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

Idaho Child Support Services: ‘Let’s do the right thing for the family’

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The new customer experience

It seems we all know someone who has been involved with child support in one way or another – a close friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a co-worker, or even ourselves. Most of us understand all too well that being involved in a child support case is a delicate situation to navigate. However, in years past, it has been challenging for customers to call in and get the information they need in a timely manner.

On the other side of the process, it has been challenging for Child Support Services (CSS) to provide our customers with the help they need the first time, without transferring them from person to person. So, to better support our customers, CSS employees have made big changes to the way we do our work. We have created a new customer experience to better serve all of our customers, and we are now equipped to provide families with the information they need, when they need it. 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

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