Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Utah Leads U.S. in Deadly Melanoma Cases

Salt Lake City – U.S. Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris D. Lushniak today once again called on Americans to stem the tide of skin cancer by covering up and staying out of the sun. As the state with the highest rate of new melanoma skin cancer cases in the country, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is encouraging statewide efforts to protect Utahns from the damaging effects of outdoor ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and indoor tanning devices. Recent data show Utah's rate of new melanoma cases was 31.9 per 100,000 population for the combined years 2007-2011, significantly higher than the perpetually sunny states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Florida.
The Utah Cancer Registry shows the age-adjusted incidence rate of melanoma was 61% higher than the national rate for 2006-2010, with a mortality rate 30% higher. People who live in areas with high elevation, warm climates, and where sunlight is reflected by sand, water, snow, and ice have a greater risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Utah residents’ active outdoor lifestyles likely contribute to that risk.
“We know we can protect ourselves by wearing sunscreen and scheduling outdoor activities in the morning or late afternoon,” said Lynne Nilson, Director, UDOH Cancer Control Program. "As a state, however, we need to not only encourage these behaviors, but also make them easier by providing shade structures in public outdoor spaces, limiting the use of indoor tanning devices, and where possible making sunscreen available and accessible at worksites and outdoor venues," Nilson said.
The use of indoor tanning beds before age 35 also significantly increases a person's risk of developing melanoma. In 2011, more than one in 10 Utah students in grades six through twelve reported using an indoor tanning device at least once in the previous twelve months. After a 2012 regulation required a parent’s consent for a teen to use a tanning device, the rate dropped to approximately one in 14 the next year.
In addition to avoiding indoor tanning, practicing sun safe habits while outside can also help to prevent melanoma. These habits include properly applying sunscreen, staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's ultraviolet rays are the strongest, seeking shade, wearing sunglasses and hats with a wide brim, and wearing pants or long skirts and shirts with long sleeves.
 In recent years, members of the state's comprehensive cancer coalition, the Utah Cancer Action Network (UCAN), have worked to increase sun safety habits among Utahns by collaborating with a variety of outdoor recreation facilities on sun safety education programs, hosting free skin cancer screening events, and providing education in schools.
The US Surgeon General’s call to action to prevent skin cancer can be found at www.SurgeonGeneral.gov.  For more information on skin cancer prevention and education, visit www.ucan.cc.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

West Nile Virus Activity Detected in Utah

In partnership with Utah's Public Health Departments

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Public health officials across Utah are reminding all residents who will be outside over the holiday to protect themselves from mosquito bites.  So far, no human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) have been reported in Utah, but some positive mosquito pools have been identified.

West Nile virus activity has been detected in mosquito pools in Box Elder and Uintah counties. Even though no human cases of West Nile virus have been reported, public health official urge Utahns to avoid complacency. UDOH epidemiologist JoDee Baker warns, “There is no vaccine for humans. So, taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the key to reducing your risk for infection.”  

While West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, not all mosquitoes carry the virus. The mosquitoes that carry the virus are typically out from dusk to dawn.

 “The best way to reduce your risk is to use an insect repellent with DEET when you’re outside,” says Baker.  Adults and children older than 2 months of age can safely use repellents that contain up to 30% DEET,” Baker added. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months of age.

Other precautionary measures include:

Wear long sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors.
Remove any puddles or standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed, including birdbaths, swimming/wading pools, old tires, buckets and plant containers.
Report bodies of stagnant water to the local Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). Visit http://www.umaa.org/ for a list of MADs.
Contact a veterinarian for information on vaccinating horses.

While most people infected by this virus won't notice any symptoms, some people may experience flu-like symptoms or worse. The elderly and people with poor immune systems are at higher risk for symptomatic disease. The most serious cases can lead to hospitalization, disability, or death. Symptoms of the severe form of West Nile virus include: high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, disorientation and confusion. If you are experiencing symptoms of West Nile virus, please contact your health care provider immediately.

West Nile virus surveillance in Utah is underway and will continue into the fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit www.health.utah.gov/wnv. Throughout the West Nile virus season, the UDOH web site will be updated each Wednesday with available detection information.

Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
(o): 801-538-6682
(c): 801-647-5421


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Some Utah Babies More Likely to Die Than Others

New UDOH Study Seeks to Better Understand Disparities in Infant Mortality

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Data collected by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) in recent years confirm that African American and Pacific Islander babies are significantly more likely to die before their first birthday than other babies in Utah. The Office of Health Disparities (OHD) is working with these communities to raise awareness of infant mortality and to develop effective interventions to promote healthy pregnancies.

OHD, in collaboration with the Maternal and Infant Health Program and the Office of Home Visiting, conducted the African American and Pacific Islander Postnatal Interview Study. It is Utah’s first-ever qualitative study with African American and Pacific Islander mothers who had experienced an adverse birth outcome, such as the loss of a baby, preterm birth, or low birth weight. The study notably focused on identifying social determinants of health such as the environment, social dynamics, and access to health care that affect mothers and babies during pregnancy. 

