Category Archives: USA

Washington | Wildfires as seen from space

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner with information from inciweb.nwcg.org
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner with information from inciweb.nwcg.org

The Pacific Northwest has been inundated with wildfires most stemming from lightning strikes during summer storms. 

Four of these wildfires can be seen in this natural-color Aqua satellite image collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, MODIS, instrument aboard.  This image was taken on August 11, 2014.  Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red.

The Upper Falls wildfire was started by a lightning strike on August 03.  It is located 17 Miles North of Winthrop WA, 37 miles Northwest of Omak, WA and has grown to 7,100 acres with 449 personnel fighting the blaze.  A red flag warning has been issued for this fire from 12pm today through 5 PM Wednesday.  Dry and unstable conditions followed by thunderstorms with abundant lightning are forecast.

The Little Bridge Creek Fire started at approximately 6:30pm on Saturday, August 2, on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 10 miles west of Winthrop Washington. The fire was naturally caused, likely by lightning and has grown to 4,000 acres. Approximately 703 persons are in camp this morning.  The fire is located in a very steep, roadless area in heavy timber with a large component of bug killed trees.  No structures or infrastructure are immediately threatened. As with the Upper Falls wildfire, there is a red flag warning in place.

From the air, the Lone Mountain Fire is now a 2700-acre mosaic of rock, steep slopes, alpine meadows and burned and unburned forest.  The fire began on July 14 most likely with a lightning strike.  To date, firefighters continue to monitor the fire from helicopters and from the ground, calling in 300-gallon bucket-loads of water if flare-ups appear to have any chance of threatening the control points. The Lone Mountain Fire sits in a bowl ringed by mountains on three sides. It has gradually burned northward up Rennie Creek and westward down Boulder Creek.  Fire fighters are on alert for hot and possibly windy weather plus lightning tonight and Tuesday. A fire weather watch has been declared.

The Duncan fire began on July 16 with a lightning strike.  Over 10,400 acres have been burned to date.  Two hundred sixty one personnel are currently fighting this blaze.  The Duncan, Shoofly, Hansel Creek, and Chiwaukum fires may all see growth today and smoke columns may form in the afternoon.   Duncan Fire crews continue to strengthen control lines along Shady Pass Road. The fire will likely see increased activity today, assisted by the anticipated Red Flag Warning conditions.

Brief but intense showers are possible but will do little to moderate longer term fire conditions.  Historically, autumn rains have arrived about October 15, extinguishing any lingering smokes in the North Cascades.

 

California | State’s first two WNv deaths confirmed for 2014

The first two deaths this summer due to West Nile virus infection have been confirmed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) it was announced today by Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH Director and state public health officer.

The first was a senior citizen from Sacramento County. The second was an adult from Shasta County.

“These unfortunate deaths remind us that we must protect ourselves from mosquito bites to prevent West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne infections,” said Chapman. “West Nile virus activity is greatest during the summertime.”

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals by the bite of an infected mosquito. The risk of serious illness to most people is low. However, some individuals – less than one percent – can develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. People 50 years of age and older have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications. Recent data also indicate that those with diabetes and/or hypertension are at greatest risk for serious illness.

To date in 2014, West Nile virus has been detected in 36 California counties.

CDPH recommends that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by practicing the “Three Ds:”

1. DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep the mosquitoes from biting you. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.

2. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes bite in the early morning and evening so it is important to wear proper clothing and repellent if outside during these times. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.

3. DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. If you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, please contact your local mosquito and vector control agency.

California’s West Nile virus website includes the latest information on West Nile virus activity in the state. Californians are encouraged to report all dead birds and dead tree squirrels on the website or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473).

Louisiana | State’s second WNv death of 2014 confirmed

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) is confirming the state’s second West Nile virus death, an individual older than 75. The state’s latest surveillance report also includes 14 new West Nile virus cases, bringing this year’s total number of cases to 29.

