CDC Issues Travel Advisory Due to Zika Virus in the Americas

CDC Issues Travel Advisory Due to Zika Virus in the Americas

Despite the winter weather of the past week, it’s time to begin thinking about spring and summer travel plans—and ways to stay healthy and safe while traveling. One important step is to review travel alerts issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recently issued a Travel Alert Level 2 for regions and certain countries in Central and South America, advising people to “Practice Enhanced Precautions” due to ongoing Zika virus transmission. Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus disease. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites: Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or IR3535. (Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label. Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children ages two months and older.) Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks and tents. Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe illness requiring hospitalization is uncommon, and many infected people show no symptoms at all. However, Zika virus can also spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. There have been reports of a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Until more is...
UPDATE: Public Health Emergency Exercise Rescheduled for February 24

UPDATE: Public Health Emergency Exercise Rescheduled for February 24

UPDATE: Based on the winter weather forecast for the coming days, the full-scale public health emergency preparedness exercise will be rescheduled for February 24. This decision is intended to keep everyone safe and prevent over-extending critical staff in the event of an adverse weather event this weekend.   ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Transylvania Public Health and several partner agencies will be conducting a full-scale public health emergency preparedness exercise at the Transylvania County Parks and Recreation Activities Center on Tuesday, Jan. 26. This exercise will allow public health staff and emergency responders to practice the roles that would be put into action during a high demand, high consequence public health emergency and assess current plans and capabilities to ensure that they would be able to meet the community’s needs in a real emergency. This particular exercise will simulate an incident that requires the distribution and dispensing of medications from the Strategic National Stockpile. The exercise will begin at 9:00 a.m. and is expected to conclude by 2:00 p.m. Residents should expect to see an unusual amount of activity in and around the Transylvania County Parks and Recreation Activities Center and Transylvania Regional Hospital, including the presence of emergency vehicles on the day of the exercise. Residents should not be alarmed by these activities; they are necessary to allow staff to practice the roles they would play in an actual emergency. As part of the exercise, staff and volunteers will work to demonstrate operational communications, coordination, public health and medical services capabilities associated with the dispensing of medical countermeasures. Exercise operations will include providing security at the scene, setting up and operating...
Public Health Employees Receive Statewide Recognition

Public Health Employees Receive Statewide Recognition

Public Health Employees Receive Statewide Recognition At their monthly meeting held on Tuesday, the Transylvania County Board of Health officially congratulated several Transylvania Public Health employees for awards received at two recent statewide conferences. The N.C. Public Health Association presented awards to a number of Transylvania Public Health employees at its 2015 Fall Educational Conference held September 16-18 in Winston-Salem. NCPHA is the leading professional association in the state for people dedicated to promoting and protecting the health and environment of all North Carolinians. Environmental Health Program Specialist Patricia Hawkins, REHS, received NCPHA’s Rankin Award for her work in environmental health. First presented in 1955 and named in honor of Dr. Watson Smith Rankin, this award is given annually to the person who has made an outstanding contribution to public health in North Carolina over a period of several years. Environmental Health Supervisor Jim Boyer, REHS, was identified as an NCPHA All-Star. This award is given each year to a handful of individuals throughout the state who epitomize public health within their agencies. NCPHA also recognized Transylvania Public Health for its “many, varied and dedicated efforts in the essential response to Ebola prevention.” Nursing Director Sharon Cameron, RN, Preparedness Coordinator Anita Glance, Communicable Disease Nurse Kathy Kelley, RN, and Clinical Nursing Supervisor Cathy Nicholson, RN, received certificates of appreciation for their communicable disease response efforts related to Ebola preparedness as well as last fall’s pertussis outbreak. Environmental Health Specialist Stacey Robbins, REHS, was also recognized with an appreciation plaque for her service as vice president of the Environmental Health Section of NCPHA for 2014-2015. In addition, the Transylvania County...

Transylvania Public Health Provides Access to Breast Cancer Screenings

Transylvania Public Health will be putting the spotlight on breast cancer throughout October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer, celebrating the lives of the many women who survived and remembering those lost. According to the State Center for Health Statistics, 9,772 women in N.C. will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 1,391 will die of the disease, making breast cancer the second leading cause of death among women. However, early detection and prompt treatment of breast cancer can save lives: 96 percent of women who find and treat breast cancer early will be cancer free after five years. Transylvania Public Health encourages all women to take charge of their health by having regular screening tests for breast cancer, which check a woman’s breasts for cancer before any noticeable signs or symptoms are present. There are three main tests used to screen for breast cancer. A breast self-exam is when you check your own breasts and underarms for lumps, swelling, changes in size or shape of the breast, or any changes in the color or texture of the skin. A clinical breast exam is a breast exam by a doctor or nurse, who uses his or her hands to carefully feel for lumps or other changes in the entire breast area, often done during an annual checkup. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast tissue. Mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it could be found using the other...

Keep Your Guard Up Against Mosquitos

Even though summer is winding down, it’s still important to defend yourself and your family against mosquito bites. Mosquitos are more than annoying: they can carry and transmit diseases to people such as La Crosse encephalitis, West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis. These mosquito-borne diseases are most common in late summer and early fall. Protect yourself from mosquitos by wearing insect repellant. When used as directed, insect repellent is the best way to guard against from mosquito bites, and it is safe even for children and pregnant women. Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer lasting protection. When the weather permits, limit your exposed skin by wearing long sleeves, pants, socks and hats. Consider permethrin-treated clothes and outdoor gear, which contain an insecticide/repellant that lasts through multiple washings. To keep mosquitos out of your home, make sure screens on windows and doors are in good repair and use them consistently. You can also take action to eliminate the source of the mosquitos. Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water, so the best way to control a mosquito problem is to locate and remove the standing water source. Most adult mosquitoes only live about 2-3 weeks. Once the breeding source has been eliminated, it is only a matter of time before the adult mosquitoes die. Mosquito breeding sources can include anything that can hold one-quarter of an inch of water. Eliminate them by regularly emptying, inverting, or removing the source. Empty standing water from containers. Keep wading pools empty and stored on their side when they aren’t...

“Precious Cargo” Campaign Works to Reduce Heatstroke Deaths

A simple piece of paper might help reduce heatstroke deaths: that’s the hope of some groups here in Transylvania County. Back in June, Chris Biecker, director of Moody-Connolly Funeral Home and chairman of the Transylvania County Board of Health, and his wife Suzy created tags warning “Precious Cargo: Don’t Forget Me!” with an image of a baby on one side and a pet’s paw print on the other that are designed to hang from the rearview mirror of vehicles to increase driver awareness of the dangers of hot cars. Printing was provided by CopyWorks of Brevard. Then Biecker got the Transylvania County Department of Public Health, the Brevard Police Department and the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Department on board to support the campaign. “I see this as community-level advocacy for our most vulnerable children,” Biecker said. An average of 38 children have died in hot cars each year in the U.S. since 1998 and 13 have died so far this year. More than half of these heat stroke deaths occurred because a caregiver left the child in the car unintentionally, but another 20 percent happen because the child was intentionally left in the car. About 30 percent of deaths occur because the child got in the car without anyone knowing and couldn’t get out. When the outside temperature is in the 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes. But heatstroke can take place when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees, and cracking the windows or not parking in direct sunlight does not make a car significantly cooler. Heatstroke is most...