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Tag Archive | "Kent County Health Department"

Kent County offering free radon test kits


N-Radon1

You can’t see, smell or taste radon but the radioactive gas can kill. Next to smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 20,000 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) recommends that all homes should be tested for radon every few years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated January as national Radon Action Month, a perfect time for you to protect your family by testing your home. Testing is the only way to know if radon is present in your home.

N-Radon2While supplies last, KCHD is offering free radon test kits to Kent County residents. “Testing for radon is an easy and important step in protecting the health of your family,” says Sara Simmonds, supervising sanitarian with the Kent County Health Department. “The kit is easy to use. Simply hang a filter inside your house for a few days, then send it in a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope for testing.”

Residents using the kits and the State of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality will both receive the results. Residents can use the information when deciding on how best to pursue remediation, and the state gains a better understanding of the locations and prevalence of radon in Michigan. For help understanding the test results, please contact the KCHD Environmental Health Division at 616-632-6900.

Radon occurs naturally in the ground. It seeps into buildings through cracks or openings in the foundation of floors and walls, around sump openings, or spaces around plumbing. It occurs in both new and old homes. Radon has been found in houses built over a basement, over a crawlspace or built on slab-on-grade. The EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have developed a map of risk zones for the United States. You can view the risk maps by going online to http://www.epa.gov/radon/find-information-about-local-radon-zones-and-radon-programs#radonmap. Kent County is typically categorized as having a moderate to high levels of radon.

The kits are available Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the:

  • Kent County Health Department, 700 Fuller Avenue NE, Grand Rapids KCHD
  • North County Clinic at 4388 14 Mile Road NE, Rockford
  • KCHD South Clinic at 4700 Kalamazoo SE, Kentwood

Only one kit will be given per household.

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Flu season is here


 

Vaccinations available

From Kent County Health Department

Last year, three children in Michigan died due to complications from influenza. It takes about two weeks for the vaccination to become effective, so this is a great time to protect yourself and your family. Starting this week, you can schedule appointments through the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) for vaccinations for the 2015-2016 Flu Season. New this year: KCHD can accept Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Blue Care Network for flu vaccinations with no copay from subscribers.

The flu can have serious complications for children under the age of five, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with already-weakened immune systems. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age to protect against flu viruses. “Over the past three years, we’ve seen people wait until flu season is in full swing to get vaccinated,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. “We hope this year, everyone makes a plan to get vaccinated early, before the virus starts spreading. In addition to our clinics, there are many pharmacies and health care providers offering vaccines.”

KCHD’s seasonal influenza program provides vaccinations for all individuals six months of age and older. The cost of the vaccine ranges from $39-$55. KCHD offers FluMist (nasal mist vaccine) for $41, preservative-free options for $40-$44, and injectable three-strain egg-free vaccines or high-dose vaccines for $55.

Influenza viruses infect the nose, throat, and lungs and cause respiratory illness. Flu viruses spread when people with flu cough, sneeze, or even talk. Someone might also get flu by touching a surface or object (like a phone) that has flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and in some cases, it can be deadly. Signs and symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (very tired), vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults). Not everyone with flu will experience all of the symptoms.

Children from six months through eighteen years who have no insurance, or who have insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines, will pay a sliding scale administration fee of up to $23. The Health Department can bill Medicaid and Medicare, and we accept Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Blue Care Network. (No other private insurance is accepted at this time.) Cash, check, MasterCard, Visa, or Discover are accepted. To make an appointment at any of our four clinic locations, call (616) 632-7200. You can learn more about flu prevention at www.stickittotheflu.com.

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West Nile Virus Found in Kent County 


The Kent County Health Department have been using gravid traps like this one to capture and test mosquitoes for West Nile Virus.

The Kent County Health Department have been using gravid traps like this one to capture and test mosquitoes for West Nile Virus.

As a result of a massive mosquito surveillance project conducted by the environmental health division at the Kent County Health Department (KCHD), this season’s first positive specimen of West Nile Virus (WNV) has been discovered. This is not a human case. 

The positive sample was found in a pool of tested mosquitoes from the zip code 49504 in the city of Grand Rapids. The sample that yielded the positive result was collected between Tuesday July 28th and Thursday July 30, 2015.

The Kent County Health Department has been capturing and testing mosquitoes in 11 traps strategically placed throughout the county since early June. The traps, known as a Gravid trap, were placed in the 49503, 49504, 49507 and 49519 zip codes. That work will continue until Labor Day.

 

This photo shows the positive test strip for West Nile Virus from a tested mosquito.

This photo shows the positive test strip for West Nile Virus from a tested mosquito.