DHH issues a weekly Arbovirus Surveillance Report that details cases detected thus far by parish. This week’s new infections include neuroinvasive disease cases in Caddo (3), East Baton Rouge (2), Ascension (1) and Livingston (1) parishes. There were also new cases of West Nile fever reported from Caddo (3), Bossier (1) and Tangipahoa (1) parishes, and asymptomatic cases in Caddo (1) and Livingston (1) parishes. This week’s cases can be found in the weekly West Nile virus Surveillance report by clicking here.

“The increased cases we are seeing this year are a firm reminder that West Nile Virus is a serious disease, and people need to be vigilant about protecting themselves,” said Dr. Raoult Ratard, DHH State Epidemiologist. “We know from more than 10 years of surveillance that this disease is active in every corner of the state, and people are at risk of getting it regardless of whether cases or deaths occurred in their parishes. Everyone should take precautions against mosquito bites.”

Humans contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus. When people are infected with West Nile, the virus will affect them one of three ways. West Nile neuroinvasive disease is the most serious type, infecting the brain and spinal cord. Neuroinvasive disease can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage. The milder viral infection is West Nile fever, in which people experience flu-like symptoms. The majority of people who contract West Nile will be asymptomatic, which means they show no symptoms. These cases are typically detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests.

About 90 percent of all cases are asymptomatic, while about 10 percent will develop West Nile fever. Only a very small number of infected individuals will show the serious symptoms associated with the neuroinvasive disease. Residents who are 65 years old and older are at higher risk for complications, but everyone is at risk for infection.

Last year, Louisiana saw 34 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease in the state, which was down from 2002’s high of 204 cases of West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease. DHH has been tracking West Nile Virus for more than a decade, and statistics about its occurrence in Louisiana can be found online at www.dhh.louisiana.gov/fightthebite.

Michigan | State EOC activated – Road closures continue throughout Metro Detroit area

The state of Michigan activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) late last night due to severe flooding in the metro Detroit region. Drivers are asked to avoid the area during the morning commute due to impassible roads. 

Michigan State Police troopers have been working throughout the night assisting stranded motorists and clearing vehicles. Michigan Department of Transportation personnel have been fixing expressways due to the flooding and public infrastructure damage. Tremendous efforts are being taken to reopen I-696, I-75, M-39, M-10 and all other major routes in the metro Detroit region.

If you must drive, citizens are encouraged to monitor roads by going to www.michigan.gov/drive  and take the following precautions:

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
  • Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection. Turn around and go the other way.
  • Do not try to take short cuts—they may be blocked. Stick to designated routes.
  • Be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

The SEOC was activated at 10:26 p.m. Aug. 11, with state personnel monitoring and coordinating the situation in collaboration with local officials.

Emergency Information

The public is encouraged to monitor local news media for up-to-date weather reports and emergency information. To learn what to do before, during and after a flooding emergency, visit the MSP/EMHSD on Twitter at @MichEMHS or go to www.michigan.gov/beprepared.

Mississippi | Health officials confirm first WNv death of 2014

Today the MSDH confirms the death of a Yazoo County resident from West Nile virus (WNV), the first human death from WNV for 2014.

A new human case of WNV in Wilkinson County has also been confirmed.

So far this year, WNV cases have been reported in Adams (1), Hinds (1), Newton (1), Rankin (2), Yazoo (1), and Wilkinson (1) counties. The MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public. In 2013, Mississippi had 45 WNV cases and five deaths.

The MSDH is also reporting one new case of chikungunya virus in a Mississippi resident who recently returned from the Dominican Republic. This is the sixth case of chikungunya reported in a Mississippi resident.

The MSDH suggests the following precautions to protect yourself and your environment from mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • Use a recommended mosquito repellent that contains DEET while you are outdoors.
  • Remove all sources of standing water around your home and yard to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • Wear loose, light-colored, long clothing to cover the arms and legs when outdoors.
  • Avoid areas where mosquitoes are prevalent.
  • Travelers to the Caribbean should take precautions against mosquito exposure. Please see www.HealthyMS.com/chik for more information.

