The Coastal Health District of Georgia serves the counties of Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long & McIntosh

Public Health Topics


World AIDS Day 2016

World AIDS Day is observed on December 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and commemorate people who have died. More than 1.2 million people in United States are living with HIV and nearly one in eight of them does not know it. The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. World AIDS Day is a global initiative to raise awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education about HIV and AIDS. The 2016 theme is “Leadership, Commitment, Impact.”

The Coastal Health District Prevention Program will offer free and confidential rapid HIV testing from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, at the  Chatham County Health Department located at 1395 Eisenhower Drive in Savannah.

Whether you are actively dating or in a committed relationship, you can take these simple, effective steps to help prevent HIV infection for you and your partner:
• Use condoms every time you have sex.
• Get an HIV test, which is free and confidential.
• Be monogamous.
• Do not abuse alcohol or drugs.
• Talk to your doctor about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you think you are at risk for HIV.

For more information, please call Diane DeVore at (912) 353-3276 or email Diane.Devore@dph.ga.gov.

For more information on the Coastal Health Districts HIV/AIDS program, click HERE.

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Keep Germs Away This Winter

Germs are everywhere and we can’t avoid them all but some can make you sicker than others. Protecting ourselves from certain viruses starts with good hygiene.

“Stomach Bugs”
Viruses such norovirus – or what many refer to as “stomach bugs” – can be spread in different ways, including eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated or touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth. The best way to prevent the spread of gastrointestinal viruses is to practice good hygiene on a consistent basis. That includes:

  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and changing diapers, and always before eating, preparing, or handling food. (Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing but they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water).
  • When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others who are sick. You should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick and for at least 2 days after symptoms stop.
  • After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool.
  • And as always, if you are sick – whether with a stomach bug, the flu, or something else – stay home for at least 24 hours after symptoms have gone – and try to limit contact with others as much as possible.

Foodborne Illness
Foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning,” makes about 48 million Americans sick ever year. Safe food handling practices are key when it comes to preventing foodborne illness. Do you clean, separate, cook, and chill? Doing those four things will go a long way toward keeping potentially harmful bacteria away from the food you eat. And what about those leftovers? Here’s the lowdown from the Partnership for Food Safety and Education:

  • Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours; one hour in air temperatures above 90 °F. This also includes leftovers taken home from a restaurant. Some exceptions to this rule are foods such as cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruits.
  • Whole roasts, hams and turkeys should be sliced or cut into smaller pieces or portions before storing them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers. Wrap or cover the food. Leftovers stored in the refrigerator should be consumed within 3-4 days, and leftovers should be heated to 165°F prior to consumption.
  • Foods stored longer may become unsafe to eat and cause foodborne illness. Do not taste leftovers that appear to be safe, bacteria that cause illness does not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food.
  • Frozen storage times are much longer, but some items such as salads made with mayonnaise do not freeze well. Foods kept frozen longer than recommended storage times are safe to eat, but may be drier and not taste as good.
  • WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!

Cooking at proper temperatures is also very important.

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The Flu

Don’t let the flu take the fun out of your holidays. The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get vaccinated.  All Coastal Health District health departments have flu shots available for $29 and high-dose flu vaccine, recommended for those 65 and older, available for $50.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months of age and older receive a yearly flu vaccine. The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu and getting vaccinated is the first and best line of defense against the flu. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the immune system to fully respond to the vaccine and provide the body protection.

On average, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year for illnesses associated with seasonal influenza virus infections and it is estimated that more than 36,000 Americans die each year from influenza-related illness.

The flu virus is easily spread through coughs and sneezes and by touching something with the virus on it and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. That’s why good health habits are also important including:

• Avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you get sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
• Try to cough or sneeze into the corner of your elbow and not your hand or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Want to know some other ways to prevent the flu? Click HERE.

Important Post-Hurricane Public Health Information

Now that the storm has passed and cleanup has begun, there are a lot of important things to remember for the health and safety of you and your family. Here is some information that can help:

If I’m on a private well and it flooded, what should I do?
Disinfecting Private Wells


Mold
Mold is caused by moisture and after the flooding brought about by Hurricane Matthew, mold is likely to be an ongoing issue. The Federal Emergency Management Agency along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Institutes of Health have developed guidance and information regarding mold management and cleanup after disasters. We encourage residents to refer to this guidance while cleaning up personal property in the wake of the recent flooding.

Information and guidance for homeowners and renters on how to clean up residential mold:
Homeowners and Renters Guide to Mold Clean-up After Disasters

Additional Resource:
EPA Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home

https://dph.georgia.gov/indoor-air-quality


Information on Debris Removal

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What does is mean if my area has been placed  under a “Boil Water Advisory?”
It means that residents are advised to either use bottled water or “boil” all tap water prior to use for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, or preparing baby food.
To boil water:

  • Fill a pot with water
  • Heat the water until bubbles come from the bottom of the pot to the top.
  • Once the water reaches a rolling boil, let it boil for at least 1 minute.
  • Turn off the heat source and let the water cool.
  • Pour the water into a clean container with a cover for storage.

