Department of Health and Welfare seeks public comments on Section 1115 Coverage Choice Waiver

BOISE – The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) is requesting public comment through public hearings, email, or traditional mail regarding a draft Section 1115 Waiver application. Public comments will be accepted until August 9th, and the department plans to submit the waiver application to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as soon as possible after that date.

The purpose of the waiver, titled the Idaho Coverage Choice Waiver, is to allow Idahoans with incomes from 100% to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level the choice to continue receiving tax credits to reduce premiums for private health insurance, or to enroll in Medicaid. The Idaho Coverage Choice Waiver is being requested in response to changes in Idaho law during the 2019 legislative session. The proposed effective date for the waiver is January 1, 2020. Without the waiver, individuals who are currently eligible for a tax credit and enrolled in private insurance coverage will be required to enroll in Medicaid. Continue reading

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Harmful algal blooms in recreational water: When in doubt, stay out!

Most of the year, Idaho’s lakes and reservoirs are safe to enjoy. But when water temperatures increase, as they typically do in July and August, and the right type of nutrients are available, some bodies of water can produce blooms of harmful bacteria that can be dangerous for humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife. We call those blooms harmful algal blooms.

What causes harmful algal blooms?

The blooms are caused by bacteria that can produce toxins. The blooms are also referred to as cyanobacterial blooms. When weather conditions are calm and there is an increase in water temperature and nutrients, bacteria can rapidly increase and produce a bloom. Blooms can occur at any time, but they most often occur in late summer or early fall.

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What do these blooms look like?

They can be blue, bright green, brown, or red and may look like paint or anti-freeze floating on the water. As the bloom develops, it may look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of lakes and ponds. Continue reading

The Poison Center is available to answer your questions 24/7

anton-darius-sollers-301423 (1)Thanks to all the summertime picnics, swimming, and cookouts, summer is also a time for more poisonings. As the seasons and weather change, so do the types of calls to the Nebraska Regional Poison Center, which handles calls from Idaho.

The Poison Center is a free community service . Call 1-800-222-1222 and talk immediately to a registered nurse or pharmacist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information for the poison center in your smart phone.

Here are a few things you may need to call the Poison Center for assistance with:

Glow Sticks:  The Poison Center receives many calls about glow sticks each year.  The liquid can be irritating when it comes into contact with your mouth, skin, and eyes. Continue reading

As summer heats up, stay healthy by keeping your food safe in the outdoors

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Idaho summers are full of sunshine, warm temperatures, and long days. That means it is more likely you will be cooking and eating outdoors, whether you are backcountry camping, whitewater rafting or enjoying a family picnic in a local park. That presents some food safety challenges. As food heats up in the warm temperatures, bacteria multiply faster and could make you sick if your food isn’t handled properly.

What are the main culprits for foodborne illness when eating outdoors?

We’re talking about communicable diseases like salmonella, norovirus, E. coli and other gastrointestinal illnesses that can be caused by improperly storing, cooking or serving food, and then can spread rapidly in a group that is sharing close quarters or eating together and not practicing good hygiene and safe food handling.

What are some of the symptoms of those diseases?

For most people, symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea, but in some cases, life-threatening complications like organ failure can occur. Young children, pregnant women, adults over 65, and people with weak immune systems are more likely to get food poisoning, and if they do get sick they might have more severe symptoms. Continue reading

DHW is accepting public comment on Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant application through July 14

MCHBlockGrantApplicationThe Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Block Grant Program is one of the largest federal block grant programs and the longest standing public health legislation with the goal of improving the health and well-being of mothers, infants, and children, including children and youth with special health care needs, and their families. Title V supports a spectrum of services, including infrastructure-building services such as quality assurance and policy development, and filling in gaps in direct health care services for children and youth with special health care needs.

Whether you are a parent, government official, advocate, service provider, or member of the general public, the Idaho MCH Block Grant likely touches you or a family member’s life. Its success lies in the strength of partnerships, collaborations, and involvement of Idaho families. Continue reading

West Nile virus detected in Canyon County mosquitoes

Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus (WNV) were detected in Canyon County on June 14, prompting public health officials to remind people to take precautions to “Fight the Bite.” The positive mosquitoes, which are the first detected in the state this year, were collected by the Canyon County Mosquito Abatement District. The positive lab results were confirmed Tuesday.

Last year, one death was reported because of WNV complications, and 11 counties across the state reported finding mosquito pools that tested positive for West Nile virus. Sixteen people and five horses were infected. This first detection of 2019 occurred in western Idaho, an area where positive mosquitoes have been found almost every year since West Nile virus was first detected in Idaho in 2004.

West Nile virus is contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito; it is not spread from person-to-person through casual contact. Symptoms often include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. In some cases, the virus can cause severe illness, especially in people over the age of 50, and may require hospitalization. On rare occasion, it can lead to death.  Continue reading

Mosquito and tick prevention: How to avoid getting bitten

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Warm summer days means more time outdoors as we take advantage of the weather and longer daylight hours. Unfortunately, the nicer weather also brings out ticks and mosquitoes. A bite from either can cause diseases that might seriously impact your health. It’s important to do everything you can to avoid getting bitten.

Tick- and mosquito-borne diseases can vary by region in the United States. Besides West Nile virus, are there other insect-borne diseases we should be informed about in Idaho?

That is a great question – before you head into the outdoors, you should learn more about the diseases associated with local ticks and mosquitoes. In Idaho, public health officials are most concerned about West Nile virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, and tularemia.

What about Lyme disease?

We often hear about Lyme disease in the national media, but cases in Idaho are rare and mostly occur in people who traveled to other areas of the country where infected ticks have been found. The tick that carries Lyme disease is not known to live in Idaho, but since cases are tracked by where a person lives rather than where they were infected, Idaho will have some cases over the years, usually in people returning from trips in the eastern or midwestern U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about the risks of insect bites in a different state or country. Continue reading