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Arkansans Urged to Test Homes for Radon, the Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer in the U.S.
Little Rock, AR — The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), Radiation Control Section, is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a nationwide campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of radon exposure and to encourage them to take action to protect their homes and families.
Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless, tasteless gas that is dispersed in outdoor air but can reach harmful levels when trapped in buildings. Scientists have long been concerned about the health risk of radon, but never before has there been such overwhelming evidence that exposure to elevated levels of radon causes lung cancer in humans.
EPA estimates that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year nationwide. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
“Because you can’t see or smell radon, people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer in their homes,” said Dr. William Mason, Medical Director for Preparedness at ADH.
Testing homes for elevated levels of radon is simple and inexpensive. Radon test kits can be purchased online or at local hardware and home improvement stores. Prices are as low as $15. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of many common home repairs.
ADH urges Arkansas residents to take action by testing their homes for radon. Radon poses a serious threat to our community’s health, but there is a straightforward solution. For more information on radon, radon testing and mitigation, and radon-resistant new construction, call the Radiation Control Section at (501) 661-2301 or visit our website at www.healthy.arkansas.gov.
Arkansas Awarded $7,107,244 to Support Families Through HRSA’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood
Little Rock, Ark. – The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced $7,107,244 in funding to Arkansas through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. These grant funds allow the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to continue to provide voluntary, evidence-based and promising practice home visiting services to women during pregnancy, and to parents with young children up to kindergarten entry.
In Arkansas, ADH implements the Nurse-Family Partnership program and partners with Arkansas Children’s Hospital to implement Healthy Families America, HIPPY, Parents as Teachers, and Following Baby Back Home, a promising home visiting approach. Families in 53 counties are served by the MIECHV grant through 32 local implementing agencies and seven of ADH’s local health units. In 2016, Arkansas’s MIECHV programs served 2,409 households, 54% with household incomes at or below the federal poverty level.
“Home visiting can be a real game-changer,” said Bradley Planey, Family Health Branch Chief and Home Visiting Project Director at ADH. “The programs work to improve children’s health, development, and school readiness. They also support families with health screenings, referrals to resources, parenting advice, and guidance in many other areas of family life. This can mean a real difference in the life of the child and family.”
Nationally, the MIECHV Program serves almost 42% of U.S. counties with high rates of low birth weight infants, teen births, families living in poverty or infant mortality. More than 3.3 million home visits have been conducted through the MIECHV Program, serving parents and children in 893 counties in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories. Three-fourths of families participating in the program had household incomes at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.
“Evidence-based home visiting programs help children get off to a better, healthier start,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. “Today’s awards allow states to support local agencies in providing home visiting services that meet the needs of families in their own communities.”
Administered by HRSA, in partnership with the Administration for Children and Families, the MIECHV Program gives pregnant women and families, particularly those considered at-risk, necessary resources and skills to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready to learn. Funded through the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 through FY 2017, the MIECHV Program is also addressing HHS’ clinical priorities such as serious mental illness and childhood obesity. Nationwide, $342 million in funding was awarded to 55 states, territories, and nonprofit organizations.
For more information on the home visiting programs in Arkansas, visit http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/home-visiting-programs
For more information on HRSA's Home Visiting Program, visit http://mchb.hrsa.gov/programs/homevisiting.
For a list of awardees, visit https://mchb.hrsa.gov/maternal-child-health-initiatives/home-visiting/fy17-home-visiting-awards.
Arkansas Suicide Prevention Awareness Proclamation
ADH declares end of Mumps outbreak
Mandatory Boil Order for Biscoe and Fredonia
Rabid Dog in Mississippi County
Northeast Arkansas – For the first time in more than two decades, Mississippi County has a confirmed case of rabies. A dog from Mississippi County, Arkansas has tested positive for the virus. The dog was exposed to a skunk in mid-June of this year. All those who may have come into contact with the dog have been contacted for follow-up. Residents are reminded to keep pets up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.
So far in 2017, the state has had 23 rabid animals (13 skunks, 9 bats, and 1 dog) test positive for rabies. Last year, 23 animals tested positive for rabies in Arkansas, which is below the annual average.