For information on the boil water advisory for Water Utility Management customers please click here: http://www.waterga.com/

Residents with private wells that have flooded are also advised to boil water for consumption. Your well should be considered “flooded” if your well casing has been submerged in water anytime throughout the past week.
Residents should continue to boil their water until they are notified by public health or their drinking water utility that the water system has been restored to full operation and the water is safe to drink.


General Information on food safety:
If you are wondering whether high water or power outages have ruined their food can follow a simple rule: When in doubt, throw it out. Once power is off, the refrigerator keeps food at safely cold temperatures for 4 hours, while food in a freezer remains safe for approximately 8 hours. If your power is off longer, your food is not safe to eat and should be discarded.
Do not consume anything that flood water may have touched. Flood water carries disease-causing organisms.

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Do not eat food packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth, and similar containers that have been water damaged.
  • Discard food and beverage containers with screw-caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps, flip tops, and home canned foods, if they have come in contact with flood water. These containers cannot be disinfected.
  • Undamaged, commercially-prepared foods in all-metal cans or retort pouches can be saved if you remove the labels, thoroughly wash the cans, rinse them, and then disinfect them with a sanitizing solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of potable water. Finally, re-label containers that had the labels removed, including the expiration date, with a marker. Discard any canned foods that are dented as this can increase the risk of contracting botulism, a rare but very serious illness.

For more information, please go to www.fda.gov.


Smoke from Burning Debris Can Trigger Respiratory Issues

Smoke created from residents burning debris generally does not pose a health hazard but it may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions such as respiratory allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The best protection for these individuals is to avoid areas where burning is taking place or stay indoors. If that is not possible, parents or caregivers of persons with respiratory conditions should monitor the individual carefully; ensure all medication is taken as directed; and, seek medical attention immediately if the individual shows any signs of distress.

In addition:

  • Make sure to keep windows and doors shut.
  • Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car.
  • Asthmatics should follow their asthma management plan.
  • Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or severe fatigue. This is important not only for people with chronic lung or heart disease, but also for individuals who have not been previously diagnosed with such illnesses. Smoke can “unmask” or produce symptoms of such diseases.

I own a restaurant. What do I need to do to get ready to reopen?

Restaurants and Grocers Reopening After Hurricanes and Flooding

Food Service Establishment Checklist

For more information, contact your county’s Environmental Health Office.

 

It’s Not Too Late to Get the Flu Shot

With flu activity increasing and family and friends planning gatherings for the holidays, now is a great time to get a flu vaccine if you have not gotten vaccinated cdc-flu-qa-nivwyet. A flu vaccine can protect you and your loved ones. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. This season, CDC recommends only flu shots (not the nasal spray vaccine).

While seasonal flu activity varies, flu activity usually peaks between December and February, though activity can last as late as May. As long as flu activity is ongoing, it’s not too late to get vaccinated, even in January or later. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against this potentially serious disease. Even if you have already gotten sick with flu this season, it is still a good idea to get a flu vaccine. Flu vaccines protects against three or four different flu viruses (depending on which flu vaccine you get).

December 4-10, 2016 is this year’s National Influenza Vaccination Week (or NIVW). CDC Established NIVW in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. A goal of NIVW is to remind people that even though the holiday season has arrived, it’s not too late to get their flu vaccine.

As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season in order to protect as many people as possible against the flu. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. CDC recommends only flu shots this season. If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to get a flu shot!

Health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties offer the regular flu shot for $29 and a high dose flu shot – made especially for those 65 and older – for $50. No appointment is needed for flu shots at health departments. 

Save time when going to get your flu shot by filling out the consent form ahead of time and bringing it with you to the health department:
General Vaccine Consent Form
General Flu Vaccine Consent Form (Spanish)

Read the Vaccine Information Statement here:
Flu Vaccine Information Statement (English)
Flu Vaccine Information Statement (Spanish)

Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from the flu. Every flu season is different and we never know how bad a flu season is going to be or how long it’s going to last which is why it is so important to get the flu vaccine every year. Some things to know about this year’s flu season:

  • The vaccine has been updated for the 2016-2017 flu season so it should be a better match for flu viruses.flu-shot-pic
  • Only the flu shot is recommended this year because there are questions about the effectiveness of the nasal spray form of the vaccine.
  • Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it also protects people around you – like babies, older people, and people with chronic health conditions – who may be at risk from getting seriously ill from the flu.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older receive a yearly flu vaccine.
  • People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease, diabetes and lung disease and people 65 years of age and older.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the immune system to fully respond to the vaccine and provide the body protection. While getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, there are other things we can all do every day to prevent getting or spreading the flu viruses and other viruses:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Try to cough or sneeze into the corner of your elbow and not your hand or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Don’t let the flu get the best of you. Protect yourself and your loved ones from flu by getting vaccinated early.

