed in Okanogan County. The Carlton Complex has burned 299,897 acres. Brewster, Pateros, Twisp, Winthrop and other communities in the county are temporarily powering water systems and sewer services on generator. Two of the four gas stations in Winthrop have power now, making it less of a problem to gasoline and diesel fuel.

While Okanogan County has been the hardest hit due to the sprawling Carlton Complex, wildfires are also burning in Chelan, Grant, Kittitas, Lincoln, Spokane and Yakima counties.

  • The Chiwaukum Complex has burned 11,051 acres and continues to grow.

o   The Mills Canyon Fire, branch of the Chiwaukum, has burned 22,571 acres

  • The Saddle Mountain Fire in Kittitas County has burned 20,200 acres but will demobilize at midnight.
  • The Watermelon Hill Fire in Spokane County has burned 8,000 acres.

Other state activities

The Washington State Department of Transportation is working to keep roads open. The latest on road closures and openings is at http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts/default.aspx.

The Department of Commerce’s Energy Office says approximately 7,000 customers of the Okanogan PUD and Okanogan Electric Cooperative are without power. Power for feeders along Interstate and state highways and from there into Pateros and Winthrop is estimated to be restored by the end of week. It is estimated that full restoration along county roads and to individual homes and businesses in Okanogan will take several weeks.

The Washington National Guard has four Blackhawk helicopters, two fuel trucks and 21 personnel deployed to Carlton Complex. There are two Chinook helicopters, two fuel trucks and 17 personnel on the Mills Canyon Complex. An incident communications package staffed by five personnel is setting up at Omak. Having completed pre-mobilization preparations, 100 National Guard soldiers are standing by in Yakima to support Department of Natural Resources fire fighters. Through July 19, Guard helicopters dropped 400,440 gallons of water on fires.

Personnel from the Department of Health’s (DOH) Environment Public Health Division are consulting with wildfire-impacted counties about air quality and water quality issues. DOH and the Department of Ecology are partnering to analyze and monitor how smoke and ash are affecting air quality.

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) deployed two trained crews with a total of 20 youths to support DNR firefighting efforts.DSHS and the American Red Cross are co-leading state-level mass care and emergency assistance efforts with support from FEMA Region 10.

The Department of Enterprise Services is assisting Okanogan County with a liaison to manage donations, and another liaison to support operations in the county’s emergency operations center in Omak.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Maj. Gen, Bret Daugherty from the Washington Military Department toured the Paschal-Sherman Indian Boarding School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs facility on the Colville Indian Reservation. The school is being considered for housing displaced individuals from the Carlton Complex fire, or National Guard and emergency services personnel supporting fire-fighting efforts.                                                                                                                    

Non-government agencies—The American Red Cross is operating shelters in Chelan, Omak and Winthrop and opening a shelter in Brewster tonight. The Red Cross and Southern Baptist Disaster Services began providing meals in Okanogan County today. The Red Cross is establishing a shelter in Brewster so residents from there will be closer to home. Many Brewster residents are currently using the shelter in the town of Chelan. The Chelan shelter will not close until people are no longer staying there. In coordination with the Red Cross, Okanogan County Health is contacting medical suppliers to ensure that Winthrop residents are able to get replacement oxygen bottles.

State agencies coordinate their support to the wildfire response through the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Camp Murray. The Logistics Section of the State EOC is processing requests for generators from Pateros, Twisp and Winthrop. The three communities are already using back-up generators to power utility services and need more. A liaison from the State EOC’s Operations Section worked with utility officials in Okanogan County today as they assessed power requirements in Twisp and Winthrop.

DE | Four more Fentanyl-laced heroin overdose deaths bring total to 11 confirmed cases

The Delaware Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed four additional overdose deaths related to fentanyl-laced heroin during April, May and June, bringing the total this year to 11 confirmed deaths in Delaware.

Fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, often is mixed with heroin to produce a stronger high. Because it is so powerful, users often have trouble breathing or can stop breathing as the drug sedates them. Fentanyl-laced heroin has been blamed for dozens of deaths across the United States this year, including in Philadelphia, western Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. Across the rest of the country, deaths have been reported in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Because illicit fentanyl can come in white powder form like heroin, users don’t know the fentanyl is mixed in.

The Medical Examiner’s Office said toxicology reports confirmed four additional deaths – three in New Castle County and one in Sussex County – between April 2 and June 13. Between March 20 and June 13, a total of 11 people have died from fentanyl-tainted heroin overdoses. The deaths involved eight men and three women, ranging in age from 28 to 58. Seven of the deaths occurred in New Castle County; four in Sussex County. Ten of the individuals were Delawareans; one from Maryland. During the last outbreak of fentanyl-tainted heroin overdoses in 2006, Delaware had seven confirmed deaths.

“Fentanyl-laced heroin is in Delaware, and it is killing people. That warning must go out to all corners of the state,” Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said. “Addiction is a chronic brain disease, and for those who are ready to seek treatment, the state and private providers are prepared to support individuals. On the law enforcement side, we thank many agencies, including the Delaware State Police and New Castle County Police, for targeting heroin suppliers and dealers in order to disrupt the supply chain and save lives.”

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 struggling with addiction or family members can call 24/7 to seek support or treatment. “With a continuum of treatment and supports, people do recover from addiction,” Dettwyler said. “Recovery can start with phone call.” 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. 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 June, Gov. Jack Markell signed two bills providing for wider access to naloxone – the overdose-reversing prescription drug – for the community and law enforcement. The effect of fentanyl-laced heroin on individuals often is so powerful that it can require two doses of naloxone to counteract.

The confirmed deaths have come just months after the Delaware Information and Analysis Center distributed an alert in January to all law enforcement agencies warning residents that fentanyl-laced heroin was likely to arrive in the state.

FL | Health officials confirm first locally acquired cases of Chikungunya fever

The Florida Department of Health today confirmed the first cases of locally acquired chikungunya fever, one in Miami Dade County and the other in Palm Beach County.

Chikungunya is a disease spread by bites from infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.

If a person is infected and bitten by a mosquito, that mosquito may later spread the infection by biting another person. Chikungunya is not contagious from person to person, is typically not life threatening and will likely resolve on its own.

“The Department has been conducting statewide monitoring for signs of any locally acquired cases of chikungunya.” said Dr. Anna Likos, State Epidemiologist and Disease Control and Health Protection Director.

“We encourage everyone to take precautions against mosquitoes to prevent chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases by draining standing water, covering your skin with clothing and repellent and covering doors and windows with screens.”

Aedes mosquitoes are day biters which can lay eggs in very small water containers. Early detection of the symptoms and preventing mosquitoes from multiplying and biting will help prevent the disease.

Symptoms of chikungunya include sudden onset of high fever (>102⁰F), severe joint pain mainly in the arms and legs, headache, muscle pain, back pain and rash. Symptoms appear on average three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most patients feel better after a few days or weeks, however, some people may develop long-term effects.

Complications are more common in infants younger than a year old; those older than 65; and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

If you experience symptoms of chikungunya fever, consult with your health care provider immediately and protect yourself against further mosquito bites.

A person infected with chikungunya should stay indoors as much as possible until symptoms subside to prevent further transmission. Avoiding mosquito bites while you are sick will help to protect others from getting infected. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than two months.

Chikungunya fever does not often result in death; however, some individuals may experience persistent joint pain. There is currently no vaccine or medication to prevent chikungunya fever.

DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.

Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.

Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.

Empty and clean birdbaths and pet’s water bowls at least once or twice a week.

Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.

Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

COVER skin with clothing or repellent.
Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeves.
Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR3535 are effective.
COVER doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out.
Keep mosquitoes out of your house. Repair broken screens on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

To learn more about the chikungunya virus, visit www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/chikungunya.html.