April is Public Health Month and this gives the Health Department the perfect opportunity to remind everyone of the dangers of rabies. Fortunately, Langlade County has not experienced any active cases of rabies recently, but the rabies virus is out there and it is dangerous. Rabies is common in wild animals, especially in the skunk, bat, and raccoon. These animals are all around us in the city as well as the country. In our region, the bat poses the most significant exposure risk. The bat can bite any of our pets or farm animals without leaving any evidence until the signs of rabies have begun to present.
Rabies can be transmitted from a rabid animal by a bite or lick over a break in the skin. The virus is present in the animal’s saliva and travels along the nerve’s pathways to the brain, where it causes inflammation that results in delirium, painful muscle spasms in the throat, and other severe symptoms. Once symptoms develop, human rabies is almost always fatal. That’s why the single most important and successful action is the vaccination of domestic dogs and other pets.
The most common sign to watch for is unusual behavior for that particular animal, such as unprovoked aggression. When a person is exposed through a bite or scratch where saliva could enter the body, he/she should immediately care for the wound by washing the area vigorously with soap and water, and seeking medical care if needed. Every attempt should be made to capture and confine the animal. If it appears rabid, the animal is euthanized and its brain is examined for the presence of rabies.
In the attempt to keep the members of our community safe from this infectious disease, the Langlade County Board of Health approved an Animal Bite Surveillance System and Rabies Control Plan in August, 1999. The Rabies Control Plan for Langlade County is the implementation of the WI State Rabies Control Plan as specified in the WI State Statutes. The responsibilities and consequences of animal ownership are clearly detailed in the plan. Animal owners are reminded that they carry a responsibility to care for their pet by providing rabies and other immunizations to keep the animal healthy.
Any and every animal should be respected at all times. The physical, emotional, and financial pain of an animal bite/exposure from an unvaccinated animal should not be something that any of us has to experience. If you have any questions, call your veterinary clinic or the health department. The Langlade County Health Department’s number is 715-627-6250.
You feel you are ready for your new baby to come home. The baby’s room is decorated so cute-everything matching from the wall color to the crib with matching comforter, blankets, bumper pads, and stuffed animals. The baby will be so comfortable. Are you the parent that can’t wait to sleep with their baby to protect them, keep them warm, and be close in case the baby needs something? Both situations place your baby at risk for injury, suffocation, or even death. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Back to Sleep Campaign recommend that babies under 1 year of age be placed on their backs to sleep. Why? To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and injury to the baby. Babies younger than 1 year are at highest risk of SIDS.
Since the start of the Back to Sleep Campaign in 1994, the number of babies dying of SIDS has decreased by more than 50 percent. Why does back sleeping help lower the risk of SIDS? Sleeping on the back keeps babies mouths open and noses unblocked so they can breathe fresh air and do not overheat. Babies should always sleep on their backs and never on soft surfaces such as pillows, cushions, sheepskins, or quilts: or on sofas, chairs, or waterbeds. Babies should not sleep together with an adult or another child on the same sleeping surface. Sleeping on soft surfaces or sleeping with another person increases the chances of suffocation. SIDS and suffocation are the leading causes of death in babies 1 to 12 months of age.
Is your baby sleeping safely? Remember these ABC’s of safe sleep:
Keep your baby’s sleep area close but separate from where others sleep. Your baby should NOT sleep with others in a bed, on a couch, or in a chair.
B=on the Back
Baby should be placed on his or her back in a safety-approved crib on a firm mattress every time they are put to sleep.
C= in an uncluttered Crib
Remove all loose bedding, comforters, quilts, stuffed animals, bumpers, wedges, and pillows from your baby’s crib
ALONE on the BACK in a CRIB
Remembering the ABC’s will keep your baby in a safe sleep environment. SIDS and suffocation are the leading causes of death in babies 1 to 12 months of age. What else can we do to decrease the risk of SIDS?
*Enjoy cuddling baby when awake, but don’t fall asleep together while holding the baby
*Make sure baby is not too warm-keep the room at a temperature that feels comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
*Offer your baby a pacifier (once breastfeeding has been established)
*Nothing should be in the crib but your baby
*Use a firm mattress with a tight-fitting sheet
*Avoid alcohol or illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth
*Use light sleep clothing like a one-piece sleeper instead of loose blankets.