Participants described conditions in their lives during and before pregnancy, including:  unsafe living conditions, financial difficulties, relationship problems, encounters with racism, and other stressors. Most of these women had unplanned pregnancies, were significantly less likely to receive prenatal care, and were overweight or obese. 

Lydia Afualo Muavesi of the Children’s Service Society applauds the study for “looking at all the other issues that can affect a pregnancy, like housing and paying bills and domestic situations, and not just eating well and exercising.”

The report provides specific recommendations for health care providers, public health agencies, and community organizations that work with African American and Pacific Islander women and families. For a copy of the report, visit www.health.utah.gov/disparities/data/RestoftheirLivesStudy.pdf. For more information on health disparities, see www.health.utah.gov/disparities.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Is Here--and So Is the Ozone

The Utah Departments of Health (UDOH) and Environmental Quality (DEQ) have developed resources and recommendations to help Utahns protect their health during ozone season. Ozone is created by the sun’s heat and light acting on gases and pollution in the atmosphere.

Ozone levels are often difficult to predict, but are typically highest during hot afternoon hours. Ozone is created by the sun’s heat and light acting on gases and pollution in the atmosphere. Ozone levels are often difficult to predict, but are typically highest during hot afternoon hours.

Exposure to high summer ozone levels can cause coughing, wheezing and chest tightness; worsen allergy and asthma symptoms; and irritate the eyes, nose and throat. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on a person’s sensitivity to ozone and can be felt immediately or as late as one or more days after exposure. People with heart and lung conditions, children, seniors, and people who work or exercise outdoors can be more sensitive to ozone.

“The most serious effects of ozone air pollution come from heavy or prolonged breathing of outdoor air when ozone levels are above the federal standard of .075 ppm,” said Division of Air Quality (DAQ) toxicologist Steve Packham, Ph.D. “It is important to check current ozone levels before outdoor activities, and especially before exercising outdoors.”  

To help residents plan ahead and adjust their activities during periods of high pollution, DAQ provides air quality alerts through its UtahAir app (available for free download in both the Apple and Android apps stores), website (www.airquality.utah.gov), toll-free messages (1-800-228-5434), and regular email alerts (www.deq.utah.gov/NewsNotices).

The agencies have developed materials to help Utahns assess their sensitivity to ozone. Available online, they include Recommendations for Outdoor Physical Activity During Ozone Season (May–September), and an ozone tracking tool. The ozone tool can be used to track outdoor activities, ozone levels, and symptoms experienced.

“Ozone affects each person differently,” said Kellie Baxter, UDOH Asthma Program. “Monitor ozone levels and the symptoms you experience during outdoor activities to determine what level of ozone you are sensitive to,” she added. “This will help you decide when to move your activities indoors to reduce your exposure.” To help Utahns plan outdoor activities during ozone season, UDOH and DEQ guidelines recommend:

                •  The best time for outdoor summer physical activity is before noon or after 6:00 p.m.
                •  If you are physically active between noon and 6:00 pm:
                                O  Consider light to moderate activity (e.g., walking instead of running).
                                O  Consider indoor activities.
                •  Discuss physical activities with your doctor, especially if you have lung disease or a heart condition.

A copy of the physical activity recommendations, ozone air quality fact sheets, and ozone tracking sheet are available at www.health.utah.gov/asthma or by calling the UDOH Health Resource Line at 1-888-222-2542. Additional information on the health effects of ozone and what individuals can do to protect their health is available at www.health.utah.gov/healthyair.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fee Increases Coming for Some Utah Vital Records

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Beginning July 1, 2014, the fee schedule will change for some services provided by all state and local vital records offices in Utah. Utah’s State Agency Fees and Internal Service Fund Rate Authorization and Appropriations, House Bill 8, was approved during the 2014 legislative session and provides for the support and operation of state government for fiscal year 2015. Janice Houston, State Registrar and Director of the Utah Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records and Statistics explains, “The fee increase is the first in five years and is necessary to keep up with rising costs outside the department’s control.”

Some of those increased costs include paper and the need to replace aging computer infrastructure. The new fee schedule increases the cost for some copies, abstracts and searches for vital records.  The schedule below lists some of the services affected.

Initial certified copy of birth or voluntary declaration of paternity (Abstract)
        $20.00 for the first copy (was $18.00)

Book copy of birth certificate (if abstract is available)
        Births after 1999-no book copy is available
        $25.00 for the first copy (was $21.00)

Initial certified copy of a death or stillbirth
        $18.00 for the first copy (was $16.00)

Initial certified copy of marriage or divorce (Abstract only)
$18.00 for the first copy (was $16.00)

Additional copies for all certificates (must be same record, ordered on same day)
  $8.00

Hemp Extract Registry
$400.00

For a complete fee schedule, new application forms, and local vital records locations and office hours, please visit http://health.utah.gov/vitalrecords/ or call (801) 538-6105 for more information.

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