Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Outbreak of Illness Associated with Drinking Raw Milk

(Salt Lake City) – Utah public health officials are investigating a cluster of illness associated with the consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk. To date, 45 cases of Campylobacter infection have been reported in people who indicated that they consumed raw milk in the week before illness began. Cases have been reported from: Cache, Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties. Two cases occurred in out of state residents from California and Idaho. Onset dates range from May 9, 2014 to July 21, 2014. The cases range in age from two to 74 years. 

All 45 cases are linked to the consumption of raw milk or cream purchased at Ropelato Dairy in Weber County. Utah Department of Agriculture and Food inspectors suspended the dairy’s license to sell raw milk on August 4, 2014, after several tests of raw milk samples taken at the farm were positive for Campylobacter. 

According to Larry Lewis, Public Information Officer, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, “Inspectors have repeatedly visited the dairy, reviewing safety procedures, working with the owner to determine the source of the problem and helping devise corrective actions.”  The dairy has been very cooperative in working with the inspectors, and will be allowed to resume raw milk sales as soon as the milk consistently passes safety tests.

Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. Illness can last for up to a week or more and can be serious, especially for young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those who have weakened or compromised immune systems. UDOH Epidemiologist, Kenneth Davis adds, “In some severe cases, illness can lead to complications, including paralysis and death. If you have recently consumed raw milk and are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider.”

Raw milk is from cows, goats or sheep that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. This raw, unpasteurized milk can contain dangerous bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli, which are responsible for causing foodborne illness. Other products that contain raw milk, such as cream or queso fresco, can also cause foodborne illness.

Raw milk contaminated with disease-causing bacteria does not smell or look any different from uncontaminated raw milk, and there is no easy way for the consumer to know whether the raw milk is contaminated.

Since 2009, there have been 14 documented outbreaks of Campylobacter infection associated with raw milk consumption in Utah, with more than 200 people becoming ill. In response, public health officials again warn that drinking raw milk may be dangerous. They suggest taking the following steps to avoid illness when purchasing and/or consuming raw milk (or raw milk products):
•   Purchase raw milk only from those stores or dairies permitted by law to sell it. However, a government permit does not guarantee that the raw milk (or raw milk product) will be free from disease-causing bacteria. 
•   Keep raw milk and raw milk products refrigerated at or below 40°F. Do not let raw milk sit out at room temperature.
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Media Contacts:
Becky Ward, UDOH
(o) 801-538-6682
(c) 801-352-1270
Larry Lewis, UDAF
(o) 801-538-7104
(c) 801-514-2152

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hospital Comparison Tool Helps Consumers, Health Care Professionals and Policy Makers

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today released the 2012 Utah Hospital Comparison Tool (https://health.utah.gov/myhealthcare/monahrq/).  The online tool enables consumers and other decision makers to easily compare Utah's hospitals in selected treatment areas based on cost, quality, and patient safety. Health care professionals, policy makers, and legislators can use the tool to inform discussions about ways to increase the quality and safety of health care while lowering costs.

This year, Utah added a new module, County Rates of Hospital Use, which provides rates of conditions and procedures at the county level, including information on the number of hospital stays and charges or costs for those stays. Maps of hospital use are also available, showing hospitalization rates by county for selected conditions.

In addition, there are seven new indicators included in the query tool this year. Two of the indicators show that as a whole, Utah performs better than the national average when it comes to limiting unnecessary cardiac imaging for preoperative risk assessment CT scans and limiting inefficient simultaneous use of brain CT and sinus CT scans.

Other new indicators show that in reference to surgical patient safety, Utah performed better than the national average on how often post-operative patients became unable to breathe on their own and needed a ventilator, but has room to improve on how often patients developed a post-operative blood clot that ended up in the lung or in a large vein.

The findings also show Utah ahead of the rest of the nation in all childbirth measures, including those for new mothers and newborns, and provide information about how often and when C-sections and vaginal births are performed.

“Some complications may be inevitable in caring for people who are seriously ill and
require complex medical care, but methods are available to prevent most complications,”
said UDOH Deputy Director Dr. Robert Rolfs. “Data like these are important in helping measure our progress, and in helping doctors and health care systems identify areas for
improvement,” Rolfs added.

Hospital comparison information is released annually as required by the Utah Health Data Authority Act with the goals of improving transparency, helping the public choose hospitals for various services, and ultimately improving quality of health care.

The comparison tool is generated by MONAHRQ, a web development tool created by the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).  The information available in the MONAHRQ system is based on admission rates and pre-calculated AHRQ Quality Indicator measures (QIs) derived from local hospital discharge data.  The AHRQ QIs are a series of standardized measures that highlight potential health care safety and quality concerns.

Media Contact:
Kimberly Partain McNamara, MS
Senior Business Analyst
Utah Dept. of Health

Thursday, August 14, 2014

CDC Awards Utah $1 Million to Address Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that Utah will be one of five states in the country to receive more than $1 million over the next three years to help prevent prescription drug overdoses and address the patient and prescribing behaviors that drive it.

"Far too many Utahns are losing their lives each year from misuse or abuse of prescription pain medications," said UDOH Executive Director Dr. David Patton. "We appreciate CDC's efforts to provide funding to states that are working to get this epidemic under control. In the past, when funding has been available, we've had success in decreasing these deaths. This grant truly has the potential to save lives here in Utah."

The funding will help the UDOH to enhance and maximize the Utah Controlled Substance Database and conduct robust evaluations of the state’s naloxone access law and the “Good Samaritan” law, both passed during the 2014 General Session of the Utah Legislature. H.B. 119 allows physicians to prescribe naloxone (an opioid “antidote” or rescue medication) to third parties and permits these individuals to administer the medication to the victim without legal liability. A third party is usually a caregiver to a person at risk for an overdose. H.B. 11, also known as the “Good Samaritan” law, allows bystanders to report an overdose without fearing criminal prosecution for illegal possession of a controlled substance or illicit drug.

Data from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) show:
An average of 21 adults died each month from prescription drug overdose in Utah. Oxycodone, methadone, and hydrocodone are the top three prescription pain medications that contributed to these deaths.
Utah has the fifth highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States. In 2011, Utah had 19.5 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people compared to 13.2 deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. In 2012, 261 people died from prescription pain medication overdoses in Utah.
Opioid prescribing rates in Utah are higher than the U.S rate. In 2012, Utah providers wrote 85.8 opioid pain reliever prescriptions per 100 people (individuals may have had more than one opioid pain reliever prescribed to them), the twenty-second highest prescribing rate in the country and above the U.S. rate (82.5/100 people).
24.5% of Utahns reported using some type of prescribed opioid during the previous year. Most Utahns who die from a drug-related death suffer from chronic pain and take prescribed pain medications. (2008 BRFSS)

“Prescription drug overdose is an epidemic in the United States. We remain committed to providing states with the resources, expertise, and data they need to protect patients and save lives,” said CDC Director, Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “States are at the front lines of this epidemic, and as the nation’s public health agency CDC is committed to helping them any way we can.”

This new funding will give states a surge of resources and direct support from CDC to apply the most promising prevention strategies. Overall, CDC has committed $6 million over the next three years to help five states (Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia) improve their prescription drug monitoring programs, and conduct rigorous state policy evaluations to understand the most effective prevention strategies.

For more information about prescription drug overdoses in Utah, visit http://health.utah.gov/vipp/.

Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Violence and Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569

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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