“This finding is significant because this is our first alert to the presence of West Nile as it begins to surface at this time of the year,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer with KCHD. “The fact that we have found West Nile in only one area does not mean that it is confined to that Zip Code. We expect West Nile to be present to some degree until the first frost. We want people to be aware that they can greatly reduce their own risks by taking some simple precautions.”

Prevention is critical in the fight against WNV, an illness that can be deadly in some people, especially those with weakened immune systems and the elderly. The Kent County Health Department recommends wearing a mosquito repellant that contains 10-35 percent DEET, wearing light colored clothing and staying indoors during dusk. You can help stop mosquitoes from breeding by removing any standing water in your yard and keeping your lawn and shrubs cut.

West Nile Virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Since the first case was diagnosed in Michigan in 2001, more than 1,100 people have been diagnosed with the disease, and 92 people have died. In 2001 and again in 2012, Kent County had the second highest number of West Nile cases in the state. More about West Nile Virus can be found at www.cdc.gov/westnile.

 

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Health Department launches mosquito surveillance 


A Gravid trap, lures pregnant female mosquitoes by creating a false breeding environment.

A Gravid trap, lures pregnant female mosquitoes by creating a false breeding environment.

For West Nile Virus study 

Most people would like it if mosquitoes would just go away. Staff at the Kent County Health Department is collecting them by the thousands and they want more. Now through Labor Day, KCHD will place, monitor and maintain 11 mosquito traps in the following zip codes in the county 49503, 49507 and 49519. The goal of monitoring is disease prevention, specifically West Nile Virus (WNV).

The trap, called a Gravid trap, lures pregnant female mosquitoes by creating a false breeding environment. A pungent bait of grass clippings and yeast fools the insects by attracting them with carbon dioxide, a gas found in the exhaled breath of mammals. Mosquitoes end up sucked into a nylon net by a battery operated fan.

Each week, the mosquitoes that get trapped will be returned to KCHD where they will be pulverized and tested for West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Results will be logged along with geographic information that will provide a nearly real time picture to health authorities.

N-West-Nile-Virus-study-gravid-trap-2“We have selected these areas because we know that in the past they have been hot spots for the West Nile Virus,” said Sara Simmonds, Supervising Sanitarian with the department’s Environmental Health division. “Given our past experience, we fully expect that we will find the presence of West Nile Virus within our community. Early detection is critical to help people protect themselves from contracting the virus.”

“Knowing where the virus is located will allow municipalities to make more informed decisions about eradication practices,” said Adam London, Administrative Health Officer with KCHD. “West Nile Virus is a potentially debilitating illness and we know that it is largely preventable through surveillance, education and action.”

West Nile Virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Since the first case was diagnosed in Michigan in 2001 more than 1100 people have been diagnosed with the disease and 92 people have died. In 2001 and again in 2012, Kent County had the second highest number of West Nile cases in the state. More about West Nile Virus can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/ 

The best treatment for WNV is prevention. The Kent County Health Department recommends wearing a mosquito repellant that contains 10-35 percent DEET; wearing light colored clothing; and staying indoors during dusk. You can help stop mosquitoes from breeding by removing any standing water in your yard and keeping your lawn and shrubs cut.

More information about prevention can be found at https://www.accesskent.com/Health/CommDisease/pdfs/westnile_qa.pdf

A grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is funding the project.

 

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Documentary looks at rape on college campuses


 

Youth Council to Promote Prevention, Awareness 

N-Sex-assault-month-Hunting-Ground-Documentary-2015The statistics are startling: someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and this year, the national campaign focuses on awareness and prevention of campus sexual violence. Here in Kent County, a new youth advisory council has been formed for the prevention of relationship and sexual violence. Young Leaders Against Violence (YLAV) is a diverse group of youth, ages 14-22, coordinated through a partnership between the Kent County Health Department, YWCA of West Central Michigan, Safe Haven Ministries and Family Futures. YLAV has several SAAM events planned in April for their schools and the community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women, and one in 71 men, will be raped/sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. “Reaching out to teens and young adults is crucial,” said Adam London, Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department. “YLAV is a great way to advocate and educate. Teens may be more open to talking to peers about sexual violence, rather than talking to adults. Reaching out to students while they are in high school and college could have a dramatic impact on education and awareness of this serious public health issue.”

The YWCA of West Central Michigan Sexual Assault Program in Grand Rapids reports that in 2014, 75 percent of sexual assault victims reported their assailant as someone they know. This rate is even higher for women and men who report being assaulted or raped while in college. The YLAV, in partnership with the coordinating agencies, plans a screening and discussion panel regarding the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” a movie that takes a closer look at rape on college campuses across the country. The screening will be held April 16, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. at Celebration Cinema North (East Beltline and Knapp NE, Grand Rapids). Admission is free.

