Category Archives: Prevention

Washington health officials warn of risk posed by rabid bats

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From the Washington State Department of Health

BatsRabid bats have been found throughout the state and continue to pose a risk to people and pets, especially during the summer when bats are more active.

Five bats that were in contact with people or pets have tested positive for rabies so far this year.

This is fairly normal, but health officials are hoping to raise awareness and keep this number low.

“There’s an ongoing risk of people and pets interacting with wild animals, including rabid bats,” said Ron Wohrle, veterinarian at the Department of Health. “To help protect yourself and your pets, avoid contact with bats or wild animals and enjoy wildlife from a distance.”

Five bats that were in contact with people or pets have tested positive for rabies so far this year.

Though 1 percent of bats carry the rabies virus, people are more likely to come into contact with sick bats. Healthy bats usually avoid contact with people and animals and will not rest on the ground. Continue reading

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King County’s wellness plan beats the odds

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By Christine Vestal, Stateline

Seattle

SEATTLE – When King County, Washington, launched its employee wellness program seven years ago, its motive was clear. “We were being eaten alive by runaway medical costs,” says the county’s top executive Dow Constantine.

By all accounts, the previous administration was desperate to bring down double-digit health care cost growth that threatened to destroy the entire budget.

That partially explains why King County, which spends nearly $200 million per year to insure 14,000 workers and their families, who mostly live and work here in the county seat, was willing to risk millions more on a wellness program that would prove to break the traditional mold.

Why has King County’s  employee wellness program far surpassed all others in employee participation, health improvement and health care savings?

It may also explain why labor unions took the unusual step of joining management in a plan that would ultimately shift more health care costs to workers.

But it doesn’t explain why this employee wellness program, which received an innovation award this year from Harvard University, has far surpassed all others in employee participation, health improvement and health care savings.  Continue reading

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Women’s Health – Week 46: Stroke

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

A stroke, also called a brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain suddenly stops. Blocked or damaged vessels are the two major causes of stroke.

During a stroke, brain cells begin to die because oxygen and nutrients cannot reach them. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage.

Every minute counts when someone is having a stroke. Immediate treatment can save a person’s life and enhance the chance for a successful recovery.

stroke

Diagram showing what happens in the brain during a hemorrhagic stroke and a ischemic stroke.

There are two kinds of stroke: Continue reading

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Enjoy the lake — but please don’t drink the water

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Enjoy the lake this summer but, please, don’t drink the water, say Snohomish health officials

swimmersFrom the Snohomish Health District:

Swimming or playing in water that is contaminated or high in bacteria or natural toxins can affect your health.

Swimming pools, spas, lakes, rivers, or oceans are all potential sources of water-related illness. Recreational water illnesses typically affect a person’s stomach and intestines, causing diarrhea and vomiting. Water quality can also affect your skin or respiratory system.

The recent outbreak of illness at Horseshoe Lake in Kitsap County was caused by norovirus found in the water at the swimming beach. Continue reading

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Keep your cool in hot weather – CDC

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Sun Orange Orb by Cris DeRaudGetting too hot can make you sick. You can become ill from the heat if your body can’t compensate for it and properly cool you off.

Heat exposure can even kill you: it caused 7,233 heat-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2009.

Learn about heat-related illness and how to stay cool and safe in hot weather

.Main things affecting your body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather:

  • High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.
  • Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather.

Continue reading

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How Americans can get a better return on their health care investments – CDC series

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USA America buttonFrom the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Each year, the U.S. spends nearly $9,000 for the health of every American — far more than what the governments of other countries spend on the health of their citizens – yet life expectancy and health outcomes are generally worse for Americans than for citizens of other developed nations in North America and Europe. Continue reading

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Cloudy weather doesn’t mean region’s skin cancer risk is low

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Blue sky and white clouds (Panorama)Just be because the Puget Sound regions has cloudy weather most of the year, doesn’t mean our risk of getting skin cancer is low, the Washington State Department of Health (DoH) warns.

In fact, if Puget Sound, were a state by itself, would rank fourth in the nation for skin cancer rates, the DoH says.

Why? Because of a misconception that cloudy weather means we don’t have to protect themselves from the sun, the DoH says.

Here’s more from the DoH alert: Continue reading

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Ohio Amish reconsider vaccines amid measles outbreak

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Photo: Sarah Jane Tribble/WCPN

 This story is part of a partnership that includes WCPNNPR and Kaiser Health News. 

The Amish countryside in central Ohio looks like it has for a hundred years. There are picturesque pastures with cows and sheep, and big red barns dot the landscape.

But something changed here when, on an April afternoon, an Amish woman walked to a communal call box.