Alabama | ADPH issues alert to health care providers on Ebola

The Alabama Department of Public Health issued a message to primary care providers in Alabama Aug. 7 to alert them to report any suspected Ebola cases and to collect specimens from any suspected patients for testing.

At this time, no Alabama residents have been tested for this severe and often fatal disease.

Ebola is characterized by sudden onset of fever and weakness that may be accompanied by other symptoms including headache, joint and muscle aches, vomiting, and diarrhea, stomach pain and lack of appetite.

Since May 2014 there has been an outbreak of Ebola that has resulted in deaths in people in several West African countries.

When an Ebola infection occurs in humans, there are several ways in which the virus can be transmitted to others that include:
• Direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person
• Exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions

What can travelers do to prevent Ebola?

No vaccine or specific treatment is available for Ebola. Many people who get the disease die, so it is important to take steps to prevent Ebola. Avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. If you must travel, however, please make sure to do the following:
• Practice careful hygiene. Avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
• Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an  infected person’s blood or body fluids.
• Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
• Avoid contact with animals or with raw meat.
• Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities that are suitable for your needs.
• Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes.
• Limit your contact with other people when you travel to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else.
• Pay attention to your health after you return.

• Monitor your health for 21 days if you were in an area with an Ebola outbreak, especially if you were in contact with blood or body fluids, items that have come in contact with blood or body fluids, animals or raw meat, or hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated.
• Tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms before you go to the office or emergency room. Advance notice will help the doctor care for you and protect other people who may be in the office.

Special recommendations for health care workers

Health care workers who may be exposed to people with the disease should follow these steps:
• Wear protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns and eye protection.
• Practice proper infection control and sterilization measures. For more information, see “Infection Control for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers in the African Health Care Setting.”
• Isolate Ebola patients from unprotected people.
• Avoid direct contact with the bodies of people who have died from Ebola.
• Notify health officials if you have been exposed to someone with Ebola.

All persons with onset of fever within 21 days of high-risk exposure should be tested.

For more information about Ebola, go to http://www.cdc.gov/ebola

Alabama | ADPH investigates TB case in Vance

On Aug. 6, 2014, Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) officials notified the management of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International of plans to investigate a case of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) identified in a team member of the facility in  Vance.

ADPH and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International are working closely to ensure that the individuals potentially exposed are evaluated  quickly.

TB is a treatable and preventable airborne disease. Persons who  were in close contact with the case will be rapidly assessed and appropriate preventive measures taken, according to ADPH officials. Only those people who were in close contact with the case need to be tested.

“Testing and evaluation of individuals in close contact with the TB case will begin Friday, Aug. 8,” stated Pam Barrett, director of the Alabama Department of Public Health Tuberculosis Control Division. “Close contact” is defined generally as spending an  extended amount of time with the subject in a physically close environment.

“As with all identified cases of TB in Alabama, ADPH will implement precautionary testing, investigation and control measures,” stated Dr. Albert T. White, Area Health Officer, Public Health Area 3.

North Carolina | Agencies coordinate return – and quarantine – of missionaries from West Africa

The N.C. DHHS’ Division of Public Health, the Mecklenburg County Health Department and SIM USA are working in collaboration upon the return of missionaries, staff and their families from West African countries currently affected by an Ebola outbreak.

SIM USA is a Charlotte-based mission organization, and some of their staff provided patient care to persons with Ebola.

For precautionary measures, NC Public Health officials are requiring a period of quarantine for these staff and other people who were exposed to Ebola and are returning to North Carolina within 21 days since their last exposure. No returning SIM USA staff member is sick or has symptoms of Ebola infection, and there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in North Carolina. These are preventative measures being taken, and at this time public health officials say there is no cause for concern.

According to Dr. Stephen Keener, Mecklenburg County Medical Director, “Quarantine is a public health measure to protect the public that requires healthy people who were exposed to a disease to be prevented from contact with others until it is certain that they are not infected.” The 21-day period is based on the longest duration of incubation, which is the delay between exposure and onset of illness for Ebola infection. The average incubation period is 8-10 days, while the range is 2-21 days. In this case, the period of quarantine is only for the length of time necessary to complete the 21-days observation period.

