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HEALTH NOTES

Swine Flu

Swine Flu! What is it and how dangerous is it? First, letís separate fact from myth. Although this type of flue, H1N1, does occur in pigs, it does NOT pass from pork to humans. It passes the way all influenzas pass, from human to human contact, and from picking up germs from surfaces or which are airborne from coughs and sneezing. End of Myth #1. Myth #2, you are likely to die from it. While any influenza can be dangerous, especially for those who are under 5, over 65, or whose health is already compromised, this one doesnít seem especially virulent, especially here in the United States. Due to our high level of general health and access to health resources, people here have milder cases and fewer fatalities. Myth #3, surgical masks will protect you. Hardly. Only one, the N95 surgical mask, has a tight enough weave to stop viruses from spreading. Your best bet is to follow  the common sense guidelines you hear about all the time. Those are: 1) Sneeze, blow or cough into a tissue them promptly get rid of it. 2) Wash your hands frequently, with soap and warm water. 3) Avoid sharing utensils, cups and the like with others or close physical contact with someone you suspect to be ill. 4) Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces in your home such as doorknobs, light switches, remotes, faucet handles, toys, ect. 5) Use disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizers whenever you have exposure to public items, such as grocery cars, common pens, door handles, money, ATM screens or self checkout screens and the like. 6) Lastly, if you feel ill, stay home to avoid infecting others. Recognize that you are contagious for up to 7 days after symptoms appear or 24 hours after they disappear, whichever is longer. As the weather warms up, itís likely that H1N1 flu will abate. But if it comes back next fall, follow the guidelines here, and you will be prepared.

 

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness transmitted to humans by the immature black-legged tick. Adult ticks feed primarily on deer, but will use other mammalian hosts. The larvae and nymphs feed on the white - footed mouse (which serves as the natural disease reservoir) and other rodents and birds.

Early stages of the disease include: circular rash 3 - 30 days after bite in 70-80% of infected people, fatigue, chills and fever. If not treated, the disease can progress to later stages, which can include the loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face, sever headaches and neck stiffness and rotating joint pain. After several month, 60% of infected people develop sever arthritis problems and up to 5% develop neurological problems.

There are a number of potential reasons for the increased incidents of Lyme disease. First, an increase in the overall tick population due to mild winters and a supply of natural host animals. Second, the over abundant deer population in close proximity to humans. Third, establishment of more residences in wooded areas. Finally, and increased recognition of the disease by the general public.

How do you protect yourself from ticks? Wear light-colored clothing and tuck pants into socks. Use a DEET of permethrin based repellent. Repellents are not as effective against the black legged tick, so use at least 30% - 40% active ingredient. Avoid contact with vegetation, particularly overhanging plants near woodlines, paths, sidewalks, etc. If you spend time in tick habitats, remove and dry (high heat) field clothing as soon as possible. Finally, inspect yourself and your children at least once a day in summer for ticks.

Rabies - A Constant Threat

Rabies is a threat in York and surrounding counties. Looking at the number of confirmed rabies cases in York County gives a false sense of security when you realize that for each confirmed case, there are numerous non-tested cares, For rabies to be confirmed, the animal carcass must be taken to the State Diagnostic Lab in Harrisburg, where brain tissue is examined to make a positive confirmation. Confirmation is reported to the State Veterinarian who makes decisions regarding quarantine or treatment pertaining to animals. The Health Department gets involved when human exposure occurs. Exposure is not limited to being bitten by a suspect animal. Rabies is a virus carried in the saliva of the infected animal. Exposure can include handling food and water dishes infected with saliva or handling an animal that seems to be producing unusual amounts of saliva. In humans, once the symptoms of rabies appear there is little chance of survival. A person exposed to a confirmed rabid animal will be give a series of treatments over a 28 day period. An undiagnosed animal that was infected wand had exposure to a human could be deadly.

