Thursday, August 27, 2015

Utah Resident Dies from Plague

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah public health officials have confirmed that an elderly resident died from plague earlier this month. This is the first Utah resident to be diagnosed with plague since 2009.

Plague is a rare, life-threatening, flea-borne illness that is maintained in a rodent-flea transmission cycle.  Species such as prairie dogs, black footed-ferrets, squirrels, and rabbits are especially susceptible and experience high mortality upon infection.  Plague is naturally occurring in Utah, and typically seen in the prairie dog populations each year.  Since April 1, 2015, a total of 12 cases of human plague have been reported in residents of seven states: Arizona (two), California (one), Colorado (four), Georgia (one), New Mexico (two), Oregon (one), and Utah (one). The two cases in Georgia and the California resident have been linked to exposures at or near Yosemite National Park.  The investigation continues into the circumstances surrounding the Utahn’s illness.  The patient may have contracted the disease from a flea, or contact a dead animal.  At this time, public health officials believe there was no travel history indicating that the Utah resident traveled anywhere else where plague is common.

Human plague occurs in areas where the bacteria are present in wild rodent populations.  The risks are generally highest in rural and semi-rural areas, including campsites and homes that provide food and shelter for various ground squirrels, chipmunks and wood rats, or other areas where you may encounter rodents.

Plague is a very serious illness, but it is treatable with commonly available antibiotics. The earlier a patient seeks marmedical care and receives treatment that is appropriate for plague, the better the chance for a full recovery.  Some common symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, and weakness. If you are experiencing symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
To protect you, your family, and your pets:
          Reduce rodent habitat around your home, work place, and recreational areas. Remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies, such as pet and wild animal food. Make your home and outbuildings rodent-proof.
          Always wear gloves if you are handling or skinning wild animals to prevent contact between your skin and potential plague bacteria. Contact your local health department if you have questions about disposal of dead animals.
          Use repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing (always follow instructions on the label).
          Keep fleas off of your pets by regularly applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely are more likely to come in contact with plague-infected animals or fleas and could bring them into homes. Keep pets away from wild animals.  If your pet becomes sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
          Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free outside to sleep on your bed.
          Cook all wild game meat properly to a minimum of 165F inner temperature.
          Clean and disinfect all knives and equipment used to process wild game.
          Do not feed raw game meat or inner organs to pets.

Notify your local Utah Division of Wildlife Resources if you see an unusual number of dead prairie dogs, squirrels, or rabbits in any given area.  Contact information for local area offices can be found at:

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Media Contact:
Charla Haley
(c) 801-230-5927

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

West Nile Virus Activity Detected in Utah

(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 four positive mosquito pools have been identified in four counties.

West Nile virus activity has been detected in a mosquito pool in Weber County. 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 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 Throughout the West Nile virus season, the UDOH web site will be updated each Wednesday with available detection information.

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


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Recognizing Utah's First Responders for Outstanding Service

(Salt Lake City, Utah) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness honored some of the valuable health care professionals whose mission is saving lives, often in dangerous surroundings. Special recognition was given in several different categories to responders who went above and beyond expectations to save a life in critical situations. 

The award for Outstanding Performance in a Rural Emergency Medical Incident goes to those who responded to a car accident that made national news. When officers from the Spanish Fork Police Department, Spanish Fork Fire & Rescue and Spanish Fork Ambulance arrived on a call involving an upside down car in the Spanish Fork River, they were surprised to discover a live infant, hanging upside down still buckled in her car seat. It’s estimated that 18 month old Lily Groesbeck was in the vehicle for an incredible 14 hours. Five days after she was found, the little girl was released from Primary Children’s Medical Center with no adverse effects from the accident.

Roy City Fire and Rescue, Ambulance 32 and Rescue 31, Weber Fire District Engine 31, and Weber County Sheriff’s Officers are honored for their response to a May auto accident in Hooper. A car failed to stop at a stop sign, hit an SUV, causing the SUV to roll over.  Eleven year old Brynnli Cherry was ejected from the vehicle receiving obvious massive facial trauma. When crews arrived she was being held by bystanders who were trying to comfort her. EMS personnel made a quick decision to perform a delicate procedure to open her airway to assist in helping her breathe. Brynnli’s injuries have required multiple surgeries, and the physicians and providers who have treated her credit the surgical airway and the actions of the EMS crew as the reasons why she’s alive today.

“Every day, certified EMS providers in Utah demonstrate true dedication and bravery when they come to the aid of others when they are in most need,” said Dr. Marc Babitz, Director of the Division of Family Health and Preparedness, Utah Department of Health. Babitz continued, “It’s one of the highlights of the year to have the opportunity to thank them publicly and acknowledge their remarkable service.”

Additional awards were given for paramedic of the year, EMT of the year, EMS emergency dispatcher of the year, and special awards for EMS distinguished service and distinguished EMS for Children Coordinator.

In Utah, in 2015, there are 10,923 certified paramedics and EMTs and 686 certified EMS dispatchers dealing with prehospital emergency medical services. For a complete list of winners, visit the UDOH Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness website at

Media Contact:
Tamara Goodin
Emergency Medical Services Systems
Cell: (801) 230-2963

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Colorado ‘Tummy Mommy’ Story May Cause Confusion

(Salt Lake City, UT) – A Colorado girl who was adopted through that state’s Safe Haven law is garnering national attention with her search for her “tummy mommy.”

