Parents in Idaho may want to consider lead poisoning testing for their children

It’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, so it’s a good time to educate yourself on lead poisoning and have your children tested, especially if you live in a home that was built before 1978. Lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among children, but about half a million kids in the United States have dangerous levels of lead in their blood.

The most common way lead gets into our bodies is from dust in older homes and buildings and hobbies like reloading and making bullets. The dust comes from deteriorating lead-based paint and contaminated soil that gets tracked into the places we live and work. Older homes and buildings are the most common places for exposure because of lead-based paint, but the metal also can be found in soil and water and is used to make batteries, bullets and metal products, such as pipes.  Continue reading “Parents in Idaho may want to consider lead poisoning testing for their children”

The flu vaccine is your best protection, and it’s time to get it now

It’s October, which means flu season  is here. And that means it’s time to get vaccinated to protect yourself against the flu. Flu season can run from October to May, so if you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet this year, you should get one as soon as possible. It’s the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can be a serious infection.

Public health officials think this year’s vaccine, which is different from last year’s, is a good match for the flu strains that could be circulating, but it’s difficult to predict so early in the season. Flu viruses are constantly changing. Flu vaccines are updated before the start of flu season each year, based on which influenza viruses are making people sick in other parts of the world. This year’s trivalent vaccine offers protection for two type A influenza viruses, and one type B virus. An additional type B influenza virus is included in the vaccine that offers protection against four strains of the virus; that is called the quadrivalent vaccine. Continue reading “The flu vaccine is your best protection, and it’s time to get it now”

Suicide Prevention Week highlights an important public health issue in idaho

These numbers are fairly startling:

  • Idaho continually ranks in the top 10 states for number of completed suicides per capita.
  • Since 2003, suicide has been the eighth or ninth leading cause of death for all Idahoans.
  • In 2013, Idaho ranked 7th in the nation for suicides per capita and 6th in the nation for youth suicide.
  • And suicide is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans who are 15-34 years old, and for boys who are 10-14 years old.

As you can see, this is a sobering public health issue for Idaho. Continue reading “Suicide Prevention Week highlights an important public health issue in idaho”

Idaho health officials warn of Salmonella illnesses linked by federal investigators to contaminated cucumbers

Eight Idaho residents with salmonellosis apparently were sickened by contaminated cucumbers, the Idaho Division of Public Health said Friday.

The affected Idahoans range in age from 2-82 and became ill between Aug. 3rd and Aug. 17th. One was hospitalized but has recovered. These cases appear to be part of a larger national outbreak linked to contaminated cucumbers being recalled. In addition, six other cases, not yet confirmed to be linked to the outbreak, are being investigated by Idaho public health districts. Since early July, 285 people in 27 states have been linked nationwide to this outbreak.

According to the California Department of Public Health, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce of San Diego has voluntarily recalled all cucumbers sold under the “Limited Edition” brand label from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3 because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. The type of cucumber is often referred to as a “slicer” or “American” cucumber and is dark green. They were distributed to Idaho, Utah, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, and several other states.  Continue reading “Idaho health officials warn of Salmonella illnesses linked by federal investigators to contaminated cucumbers”

Idaho leads the nation for number of immunization exemptions for kindergartners

New vaccination exemption data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows Idaho led the nation for school immunization exemption rates during the 2014-2015 school year. The recently published data show 6.5% of Idaho kindergarten students had an exemption on file for at least one vaccine when they registered for school.

Idaho allows immunization exemptions for religious, medical, or philosophical reasons. Of the 6.5% of Idaho’s kindergarteners with an exemption on file, 5.6% were for philosophical reasons, while 0.3% were medical and 0.6% were religious exemptions.

The high exemption rate is concerning for public health and school officials, along with parents of children attending schools.  “Having a high percentage of students who are not fully protected from preventable diseases is concerning, especially for other children who cannot receive vaccine protection because of medical conditions,” says Dr. Christine Hahn M.D., Idaho Public Health Medical Director.  “Many parents sign an exemption for convenience; it may be the path of least resistance when registering a child for school who is behind on their vaccine schedule. However, that path can lead to serious illness to their children or classmates. We believe Idaho can do better.”


