Category Archives: Infections

Measles led to death of Clallam Co. woman; first in US in a dozen years

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From Washington State Department of Health

Tragic outcome for immunocompromised patient shows need for community protection

Measles Virus

The death of a Clallam County woman this spring was due to an undetected measles infection that was discovered at autopsy.

The woman was most likely exposed to measles at a local medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County.

She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles.

The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system.

The last confirmed measles death in the United States was reported in 2003.

She didn’t have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection wasn’t discovered until after her death. The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles.

This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles. Continue reading

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Waterborne diseases pose a risk during swimming and other outdoor fun

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From the Washington State Department of Health

infant-swimmingSwimming pools, beaches, lakes, and streams provide an opportunity to cool off during a summer that’s warmer than usual.

Yet germs in the water can make people sick, especially young children, elderly people, and people with weak immune systems.

Chlorine in swimming pools kills most germs, but some types of germs can resist chlorine for many days.

Germs that can cause waterborne illness include Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, E. coli, and norovirus. In the past three years, three outbreaks of waterborne illness have been reported to state health officials – two in lakes and one in a swimming pool.

“It’s important to do all we can to protect ourselves and others from waterborne diseases when we take a dip into local pools, lakes, and rivers,” said State Epidemiologist for Communicable Disease Dr. Scott Lindquist. “Stay out of the water if you’re ill or have recently had diarrhea.” Continue reading

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One in 8 with HIV do not know they are infected

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hiv testing graphic

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National HIV Testing Day is a reminder to get the facts, get tested, and get involved to take care of yourself and your partners.

An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and that number grows by almost 50,000 every year. One in eight people who have HIV don’t know it. That means they aren’t getting the medical care they need to stay healthy and avoid passing HIV to others.

CDC has found that more than 90 percent of new HIV infections in the United States could be prevented by testing and diagnosing people who have HIV and ensuring they receive prompt, ongoing care and treatment. Early linkage to and retention in HIV care is central to managing HIV and promoting health among all people living with HIV. HIV medicines can keep people with HIV healthy for many years, and greatly reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to their sex partners.

Get the Facts

Protecting yourself and others against HIV starts with knowledge. Knowing the facts about HIV will help you make informed decisions about sex, drug use, and other activities that may put you and your partners at risk for HIV.

  • Learn the basics about HIV, how to prevent HIV transmission, and the steps you can take to protect yourself and others.
  • Talk about what you learn with your friends and other people who are important to you.
  • Empower even more people via social media. Share your new knowledge with your friends online.
Find more information about HIV testing, and who should be tested, on CDC’s HIV Testing Basics web page.

Get Tested

The only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to get tested. Continue reading

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West Nile virus found in Yakima County mosquitoes

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West nile virus wnvFrom the Washington State Department of Health

The first mosquitos to be found to be infected with the West Nile virus this season have been found in Yakima County, state health officials reported Thursday.

Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to prevent infection.

It’s the first sign that the virus is active in our state this summer. The warmer spring and early summer weather is ideal for high mosquito numbers.

Preventing mosquito bites is the most effective way to avoid West Nile virus disease, officials said.  Continue reading

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How the CDC responds to outbreaks

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An outbreak of the Ebola virus hits in western Uganda and caused dozens of illnesses or deaths. In this video, a team of investigators from the CDC Special Pathogens Branch travels to Uganda. They work to bring the outbreak under control and learn more about the reservoir hosts for the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

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Washington state kindergarten vaccination rate below target goal

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Boy gets shot vaccine injectionOnly 83% of kindergarten students in Washington state arrive in the fall up-to-date on their immunizations, the Washington State Department of Health report.

This is well below the target goal of 95%, the level that is usually sufficient to halt the spread of infectious diseases such as measles through a community. None of the individual vaccines required for school meet this goal.

The low vaccination rate is of particular concern in light of recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, diseases which can be prevented with timely vaccination, health officials said.

About one in twenty, 4.5%, Washington state kindergarten students opted out of vaccinations due to medical, personal, or religious reasons. Washington has historically had high exemption rates for kindergarteners. Although exemption rates have come down since they peaked in 2008, but the improvement has leveled-off for the past few years.

In Washington, all recommended vaccines are available at no cost for kids through age 18 from health care providers across the state.

Although providers may charge an office visit fee and an administration fee for the vaccine, a family that can’t afford to pay can ask their regular provider to waive the administration fee.

For help finding a health care provider or an immunization clinic, call your local health agency, visit the ParentHelp123 resource finder, or call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

 

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Watcom County E coli outbreak linked to fairgrounds dairy barn

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Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaThe bacteria that sickened 25 people in Whatcom County has been traced to a dairy barn on the   Northwest Washington Fairgrounds, an investigation by county, state and federal health officials has concluded.

“All of the ill people either attended the Milk Makers Fest between April 21 and 23 at the Northwest Fairgrounds; helped with the event between April 20 and 24; or were close contacts of people associated with the event,” according to a final report on the outbreak released by the Whatcom County Health Department.

“Most of the ill people were children, including older children who helped with the event. More than 1,000 children from primary schools in Whatcom County attended the event on these days,” report said..

The bacteria, a virulent form of the bacteria Esherichia coli, called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, can cause severe diarrhea and in some cases a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, that can lead to kidney failure. Contamination of the fairgrounds most likely occurred before the Milk Makers Fest.

Investigators identified 25 people confirmed cases:

  • 9 of these cases were considered secondary cases (the ill person didn’t attend the event but had close contact with someone who did attend).
  • 10 people were hospitalized.
  • 6 people developed HUS.

