Rabies in Idaho: Would you know what to do if you find a bat?

Idaho public health officials have gotten reports of two rabid bats in Bonneville and Payette counties, which are Idaho’s first for this summer. Would you know what to do if you found a bat that might be carrying rabies?

What should I do if I find a bat?

The most common ways people encounter bats are after a pet brings one into the home or a bat enters a home through a small opening or open windows or doors. If you can safely avoid the bat, open windows and close doors to the rest of the house, leave it alone and it will likely go away on its own. If you find a bat outside, avoid it and leave it alone and make sure pets, livestock and others also avoid it. If you are bitten or scratched, seek medical attention. Teach children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.

What if I wake up in there is a bat in the room I was sleeping in?

If you wake up to find a bat in the room and are not be sure whether you might have been bitten or scratched as you slept, a healthcare provider should be consulted immediately. Bats have very small teeth, and it’s difficult to tell outright if you have been bitten or scratched.

What is normal bat behavior?

Bats are generally most active at night. You might see a bat during the day, but that doesn’t mean they are sick. Bats migrate into Idaho every spring, and sometimes they just need to rest along their journey and hang out on the side of a building or a tree. Just leave them alone and they will go on their way when they are ready.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine for 12-15 year-olds

When can a 12-15 year-old receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Today! Or whenever it’s convenient. As of May 12, 2021, adolescents 12-15 years old can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are given in the same dosage as for adults: two 0.3 mL doses of vaccine 21 days apart.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective for adolescents 12-15?  

Yes. COVID-19 vaccine has been administered during clinical trials to more than 1,000 adolescents ages 12-15 years old. None of the adolescents in the phase 3 clinical trials had unusual or severe reactions to the vaccine. Of those in the trial who received the vaccine, zero adolescents contracted COVID-19, while 18 adolescents in the placebo group contracted COVID-19.

What are the most likely side effects for adolescents?

The most common side effects of the vaccine among adolescents were similar to those for older adolescents and adults: sore arm at the injection site, swollen lymph nodes, headache, chills, mild fever, and fatigue. Over the counter medications can be given to adolescents after their vaccine to alleviate these symptoms, if they occur.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Traveling during the pandemic

As summer approaches, and beaches and campsites beckon, it’s still important to keep in mind that we are not out of the woods yet as far as the pandemic goes. Travel is possible, with a little homework ahead of time and adherence to precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19.

However, please don’t travel if you were recently exposed to COVID-19you are sick, you test positive for COVID-19, or you are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test. And please don’t travel with someone who is sick.

Q: Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine while I’m in Idaho for vacation?

A: Yes – Idaho has lifted its restriction that people have to live or work in the state to get vaccinated. Everyone ages 16 and older can get vaccinated in Idaho, regardless of where they live or work. Vaccine eligibility is expected to be expanded to include 12-15 year-olds later this week,

Q: What if I am not yet fully vaccinated or vaccinated at all and must travel?  

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated, because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

For those who are not fully vaccinated and must travel, the CDC recommends the following steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Before you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. Don’t travel if the test is positive.
  • While you are traveling:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
    • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • After you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.
      • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
      • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
    • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
    • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
    • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
    • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements.
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COVID-Q&A: Grant funding for mobile clinics is now available

In an effort to provide vaccination opportunities to everyone 16 and older where they live, work, and play, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) announced a new funding opportunity last week to establish and operate mobile, off-site, walk-in, and special COVID-19 vaccination clinics in underserved communities, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities, among others.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine safety

Q: Can COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility in men and women?

A: There is no scientific evidence to suggest the vaccine causes infertility. In addition, infertility is not known to occur from natural COVID-19 infection, further indicating that immune responses to the virus, whether induced by infection or a vaccine, are not a cause of infertility.

Q: How did COVID-19 vaccines get approved so quickly? Are they safe?

A: Production of the COVID-19 vaccines began sooner than is typical. Normally, production starts after a pharmaceutical company completes the development stage for a vaccine, which includes rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness. Every vaccine goes through a series of reviews and approvals by the FDA and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), among others. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government invested taxpayer dollars to encourage pharmaceutical companies to start production before the development stage completed.

The vaccines are still going through the same rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness, review, and approval process. However, because pharmaceutical companies began manufacturing the vaccine during the clinical trials, they were able to make the vaccines available as soon as they were given an emergency use authorization.

