Colorectal cancer is preventable with screening

No one really wants to think too hard about getting a colonoscopy. It’s embarrassing, kind of gross, and it’s uncomfortable. But it’s something everyone needs to consider because colorectal, or colon, cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Idaho and the third most common cancer overall for men and women.

Who should be tested?

Everyone who is 50 and older should get screened. You don’t have to have a family history of colon cancer to be at risk. Regular screening for everyone in that age range would mean as many as 60 percent of deaths from colon cancer could be avoided. Idaho currently ranks 44th in the nation for colon cancer screening, with 1 in 3 Idahoans older than 50 needing to be screened. We can definitely do better!  Continue reading “Colorectal cancer is preventable with screening”

County Health Rankings: Valley County is Idaho’s healthiest

Idaho has some good things going for it: Residents largely have access to gyms, trails and other locations for exercise; we don’t overdo it when it comes to preventable hospital stays; and most of our children are being raised in two-parent families.

And if you live in Valley County, you are fortunate to live in one of Idaho’s healthiest counties.

This is all according to The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHRR), which were published today. The report analyzes a heap of data to evaluate our overall health and well-being at the community level. It evaluates individual counties according to their overall health, which can be either quite exciting or distressing, depending on your county’s ranking.  Continue reading “County Health Rankings: Valley County is Idaho’s healthiest”

Oregon confirms its first travel-associated case of Zika virus this year

The Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division has confirmed that a person in Oregon has been diagnosed with a travel-associated Zika virus infection. The adult woman contracted the virus in an affected country outside the United States and has recovered. There is no danger to the public.

This is the first laboratory-confirmed case of Zika in Oregon in 2016. Before this, three Oregonians have had travel-associated Zika confirmed since 2014. Oregon is first of Idaho’s neighboring states to report a Zika case this year.  Continue reading “Oregon confirms its first travel-associated case of Zika virus this year”

What you need to know about the Zika virus

Pregnant women and anyone else planning to travel someplace warm and tropical this winter should check travel advisories to see if their destination is included in a list of countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific islands. Several countries are experiencing an outbreak of Zika virus, which is a concern among public health officials.

What is Zika virus?

It is a virus transmitted through the bite of the same kind of mosquito that spreads dengue and chikungunya viruses. This mosquito species is fairly common throughout the world, so outbreaks are likely to continue. People not planning a trip to one of the countries listed in the travel advisory can rest easy: The mosquito that spreads the virus is not found in Idaho.  Continue reading “What you need to know about the Zika virus”

High radon levels can put your health at risk

Nearly 40 percent of Idaho homes tested for radon showed unsafe levels, which can cause serious illness for people. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It is a naturally occurring gas that you can’t see, smell or taste.

“Radon is definitely a big problem because it’s so prevalent,” said Jim Faust, Radon Program manager at the Department of Health and Welfare. “The good news is that it is a fixable problem. Every home in Idaho should be tested so we can protect ourselves and our families.”  Continue reading “High radon levels can put your health at risk”

A woman in northern Idaho has died from flu-related illness

A northern Idaho woman over the age of 60 has died from an influenza-related illness. This Panhandle Health District resident is the first influenza-associated death of the season.  Last flu season, 32 people were reported to have died from flu-related illnesses in Idaho.

“Our condolences go out to the family of the woman who died,” says Idaho Department of Health and Welfare State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn. “This underscores that influenza is in the community and how important it is for all of us to take precautions to avoid influenza infections. In addition to washing your hands and staying home if you are sick, now is the time to visit your health care provider, local public health district, or pharmacy to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Getting vaccinated today will help protect you and your family over the holidays.”

Everyone over 6 months of age is recommended to get the flu vaccine.  This season’s vaccine has been updated to match viruses that are circulating.  Continue reading “A woman in northern Idaho has died from flu-related illness”

It’s prime time for respiratory infections, including colds, flu, and RSV

It’s the time of year when one germ after another makes the rounds and makes us cough. Respiratory infections are particularly troublesome, especially for children and the elderly, and there are more than cold and flu viruses to be aware of.

Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV, is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. Healthy people who get it usually have mild, cold-like symptoms and recover in a week or two. But it can be very serious for babies and older adults. We’re starting to see some cases in Idaho, as we do every year heading into the winter months. Continue reading “It’s prime time for respiratory infections, including colds, flu, and RSV”

Get smart about when to use antibiotics. They don’t always help.

The crud is creeping through our communities, and it’s tempting to insist on antibiotics when you or your children are sick. Most of us know that getting a test for strep throat can help decide whether antibiotics are needed. With strep throat, antibiotics not only shorten the time you are contagious, but they can also prevent some nasty complications, such as rheumatic fever. Even so, taking antibiotics when they won’t help is causing major public health implications because bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Antibiotics should only be used to fight bacterial infections. They don’t work on viruses, so taking them for a cold or the flu, viral bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections can cause more harm than good.

If antibiotics are not recommended, then treat the symptoms and keep the patient as comfortable as possible. Ask about over-the-counter medication that might help, and have the sick person drink lots of fluids. This is such a hard thing with our culture of work, but the best thing you can do in most cases is to go home and rest or keep your kids home from school and daycare so they can rest.  Continue reading “Get smart about when to use antibiotics. They don’t always help.”

Nicotine is an addictive drug, no matter how you ingest it

 Electronic cigarettes and vaping have become increasingly popular over the last several years. But no matter where you stand in the debate about whether an e-cigarette is healthier than a traditional cigarette, there’s no denying that both are extremely efficient at delivering nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug, into our bodies.

Here’s a short Q&A that highlights the reasons public health officials are so concerned about vaping.  Continue reading “Nicotine is an addictive drug, no matter how you ingest it”

Women’s Health Check offers breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women in Idaho

All Idaho women need access to healthcare, no matter their income. The Idaho Women’s Health Check program can provide that healthcare coverage for cancer screenings and diagnosis for women in the state who are eligible.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for American women — 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes. Cervical cancer is not as common, but it is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular screenings. Even so, around 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year in the United States, and nearly 4,000 women will die from it. Continue reading “Women’s Health Check offers breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women in Idaho”