No one died as a result of the outbreak.
Continue reading

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Inside Indiana’s HIV rural epidemic

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ProPublica Podcast

More than 150 people in southeast Indiana have been diagnosed with HIV, the largest outbreak in state history.

Even though the first reports trickled in to state health officials last December, they didn’t tell their local counterparts in Scott County for two months when it became a full-blown epidemic.

Investigative reporter Bob Segall has been looking into the outbreak for WTHR, NBC’s Indianapolis affiliate. He joins ProPublica senior health reporter Charles Ornstein on the podcast this week to discuss:


ProPublica on Facebook and Twitter, and get ProPublica headlines delivered by e-mail every day.

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Travel smart: get vaccinated – CDC

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Before you travel internationally, ensure that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines, as well as travel vaccines.

airplane thumbMore and more Americans are travelling internationally each year. Today more than a third of Americans have a passport.  It is important to remember that some types of international travel, especially to developing countries and rural areas, have higher health risks.

These risks depend on a number of things including:

  • Where you are traveling
  • Your activities while traveling
  • Your current health status
  • Your vaccination history

Measles and International Travel

Each year, unvaccinated people get measles while in other countries and bring it to the United States. This has sometimes led to outbreaks.  The majority of measles cases brought into the U.S. come from U.S. residents. When we can identify vaccine status, almost all are unvaccinated.

Vaccination is the best protection against measles. Before leaving for trips abroad, make sure you and your family are protected against measles. Plan ahead and check with your doctor to see if you and your family need MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.

Continue reading

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Valley Fever fungus poses new health risk to Washington 

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“Valley Fever” (coccidioidomycosis) is a disease caused by a pathogenic fungus that grows in soil. (Photo: CDC)

From the Washington State Department of Health

Public health officials are teaming up to fight a new public health threat in Washington – Valley Fever.

Since discovering the fungus that causes Valley Fever in South Central Washington last year, health officials have been monitoring for disease and conducting environmental testing to determine how widespread the fungus may be.

“This recent discovery is puzzling because there’s a large distance between Washington and other areas of the country where the fungus is found,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “It’s important to let our health care community know about the presence of the fungus in Washington, because early diagnosis and treatment of the disease results in better outcomes for patients.”

Health officials have tracked down eight cases of ‘Valley Fever” in Walla Walla, Benton, Franklin, and Yakima counties during the past five years.

“Valley Fever” (coccidioidomycosis) is a disease caused by a pathogenic fungus that grows in soils with specific environmental conditions.

The fungus is typically found in the Southwestern United States, as well as parts of Central and South America. Washington public health officials have tracked down eight local cases from Walla Walla, Benton, Franklin, and Yakima counties during the past five years.

Soil samples collected from areas where the people might have been exposed were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for analysis.

The results came back positive for the fungus. Follow-up soil collection also turned up positive results in the same area.

About 60 percent of people who are infected with Valley Fever never develop symptoms. The people who do have symptoms may experience mild flu-like symptoms with fatigue fever, and a cough that may be accompanied by a rash, headache, body aches, night sweats, or shortness of breath.

A very small percent of people who become symptomatic may develop serious or long-term problems in their lungs. In even fewer people – about 1 out of 100 – the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin, or bones and joints. Continue reading

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The gray areas of assisted suicide

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jd-falk-2-570 (1)

When J.D. Falk was dying of stomach cancer in 2011, his wife says doctors would only talk about death in euphemisms. (Photo: courtesy of Hope Arnold)

By April Dembosky, KQED

SAN FRANCISCO — Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in all but five states. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in the rest. Sick patients sometimes ask for help in hastening their deaths, and some doctors will hint, vaguely, how to do it.

This leads to bizarre, veiled conversations between medical professionals and overwhelmed families.

Doctors and nurses want to help but also want to avoid prosecution, so they speak carefully, parsing their words. Family members, in the midst of one of the most confusing and emotional times of their lives, are left to interpret euphemisms.

Doctors and nurses want to help but also want to avoid prosecution, so they speak carefully, parsing their words.

That’s what still frustrates Hope Arnold. She says throughout the 10 months her husband J.D. Falk was being treated for stomach cancer in 2011, no one would talk straight with them.

“All the nurses, all the doctors,” says Arnold. “everybody we ever interacted with, no one said, ‘You’re dying.’”

Until finally, one doctor did. And that’s when Falk, who was just 35, started to plan. He summoned his extended family. And Hope made arrangements for him to come home on hospice. Continue reading

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Planning on going on a cruise? Check in here first.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.20.45 AMThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has set up a webpage where you can search a database of over 300 cruise ships that make port in the U.S., where you are able to see their health and safety records going back as far as 2010, as well as their current position and deck plans.

To search the database, go here.

 

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Pet geckos linked to Salmonella outbreak

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creasted-geckos-325A total of 20 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Muenchen have been reported from 16 states since January 1st including two in Washington state, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Three of these ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The outbreak appears to be linked to pet crested geckos purchased from multiple pet stores in different states, with Ten of 11 ill persons interviewed reported contact with a crested gecko in the week before their illness began.

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The CDC advises:

This outbreak is a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy your pet and keep your family healthy. CDC does not recommend that pet owners get rid of their geckos.

It is very important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching pet reptiles or anything in the area where they live and roam.

More steps on how to enjoy your pet reptile and protect yourself and your family from illness are available in English and en Español.

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