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Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Bacteria on Nurses’ Scrubs Can Transfer to Patients

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

“Photo” by Parentingupstream
is licensed under CC0.


Hospitals are a place you go, generally, if you’re unwell and need immediate medical attention. But what happens if the place where you’re meant to be recovering is actually making you sicker?

In a new MedlinePlus article, they explain that nurses who are treating multiple patients can often pick up those disease causing germs and then spread them to other patients. According to researchers, the germs are often found on the sleeves and pockets of a nurse’s scrubs, and then often on bed railings.

A 40-person study found that during a 12-hour shift there were 22 instances of one of five diseases being transmitted by a nurse’s scrubs.

One of the primary takeaways of this sort of study is that healthcare providers have to be ever cautious on how they are treating patients and take the necessary steps to prevent disease transmission.

To read more about disease transmission by nurses’ scrubs, please visit “Nurses’ ‘Scrubs’ Pick Up Bad Hospital Germs.”

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Arkansas Mumps Outbreak Growing

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

“Photo” from jaytaix
is licensed under CC0.

Preparing a Shot

Northwest Arkansas has seen an increasing number of mumps cases in the last month. As of Oct. 12, there were 492 individuals involved. The majority of the individuals involved are children, and more than 30 schools in Arkansas have reported one ore more of these cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mumps is a very contagious disease best known for the puffy cheeks and swollen jaw that it causes. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. Symptoms typically don’t appear until more than two weeks after infection. Many people who contract the disease show few to no symptoms and often aren’t even aware they have the disease. There is no treatment, but most people will recover completely within a few weeks.

The CDC recommends that everyone born after 1957 receive the mumps vaccine. Two doses of the MMR vaccine (vaccinating against mumps, measles and rubella) is 88 percent effective in preventing mumps. Adults born before 1957 are considered immune.

For more information regarding the Arkansas mumps outbreak, please visit the Arkansas Department of Health.

For more information regarding general mumps information, please visit the CDC’s website.

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Resources for Flu 2016

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

“Flu vs Cold” from CDC.

Flu vs. Cold ChartWith flu season really starting to kick in, we wanted to share some resources on the disease to help you get through fall and winter!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that every person aged six months and older get an annual flu vaccine by the end of October. Something important to note is that only injectable flu vaccines are recommended this year. Previously, the flu vaccine was also available through a nasal spray known as FluMist.

To further protect yourself, the CDC recommends staying away from people who are sick—people who are sick with the flu should stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the disease. Additionally, the CDC recommends consistent hand washing to get rid of germs.

Flu 2016 symptoms include:

  • fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • vomiting or diarrhea in some cases

The CDC also has a chart that shows the difference between cold and flu symptoms.

If you suspect you have the flu, you should visit your doctor for a diagnosis and to be prescribed antiviral prescription drugs. This treatment works best when started within 48 hours of getting sick, so you should see a doctor right away if you experience symptoms.

To read more about the 2016 flu, please visit the CDC’s flu page.

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Zika Testing in the Rio Grande Valley

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

“Photo” by Freeimages9 is licensed under CC0.


Earlier this week, we posted a feature as part of our SCR Regional Highlight series about the new medical school that opened in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and how it will bring more physicians to a part of Texas that is in dire need of more medical professionals.

Today, we are sharing some more health news relevant to the Rio Grande Valley—this time regarding Zika.

Texas, particularly the southernmost tip where the Rio Grande Valley is, has been monitored closely for signs of local Zika transmission. Previously, Texas has seen the local transmission of dengue fever and chikungunya virus, both mosquito-borne diseases. So far, Texas has seen 231 cases of illness due to Zika, but none due to local transmission.

Despite this, the Texas Department of State Health Services is still on the offensive and is urging residents, particularly pregnant women, of the Rio Grande Valley to get tested for Zika if they exhibit any two of the four major symptoms of Zika, which include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (eye redness), regardless of their travel history.

To read more about Zika testing recommendations, please visit Texas Department of State Health Services.

To read more about Zika, please visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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SCR Regional Highlight: New Medical School in the Rio Grande Valley Will Help Address Physician Shortage

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy

UTRGV Family Medicine Center

The Rio Grande Valley, made up of four counties in the southernmost part of Texas along the border of Mexico, has the odds stacked against it when it comes to residents’ health. In Hidalgo County, one of those four counties, 40 percent of residents lack proper health insurance, 40 percent are considered obese, and 25 percent suffer from diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, most often found in adults, is being found more often in children in this area.