Documenting where rabies is found in the state helps guide medical professionals about the need for rabies preventive shots after an animal bite. This information also helps the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) inform the public of rabies in an area so citizens will vaccinate their pets and livestock. These maps can be found on the ADH website at www.healthy.arkansas.gov.
“Rabid animals can pose a threat to pets and livestock,” said Susan Weinstein, DVM, state public health veterinarian at ADH. “Situations like this are a critical reminder to everyone to make sure their pets and livestock are current on their vaccinations.”
The rabies virus attacks the brain and spinal cord and is a fatal disease. The virus lives in the saliva (spit) and nervous tissues of infected animals and is spread when they bite or scratch.
The virus also may be spread if saliva from an infected animal touches broken skin, open wounds or the lining of the mouth, eyes or nose. It is most often seen in animals such as skunks and bats. Any skunk seen out during the day, or getting into a fenced yard or pen with a dog, is very likely rabid, and should be avoided and reported to local authorities. Cats, dogs, ferrets and livestock can also develop rabies, especially if they are not vaccinated.
All dogs and cats in Arkansas are required by state law to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. One-year and three-year shots are available. This protects the animal, and acts as a barrier between the wildlife exposures of rabies and people, since pets are more likely to be directly exposed to a rabid animal. Any rabies vaccine given by an owner with an over-the-counter product cannot be counted as vaccinated, as there is no assurance it was stored or given properly. There is also usually no documentation of a date when the vaccine was given.
The first sign of rabies in an animal is usually a change in behavior. Rabid animals may attack people or other animals for no reason, or they may lose their fear of people and seem unnaturally friendly. Staggering, convulsions, choking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis are often present. Skunks may be seen out in daylight, which is an unusual behavior for them, or they may get into a dog pen or under a house. Many animals have a marked change in voice pitch, such as a muted or off-key tone. An animal usually dies within one week of demonstrating signs of rabies. Not all rabid animals act in these ways, so you should avoid direct contact with all wild animals—especially skunks, bats and stray cats and dogs.
If you think you have become exposed to an animal with rabies, wash your wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. Contact your physician immediately and report the incident. The animal in question should be captured, if it is possible to do so safely, without damaging its head so that it can be tested.
If an apparently healthy, domesticated dog or cat bites a person, it must be captured, confined and observed daily for 10 days following the bite. If the animal remains healthy during this period of time, it did not transmit rabies at the time of the bite. The brain tissue of all wild animals must be tested for rabies if human exposure has occurred.
How can you protect yourself from rabies?
- Be sure dogs, cats and ferrets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.
- Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals.
- Keep family pets indoors at night.
- Bat-proof your home or summer camp in the fall or winter. The majority of human rabies cases are caused by bat bites.
- Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if any animal bites them.
- Teach children to avoid wildlife, strays and all other animals they do not know well.
Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to the nearest local health unit. Do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies. Depending on the species, an animal can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment. For more information, call Susan Weinstein, DVM, state public health veterinarian, at (501) 280-4384.
Case of Heartland virus found in Arkansas resident
Little Rock, Ark. - Arkansas has identified its first case of Heartland virus, a relatively new tickborne disease, in an individual living in the northwest part of the state.
People become infected with Heartland virus through the bite of the Lone Star tick. Patients are most likely to be diagnosed with Heartland virus from May to September. Heartland virus causes a flu-like illness, including fever, headache, muscle aches, diarrhea, appetite loss, and feeling very tired. Most cases have low numbers of cells that fight infection and low numbers of cells that help blood clot. There is no vaccine or drug to prevent or treat the disease.
In 2009, two people admitted to Heartland Hospital in Missouri were later found to be infected with this virus. Both recovered, but the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services began working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about the virus.
To date, more than 20 cases of Heartland virus disease have been identified in several states in Southeast and South Central United States, so it is not surprising that Arkansas has a case. Most patients require hospitalization for their illness but fully recover. One patient has died. The Arkansas patient has recovered fully.
Arkansas has some of the highest rates in the nation for tickborne diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Ehrlichiosis, and Tularemia. Anaplasmosis and Lyme Disease may also occur. People who work or do activities outside, where they are exposed to ticks or insects, are more likely to be infected. Preventing bites from ticks and mosquitoes is the best way to prevent these and other infections.
