Vaping is unregulated and unsafe — get the facts

Description of what's in water vs. what's in a vape cloud.

We are in the midst of a national investigation of vape-associated lung disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments (including those in Idaho), and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarette product use. We all have a lot of questions about vaping, and I hope we can answer some of those today, but the bottom line is that vaping is unregulated and it’s not safe.

I hear a lot of people being skeptical of the outbreak and the messaging around whether vaping is safe. Many say they have vaped for years and aren’t sick. Can you explain why that might be?

That is what this public health investigation is trying to learn. We do not yet know the specific cause of the lung disease. The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product or substance that is linked to all the cases. This investigation is how public health officials are gathering as much information as possible about each of the cases so they can figure out what it is about these cases that is different and causing disease.

How does an investigation like this work?

Essentially, when a sick person visits a clinic with symptoms that align with the case definition for this outbreak, the medical professional will notify the state health department and will give officials data and information about the patient. That report triggers a response from an epidemiologist, who will contact the patient and interview them about the products they have used, how often they use them, their health status, and anything else that might be relevant to the investigation. As information is gathered, public health officials can see what is similar in all of these cases and eventually be able to determine a cause. Continue reading

Suicide prevention in Idaho: Everyone has a role to play

Even though completed suicides are statistically rare, Idaho continues to have some of the highest rates in the United States. Death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans ages 15-34 and for males up to age 54. That is very concerning, but it’s also important to know that most people who make an attempt don’t want to die, they want the pain to go away. Providing care and hope to someone having suicidal thoughts can help save a life. There are things you can do to help.

What are some of the warning signs that someone might be thinking about suicide?

Warning signs include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or completing suicide
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves by searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Having consistent nightmares
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Increased aggression, anger, or irritability
  • Change in sleep habits – either too much sleep or too little
  • Extreme mood swings

Continue reading

Idaho WIC begins transition this week to an electronic benefits system

The Idaho Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program is switching from paper checks to an electronic benefits system, called eWIC, which will distribute benefits onto a card that is used like a debit card.

eWIC will roll out in southern Idaho starting Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, and will expand to the rest of the state in October. eWIC will give families a more convenient and efficient way to shop for healthy, WIC-approved foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, juice, baby formula, and baby foods.

Current WIC participants will be transitioned from checks to an eWIC card during their regular monthly appointments using a phased approach. New participants will be issued an eWIC card at their first visit.

“We are excited to offer eWIC cards to Idaho families. Using the eWIC card in conjunction with the WIC shopper app will streamline the customer experience of purchasing healthy foods,” said Cristi Litzsinger, director of Idaho WIC.

Continue reading

If a disaster strikes, do you have a plan?

Living in Idaho, it’s easy to think that we don’t have to worry as much about big disasters as residents in other states do. But earthquakes, wildfires, and flooding are real possibilities here, and with September being National Preparedness Month, it’s a great time to think about putting together a go-kit, making a family emergency plan and making sure you’re informed when disaster strikes our state.

What might a disaster plan include?

Your family will probably not all be together when a disaster strikes, so you should create a plan for how you will contact each other and where you will meet if something happens. FEMA has a great template for a family emergency communication plan. And at ready.gov, you can find help with planning for emergency shelter, an agreed-upon evacuation route and understanding emergency alerts and warnings. Once you have your plan, practice it with your family to make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. Continue reading

Tips for safely canning your garden harvest at home

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Canning is a great way to preserve your garden bounty and share it with family and friends, but it must be done correctly so it’s not dangerous. If you plan to can your harvest, it’s important to be knowledgeable about proper techniques so you can make sure your home-canned vegetables aren’t contaminated by the germ that causes botulism. Home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of foodborne botulism outbreaks in the United States.

What is botulism?

Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by bacteria that produce powerful toxins that can lead to serious illness, paralysis, and even death. The bacteria produce hardy spores that can survive in soil. Fruits, meats, fish, and vegetables could be contaminated with the bacterial spores before they are canned. In oxygen-free environments, like those in vacuum-sealed jars used for canning when the canning process is not carried out correctly, the spores produce one of the most lethal toxins known. It can be deadly to take even a small taste of food that has been contaminated with these toxins.

What are the symptoms of botulism?

Symptoms may include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty breathing or swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness with paralysis. Symptoms can start anywhere from 8 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. Continue reading

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

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