Luckily though, it looks like the Rio Grande Valley has a happy ending.

On June 27, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine opened its doors to its inaugural class. This first cohort contains 55 students—out of the more than 2,784 that applied. UTRGV is the first of its kind in the Valley, but the necessity it provides has been a long time coming.

In 2013, there were only 165 doctors per 100,000 people in Texas—much lower than the average of 240 doctors per 100,000 people in the U.S. as a whole. But in the Rio Grande Valley, that number was even smaller with only 124 doctors per 100,000 people. Number of doctors wasn’t the only shortcoming the Valley had; its average physician age was 57, decades above the median population age, and with older physicians, that would mean more retirements, and it would be likely the number of doctors would dwindle even further.

The inauguration of UTRGV is a fresh start for the Valley, who often lost many of its youngest, brightest minds to other medical schools without the thought of returning. The new medical school will bring new students in and keep students here to serve the population they also grew up in.

To read more about health in the Rio Grande Valley or UTRGV, please visit the following:

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Babies Born Prematurely in Oklahoma

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

“Photo” by Arnaud Jaegers is licensed under CC0.

Infant HandIn 2014, more than 53,000 babies were born in Oklahoma, putting the state right in the middle at No. 27 for the most number of births in the United States. Nearly 4 million babies were born in the U.S. that year.

Unfortunately though, but to be expected, not all of those babies made it. Those babies who died made up the infant mortality rate (IMR). The IMR is defined by the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2013, the IMR for the U.S. overall was 6, which has since lowered to 5.9 today. Oklahoma’s IMR in 2013 was 6.7 but has since risen to 7.4, both of which were among the IMR national average.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health recognizes this unfortunate statistic and has found that babies born prematurely are a leading cause of infant mortality and morbidity. In 2014, 10.3 percent of Oklahoma’s births were premature.

In recognition of Infant Mortality Awareness Month last month, OSDH released information on factors that may cause a premature birth (like diabetes and high blood pressure), ways to promote a healthy pregnancy (like remaining tobacco free), and current initiatives OSDH is taking to help prevent premature births.

To read more about total number of births and the infant mortality rate in the U.S., please visit the following pages on the Kaiser Family Foundation website:

To read more about Oklahoma’s initiatives, please visit Prematurity Remains a Leading Cause of Infant Deaths in Oklahoma.

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Healthy People 2020: A Systematic Approach to Health Improvement

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Image from “Healthy People 2020 brochure”
available via

Healthy People 2020Curious about the status of health in the U.S. and what’s being done to improve it? Check out Healthy People 2020, the latest national health promotion and disease prevention agenda released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The agenda includes a set of objectives to be reached by the year 2020, and was developed through a collaboration between HHS and other federal agencies, public stakeholders, and an advisory committee.

The Healthy People initiative began in 1979 with the surgeon general’s report on health promotion and disease prevention. Following the report, the first Healthy People was developed with a list of leading health indicators and set targets for those indicators to be reached by the end of the decade. Healthy People 2020 is the fourth such report, with its vision to achieve a society in which all people live long, healthy lives, and was announced on December 2, 2010.

Healthy People 2020 contains 42 topic areas with more than 1,200 objectives. Within these objectives, a small set of high-priority health issues have been identified that represent a significant threat to the public’s health. These 26 Leading Health Indicators (LHI) fall under 12 topic areas, and as of a March 2014 progress update over half (14) of the 26 indicators have either met their target or shown improvement.

The development of Healthy People involves an extensive stakeholder feedback process, incorporating periods of public comment throughout the planning process. The importance of the feedback process and public comments can be seen in the sample of new topics added to Healthy People 2020 based on feedback below.

Healthy People 2020 currently has a call for public comments regarding this year’s proposed new HIV objective. This will be the final public comment period for the 2020 project, and will be open October 6-27.

Sample of new topic areas added to Healthy People 2020:

  • Adolescent Health
  • Blood Disorders and Blood Safety
  • Dementias, including Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Early and Middle Childhood
  • Genomics
  • Global Health
  • Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being
  • Healthcare-Associated Infections
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health
  • Older Adults
  • Preparedness
  • Sleep Health
  • Social Determinants of Health

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Written by Sarah Miles, Health Professions Coordinator, NN/LM SCR

Three New Mexicans Diagnosed with West Nile Virus

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

“Photo” by FotoshopTofs is licensed under CC0.