• Use insect repellents
• Wear long sleeves and pants
• Avoid bushy and wooded areas
• Perform thorough tick checks after spending time outdoors
For more information, visit healthy.arkansas.gov.
Flu Vaccine Clinic at State Fairgrounds Oct. 27
(Little Rock, Ark.) - The Pulaski County Health Unit will provide flu vaccines at the Hall of Industry located at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
People should bring their insurance cards with them to the flu vaccine clinic. If anyone does not have insurance, or the insurance does not cover flu vaccine, the vaccine will still be available at no charge.
It is important to get a flu vaccine every year, because the flu virus changes from year to year. This year’s vaccine protects against the flu viruses that are expected to cause the most illness this flu season.
People of all ages can get the flu. Certain people are more likely to have serious health problems if they get the flu. This includes older adults, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), people who smoke, and people who live in nursing homes. Therefore, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) strongly recommends that people in these groups get a flu vaccine. ADH also recommends that friends, family members and people who provide care to people in these groups also get a vaccine - not only to protect themselves but also to decrease the possibility that they might expose the people they love and care for to the flu.
The flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. Some people may have mild soreness and redness near the site of the shot and a low fever or slight headache.
There are very few medical reasons to skip the flu vaccine. These include life-threatening allergic reactions to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine. People with allergies to vaccine ingredients can often receive the vaccine safely, if it is given in a doctor’s office where they can be monitored.
The flu is easily spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching something, such as a door knob, with the virus on it and then touching their nose or mouth. Good hand washing habits are important in preventing the flu. However, the best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine.
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Oct. 25-31
(Little Rock, Ark.) - Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, yet around half a million children in the United States have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says public health actions should start. A simple blood test can keep permanent damage that will last a lifetime from happening.
High levels of lead in the blood can affect the brain and might cause other health effects. Exposure to lead is even more harmful to children six years-old and younger because their brains and spinal cords are still developing. For these children, even being around very low levels of lead can cause permanent damage, such as reduced intelligence, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems, stunted growth, and hearing and kidney damage. Therefore, health officials consider any level of exposure to lead to be unsafe, particularly for young children.
“Prevention of lead exposure is key,” said Dr. Dirk Haselow, State Epidemiologist at the Arkansas Department of Health. “Once exposed, the effects in a child may be devastating and lifelong.”
There are many ways to come into contact with lead: through cracked or peeling paint, household dust, bare soil, air, drinking water, food, ceramics, home remedies, hair dyes, and makeup. The lead from these sources is too small for people to see. Children with high blood lead levels are most likely to have been exposed to lead in their own homes from lead dust and lead-based paint chips, especially if that home was built before 1978.
The good thing is that there are steps your family can take to reduce exposure.
• Wash your child’s hands before meals and after playing outside.
• Provide your child with meals and snacks that are high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C.
• Frequently wash toys, pacifiers and other items your child uses regularly.
• Dust and wet mop weekly.
• Have your family members leave their shoes outside the door.
• Test your home for lead to determine the source of exposure.
• Ensure that any home renovation and maintenance work is done in a lead-safe way.
• Follow-up with your child’s doctor.
The only way to fully rid a pre-1978 home of lead is to abate it. Abatement should always be done by a state-certified contractor. Abatement involves: the removal of lead-based paint and dust-lead hazards, the permanent covering or encapsulation of lead-based paint, the replacement of parts or fixtures painted with lead-based paint, and the removal or permanent covering of soil-lead hazards, as well as all set-up, cleanup, disposal, and post-abatement clearance testing actions linked to such measures.
To raise awareness of childhood lead poisoning prevention, the Arkansas Department of Health, along with other agencies, such as the CDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is participating in National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) October 25-31.
Visit the Arkansas Department of Health’s Lead-based Paint Program at the following lead prevention activities in central Arkansas in support of NLPPW:
Saturday, Oct. 24
KIDSTOCK, Hilary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library, Little Rock, 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 26
Lowes, North Little Rock, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 26
Lowes, Hot Springs, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
BIG BOO!SEUM BASH, Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
For more information, contact the Arkansas Department of Health’s Lead-based Paint Program at 501-671-1472.