By Mindy Fetterman
WOODBURY, N.J. — As city councilors here discussed the local water system recently, Summer Smith, a homeowner, rose to ask a question: “Can you explain in plain English what ‘emergent water conditions’ means? It sounds kind of alarming.”
David Trovato, the council president, acknowledged that any hint of a water quality emergency “would scare the hell out of me, too.” But there is no emergency in Woodbury.
New Jersey has designated Woodbury’s water system as “emergent” because it can’t meet the need for water at peak demand times. So this town of 10,000 across the Delaware River from Philadelphia is considering selling its water system to a private company.
Woodbury isn’t alone.
More than 2,000 municipalities have entered public-private partnerships for all or part of their water supply systems, according to the National Association of Water Companies, which represents private water companies like Veolia North America and American Water.
Partner municipalities include San Antonio; Akron, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. Miami-Dade County is considering partnerships for three water facilities, including one built in 1924. And Wichita, Kansas, is starting to study the issue.
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where old pipes leached out lead into water supplies, has raised new worries that cities aren’t keeping up with maintenance and improvements. Continue reading
By Shefali Luthra
Kaiser Health News
Encouraging doctors and nurses to wash their hands frequently has always been considered an easy and effective way to curb the spread of infection in hospitals and other health facilities.
But a new research letter published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine points to another key group of people who aren’t always keeping their hands so clean and, it turns out, probably should: patients.
Researchers focused on inner-city Detroit and examined patients who went from hospitals to post-acute care facilities — places like rehabilitation centers, skilled-nursing facilities, hospice and long-term care hospitals.
They found that almost one in four adults who left the hospital had on their hands a superbug: a virus, bacteria or another kind of microbe that resists multiple kinds of medicine. While in post-acute care, about 10 percent of patients picked up another superbug. Of those who had superbugs, 67 percent still had them upon being discharged, even if they hadn’t gotten sick.
These findings add to a growing body of research about hand hygiene and the patient’s role in infection transmission, and speak to an underlying problem with health care facilities — they can increase the odds of getting sick. The paper’s authors suggest it highlights a potential, so far underused strategy for addressing that concern: getting patients to wash their hands. Continue reading
From the Washington State Department of Health
Wonderful Pistachios Orders Recall Due to Risk of Salmonella Contamination
OLYMPIA — Wonderful Pistachios announced yesterday the recall of a limited number of flavors and sizes of in-shell and shelled pistachios here in Washington because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.
Nine states reported having 11 people infected with Salmonella. Two of the 11 people are from Washington.
The pistachios were sold under the brand names Wonderful, Paramount Farms, and Trader Joe’s, and can be identified by a lot code number on the lower back or bottom panel of the package.
A table of recalled products is available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Recall & Advice to Consumers and Retailers web page.
“Salmonella is very serious, and it is important that people take the proper steps to reduce their risk of infection,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist.
It is recommended that consumers do not eat and retailers do not sell recalled pistachios produced by Wonderful Pistachios.
Contact your health care provider if you think you may have become ill from eating this product. More information about Salmonella can be found on the DOH’s Salmonella web page.
Information about the recall is also available on the company’s web page.
All public and private high school students will be required to get two doses of the chickenpox vaccine before they enter school.
From Washington State Department of Health
Parents of Washington high schoolers may be surprised to hear about a new chickenpox (varicella) vaccine requirement in the coming school year. In the 2016-17 school year, all public and private high school students will be required to get two doses of the chickenpox vaccine before they enter school.
Parents are encouraged to get their teens vaccinated soon to avoid a last minute rush before the start of school.
People may consider chickenpox a routine and mild childhood illness; however, it is a very contagious disease that spreads quickly and causes an itchy rash, fever, and sometimes serious illness.
People infected with chickenpox are at risk for developing shingles, a painful skin rash, later in life. Chickenpox is transmitted through the air by coughing and sneezing or by touching chickenpox blisters. Continue reading
SPOKANE, Wash. – Spokane Regional Health District officials, working with Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed Zika virus infection in a U.S. citizen diagnosed in Spokane County, Washington.
The individual is a woman, in her 20s, and was in an area where Zika transmission is happening. The woman was pregnant at the time she had symptoms of Zika virus infection.
She delivered her baby and the child tested negative for Zika virus. The baby shows no signs of the health problems linked to Zika virus infection.
This is the second confirmed case of Zika virus infection in a returning traveler to Washington state.
Zika virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus. The risk factors and frequency for adverse health effects to the baby are still being studied, including microcephaly (abnormally small heads) in infants, and miscarriage.