Unable to raise her, Halle Burke’s biological mother turned to Colorado’s Safe Haven law and handed over the infant to firefighters shortly after her birth in 2003. A loving family adopted and raised Halle. The girl is now looking for her birth mother to tell her ‘thanks’ for making the decision to safely drop her off.  Halle wants her birth mother to know she has a wonderful life thanks to her selfless act to give her up.

Halle’s story is an example of how Newborn Safe Haven laws can help moms and babies. But the Utah Department of Health and the Utah Fire Marshal want to remind moms that Utah’s Newborn Safe Haven law only allows moms to drop off babies in hospitals. 

“This story has a nice outcome,” says, Coy Porter, Utah’s Fire Marshal, “but Utah has many rural fire stations and many lack the personnel to cover stations every hour, every day.” He added, “It would be tragic if a baby was left, unattended at a fire station. People must understand dropping off a newborn must be done at a Utah hospital.”

Passed in 2001, the Utah Newborn Safe Haven law allows anyone to anonymously drop off a newborn at any Utah hospital with emergency medical services, no questions, no police and no judgment. 

“Every state has a newborn safe haven program,” said Utah Rep. Patrice Arent, sponsor of the legislation passed in Utah. “And each state has safe drop off locations. We want to make sure newborns are not left in unsafe places like garbage cans and that newborns end up with a loving family.  As Fire Marshal Porter stated, in Utah there are many fire stations in rural areas that are not always staffed 24/7.  For that reason, fire stations were not included in the legislation as drop off locations.  We also want to assure anyone thinking of dropping off a newborn that their identity will be kept confidential by hospital staff.”   
The Utah Safe Haven hotline number is 866-458-0058 and is staffed 24/7. For more information, please visit The website offers details on the law, provides helpful answers to frequently asked questions, lists contact information for hospitals, and provides a link to crisis and respite nurseries across Utah.

Media Contacts
Julia Robertson
Program Coordinator 
Utah Department of Health
Rep. Patrice Arent
UNSH Advisory Committee 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Top 10 Summer Safety Tips to Help Kids Have Fun and Stay Injury-Free

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Summer is one of the most exciting times of the year for kids, but it’s also a time when kids are most at-risk for serious injuries. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Safe Kids Utah encourage parents and caregivers to be prepared with simple safety tips to keep kids safe and having fun.

“The summer is a great time to connect with family and friends and spend time outdoors, hanging out by the pool or riding bikes around the neighborhood,” said Cambree Applegate, Safe Kids Utah coordinator. “But with all these activities come safety risks that we may not always think about. For example, two-thirds of drowning deaths occur in the summer, between May and August, and most commonly on the weekends.” 

The UDOH and Safe Kids Utah recommend the following 10 tips to keep kids safe this summer:

1. Use the Water Watcher strategy. One of the most common drowning scenarios involves an under-supervised child wandering off during a weekend family gathering – with several adults present but none designated as the official “child watcher” – and then falling into an open body of water, such as a stream or pool. Use the Water Watcher card strategy by designating an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods). The designated Water Watcher is given the Water Watcher card and is responsible to watch kids in the water for the set time period.  
2. Educate your children about swimming safety. Every child is different, so enroll children in swimming lessons when you feel they are ready. Whether swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should still swim with a partner every time.
3. Learn CPR. Learning infant and child CPR will give you tremendous peace of mind if something does happen– and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. 
4. Use appropriate car seats and buckle up every ride. Make sure children are riding in the appropriate car seat or booster seat and that everyone else in the car is wearing seat belts.
5. Wear life jackets. Everyone should wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water, or when participating in water sports. 
6. Drink water during sports. Have your kids bring a water bottle to practice and games and drink plenty of water before, during, and after play. This is especially important in summer months to avoid dehydration.
7. Set up your grill with safety in mind. Use long-handled grilling tools and position your grill well away from siding, deck railings, and overhanging branches, while keeping a safe distance from play areas and foot traffic. Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by heat. 
8. Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. It can be tempting to leave a child alone in a car for a few minutes, but it can cause serious injury or even death in a matter of minutes. Reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to ACT – avoid heatstroke, create reminders, and take action if you see a child left alone.  
9. Wear a helmet for biking and other wheeled sports. Helmets are the single most effective safety device to reduce head injury and death from bike crashes. Kids should wear a helmet when riding a scooter, skating, skateboarding, or biking.
10. Wear a helmet and other appropriate safety gear while riding Off Highway Vehicles (OHV).  With so many trails and fun areas to explore, ATVs and other OHVs can be a lot of fun to ride during the summer.  Making sure to wear a helmet and other safety gear (like gloves, boots, pants and long sleeved shirt) is important to make sure you stay safe on the trails.

For more information on keeping your kids safe this summer, visit or

About Safe Kids Utah
Safe Kids Utah works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States.  

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Media Contact:
Cambree Applegate
Safe Kids Utah Coordinator