“The vast majority of the cases of college aged victims who receive a medical forensic examination at the YWCA Nurse Examiner Program involve the use of alcohol by the victim, the offender, or both,” said Patti Haist, Director Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program at the YWCA of West Central Michigan. “A rapist sees intoxication as an opportunity for sexual assault or deliberately supplies alcohol to potential victims to make them vulnerable. The rapist knows that a victim who has used alcohol is less likely to report, less likely to fight back and less likely to call out for help. As a society we need to understand that sexual assault is not the fault of the victim, it is the deliberate targeting of vulnerable people by the rapist that warrants our attention.”

For info on YWCA Sexual Assault services visit www.ywcawcmi.org/sa-services.php.

To see a trailer for the film, search for “The Hunting Ground” on You Tube.

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Challenges for blind and visually Impaired 


 

Workshop Feb. 20

The ability to see is something that most people take for granted. Vision loss can be devastating as common tasks such as cooking, the ability to drive and reading the mail become difficult.

This can take an emotional toll on a person. The Kent County Disaster Mental Health and Human Services Committee is planning a blind and visually impaired workshop on Friday, February 20, 2015. This interactive workshop is designed to increase awareness of accessibility differences among people who are blind, visually impaired and sighted. Implications for emergency preparedness and response will be explored at the workshop.

Visual impairments are very common and affect all age groups. However, vision loss tends to advance with age. According to CDC, more than one million Americans are legally blind and 12 million are visually impaired. Half of all blindness can be prevented and the risk of blindness can be reduced with early detection and treatment. National and local governments have established programs and regulations to prevent and control visual impairment, as well as developed campaigns with the purpose of educating and creating awareness about the importance of visual function.

“Not all visual impairments are the same, and we need to be prepared for the needs of our community in times of emergency incidents,” explains Adam London, Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department. “It is important for emergency responders and public health staff to have a solid understanding of the various challenges in our community.”

Several speakers will be at the workshop, including a client advocate from the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, a sociology professor from Ferris State University and a safety and security coordinator at Clark Retirement Community.

The workshop is open to all community members, public service workers, local officials and many others. The workshop will be at the Kent County Health Department located at 700 Fuller Avenue NE in Grand Rapids on Friday, February 20, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. If you are interested in attending this workshop, please call Pat Draper at 616-632-7292 to reserve your seat.

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New requirement for unvaccinated children


 

Parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children will need to comply with new state waiver requirements.

The Kent County Health Department has implemented the new state waiver requirements for unvaccinated children, which includes an educational meeting with health department staff. Starting January 1, 2015, parents who do not vaccinate their children must now obtain a certified non-medical waiver from a local health department in order for their children to attend school. All schools and childcare providers will be receiving information on the new rules from the state and here from the Kent County Health Department.

While parents can object to vaccines for religious or medical reasons, Michigan is one of the few states in the country that allows waivers based on philosophical reasons. Michigan has the fourth highest waiver rate in the U.S. “The new requirement assures parents receive credible, scientific information about immunizations in order for their children to attend schools in Michigan,” said Adam London, Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department. “Previously, it was too easy for parents to opt-out with little knowledge of the importance of vaccines. The Internet is a great tool for education, but it also allows for myths and misinformation to be spread.”

Fortunately, Kent County schools have one of the best in rates in the state for childhood vaccinations, with only a 3 percent waiver rate in 2014. In one Michigan county that recently dealt with pertussis and measles outbreaks, the waiver rate was 11 percent.

At least one parent refusing vaccine(s) for the child will be required to meet with health department staff for an educational session. Staff will share information about vaccines and the diseases they prevent. Parents refusing to vaccinate children can only sign the current state waiver form, and it may not be altered in any way.

The waiver must be certified by the local health department. The waiver says the parent understands:

The purpose of the recommended vaccination;

The risks and benefits of the recommended vaccination;

The possible consequences of not allowing the child to receive the recommended vaccination, which may include contracting the illness the vaccine is intended to prevent and transmitting the disease to others.

“These educational sessions are meant to educate, not harass, a parent refusing vaccination for their children,” London said. “These sessions will take a small amount of time; a tiny investment that could have life-saving effects on some families.”

Information on the new policy can be found at www.accesskent.com/immunizations under the School/Childcare Resources.

 

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Flu may have contributed to nine deaths in Kent County 


 

The Kent County Health Department announced last week that preliminary testing shows complications from influenza virus may have contributed to nine recent deaths. Six of these deaths were individuals from Kent County; three were from neighboring counties. There are over 1900 reported flu cases in Kent County so far this season.

“Most of the deaths reported to us have been elderly patients with pre-existing medical conditions,” says Adam London, Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recently reported that this year’s flu is particularly hard on older adults. “It is so important for us to check on our elderly family members, friends and neighbors, even if it’s just a daily phone call. We also should remember that the flu can also have a deadly impact on the young and those with compromised immune systems. You can protect others by protecting yourself: get a flu vaccination.”