By all accounts, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective. The recent recommendation for a pause on the Johnson &Johnson vaccine illustrates how seriously Idaho and the rest of the nation takes vaccine safety. Ultimately, vaccines  are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson vaccine and severe adverse effects

Q: Why are Idaho and the nation calling for a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

A: The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is recommending that Idaho vaccine providers not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until more information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This recommendation was made after the department received information that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reviewing data for six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot, combined with low platelet counts, in individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Vaccine safety is the nation’s and Idaho’s No. 1 priority. The CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in administering the vaccine until additional information is available for healthcare providers about evaluation and treatment of this rare adverse event among people who have been vaccinated. The Idaho Immunization Program has notified Idaho providers.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are focused on sharing accurate and timely information related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) spends time every day making sure we share accurate and timely information in various ways including: our weekly media briefings, our website, social media, and answering questions directly from members of the public and the media.

The reality is that telling the truth saves lives. When Idahoans have access to accurate information, they can make informed decisions about their own health and the health of their families and communities. We continue to remain dedicated to keeping the people of Idaho safe through accurate information.

I would encourage you to use trusted sources for information when sharing COVID-related information. You can find the latest and most accurate information on COVID-19 at the following websites, as well as on the department’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter:

Data Dashboards

The DHW data teams have worked diligently every day to make sure Idahoans have the data they need to make informed decisions during the past year. We have made some changes to how often the data on the dashboards will be updated to allow them to have weekends off. The new update schedule for the data dashboards is as follows:

Continue reading “From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are focused on sharing accurate and timely information related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines”

COVID-19 Q&A: Breakthrough cases and variants

Q: Are we seeing cases of disease among Idahoans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19? How many of those people have been hospitalized? Have there been any deaths?

A: We have seen some “breakthrough cases,” which is the term being used to refer to people who have been fully vaccinated, but who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Breakthrough cases are expected since no vaccine offers 100 percent protection against illness. COVID-19 vaccines are the best protection we have against serious illness and death, in addition to the recommended guidelines. And the data bears that out. The good news, so far, is that people who develop COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated have experienced mostly mild to moderate illness.

Of the 105 cases reported as of today, only three have had to be hospitalized, and there have been no deaths. The three who were hospitalized had medical conditions that increased their risk for serious illness.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System

Join us at 10 a.m. Wednesday on Facebook Live when DHW Deputy Director Lori Wolff will discuss Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System, and then will take questions from viewers. https://www.facebook.com/IdahoHealthandWelfare

Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System allows Idahoans, and those who work in Idaho, who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to save their names to a statewide list that is available to vaccine providers who have open appointments and COVID-19 vaccine. People can add their names at any time, whether they are currently eligible or not, and a provider will contact them when it’s their turn and there is an open appointment.

The statewide schedule for vaccines has been updated to our website and opens vaccine according to the following schedule:

  • March 15: Age 55-64 with at least one medical condition*
  • March 22: Age 55-64 general population
  • March 29: Age 45-54 with at least one medical condition*
  • April 5: Age 45-54 general population
  • April 12: 16 – 44 with at least one medical condition*
  • April 26: Age 16 – 44 general population

Medical conditions are defined as “are at increased risk” and “might be at increased risk” per the CDC. Visit the CDC to see a full list of conditions that qualify as a medical condition. In addition, disabilities are also included as a medical condition. 

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COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Idaho received 13,300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine the week of March 1. We are not expecting additional shipments of the vaccine until late March, based on information from the manufacturer and the federal government. It was approved under Emergency Use Authorization on Feb. 27, 2021. On Feb. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended use of the vaccine in people 18 years and older.

Adding Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine to our toolbox means more people can get vaccinated, which increases the overall population protected from severe disease, hospitalization, and even death.

Having different types of vaccines available for use, especially ones with different dosing recommendations and storage and handling requirements, can offer more options and flexibility for the public and vaccine providers.

Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer and Moderna?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose recombinant (combined genetic material) vector (vehicle) vaccine. Recombinant vaccines use one virus to carry a small piece of genetic material from another virus to trigger an immune response in the body. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified adenovirus to carry the gene for the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) spike protein genetic material. The virus can enter cells but can’t replicate inside them or cause illness. The body’s immune system detects the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and generates antibodies. 

It does not require ultra-cold storage, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do. Storage and handling of this vaccine is similar to many other vaccines. It must be stored at refrigerated temperatures between 36°- 46°F (2°-8°C). It is easy to transport and store and allows for expanded availability in most community settings and mobile sites, as supply scales up.

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