CDC experts still do not know if there is a link between Zika virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological immune disorder that most people recover from.
This is the second confirmed case of Zika virus infection in a returning traveler to Washington state. The first was in a Mason County, Washington male who recently traveled to a Zika affected area.
The Spokane woman was tested based on CDC guidance that all pregnant women who traveled to a place with a Zika outbreak during pregnancy receive antibody testing for the virus. Continue reading
By Michael Ollove
Zika is the latest public health threat facing an undermanned public health system.
State health officials were heartened when President Barack Obama this month asked Congress for $1.8 billion to combat the spread of the Zika virus because they fear they don’t have the resources to fight the potentially debilitating disease on their own.
Budget cuts have left state and local health departments seriously understaffed and, officials say, in a precariously dangerous situation if the country has to face outbreaks of two or more infectious diseases — such as Zika, new strains of flu, or the West Nile and Ebola viruses — at the same time.
Budget cuts have left state and local health departments seriously understaffed, officials say.
“Not only have the last major threats not been as severe as they might have been, they have also been sequential,” Blumenstock said. “The issue is: What if the next pandemic is not as mild as the last ones? What if more than one of them happens at once?”
States to varying degrees have cut back spending on public health since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007. Overall state spending on public health fell by $1.3 billion between 2008 and 2014, two health research organizations — the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — reported last year. Continue reading
Health officials urge heightened disease prevention awareness among travelers
From the Washington State Department of Health
Washington State Department of Health received confirmation today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that a Mason County man in his 20’s, who visited a Thurston County hospital, is the first person in the state to test positive for Zika virus.
The person recently traveled to the South Pacific before returning to Washington.
People who’ve returned from Zika-affected areas who are pregnant or having symptoms of Zika illness should contact their healthcare provider.
“Because many people travel to and from places where Zika is spreading, we’ve been expecting to have imported cases of Zika virus disease,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases for the Department of Health. “While the Zika virus is of greatest risk to pregnant women, it is understandably concerning to many of us. The good news is this virus spreads through the bite of a type of mosquito we don’t have in Washington state, so it is very unlikely that this virus would spread widely here.” Continue reading
From the National Institutes of Health
NIH-funded study finds protective effect strongest in women over age 25.
A ring that continuously releases an experimental antiretroviral drug in the vagina safely provided a modest level of protection against HIV infection in women, a large clinical trial in four sub-Saharan African countries has found.
The ring reduced the risk of HIV infection by 27 percent in the study population overall and by 61 percent among women ages 25 years and older, who used the ring most consistently.
These results were announced today at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston and simultaneously published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Women need a discreet, long-acting form of HIV prevention that they control and want to use,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the primary funder of the trial. “This study found that a vaginal ring containing a sustained-release antiretroviral drug confers partial protection against HIV among women in sub-Saharan Africa. Further research is needed to understand the age-related disparities in the observed level of protection.”
Women accounted for more than half of the 25.8 million people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014. Finding effective HIV prevention tools for adolescent girls and young women in particular is critical, as one in four new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa occur in this group. Continue reading
The suspected link between the Zika virus and two neurological disorders, the birth defect microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, could be confirmed within weeks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.
A sharp increase in microcephaly cases in Brazil has triggered a global health emergency over the mosquito-borne virus, which had previously been viewed as causing only a relatively mild illness, and spurred a race to develop a vaccine, medicines and better diagnostic tests.
Zika virus photo by Cynthia Goldsmith/CDC
By Michael Ollove
A handful of federal lawsuits against states that have denied highly effective but costly hepatitis C drugs to Medicaid patients and prisoners could cost states hundreds of millions of dollars.
The drugs boast cure rates of 95 percent or better, compared to 40 percent for previous treatments. But they cost between $83,000 and $95,000 for a single course of treatment.
The class actions, all filed in the last eight months in federal courts in Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, present a series of extremes: a deadly epidemic, a treatment that can stop the disease in its tracks, and an enormous price tag.
At least 3.5 million Americans have hepatitis C, a virus spread through blood-to-blood contact that is usually contracted through the sharing of needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
Left untreated, hepatitis C slowly destroys the liver. Medicaid beneficiaries, a low-income population, have a slightly higher rate of hepatitis C infection than the privately insured, and the rate among prisoners is 30 times higher than in the general population.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first of the new drugs, Sovaldi, in 2013. Since then, the FDA has also approved two other drugs, Viekira Pak and Harvoni.
But because the drugs are so expensive, state Medicaid programs and prisons have been restricting them to people in the advanced stages of the disease. Continue reading