Wyoming Seeing High Level of Influenza Activity

With flu activity reports showing a high level of ill­ness, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is reminding residents of the common-sense steps they can take to avoid spreading influenza or be­coming ill with the disease.

“Reports have been showing high levels of activity across the state for the last few weeks. We don’t know whether we’ve yet reached the peak of activity,” said Clay Van Houten, interim state epidemiologist with WDH.

Influenza is a contagious, respiratory illness caused by a virus. Symptoms in­clude fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches.

“Influenza should not be overlooked as a serious threat.  Our public health la­boratory testing is showing that H3N2 is the flu strain circulating around the state and nation,” Van Houten said. “This is concerning because we tend to see more hospitalizations and deaths reported during seasons when this type of flu is dominant, especially among young children and older adults.”

Common-sense measures can help slow or prevent influenza’s spread. “Covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve or a tissue when you sneeze and cough; frequently washing your hands; and staying home from work, school, day care and errands when you are ill can help,” Van Houten said.

“Vaccines are the most important tool available to help prevent influenza and we know this season’s vaccine includes the strain circulating in Wyoming,” he said. Flu shots are still available in many locations; WDH recommends the vaccine annually for nearly everyone over the age of six months.

Van Houten reminded residents it takes about two weeks for flu vaccines to offer protection. “If you’re exposed to the virus in the meantime, you may still become ill,” he said.

Doctors may recommend prescription antiviral medications to help treat influ­enza.These medications may be especially helpful for persons at higher risk for flu complications such as young children, adults 65 andr older, persons with chronic medical conditions, persons with challenged immune systems, women who are pregnant or soon after delivery, persons less than 19 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy for other conditions, those who are extremely overweight, and residents of nursing homes or other chronic-care facilities.

“For antiviral medications to be a good option, it is important to seek medical care quickly once you start to become ill,” Van Houten advised.

Van Houten said residents who become ill should get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids and avoid using alcohol or tobacco. “You may also take over-the-counter medications to relieve your symptoms, but should avoid giving prod­ucts containing aspirin to children or teens with flu-like symptoms,” he said.

January is National Radon Month

You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but it could be present at a dangerous level in your home. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year. In fact, the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools and other buildings for radon.

Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure. If a high radon level is detected in your home, you can take steps to fix the problem to protect yourself and your family.

Visit the Wyoming Department of Health’s radon information website to learn about radon, health risks associated with radon, and how to obtain a radon testing kit.

Crisis Text Line Available in Wyoming – News from the Wyoming Department of Health

A newly available statewide Crisis Text Line will provide anonymous, continuous crisis support to Wyoming residents who may be in crisis and at risk of suicide.

Promoted by the Wyoming Department of Health, Grace For 2 Brothers Foun­dation, and the Prevention Management Organization, Crisis Text Line ena­bles anyone with a mobile phone with SMS capability to access free support by texting WYO to 741-741.

“Many of our Wyoming neighbors who struggle sometimes with depression, bullying, substance abuse, relationship problems and suicidal thoughts feel they have no one to turn to,” said Rhianna Brand, director of operations for Grace For 2 Brothers Foundation, a Cheyenne-based nonprofit focused on sui­cide prevention.

Brand noted that text messages offer a discreet, familiar and accessible form of communication available to most people.

Mikki Munson, community prevention specialist with the Prevention Manage­ment Organization, said the text line’s trained specialists with extensive train­ing in crisis intervention provide emotional support to anyone in crisis, as well as safety planning and referrals.

“This partnership with the Crisis Text Line will connect someone in crisis to a counselor in their most critical time of need,” Munson said.  Munson also not­ed the anonymous data collected by the Crisis Text Line will help Wyoming work to improve prevention efforts and mental health resources.

By: Kim Deti

Skin Cancer Prevention Needed in Sunny Wyoming – News from the Wyo. Dept. of Health

Skin cancer is a common, significant concern for residents of sunny Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

 

Morgan Powell, Integrated Cancer Services outreach coordi­nator with WDH, said skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.

