Monday August 19, 2019
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Reports Of Flu Cases Rises

719 new cases of flu were reported last week (Jan. 27 – Feb 2). That’s a new high for this flu season.  The predominant strain continues to be type A which is covered in this year’s flu vaccine.  You can see more more detail on flu in Louisville by viewing our weekly influenza data briefs found HERE.

Learn more about the flu, the flu vaccine, what to do if you have the flu, and how to prevent the flue HERE.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health has confirmed West Nile virus in five Louisville residents.  Four of the West Nile cases were neuroinvasive, a serious form of the disease in which the virus attacks the brain or the tissues lining the brain and spinal cord leading to encephalitis or meningitis.  There have been no deaths from West Nile this year.

“We urge people to protect themselves against West Nile,” said Dr Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.  You should wear insect repellant and dress in long sleeves and pants if going outside during dusk and dawn.”

“The massive amounts of rain we have seen over the last several days are causing mosquito populations to multiply and we know that West Nile infected mosquitoes are present throughout the community,” said Dr. Moyer.

In most instances, people infected with West Nile virus either show no symptoms or relatively mild symptoms.  However, less than one percent of infected people develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.  Serious illness can occur in people of any age. However, people over 60 years of age are at the greatest risk for severe disease. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness.

The Department of Public Health and Wellness advises people to take the following precautions:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. To optimize safety and effectiveness, repellents should be used according to the label instructions. More information about insect repellents can be found here at http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html.

When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection. Don’t apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.

Take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Use your air conditioning, if you have it.
Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths on a regular basis.

The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness has operated a mosquito control program for more than 50 years. The department does surveillance of mosquito populations with traps strategically located throughout the community and tests mosquitos for such diseases as West Nile, Zika and St. Louis Encephalitis.

In the spring the department pre-treats potential mosquito breeding sites with larvicide to prevent hatch offs.  In the summer it treats catch basins and performs mosquito fogging in response to West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

In 2017 there was one non-fatal human West Nile case in Louisville. In 2016 there were two human cases and one death.  In 2015, there were three human cases with no deaths.

To check if your area has been fogged or will be fogged call the mosquito hotline, 574-6641, or visit https://louisvilleky.gov/government/health-wellness/mosquito-fogging. To make a request regarding mosquitoes in your neighborhood call Metro Call at 311 or 574-5000.

An employee of the White Castle restaurant at 2350 Greene Way has been diagnosed with acute hepatitis A.

Customers who ate at this White Castle from May 29, 2018 to June 8, 2018 may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus.  While the risk of contracting hepatitis A from eating at this restaurant is low, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness is issuing this advisory out of an abundance of caution.  The hepatitis A outbreak remains centered among who use illegal drugs and the homeless.

When a food service worker is diagnosed with hepatitis A, he or she is immediately excluded from work and not allowed to return without release from his or her medical provider.  Additionally, all employees at the establishment are vaccinated and disinfection and sanitation practices are followed. This White Castle scored 95-A and 100-A and on its last two health inspections.

Symptoms of hepatitis A are fatigue, decreased appetite, stomach pain, nausea, darkened urine, pale stools and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). People can become ill 15 to 50 days after being exposed to the virus. Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention.

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted by putting something in your mouth such as an object, food or drink, which has been in contact with the feces of an infected person. In November, the Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak and has recommended that all residents be vaccinated.  Since the outbreak began there have been 457 cases diagnosed in Louisville and more than 75,000 vaccinated.

“Food-borne transmission has not been a factor in this outbreak,” said Dr. Lori Caloia, medical director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.  “The virus continues to be transmitted person-to-person, primarily among those who use illegal drugs and the homeless.  We have had a small number of food workers diagnosed with hepatitis A and the restaurant industry throughout Louisville continues to get their workers immunized.  More than 5,800 local food service employees have been vaccinated against hepatitis A.”

Reduced-cost vaccinations continue to be available to restaurant workers.  Restaurant workers wishing to be vaccinated should contact their managers for details.

The best ways to prevent hepatitis A infection are to get vaccinated and to practice good handwashing. “Washing your hands thoroughly and often with warm water and soap, especially before preparing meals or eating, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper is a proven way to prevent the spread of diseases,” Dr. Caloia added.  “Hand sanitizer is not as effective as hand washing against hepatitis A.”

For more information about hepatitis A visit https://louisvilleky.gov/government/health-wellness/hepatitis  or call 211.

January is National Radon Action month. The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness wants you to know the dangers of radon and encourages you to test your home. The department is offering free radon test kits while the supply lasts. You can request a kit online by clicking HERE or by calling 574-6650.