MosquitoToday we’re talking mosquitoes and diseases again, but this time, not Zika-related. Instead we are focusing on West Nile virus.

Within the last month, three New Mexican men were diagnosed with the virus. All three developed neuroinvasive disease and were hospitalized. The three men were from Bernalillo, Doña Ana, McKinley Counties, and are the third, fourth, and fifth cases of West Nile virus contracted in New Mexico this year.

Only about 44,000 cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the U.S. since 1999, and of those, only 1 in 5 people will develop symptoms. So far in 2016, only two states in the U.S. have not reported any cases of West Nile virus: North Carolina and Maine.

While there is a limited number of cases reported, know that West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes may still be circulating in your state. “West Nile virus may still be circulating in New Mexico until mosquito activity ceases after the first hard frost,” according to the New Mexico Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Designate Lynn Gallagher.

We encourage everyone to take precautions against West Nile virus and mosquitos until the first hard frost in your areas.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to protect yourself from mosquitos:

• Use insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol
• Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks, weather permitting, to physically protect yourself
• Be aware of peak mosquito biting hours, which are at dawn and dusk

To read more about West Nile virus in New Mexico, please visit “Additional West Nile Virus Cases in New Mexico in 2016.”

To read more about West Nile virus from the CDC, please visit the CDC’s website.

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American Heart Association Recommends Zero Tolerance Approach to Kids’ Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

“Photo” by Andrew Pons
is licensed under CC0.

Cigarette Butt

For the most part, it is widely accepted to be true that smoking is unhealthy for you. There is research behind it that has shown it can cause at least 12 types of cancer and many other chronic diseases like stroke, pneumonia, periodontitis and more.

Even more recently, research has shown it’s not just smokers who are impacted by smoking, those who inhale secondhand smoke are just as at risk for negative consequences like middle ear disease and lower respiratory illness in children, and stroke and lung cancer in adults.

According to a graphic released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the five states in our region make up the medium to high percentage of smokers:

  • New Mexico: 17.5% – 21.3% population smokes
  • Texas: 13.6% – 17.4% population smokes
  • Oklahoma: 17.5% – 21.3% population smokes
  • Arkansas: 21.4% – 25.2% population smokes
  • Louisiana: 21.4% – 25.2% population smokes

Recently, the American Heart Association announced its recommendation for children to avoid any and all types of secondhand smoke. “Parents should consider making their children’s environment smoke-free because cigarette smoke exposure is harmful to children’s long-term heart health and may shorten life expectancy,” statement panel chair Dr. Geetha Raghuveer, a pediatric cardiologist, said in an AHA news release.

This is a first. While it seems obvious to limit exposure to secondhand smoke as much as possible, there has never been a zero tolerance approach to this sort of issue. The AHA’s recommendation even comes with recommendations for healthcare providers—alert doctors if a child lives in a home with smokers so they can receive appropriate counseling and prevent harm.

For more information on the AHA’s recommendation, please visit: “Heart Docs: Never Expose Kids to Cigarette Smoke.”

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Zika is an STD

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

“Photo” by Alejandra Quiroz
is licensed under CC0.

Zika is an STDZika is a sexually transmitted disease…but have you ever heard it called that before? Likely not, but it is.

Yes, Zika is carried and transmitted by mosquitos, don’t think it’s not. But it’s not the only method of transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn of the dangers of transmitting Zika through sex and provide prevention tips on its website.

But while the CDC provides this information, Zika as an STD is not at the forefront of this public health issue; health professionals and politicians are most concerned with the mosquito factor since the insect has made its way to Florida, and there is also a high concern they could make their way to Louisiana and Texas (two states in our region).

The Oklahoman explains the situation well: “…while mosquitos are a key menace when it comes to Zika, the media and public officials are too focused on them. They also need to pay attention to sex: If we are going to stop the spread of this disease, we are going to need better access to Zika testing for anyone who is sexually active.”

Doctors and nurses, are you warning your patients about this risk?

To read more on the subject, please visit “Zika is an STD: Why are we not calling it one?

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