 

“Risk factors for skin cancer include a light skin tone, eye color or hair color; tanning, a history of sunburns, particularly during childhood; a personal or family history of skin cancer; sun exposure during work or play; and certain types of moles,” Powell said.

 

“We recommend wearing sunscreen with at least a 15 SPF, staying out of the sun during the middle of the day, and covering up when out in the sun as good ways to reduce your skin cancer risk,” Powell said.

 

Powell noted there are several skin cancer warning signs. “When looking over the skin look for spots that are asymmetrical, have border irregularity, color variations and diameters of 6 millimeters or more,” she explained. “This is also known as the ABCD’s of skin cancer.”

 

“Of the three types of skin cancer, basal and squamous cell carcinoma are more common than melanoma and are highly treatable if caught early,” Powell said. “Melanoma is less common, but is a much faster growing type of cancer.” According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, melano­ma affects roughly 130 people in Wyoming each year.

 

“Skin cancer is dangerous because it can be so easy to miss,” Powell said. “When it’s missed it can spread to other parts of the body, which makes it much more difficult to treat.”

 

“It may be summer now, and is certainly an important time to protect yourself from skin cancer. However, it’s a year round concern in Wyoming. Snow can reflect 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays,” Powell said. “Sunburns can also be a risk on cloudy or cool days because clouds block only about 20 percent of UV rays.”

# written by Kim Deti

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Unlike Hepatitis A, which does not cause a long-term infection, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can cause chronic, life-long infections. More than 5 million Americans are living with chronic Hepatitis B or chronic Hepatitis C, but most do not know they are infected.

Chronic hepatitis can cause serious liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.  People with chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C have the greatest risk of liver cancer. In fact, more than 60 percent of liver cancer cases are associated with Hepatitis B or C.

About two in three people with Hepatitis B do not know they are infected and the most commonly affected people in the US are Asian Americans (1 in 12). About 50 percent of people with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected and three in four people with Hepatitis C were born from 1945-1965. The CDC encourages those in high risk groups to get tested for hepatitis.

For a limited time, Public Health has state supplied Hepatitis A and B vaccines for $20 per dose. If you are: age 19 and older and a Wyoming resident, we can immunize you for a reduced cost. Call our offices to schedule an appointment for your vaccinations. We can also draw blood to test for immunity if you are not sure if you have had the vaccine series before or if you think you may have been exposed to Hepatitis. Give us a call to schedule an appointment for a blood draw.

School Readiness!

Do you have a kiddo heading into school? The staff of Wyoming Kids First have put together a Star Valley School Readiness Resource Handbook for you. In it, you will find:

  1. what to look for children entering kindergarten to do
  2. what adults can do to help children be successful
  3. information on community resources

If you’re interested, please download a PDF copy of the guide here: School Readiness Companion Guide (1)

Another thing to keep in mind before registering your little ones for school is to make sure they are up to date on their immunizations. Public Health can help with that. If you would like to bring your records in for us to make you an official school required immunization record, if your kiddos need another set of shots to be ready for entering kindergarten, or if you aren’t sure if they need more shots and would like to bring us your records to help determine what they may or may not need, please give our offices a call: 885-9598 (Afton) or 877-3780 (Kemmerer). Let us help safeguard your kids from vaccine preventable diseases and prepare them for a healthy, happy time in school.

Records & Release of Information

Just a reminder: if you are in need of immunization records (or any record that can be considered Protected Health Information) from our office, according to HIPAA law, we must have you fill out a consent form in order for us to release that information via either a hard copy print out of the record or via phone. We cannot verbally give out information over the phone unless we have a consent form filled out. This form can be obtained here and returned to us either via fax, email (visit our contact page for that information for both offices), or drop by our offices during business hours. The form must be filled out completely, with the information of the person whose record/information is being requested and the drivers license number for either the parent/guardian or requester. All people aged 18 and over can request their own records. We cannot tell you over the phone what immunizations are needed without a copy of this consent either. If you need your records entered into the Wyoming Immunization Registry, you can bring records into our offices, fill out a consent, and we can enter and print copies for you.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.