Radon is a gas that you cannot smell, taste or see. It forms naturally when uranium, radium and thorium break down in rocks, soil and groundwater. People can be exposed to radon primarily from breathing radon in air that comes in through cracks and gaps in homes and other buildings. Radon can cause lung cancer through prolonged exposure. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking, and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, causing between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

The entire state of Kentucky is at high risk for radon exposure with about 40 percent of homes estimated to have unsafe levels. The only way to know if radon exists at dangerous levels in your home is to test for it.

“To encourage people to test their homes for radon, we are offering free test kits, “said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. “People can’t see or smell radon so they may be unaware that it might exist at dangerous levels in their homes and be exposing them to deadly health effects.”

The lung cancer risk factors of tobacco smoke and radon are related. More radon-related lung cancers occur in individuals with a history of exposure to tobacco smoke. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with the highest mortality rate of any cancer. Kentucky has the highest incidence rate of lung cancer in the nation with a rate of 93.4 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 59.4.   According to the recently released 2017 Health Equity Report, cancer is the leading cause of death in Louisville.

The death rate from lung cancer in Kentucky is 69.5 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 43.4. In Louisville our lung cancer incidence and mortality rates are also well above the national average. According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry the incidence rate of lung cancer in Louisville is 94.8 per 100,000 compared to 59.4 nationally. The death rate is 61.7 compared to 43.4 nationally.

Here are a few tips to help prevent radon in your home:

  • Stop smoking and discourage smoking in your home. Smoking significantly increases the risk of lung cancer from radon. Second hand smoking in the home is also a leading cause of Sudden Infant Death (SIDS).
  • Increase air flow in your house by opening windows and using fans and vents to circulate air.
  • Seal cracks in floors and walls with plaster, caulk, or other mate­rials designed for this purpose.
  • Seek a qualified contractor to help remove the radon from your home.
  • Mitigation costs generally range from $1,200 to $2,500 depending on the size and foundation of the home.

Consult the Kentucky Association of Radon Professionals or the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists National Radon Proficiency Program to locate approved contractors near you.

In one of her first official site visits since taking the helm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Dr. Anne Schuchat met with public health officials in Kentucky to discuss various programs and policies impacting the state’s public health system. Dr. Schuchat, CDC’s acting director, participated in day-long activities with staff from the Department for Public Health (DPH), within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), related to Kentucky’s opioid and drug overdose epidemic as well as sessions dealing with health data and analytics.

“I appreciate the chance to learn from the partnerships and programs that Kentucky has established to tackle the opioid epidemic and other public health challenges, said Dr. Schuchat, following her visit to Kentucky. “Hearing from people from public health, academia, coalitions, and public safety made a strong impression on me of the crucial role that partnerships play in protecting people’s health in Kentucky.”

“We were tremendously honored to host Dr. Schuchat in Kentucky today and greatly appreciate her time and invaluable insights into the American public health system,” said CHFS Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson. “The opioid epidemic is the number one public health crisis facing Kentucky. It is extremely beneficial for us to be able to share information and collaborate with CDC leadership on these issues as we work toward building a healthier state.”

Dr. Schuchat began her public health career in 1988 when she came to CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer. She was principal deputy director of CDC during 2015-2017 and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases from 2006-2015. She was promoted to Rear Admiral in the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service in 2006 and earned a second star in 2010. Dr. Schuchat was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) in 2008.

Dr. Schuchat has played key roles in a number of CDC emergency responses. Most notably, she served as Chief Health Officer for CDC’s 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza response; led the CDC team responding to the SARS outbreak in Beijing in 2003; and supported the Washington D.C. field team during the 2001 bioterrorist anthrax response.

“She has a unique overview of medicine and health in America and strong ideas about public health as an important profession,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Hiram C. Polk, Jr.

The sessions were held in DPH. Sec. Glisson, Deputy Secretary Judge Timothy Feeley, DPH Commissioner Dr. Hiram Polk and public health experts from across the Commonwealth got a chance to speak with the acting director about Kentucky’s relationship with the CDC and her plans for the agency.

Justices and judges from across Kentucky recently joined the statewide discussion on the escalating opioid epidemic at the court system’s first-ever summit on this crisis. Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. hosted the Kentucky Opioid Summit for the state’s justices and judges Jan. 25 in Louisville. The summit was attended by 168 Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals, Circuit Court, Family Court and District Court judges.

“One of the most serious challenges facing Kentucky is the opioid epidemic, which is destroying lives, devastating families and increasing drug-related cases in the courts,” Chief Justice Minton said. “The court system has a significant role to play in meeting the legal demands and human needs of this crisis. I called this summit because we must gain a better understanding of addiction and treatment so we can make informed decisions from the bench and develop a plan to work with other agencies.”