She called the Knox County Health Department and told a county worker that she and a family next door had the measles. Continue reading

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Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health

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A Q&A with an expert who studies the relationship between mental illness and violence.

ht_jeffrey_swanson_300x200_140610By Lois Beckett
ProPublica

After mass shootings, like the ones these past weeks in Las Vegas, Seattle and Santa Barbara, the national conversation often focuses on mental illness. So what do we actually know about the connections between mental illness, mass shootings and gun violence overall?

To separate the facts from the media hype, we talked to Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the leading researchers on mental health and violence. Swanson talked about the dangers of passing laws in the wake of tragedy ― and which new violence-prevention strategies might actually work.

Here is a condensed version of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Mass shootings are relatively rare events that account for only a tiny fraction of American gun deaths each year. But when you look specifically at mass shootings ― how big a factor is mental illness? Continue reading

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For women just out of jail, health care could be key to better life

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This story is part of a partnership that includes KQEDNPR and Kaiser Health News.

transition clinic 300

Juanita Alvarado (right), a community health worker at the Transitions Clinic in San Francisco, helps a patient. (Photo courtesy Transitions Clinic).

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department is implementing a new city law allowing its staff to enroll inmates into health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi believes that making sure people have health coverage when they’re released will help prevent them from committing another crime and coming back.

One inmate – Sophia – recently requested help signing up for health insurance. Sophia, who asked that her last name not be used, was caught driving a stolen car in January and sentenced to three months in the county jail.

She says that was because she stopped getting treatment for her substance abuse and mental health problems when her health insurance expired.

“It stopped in December and I didn’t get it reinstated. So I didn’t address any of my issues and I guess that’s why I found myself in a car, driving around,” she says.

Pretty soon, health insurance sign-ups like Sophia’s will happen for all inmates at the San Francisco county jail — whether they request it or not. They’ll happen right when most new arrivals get booked into custody. Continue reading

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When adults set an example, teens more likely to wear life jackets, UW study suggests

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life-jacket-float Children and teens are more likely to wear life jackets when out on the water when adults onboard are wearing them as well —  yet relatively few adult boaters in Washington state wear life jackets while boating, according to recently published studies by UW Medicine researchers at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Harborview’s Injury Prevention & Research Center.

The findings, the researchers write, underscore the important role adults can have in encouraging the young to wear life jackets when out on the water.

Wearing a life jacket has been shown to reduce a boaters risk of drowning by half. Nevertheless, nationwide only about 15% of boaters wear a life jacket or personal floatation device (PDF), and, as the new studies show, Washington state boaters do little better.  Continue reading

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Republicans say no to CDC gun violence research

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Giving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention money for gun violence research is a “request to fund propaganda,” a Georgia congressman says.

GunBy Lois Beckett
ProPublica, April 21, 2014

After the Sandy Hook school shooting, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was one of a few congressional Republicans who expressed a willingness to reconsider the need for gun control laws.

“Putgunson thetable, also put video games on thetable, put mental health on the table,” he said less than a week after the Newtown shootings.

He told a local TV station that he wanted to see more research done to understand mass shootings. “Let’s let the data lead rather than our political opinions.”

For nearly 20 years, Congress has pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to steer clear of firearms violence research. Continue reading

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Pollution halts Vaughn Bay shellfish harvest: 14 other areas threatened

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Pollution to close shellfish harvest in one area; 14 others listed as threatened
Fecal bacteria levels force new restrictions to protect shellfish consumers

From the Washington State Department of health:

Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!OLYMPIA — The state Department of Health has closed harvesting in part of Vaughn Bay in Pierce County due to high levels of fecal bacteria. Health officials also identified 14 more of Washington’s 101 commercial shellfish growing areas that could be closed in the future if fecal pollution continues to get worse.

“The good news is that the pollution problems in almost all these areas can be found and fixed,” said Bob Woolrich, Growing Area section manager. “There have been many successful pollution correction projects using partnerships with local and state agencies, Tribes, and others.”

The agency shellfish program evaluates the state’s shellfish growing areas every year to see if water quality is approaching unsafe limits. If so, areas are listed as “threatened” with closure.

Shellfish harvesting areas threatened with closure include:

Continue reading

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Health law’s free contraceptive coverage saved US women $483 million in 2013

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleThe Affordable Care Act provision that requires insurers to cover contraceptives with zero co-pay saved US women $483 million last year — $269 on average, according to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Overall, 24 million more prescriptions for oral contraceptives were filled in 2013, the first full year the health law’s contraceptive provision was in force, compared to 2012.

“The share of women with no out-of-pocket cost for these forms of birth control increased to 56% from 14% one year ago,” the report says.

To learn more read: 

IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Medicine use and the shifting costs of healthcare: A review of the use of medicines in the United States in 2013. April 2014. LINK:

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