*Keep babies head uncovered during sleep
*Room-share without bed-sharing (parents should not share a bed with a baby)
*Don’t allow anyone to smoke around your baby, in your home, or in the car.
*Talk to those that will be taking care of your baby to make sure they understand about safe sleep and what works best to help your baby fall asleep on their back EVERY TIME.
Don’t forget “tummy time” for your baby. Healthy babies need tummy time when awake to help develop strong muscles. Place baby on tummy on a firm, safe surface, and play together or stay nearly to keep the baby safe.
Bringing home baby is one of the most memorable and special times of your life. Decorating the babies’ room can also be a special time-be creative in decorating around the room while keeping the crib a safe place for sleep. Be sure the baby is coming home to a safe sleep environment by remembering the ABC’s of safe sleep.
For more information on this and other topics visit: American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx
Back to Sleep Campaign: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/Pages/default.aspx
The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared”. The Langlade County Health Department takes that message seriously and so should you. Planning and preparing for emergency situations requires you to think through situations in advance before the emergency is upon you so that you are able to face challenges and survive the event. What would you do if you were affected by a prolonged power outage or stranded due to severe weather, and had no food, water, or other supplies to get you through the crisis? How long could your family survive without electricity, heat, transportation, or the ability to communicate with the outside world? What if there was a fire and you had to evacuate your dwelling quickly? These are the types of questions that you need to ask yourself and your family when preparing for emergencies.
The first thing that you should do is discuss these issues with your family. Communication is important in any emergency and discussing these issues beforehand allows for a more effective response. Make sure that everyone understands what role they play and what needs to be done in an emergency situation.
If you need to evacuate your building quickly, have an evacuation plan ready. Family members and pets must be located quickly and be ready to evacuate the area as planned. If time and safety permit, retrieve important documents such as insurance papers, medical information, and the names and contact information for friends and other family members that you may need to contact later. It is a good idea to have copies of any important documents stored in another location such as with a trusted friend, family member, or in a safe deposit box in case the originals are destroyed. Have medications in one easy to locate area, as well as car keys, cell phones, and other personal items that you may need to take.
If you become stranded in your home due to inclement weather, or experience an extended power outage, you should have a survival kit available. These kits are prepared ahead of time and contain various items you may need if you are without electricity, water, or heat for a prolonged period of time. The kits should include a three day supply of drinking water (1 gallon per family member per day, not including pets), canned foods, dry cereal and crackers, juices, paper plates, cups, and utensils, baby food or formula, and pet food if you have pets. Other items include a portable radio, batteries, candles, matches, a flashlight, blankets, hand sanitizer, garbage bags, paper towels, toilet tissue, feminine hygiene products, diapers, first aid kit, and over-the-counter medication such as pain relievers and vitamins. If using a portable heating device, remember that these units must be properly vented to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. The emergency kits should be stored in a cool dry place in large sealable containers. Rotate the supplies once or twice a year and check the “use-by” dates in order to keep items fresh.
The items that I listed may or may not fit your purposes and do not take into account all possible types of emergency situations, but the idea is to think about what you will need and then prepare accordingly. It is important to start a family discussion on these topics and form a plan. Remember to include the children or grandchildren (they might have fun assembling the survival kit), and make concessions for your pets or other animals. Surviving an emergency can be a challenge, but with effective communication and proper planning, you can be just as “prepared” as a Boy Scout.
Ron Barger RN/BSN PHN
Langlade County Health Department
When my grandma would tuck me in at night, she would tell me “snuggle-up tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite”. I would laugh at this bit of silliness with no real appreciation of what a bed bug was or if they really even existed. Grandma was just being funny, and I loved her for it. Now that I am all grown-up, I do know that bed beds are real and definitely not fun for anyone unfortunate to have an infestation. This article will provide some insight into bed bugs and how to manage an infestation.
The reports of bed bug infestations in the United States have been on the rise in the past several years. Throughout the country, luxury hotels, shopping centers, college dorms, and apartments and homes have reported incidents of bed bug infestation. Langlade County has not escaped either, as reports of local cases have been on the rise.
Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals. They are reddish-brown in color, wingless, and range from 1 to 7 millimeters in length. They can live for several months without a blood meal and up to 10 months overall. Infestations of these insects usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep or spend a significant amount of time. These areas include motels, apartments, hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, dorm rooms, and houses. Bed Bugs are transported from infested areas to non-infested areas when they cling onto someone’s clothing, crawl into luggage, furniture or bedding that is then brought into the home.