Any mammal can carry rabies, The best protection against rabies is to keep pets up to date on rabies vaccinations. Be aware of abnormal behavior of animals in your area. For instance, if you see a bat crawling on the ground during daylight, it is an indication the bat may be infected. Nocturnal animals are active after dark. They include raccoons, skunks, foxes, and opossums. Most animals infected with rabies will stagger because rabies affects the nervous system. Many will appear aggressive; most will produce large amounts of saliva and in some farm animals, an increase in vocalization is the only behavior suggesting rabies.

West Nile Virus Infections - A Nationwide Human Health Issue

Everyone should take steps to reduce their risk of becoming infected with West Nile Virus. If you plan to be outside, remember to use insect repellant containing DEET -- especially in the evening and during dusk to dawn. Also, wear long sleeves and light-colored clothing.

Any water standing stagnant for 4 or more days can produce mosquitoes. Common sources of standing water are clogged gutters, cans, plastic containers, pot, and tires. Ornamental pools and swimming pools must be properly maintained and in running condition.

Last year in the US, there were 4,269 human cases of West Nile Virus. 177 of those infections were fatal. In Pennsylvania, West Nile Virus cases occur primarily in the late summer through early fall, although mosquito season is usually April through October.

DEP and York County West Nile Virus field assistants will be looking for immature (larvae and pupae) and adult mosquitoes to determine if they are the species known to carry the virus. Because dead birds can be an indicator of increased risk for West Nile Virus infections, people are asked to report dead birds at the Pennsylvania West Nile Web site at www.westnile.state.pa.us, or by calling your county West Nile Program Office or the Harrisburg office of the Department of Environmental Protection at (717) 346-8238. For information about West Nile virus symptons in humans, contact the Department of Health at 877-PA-HEALTH.

Now in York County The Asian Tiger Mosquito

Female Asian tiger mosquitoes lay their eggs in artificial containers. These can be as big as an abandoned swimming pool or as small as a bottle cap. Containers that cannot be emptied (such as abandoned pools or gutters) should be treated with an insecticide that specifically targets mosquito larva. Check with your local garden center or hardware store for products that contain Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis).

Be sure that the community you live or work in is free of trash (cans, bottles, plastic bags, cups, etc.) and yard clutter. Asian tiger mosquitoes are not strong flyers but will search for a blood meal flying form one house to another. If the area around your home is clean they man be breeding in trash within a 1/4 mile of your home.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito is black with striking white marking on the body and lets. Very aggressive, daytime biter. Favorite meal is preferably human blood but will feed on other mammals and birds. There daytime hangouts are anywhere cool and shady. Ivy, azaleas, bushed and other shrubs are their favorite resting places. Health risks are the Asian tiger mosquito is know to be an effective vector for a variety of diseases including West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and dog heartworm.

Food Safety and Security: What Consumers Need to Know

What Food and Water Should You Keep in Case of Emergency? The American Red Cross and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommend the following:

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Keep a supply of nonperishable food and a 3-day supply of commercially bottle water per person (minimum of 3 gallons) on hand in case of an emergency.

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Since there may not be power, purchase food that requires no refrigeration, cooking ,water or special perparation. Good food choices should include dried fruit; canned fruit or vegetable; shelf-stable cans of meat, poultry, and fish; jars of peanut butter and jelly; small packages of cereal, granola bars and crackers; nonfat dry mild; and small boxes of juice drinks. Select small cans of ood so there won't be any leftovers that will need refrigeration. Remember to include infant formula, pet food, and foods for family members with special dietary needs.

Have a manually operated can opener on hand. Periodically use and refresh your supply.

How Long Should Canned Foods Be Kept?

Store canned foods and other shelf-stable products in a cool, dry place. Never put them above the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or basement, or any place exposed to high or low temperature extremes. Store high-acid foods, such as tomatoes and other fruit, up to 18 months. Low-acid foods, such as meat and vegetables, can be kept 2 to 5 years.

While extremely rare, a toxin produced by Clostridium botulimum is the worst danger in canned foods. NEVER USE food from containers that show signs of "botulism": leaking, bulging, rusting, or badly dented cans; cracked jars; jars with loose or bulging lids; canned food with a foul odor; or any container that spurts out liquid when opening. DO NOT TASTE THIS FOOD! Even the tiniest amount of botulinum toxin can be deadly.