The total number of flu cases reported to KCHD as of January 10, 2015 was 1,976.  New cases reported during the week ending January 10, 2015 was 355, compared to 581 during the previous week, and 625 during the week ending December 27, 2014.

The flu can have serious complications for children under the age of five, the elderly, and people with already-weakened immune systems. Signs and symptoms can include:

• Fever

• Chills

• Cough

• Sore throat

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Muscle or body aches

• Headaches

• Fatigue (very tired)

• Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age to protect against flu viruses. The Kent County Health Department seasonal influenza program provides vaccinations for all individuals six months of age and older. The cost of the vaccine ranges from $39-$55; FluMist nasal spray (a live, preservative-free, four strain vaccine) is available for $41.

Children from six months through 18 years who have no insurance, or who have insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines, will pay a sliding scale administration fee of up to $23. The Health Department can only bill Medicaid and Medicare; private insurance is not accepted. Cash, check, MasterCard, Visa, or Discover are accepted.

To make an appointment at any of their four clinic locations, call (616) 632-7200. You can also schedule online at www.stickittotheflu.com. Most primary care providers and many local pharmacies also provide influenza vaccinations and can bill private insurance.

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Over 800 cases of confirmed flu in Kent County


 

 

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) has received 813 reports of influenza that were confirmed by rapid tests by health care providers this flu season. Nearly 17 percent of people visiting emergency departments in Kent County last week were suffering from influenza-like illness. This is the highest percentage tracked by KCHD since the H1N1 Influenza season in 2009. From September 1, 2014, through December 22, the number of confirmed cases of flu reported to KCHD was 415.

Flu viruses spread when people with flu cough, sneeze, or even talk. “The virus can live on some surfaces for up to 48 hours,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. “If you are sick, stay home until you recover, and limit contact with people who are not sick. The absolute, best protection from the flu is vaccination.”

There is no cure for the flu, but there are anti-viral medications that can help people recover faster if they are taken within the first 24-48 hours of getting sick.

The flu can have serious complications for children under the age of five, the elderly, and people with already-weakened immune systems. Signs and symptoms can include:

• Fever

• Chills

• Cough

• Sore throat

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Muscle or body aches

• Headaches

• Fatigue (very tired)

• Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age to protect against flu viruses.

The Kent County Health Department seasonal influenza program provides vaccinations for all individuals six months of age and older. The cost of the vaccine ranges from $39-$55; FluMist nasal spray (a live, preservative-free, four strain vaccine) is available for $41.

Children from six months through 18 years who have no insurance, or who have insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines, will pay a sliding scale administration fee of up to $23. The Health Department can only bill Medicaid and Medicare; private insurance is not accepted. Cash, check, MasterCard, Visa, or Discover are accepted. To make an appointment at any of our four clinic locations, call (616) 632-7200. You can also schedule online at www.stickittotheflu.com.

Most primary care providers and many local pharmacies also provide influenza vaccinations and can bill private insurance.

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Flu illness on rise in Kent County 


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The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is seeing more cases of suspected flu reported from area emergency departments and health care providers, in comparison to what is typical this time of year. More than 10 percent of people visiting emergency departments in Kent County last week were suffering from flu-like illness, and 6 out of ten patients presenting with flu-like illness were under the age of 18. So far this season, there have been 74 confirmed cases of flu reported to KCHD, but not every person who is sick with influenza goes to a health care provider or gets tested, so the actual number of illnesses is likely much higher.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu viruses can spread when people with flu cough, sneeze, or even talk. Someone might also get flu by touching a surface or object (like a phone) that has flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and in some cases, it can be deadly.

Signs and symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (very tired), vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults). Not everyone with flu will experience all of the symptoms.

The flu can have serious complications for children under the age of five, the elderly, and people with already-weakened immune systems. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age to protect against flu viruses. “We know there has been some mutation in the flu virus that was expected for this year when the influenza vaccine was produced,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. “But the flu vaccine is still very useful and the best protection you can get against influenza. Even in those cases where people get the flu, the illness is not as severe as it is in those unvaccinated.”

Now is the time to get you and your family vaccinated. It can take about two weeks for the vaccination to become effective. The Kent County Health Department seasonal influenza program provides vaccinations for all individuals six months of age and older. The cost of the vaccine ranges from $39-$55; FluMist nasal spray (a live, preservative-free, four strain vaccine) is available for $41.

Children from six months through eighteen years who have no insurance, or who have insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines, will pay a sliding scale administration fee of up to $15. The Health Department can only bill Medicaid and Medicare; private insurance is not accepted. Cash, check, MasterCard, Visa, or Discover are accepted. To make an appointment at any of our four clinic locations, call (616) 632-7200.

You can also schedule online at www.stickittotheflu.com.

 

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