Chief Justice Minton began working on a Kentucky-specific summit after attending the first Regional Judicial Opioid Summit in August 2016. The Supreme Court of Ohio hosted that event for surrounding states heavily affected by the opioid epidemic: Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The regional summit goal was to create a framework to coordinate the efforts of state and federal policymakers to combat the opioid epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most serious public health and safety issues facing Kentucky today and judges must know how to handle these drug-related cases appropriately,” Chief Justice Minton said. The Kentucky Opioid Summit covered case law, statutes and Americans with Disabilities Act regulations regarding medication-assisted treatment. It also focused on the science of treating addiction and government’s role in combating the opioid epidemic. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin and powerful pain relievers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Kentucky is one of the top five states in opioid overdose deaths per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medication-assisted treatment involves providing medications to opioid addicts to ease withdrawal systems and reduce cravings. The justices and judges heard about the law, liability and ethics of medication-assisted treatment from attorney Douglas L. McSwain of Wyatt Tarrant & Combs. Dr. Joshua Lee of the New York University of Medicine provided a session on the neuroscience of medication-assisted treatment.

One way the Kentucky court system addresses substance use disorder is through Kentucky Drug Court. Drug Court programs in 16 counties are now using medication-assisted treatment to help some participants with opioid addiction.

Justices and judges participated in two panel presentations as part of the event. In a panel session on opioid use disorder and the criminal justice system, discussions were about criminal justice and legislative efforts to address the epidemic, the science of treating someone with an opioid use disorder, the history of the opioid epidemic and current crime trends related to opioid use. Panelists were Chief Justice Minton, Secretary John Tilley of the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, Executive Director Van Ingram of the state Office of Drug Control Policy, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad, and Dr. Michelle R. Lofwall, a medical doctor who is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science with the University of Kentucky’s Center on Drug and Alcohol Research.

The second panel focused on state government’s role in dealing with the growing opioid problem. The session included a presentation on the state’s comprehensive plan to reduce overdose-related deaths by Adam M. Meier, Gov. Matt Bevin’s deputy chief of staff and health policy advisor. Panelists also covered the scope of the epidemic, the impact on children and families, evidence-based treatment, and KASPER’s part in addressing prescription drug use disorder. KASPER is Kentucky’s prescription drug monitoring program.

The panel also discussed strategies for reducing the issues resulting from opioid use, such as offering syringe exchange programs and Naloxone, which is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent opioid overdose. In addition to Meier, panelists were Deputy Secretary and former judge Timothy Feeley of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Commissioner Dr. Hiram C. Polk of the Department of Public Health, KASPER program manager David R. Hopkins and Dr. Allen J. Brenzel, medical director for the state Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities.

The Division of Judicial Branch Education at the Administrative Office of the Courts provided the summit.

January is National Radon Action month.  The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness wants you to know the dangers of radon and encourages you to test your home.  The department is offering free radon test kits while the supply lasts. You can request a kit online by clicking this link: https://louisvilleky.wufoo.com/forms/qoixf410qzn3z/ or by calling 574-6650.

Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that is naturally found in soil. It can enter the home through small cracks in the home’s foundation and can cause lung cancer through prolonged exposure.  Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking, and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, causing between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

The entire state of Kentucky is at high risk for radon exposure with about 40 percent of homes estimated to have unsafe levels.  The only way to know if radon exists at dangerous levels in your home is to test for it.

“We encourage everyone to test their homes for radon, “said Dr. Joann Schulte, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.  “People can’t see or smell radon so they may be unaware that it might exist at dangerous levels in their homes and be exposing them to deadly health effects.”

The lung cancer risk factors of tobacco smoke and radon are related. More radon-related lung cancers occur in individuals with a history of exposure to tobacco smoke.  If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with the highest mortality rate of any cancer.  Kentucky has the highest incidence rate of lung cancer in the nation with a rate of 93.4 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 59.4.   The death rate from lung cancer in Kentucky is 69.5 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 43.4.  In Louisville our lung cancer incidence and mortality rates are also well above the national average.  According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry the incidence rate of lung cancer in Louisville is 94.8 per 100,000 compared to 59.4 nationally.  The death rate is 61.7 compared to 43.4 nationally.

.Here are a few tips to help prevent radon in your home:

  • Stop smoking and discourage smoking in your home.
    • Smoking significantly increases the risk of lung cancer from radon.
  • Increase air flow in your house by opening windows and using fans and vents to circulate air.
    • Natural ventilation in any type of house is only a temporary strategy to reduce radon.
  • Seal cracks in floors and walls with plaster, caulk, or other mate­rials designed for this purpose.
  • Seek a qualified contractor to help remove the radon from your home. Mitigation costs generally range from $1,200 to $2,500 depending on the size and foundation of the home. Consult the Kentucky Association of Radon Professionals or the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists National Radon Proficiency Program to locate approved contractors near you.
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