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Health Department urges vaccination against measles

From the Kent County Health Department

Public health officials across Michigan continue to monitor an increasing number of measles cases in the Southeast part of the state. While there are no current cases in Kent County, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is urging vaccination against the disease to those who are not vaccinated or otherwise immune to Measles.

Measles is a very contagious disease that can have lifelong health complications. Measles is spread through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. The virus can live for up to two hours in the air. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person will also get the disease unless they are vaccinated or immune. A person who has had the disease in the past, has been vaccinated, or who was born before 1957 is considered to be immune.

Symptoms of the measles usually appear 10-12 days after exposure. Early symptoms of the measles include fever, rash, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. Rash and fever are the defining symptoms of measles and usually occur four days following the early symptoms. The rash generally starts on the face and proceeds down the body and can persist for several days.

Infected individuals are contagious from four days before the rash appears until four to five days after it becomes visible.

People who are at highest risk for severe illness include:

– Infants and children younger than 5 years

– Adults 20 years or over

– Pregnant women

– People with compromised immune systems

“The best way for a person to protect themselves against measles is by getting the MMR vaccine,” said Adam London, Administrative Health Officer for KCHD. The MMR vaccine, which prevents measles, mumps and rubella is about 97 percent effective for those who have had both doses of the vaccine. 

“In those rare instances when a vaccinated individual gets the disease, they will experience much milder symptoms and will be much less likely to spread measles,” he added.

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State lab begins testing for Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses

Earlier this month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services state laboratory began conducting diagnostic testing for Zika, dengue and chikungunya, which are mosquito-borne viruses.

This represents an expanded effort by the department to identify and monitor new cases of these viruses in Michigan travelers returning from areas where the viruses are currently circulating. These testing services are being provided to healthcare providers in Michigan through the department’s Bureau of Laboratories. It builds on the current testing the Bureau conducts for West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and La Crosse encephalitis viruses.

Michigan is considered “low risk” for mosquito transmission of Zika, dengue, and chikungunya virus, as the mosquitoes that spread the diseases are not present in the state. Zika is a virus that is newly emerged in the western hemisphere; while its symptoms are not considered severe, the virus can cause birth defects in fetuses of pregnant women exposed to the virus. To date, there have been three travel-related cases reported in Michigan; none in pregnant women.

Dengue and chikungunya viruses can also infect people who travel to areas where these viruses are present in mosquitoes. These areas include tropical and sub-tropical destinations. There were 14 cases of dengue and eight cases of chikungunya reported in Michigan in 2015. All cases of dengue and chikungunya were in travelers returning from areas with ongoing transmission.

Zika, dengue and chikungunya virus disease are reportable conditions in Michigan. Healthcare providers and laboratories must report suspect and confirmed cases of these viruses to a local public health department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising those traveling to foreign countries to exercise caution because of the Zika virus, particularly pregnant women. It recommends:

*Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika transmission. If they must travel, they should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

*For non-pregnant women and men who travel and experience no symptoms, it is recommended they avoid pregnancy for eight weeks.

*For men who return from travel and do have symptoms, it is recommended they use condoms for six months.

*Men who have a pregnant partner and have been in an area with Zika transmission should either use condoms the right way every time they have sex, or not have sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

For the most current information about Zika, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.

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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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Sewage leaks at mobile home park


By Judy Reed

A routine sewer system flush in May reportedly caused an overflow at a local mobile home park earlier this week.

According to Heather Smith, assistant manager at Cedar Springs Mobile Estates, on 18 Mile Road, the flush last month caused a blockage, and resulted in sewage leaking into storm drains. “It started about 3:30 p.m. Monday,” she explained.

Smith said that a plumber was called in to clear the blockage, and the storm drains were pumped Wednesday. “It was taken care of by today (Wednesday) at noon,” she said.

Smith noted that residents were notified, and both the Department of Environmental Quality and the Kent County Health Department were alerted. The Health Department was on scene Tuesday, and the DEQ was there Wednesday.

Steve Kelso, with the Kent County Health Department, confirmed that there was a sewer overflow. “DEQ is the lead investigator on the case, but if an overflow is not contained, the Health Department has the authority to take samples of adjacent waterways,” explained Kelso. He said that they confirmed the overflow on Tuesday, and took samples from Cedar Creek on Wednesday, before the leak was contained.

He expects that the results will be back sometime Thursday, June 4.

The Post was unable to reach the specific DEQ investigator on the case by press time, and expects a call from them on Thursday.

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Health department announces influenza activity

(Grand Rapids, MI) — “It’s not over yet.” says Cathy Raevsky, Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department (KCHD). “The typical flu season is November through April with a peak during the middle of February. The number one way to protect people from the flu is with the influenza vaccination. I encourage anyone who would like a vaccination to make an appointment with their doctor, a pharmacy, or the Kent County Health Department.”

That’s right! It’s not too late to get your flu shot and KCHD offers flu shots by appointment at all six of its clinic locations. Clinics are in Wyoming, Kentwood, Rockford, and multiple Grand Rapids locations.

Appointment times for each location vary, but appointments can be made by calling (616) 632-7200 or by visiting www.stickittotheflu.com.

Since the beginning of February there has been a significant increase (from 7% – 10%) of influenza-like-illness symptoms in emergency room visits in Kent County. Please note that influenzalike-illness complaints are not always lab-confirmed cases of the flu. As of February 5th, there have been 63 reported cases of lab-confirmed influenza since the first case on September 1st of 2010. This year’s flu season is a very typical season and trending very similar to past flu seasons (compared to 2006-2008 data).

For most recent data reports, please visit www.stickittotheflu.com. It is extremely difficult to predict if this is the peak, or if we are going to continue to see a rise in reported flu cases. But one thing is for sure, it’s definitely not over yet. This year’s influenza vaccine happens to be a great match with the influenza virus that has been most common in Kent County. So protect yourself during the duration of this year’s flu season, get vaccinated and stick it to the flu! Call KCHD at (616) 632-7200 or make an appointment online at www.stickittotheflu.com.

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January is radon action month

(Grand Rapids, MI) – Radon gas is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. You can’t see, smell, or taste radon, so what can you do to protect your home? Get it tested. Test kits are inexpensive and can be purchased from local hardware stores or from the Environmental Health Division of the Kent County Health Department (KCHD). The Health Department is located at 700 Fuller NE, Grand Rapids.
“Protecting indoor air is a vital part of maintaining a healthy home,” said Cathy Raevsky, Administrative Health Officer for KCHD. “With 16 percent of homes tested in Kent County having an elevated radon level, it is important for homeowners to take action. Getting tested is a simple way to protect your family.”
Radon is created by the breakdown of uranium in soil. It finds its way into homes and other buildings through passages like cracks in the foundation, and is second only to smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer. It is estimated that one in eight Michigan homes has an elevated level of radon. January is National
Radon Action Month and is an ideal time to test your home, because chilly weather means windows are closed, air is stagnant, and if radon is present, it will be more concentrated.
The test kits are easy to use and include confirmatory testing and referrals to approved radon contractors if necessary. The kits cost $5. To date, KCHD has received nearly 8,000 test results from homes across the county. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/radon.

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