Bed bugs are experts at hiding. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, night stands, upholstered furniture, cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, and under any clutter or objects around the sleeping area. Their small flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and they can remain in place for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs typically live within 8 feet of where people sleep.
A bed bug bite is usually painless and rarely awakens the sleeping person. The bite can produce large, itchy welts on the skin. Welts from bed bug bites do not have a red spot in the center (those welts are more characteristic of flea bites). Although bed bugs may be a nuisance to people, they are not known to spread disease; however the bite can cause allergic reactions in some people.
If you suspect that you may have an infestation, it is important to clean areas where bed bugs hide. The following steps are suggested:
- Thoroughly clean all bedding, linens, curtains, rugs, carpets, and clothes. Washing items in hot water and drying them on the highest dryer setting will kill bed bugs. For those items that may be harmed by washing and drying at high temperatures, soak in warm water with lots of laundry soap for several hours before rinsing
- Wipe away or vacuum all dust from the bed frame, nearby furniture, floors and carpets. Vacuum mattresses carefully. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag, seal it tightly, and throw the bag away in an outdoor container.
- If you find bed bugs on the mattress, buy a waterproof zippered mattress cover. These covers often say “allergen rated”, or “for dust mites.” Scrub the mattress seams with a stiff brush to dislodge bed bugs and any eggs. Then enclose the mattress in the cover for at least one year. This will trap any remaining bed bugs inside the cover, killing them.
- Throw away and replace an infested box spring if necessary.
- Remove all clutter from bedrooms and any other furniture that people may sleep or nap upon. Place this clutter into a plastic garbage bag, seal it tightly, and throw it away. If you need to save it, make sure it stays sealed for a year.
- Repair any cracks in plaster and all loosened wallpaper, especially in bedrooms.
Besides a thorough cleaning, insecticides can be used to get rid of bed bugs but care must be taken. Use only insecticides labeled for household use because some insecticides can damage or stain your furniture, wallpaper, etc. Use care when applying insecticides, especially around children, the elderly, immune-compromised people, and anyone else who may be sensitive to insecticides. It is not recommended that mattresses be sprayed down with insecticide unless the label on the insecticide or mattress indicates that this is safe. Always follow label directions carefully. Use only pesticide products specifically labeled for bed bugs. These products may be available at drug, hardware or home improvement stores.
Bed bugs can be difficult to get rid of because they hide so well. If two weeks have passed since you first tried to rid your home of bed bugs and you still notice signs of bed bugs, repeat the above steps. For heavy infestations contact a pest control service.
Some infestations can be prevented by washing clothing and bedding immediately after returning from a trip. Inspect all used beds, sofas, or upholstered chairs and bedding for signs of bed bugs before bringing them into your home. Never bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, or upholstered furniture into your home.
Back when I was a child, if I had known then what I know now about bed bugs, that they were indeed real, and that they do bite, then I probably would have had nightmares. Grandma had a way of making everything alright, even bed bugs. With the winter season fast approaching, my grandma’s advice to “snuggle-up tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite” is once again timely advice. For more information on how to identify and eradicate bed bugs, you can contact the Langlade County Health Department (715-627-6250) or a licensed pest control company.
Maintaining food safety during the summertime can be a challenge. Due to warmer temperatures, bacteria that can cause food poisoning grow more rapidly than in cooler months. Although safe food handling rules should always apply, extra precautions are necessary during the summer to prevent food-borne illness. The Langlade County Health Department offers these suggestions to keep food safe from harmful bacteria:
- Wash hands, utensils and food prep surfaces with hot soapy water before and after food preparation. If a source of clean water is not available, use wet hand wipes or a waterless hand cleaner. Clean or wash your hands frequently as this will help decrease the spread of harmful bacteria.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods; never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood.
- Cook meats to the proper internal temperature. There are several types of food thermometers on the market that will help you determine when meat is thoroughly cooked.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Make sure the refrigerator is set at 40⁰ F or lower and the freezer is set at 0⁰. When using a cooler, pack plenty of ice and try to keep the cooler out of direct sunlight.
By following these basic guidelines, you will reduce the chances of food-borne illness making you or your guests sick. Additional information on food safety can be found at the Partnership for Food Safety Education web site at FightBac.org.