August is National Immunization Awareness Month – are your immunizations up to date?

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August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to check records for everyone in your family, including adults. Being up do date on recommended immunizations is the most effective way to protect yourself and your family against serious and even deadly diseases at any age. Vaccines are not just for children and preventable diseases are still a threat. Being fully immunized is the safest and best way to be protected.

What vaccines do we need, and when?

Check with your doctor or visit www.immunizeidaho.com for recommended immunizations for all age groups, including adults. Vaccines not only protect the people who receive them, but healthy people who are fully immunized protect others who cannot be vaccinated because they have weakened immune systems and babies too young to get vaccines. High immunization rates across communities protect the health of those who are the most vulnerable for serious complications related to vaccine-preventable diseases, including infants and young children, the elderly, and people with chronic health conditions. Continue reading

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DHW receives reports of first two human cases of West Nile virus infection this year

Idaho’s first two human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) infection for 2019 have been confirmed in residents of Washington County. A resident over the age of 30 was diagnosed with West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease. Another resident over the age of 60 was diagnosed with West Nile virus fever.

So far this year, WNV activity has been detected in 10 counties.

“The detection of West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes has increased significantly during the last few weeks and we strongly encourage Idahoans to fight the bite of mosquitoes to protect themselves and their families,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian. “Confirmation of human infection makes it increasingly important for all of us to take protective measures. This includes wearing insect repellent and protective clothing in addition to reducing standing water around our gardens and homes where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.” Continue reading

Wildfire season means it’s time to pay attention to air quality.

Air quality can be a big deal this time of year, and it changes depending on where the wildfires are and which way the wind is blowing. Wildfire smoke can cause irritating symptoms for healthy people and more serious health issues for people with heart and lung disease. It’s important to know how to protect yourself and your family from smoky air whenever possible.

Let’s start with precautions: How can we limit our exposure to smoke?

Mostly, you should reduce your time and activities outside as much as possible. Stay indoors in air-conditioning, if you can. If you don’t have air conditioning, go someplace that does, like the mall or library. Otherwise, there are several things you can do to limit the smoky air you breathe:

  • Keep your windows and doors closed.
  • If you have central air conditioning, use an air filter rated MERV 8 or higher and turn your system fan setting to on.
  • If you have to drive in smoky areas, turn the vehicle air flow to recirculate to reduce the amount of smoke in the vehicle.

Continue reading

How to keep your cool in extreme heat

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We’ve had a really pleasant string of cool summer days early this summer, but the temperatures are starting to tick up into the triple digits. So it’s a good time to take note of how to avoid heat-related illness in the hottest summer months.

What are some signs of heat-related illnesses?

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, heavy sweating, a pale appearance to the skin, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, and headaches. If you get to the point where you have a very high body temperature, are not sweating, and are experiencing hallucinations or disorientation, or you pass out, you may have heat stroke. Call 9-1-1 right away and take immediate steps to cool down.

Who is most at risk for heat-related illness?

People at the highest risk are babies and children up to age 4, people 65 and older, as well as anyone who is overweight, sick, or on certain medications. People without air conditioning, athletes, and outdoor workers are also at high risk of heat-related illness. Children are particularly at risk in the heat – their bodies heat up three-to-five times faster than adults. But everyone can get sick in the heat if they’re not careful, especially if they’re doing strenuous physical activities in high temperatures. When it’s hot out, you might consider checking on family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are staying cool. Continue reading

DOI submits Section 1332 Coverage Choice waiver; DHW suspends public comments for Section 1115 waiver

The Department of Insurance submitted the Section 1332 Coverage Choice Waiver application to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday, July 15, seeking federal approval to allow individuals between 100-138% of the federal poverty limit the option to receive tax credits to remain on the state-based private marketplace or enroll in Medicaid.

Recent discussions with CMS late last week suggested necessary changes to the dual-track 1115 Coverage Choice waiver, and the possibility that an 1115 waiver may not be necessary in addition to the 1332 waiver. Based on this feedback, IDHW has ended the public comment period for the Section 1115 Coverage Choice waiver application, which began on July 3, while seeking further guidance from CMS and the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. The department will initiate a new comment period if needed. Continue reading

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

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