Ebola is not spread through the air, water or food. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids (blood, urine, feces, saliva and other secretions) of an infected person, or with objects like needles that have been contaminated with the virus.

“Mecklenburg County, NC DHHS’ Division of Public Health and SIM USA are working hand-in-hand to assure quarantine is carried-out with respect and care for these dedicated people,” said Keener. “Public health officials express their gratitude to the courageous missionaries who are participating in the medical and humanitarian response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

This measure is being taken out of an abundance of caution, and it is important to remember that there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in North Carolina.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola currently poses no substantial risk to the U.S. general population.

For additional information on Ebola, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/

Rhode Island | Warning issued after spike in drug overdose deaths

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports 17 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths some with paraphernalia at the scene in the month of July and the first week of August.

While these numbers are preliminary (as none of these have a final toxicology report), Rhode Island is apparently experiencing a considerable increase from the entire month of June, when there was only one drug overdose death.

This uptick in apparent drug overdose deaths underscores the fact that Rhode Island continues to experience a prescription drug and street-drug overdose crisis. In response to the recent increase of apparent overdose deaths, Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health says that, “we must stay vigilant in getting this product off the street, we must continue to focus our efforts to reduce over-prescribing of opioids, we must focus on reducing overdose deaths, and we must help already addicted individuals get access to recovery and treatment.”

As overdose deaths happen most frequently on weekends Dr. Michael Fine cautions all Rhode Islanders over this upcoming long weekend, “to stay safe, make good decisions, and remember to use Narcan in an emergency.” Narcan (Naloxone) is an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. It can be used in emergency situations to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdoses but, as Dr. Fine points out, “Narcan will save a life but getting into treatment will prevent your death. Addiction is a disease, recovery is possible, and treatment is available and effective.” Since January 1, 2014, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has administered 932 doses of Narcan (Naloxone).

Craig Stenning, Director of the RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), reminds Rhode Islanders that access to treatment is available through the Medicaid Expansion of the Affordable Care Act; recovery coaches are available to mentor individuals through the early stages of their recovery; Narcan kits are available through treatment centers; and immediate access to substance abuse treatment is available to individuals through their primary care physicians.

“Recovery from substance abuse is available and possible for any individual. The lives of these individuals are important to their families, their communities, and their State. Anyone who knows someone who may be using needs to reach out, as uncomfortable as that may seem, and explain the real danger of overdose, the availability of treatment and the real possibility of recovery,” says Director Stenning.

Since the beginning of 2014, there have been 127 apparent (95 confirmed) accidental drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island. The deaths are geographically spread throughout the State, and the age range of the decedents is 20-62 years old. Many of these deaths are directly related to the use of fentanyl and heroin, which are opioids. Legal prescriptions for opioids, particularly oxycodone and hydrocodone, have increased in Rhode Island during recent years.

South Carolina | Bat exposes two people in Spartanburg to rabies

Two people have been recommended to discuss with their health care provider the option of receiving post-exposure treatment after coming into contact with a rabid bat while outdoors in the Old Canaan Community area of Spartanburg County, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“Rabid bats have been known to transmit the virus to humans,” said Sandra Craig of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “Bats have very small, sharp teeth that might feel like a mosquito bite, so people might not realize that they have been bitten.”

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” Craig said. “About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals contract the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.”

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” Craig said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”

DHEC recommends that anyone who is exposed to a possible bite from a bat, either safely capture or kill the bat, put it into a plastic bag, and contact their nearest DHEC Environmental Health Services office. Always use protection such as leather gloves when handling bats; do not use bare hands. If you find a bat in a room where someone has been sleeping or where unattended children have been playing, please contact DHEC immediately.

There were 124 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 79 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the second to test positive in 2014 from Spartanburg County. There were three positives in animals in that county in 2013.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpages can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies and http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/contact/capture.html.