Continue reading “Idaho leads the nation for number of immunization exemptions for kindergartners”

Charts for children and adults help determine activity when air is smoky


Wildfire smoke and poor air quality are going to be with us for a while. The people who are most affected by poor air quality are also the most vulnerable: Children, the elderly, the disabled, and people with respiratory and heart conditions.

Air quality can fluctuate daily around the state, but it  is not expected to significantly improve anytime soon. Please be aware of current conditions and keep children inside when the air quality is unhealthy. Also, check on your elderly and vulnerable neighbors to be sure the air quality is not causing them undue distress.

If you coach children or run a daycare or a school, it’s especially important to be aware of outside air conditions. Sending a child with asthma out to play when air quality is listed as orange (unhealthy for sensitive populations) or red (unhealthy for everyone) could lead to serious health effects for that child. You can check real-time air quality in many Idaho communities through the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s air monitors here.

If you’re not sure, the smoke activity guidelines above and below can help:  Continue reading “Charts for children and adults help determine activity when air is smoky”

Payette County Woman Hospitalized With West Nile Virus Infection

A Payette County woman in her 40s was hospitalized and is now recovering from a neuroinvasive West Nile virus infection. The woman is the second reported human case in as many days, prompting health officials to warn people to take precautions and avoid mosquito bites. (Read about the first case here.)

A neuroinvasive infection can cause severe illness characterized by encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), or meningitis (inflammation of the linings of the brain or spinal cord).  Symptoms of neuroinvasive infections caused by West Nile virus may include a rapid onset of high fever, headache, body aches, neck stiffness, disorientation and tremors. Most people suffering from neuroinvasive infections require hospitalization. Continue reading “Payette County Woman Hospitalized With West Nile Virus Infection”

Washington County Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus Infection

Idaho’s first human case of West Nile virus infection this year has been confirmed in a Washington County woman in southwest Idaho. The woman, over the age of 50, is recovering from West Nile fever and did not require hospitalization.

Nine Idaho counties in Idaho have reported West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes during routine surveillance which began in mid-June. In addition, a horse, also from Washington County, tested positive for the virus.

Mosquito abatement districts and public health officials are concerned the unseasonably hot weather in late June followed by instances of heavy rains has resulted in increased mosquito populations and an elevated risk of West Nile infection.  Continue reading “Washington County Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus Infection”

New report shows increase in number of obese Idaho adults

Idaho has a weight problem.

That’s surprising in a state that prides itself on its culture of outdoor activities and recreation, but newly released data on health risks for Idaho adults shows a continued increasing trend in people who are obese or overweight. The Idaho Behavioral Risk Factors, 2013 report shows 29.6 percent of Idaho adults reported being obese, while 64.9 percent said they were overweight. In 2012, 26.8 percent of adults surveyed reported they were obese, with 62.5 percent being overweight.

“Being overweight or obese can cause or worsen serious chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” says Angie Gribble, public health program manager for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN). “We all need to work together to turn this trend around because those extra pounds can lead to poor health and premature death.”  Continue reading “New report shows increase in number of obese Idaho adults”

West Nile virus found in eastern Idaho

0716 West Nile updateAdditional Idaho counties are finding evidence of West Nile virus this week, with Owyhee and Bingham Counties reporting positive mosquito pools. Seven Idaho counties have now identified West Nile virus, with Bingham County being the first in Eastern Idaho to identify West Nile activity.

Recent hot weather coupled with periodic rains is thought to have provided good breeding conditions for Culex mosquitoes, which transmit West Nile virus. The Ada County Mosquito Abatement district conducted targeted aerial spraying last week because of growing concern over booming mosquito populations.
Continue reading “West Nile virus found in eastern Idaho”