Measles outbreaks highlight need to be vaccinated

measles-infographicMeasles is one of the most highly contagious diseases in the world, and it is literally just a state away. Washington is reporting an outbreak, and cases of the dangerous disease have been reported in Oregon. Knowing this, it’s very important to make sure your measles vaccination is up to date.

What is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones?

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. Getting an MMR immunization, which protects you against measles, mumps, and rubella, is the best way to protect yourself and your family, as well as your friends and community.

Who should get the vaccine?

You should talk to your medical provider about whether your family members already are immune or need to be vaccinated. Otherwise, all children should get one dose of vaccine when they are 12-15 months old and a second dose when they are 4 to 6 years old before they begin school. All school-aged children and students entering college should have received two doses of the MMR vaccine. And adults born after 1956 who are not sure they had measles or if they were vaccinated should receive at least one dose of the vaccine.

Adult healthcare workers and international travelers should receive two doses. Babies may receive the vaccine as early as 6 months if they are traveling internationally. Continue reading

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Cervical cancer screenings prevent cancer – every woman should be screened regularly

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All women, especially those over the age of 30, are at risk for developing cervical cancer, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it’s also the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, with regular screening. Regular screenings are the most effective way to find the disease early and treat it. Unfortunately, Idaho has the lowest rate for cervical screening in the United States – we are 50th in the nation. We can do better!

Who is most at risk?

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives. For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer.

Other factors increasing the risk of cervical cancer are not getting screened, being HIV positive, and smoking. Smoking doubles a woman’s risk of getting cervical cancer.

What are the most common symptoms?

It usually causes no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. That’s why regular screening is so important. Continue reading

High radon levels in Idaho can put your health at risk – order a test kit today

High radon levels have been found in homes in every Idaho county. Radon, which is odorless, tasteless, and invisible, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking, and is a serious health threat in Idaho. Nearly 40 percent of Idaho homes tested for radon have higher-than-recommended levels.

“Since we know radon causes lung cancer, we recommend that you test your home to learn if it has high levels of this harmful gas,” said Dr. Colby Adams, environmental health director for DHW’s Division of Public Health. “Testing a home for radon is easy and inexpensive. Home radon levels are higher during winter months, which is why January is National Radon Action Month and a good time to test. If testing reveals that your home has high radon levels, you can take steps to remove the gas and protect you and your family.” Continue reading

Have you tested your home for radon yet? If not, now is the time to do it!

Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers, and the only way to know it’s in your home is to test for it. It is an odorless, tasteless gas that has been found in 40 percent of the homes in Idaho that have been tested. It’s a very serious health issue in Idaho, and it causes more than 21,000 deaths a year in the United States.

How does radon get into homes?

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium. It seeps from soil into homes and buildings through crawl spaces, and cracks and openings in foundations. It tends to build up the most in winter, when people have their homes closed up against the cold. That’s why now is a good time to test for it in the lowest level of your home where you spend time. Continue reading

Idaho Poison Center: Lock medications up, and other tips for safe holidays

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays it is easy to overlook items in your home that could cause a poisoning. The number of poisoning incidents involving children typically increases during the holiday season. The Idaho Poison Center offers a few tips on how to keep your holidays safe this year: Continue reading

Food safety: How to make sure your holiday treats don’t make anyone sick

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Several food safety alerts and recalls this season have made it difficult to know what’s safe to eat. Even though we can’t do much personally to control those national events except to pay attention and not consume recalled products, we can take some basic food safety actions, both as a guest and as a host, so we don’t add insult to injury. Nearly 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reducing that number by just 10 percent would keep nearly 5 million people from getting sick each year.

What is the most common cause of food poisoning?

There are more than 250 agents that can cause foodborne illness including viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, and foreign objects. Norovirus is the most common virus to cause food poisoning, while salmonella is the most common bacterial cause and results in more deaths than infections with other bacteria.

Are there certain foods we should avoid at gatherings?

Contaminated leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, and undercooked poultry are the main culprits for foodborne disease. But illness can come from lots of different types of foods, including raw milk, raw eggs (as in eggnog), and undercooked meat. You should wash your hands with soap and water before and after preparing, serving, or eating food, and always cook foods to a safe internal temperature. Also, be sure to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before you serve or eat them. Continue reading

Wash your hands often, because clean hands keep you from getting sick (and spreading germs!)

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Now is a good time to be reminded about how important it is to do something very simple for your health: Wash your hands, and wash them often. It’s one of the best things you can do (besides getting immunized) to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to others.

Let’s start with the basics. When should you wash your hands?

After using the toilet is No. 1, but in general it’s a good idea to wash your hands when you get home or are preparing food or are ready to eat. You should also wash up before and after caring for someone who is sick, after changing a diaper, after holding or petting an animal, and after blowing your nose or coughing or sneezing into your hands.

Is there a right way to wash your hands?

There are essentially five steps to washing your hands the right way: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse and Dry. You should use soap and water and rub your hands together to lather the soap. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails each time you wash. You need to vigorously rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, which also is the length of the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end, twice. Hum it to yourself and then rinse your hands under running water and dry them with a clean towel or allow them to air dry. Continue reading