Teen immunization rates concern health officials

September 2, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. Sept. 2, 2012

Immunization rates among Washington teenagers improved for some vaccines, but held steady and dropped slightly for others, state health officials announced Aug. 30.

The information comes from the just-released 2011 National Immunization Survey. More children between the ages of 13 and 17 years are vaccinated against serious diseases than in previous years, teen immunization rates remain below state goals.

“The whooping cough epidemic reminds us that it’s vital for teens to get immunized on time,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a statement. “Immunizing teens is as important as immunizing young children — it protects the teens and everyone around them, especially babies who are too young for vaccination. Every teen should be up-to-date with all recommended vaccines.”

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Protect horses, humans from West Nile virus

August 28, 2012

The state veterinarian issued a reminder Aug. 22 to vaccinate horses against West Nile virus, as health officials reported a spike in human cases nationwide.

Veterinarians have had success in using vaccines for protection against West Nile virus, a potentially fatal disease in horses.

Washington led the nation in confirmed equine cases in 2009 (72 cases) and 2008 (41 cases).

Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus after the insects feed on infected birds. Infected horses do not spread the disease to other horses, humans or other animals.

Ill horses show a loss of coordination, loss of appetite, confusion, fever, and stiffness and muscle weakness, particularly in the hindquarters.

Learn more about West Nile virus from the state Department of Health at www.doh.wa.gov/WNV.

Officials revive Washington State Tobacco Quitline

August 21, 2012

The state revived the Washington State Tobacco Quitline on Aug. 1, due to infusions of funding from state legislators and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Through the hotline, state Department of Health officials can offer adults help to stop using tobacco. Funding cuts last year eliminated the Washington State Tobacco Quitline, affecting many people without health insurance.

The toll-free hotline is available at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or 1-877-2NO-FUME in Spanish. The hotline provides free counseling, a personal quit plan, a quit kit and referrals to local resources. Eligible callers can also receive a supply of nicotine patches or gum.

Quitting lowers the risk of lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease and other cancers.

Officials said more than 170,000 people have received help since the hotline started operations in 2000.

Public Health – Seattle & King County urges back-to-school immunizations

August 21, 2012

King County reminds parents to include updating immunizations on their children’s back-to-school list.

“Immunizations are a very safe and effective way to keep children healthy and in school,” said David Fleming, director and health officer for public health for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Whether you’re a parent enrolling your child in school or a student entering college, make sure all immunizations are up-to-date.”

In a statement released Aug. 20, public health officials said the state’s current whooping cough epidemic is a stark reminder of the importance of immunization. There have been 560 confirmed cases of whooping cough in King County so far this year, compared to 98 cases in all of 2011. School-aged children have been hit particularly hard. Children ages 10-13 have the highest rates of whooping cough in King County.

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State tracker stops meth ingredient sales

August 21, 2012

State officials said a recently launched statewide tracking system to monitor over-the-counter ingredients used to make methamphetamine blocked more than 13,300 sales in the past nine months.

The ingredients — pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine — help millions of people treat colds and allergies, but some people use medications containing the ingredients to make illegal meth.

Through October and July, the system logged 1,023,929 purchases and blocked the sales of 13,391 meth ingredients.

“Our state was once called ‘the poster child for the meth epidemic,’ and we’re now recognized as a success story,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a statement. “A decade ago, there were thousands of meth labs and dumps in our state. We can thank community action and legislation, including the new rules that created our tracking system, for turning the tide.”

Heat-related smog advisory issued for King County

August 15, 2012

NEW — 4:30 p.m. Aug. 16, 2012

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency forecasters said smog pollution in King and Pierce counties could reach unhealthy levels as temperatures rise to 90 degrees and beyond.

Smoggy conditions should mostly impact communities in the Cascade foothills, including Issaquah. Pollution generated by vehicle traffic and activities in the urban areas of Everett, Seattle and Tacoma accumulates as particles move to outlying suburban and rural areas.

Smog levels may remain elevated in the Cascade foothills through Saturday. The agency offers a tool for residents to check air quality in Issaquah and other locations.

Exposure to smog can trigger asthma attacks, make breathing difficult, exacerbate lung and heart problems, and weaken the immune system. The state Department of Health recommends for people sensitive to air pollution to limit time spent outdoors.

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Use safety precautions to stay cool as mercury rises

August 15, 2012

NEW — 12:15 p.m. Aug. 15, 2012

The mercury is expected to surpass 90 degrees Wednesday and in the days ahead, and as temperatures rise, so do the risks for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Seattle forecast highs of 89 for Wednesday, 95 for Thursday and 96 for Friday — hot enough to trigger a regional excessive heat watch. Thursday and Friday could rank among the hottest days of 2012.

State public health officials recommend for people seeking relief from high temperatures to visit air-conditioned places, such as public libraries, shopping malls or movie theaters. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help people stay cooler once they get back into the heat.

In Issaquah, city officials monitor the community through the police department and other resources before making a decision to open a public cooling station.

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Department of Health, Eastside Fire & Rescue offer water safety tips

August 3, 2012

NEW — 4 p.m. Aug. 3, 2012

The mercury is expected to rise in the days ahead, and health and safety officials urge people to enjoy the sunshine safely.

Eastside Fire & Rescue and the state Department of Health offer water safety tips for summer.

Sparkling water in pools, lakes, and rivers beckons on warm summer days. Often, though, water is cold, deep, moving fast, and can weaken and drown even the strongest swimmer.

“Life jackets save lives, and not just of children,” Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health officer, said in a statement. “In just two weeks in mid-July, three people drowned in northeast Washington near Spokane. That includes some young adults, and none were wearing a life jacket. Three young people have also lost their lives in Lake Tapps in Pierce County this year, and these tragedies happen all over the state. It’s sad, because drowning is often preventable, either with life jackets or adults supervising children.”

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Statewide whooping cough epidemic passes 3,000 cases

July 31, 2012

State health officials said vaccination protection from whooping cough does not last as long as initially believed, but added that vaccination remains the best defense.

The number of pertussis, or whooping cough, cases statewide surpassed 3,000 in recent days. The state documented the most cases in vaccinated school-aged children.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a report about the Washington epidemic. The report highlights more reported cases among 13-14 year olds — a changing trend across the United States. The prevalence of pertussis in the age group indicates a shorter duration for vaccine protection against whooping cough.

“Even so, vaccinated people who get whooping cough have milder symptoms, shorter illnesses and are less likely to spread the disease to others,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a statement. “Our biggest concern is keeping babies from getting sick — and vaccination is still the best protection.”

Pertussis is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person through coughing and sneezing. The disease is most serious for infants, especially children too young to receive the vaccination. Pertussis causes cold-like systems followed by a long, severe cough.

Officials urge vaccinations as whooping cough surpasses 3,000 cases statewide

July 25, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. July 25, 2012

State health officials said vaccination protection from whooping cough does not last as long as initially believed, but said vaccination remains the best defense against the illness.

The number of pertussis, or whooping cough, cases in Washington surpassed 3,000 in recent days. The state documented most cases in school-age children vaccinated against pertussis.

“Whooping cough vaccines work but don’t seem to last as long as was expected,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a statement. “Even so, vaccinated people who get whooping cough have milder symptoms, shorter illnesses, and are less likely to spread the disease to others. Our biggest concern is keeping babies from getting sick — and vaccination is still the best protection.”

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