 

 

Will You be Prepared If Disaster Strikes?

Don't Wait. Communicate. Make a family emergency plan today. September is National Preparedness Month. Learn more at www.ready.gov/September.    

Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make a family emergency plan today. September is National Preparedness Month. Learn more at www.ready.gov/September.

 

It can happen any time, any day of the week. It can come on suddenly or slowly but no matter when or where disaster strikes, being prepared as much as possible is key. A big part of that preparation is making an emergency communication plan. You may not be with your family when a disaster hits which is why it’s important to talk about it now: Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make a family emergency communication plan today. Include children in the discussion. They need to be in on the plan, too. Here are some simple, useful tools that can help:

Family Communication Plan for Kids
Family Communication Plan for Parents

Everyone needs an emergency supply kit. But what should be in it?
Emergency Supply Kit

Want to know more about preparedness and National Preparedness Month? Click HERE.

Don't Wait. Communicate. Make a family emergency plan today. September is National Preparedness Month. Learn more at www.ready.gov/September.    

Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make a family emergency plan today. September is National Preparedness Month. Learn more at www.ready.gov/September.

Protect Your Loved Ones against Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

August is a busy month with back-to-school shopping, last minute family vacations, registering for school, and leaving for college. As summer comes to an end and the school year begins, people often forget to check if they and their family members are up to date on their vaccinations. August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) and the Coastal Health District, along with th Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), reminds Georgians to get a head start on vaccinations required for school.

“August is a great time of year to engage the community regarding vaccinations”, said Sheila Lovett, Director for the Georgia Department of Public Health Immunization Program. “It’s the perfect time to make vaccinating a priority in our communities.”        fb_timeline_adults

This year, each week of NIAM focuses on a different stage of the lifespan:

o   Adults (Aug. 1-7)

o   Pregnant women (Aug. 8-14)

o   Babies and young children (Aug. 15-21)

o   Preteens and teens (Aug. 22-28)

Every adult in Georgia (19 years of age and older) should follow the recommended immunization schedule by age and medical condition. Vaccinations protect our families and communities; especially infants and those individuals who are unable to be immunized or who have weakened immune systems.   It is always a good idea to have the adult vaccine schedule nearby as a reference and to make sure you are current on your immunizations.  This link is to the recommended adult immunization schedule:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-schedule-easy-read.pdf

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The CDC has recently announced that live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as the “nasal spray” flu vaccine, should not be used during the 2016-2017 flu season. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) continues to recommend annual flu vaccination, with either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) for everyone 6 months and older. The ACIP vote follows data showing poor or relatively lower effectiveness of LAIV from 2013 through 2016. The official CDC press release can be found here:
http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/s0622-laiv-flu.html.

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Students born on or after January 1, 2002 and entering the seventh-grade need proof of an adolescent pertussis (whooping cough) booster and adolescent meningococcal vaccinations.  Every child in a Georgia school system (Kindergarten -12th grade),  attending a child care facility,  or a new student of any age entering a Georgia school for the first time is required by law to have a Georgia Immunization Certificate, Form 3231.  Below are the immunizations required for child care and school attendance:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Pertussis
  • Polio
  • Measles
  • PCV13 (up to age 5 years)
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Hib disease (up to age 5 years)
  • Varicella
  • Meningococcal Conjugate

First-year college students living in residence halls are recommended to be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine. If they received this vaccine before their 16th birthday, they should get a booster dose before going to college for maximum protection. In addition, there have been several recent mumps outbreaks on college campuses.  It’s important for college students to remain up-to-date on all vaccines.

Vaccines protect families, teens and children by preventing disease.  Not only do vaccinations help avoid expensive therapies and hospitalization needed to treat infectious diseases like influenza and pneumococcal disease, but they  also reduce absences both at school and at work and decrease the spread of illness in the home, workplace and community.

This August, be smart and get immunized.  The Coastal Health District and Georgia Department of Public Health remind adults to check with their health care provider for their current immunization recommendations as well as parents to check for their children. Safe and effective vaccines are available to protect adults and children alike against potentially life-threatening diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, meningococcal disease, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, shingles, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox). Talk to your health care provider or visit your public health department and get vaccinated today.

For more information on immunization, visit http://dph.georgia.gov/immunization-section.

Immunization Facts
National Immunization Awareness Month Fact Sheet

Back to School Clinics Held in Coastal Counties

Immunizations* help protect students of all ages against certain diseases which is why certain vaccinations are required before students can enter school. The Health departments in the Coastal Health District will hold back to school clinics in July and August to make it convenient for parents to get children immunized and beat the back to school rush. In addition to necessary immunizations, students will also be able to get a hearing, vision, dental, and nutrition screening which is required for any student entering a Georgia school for the first time.

No appointment is necessary and all students will be seen on a first come, first served basis.

*Effective July 1, 2014, children born on or after January 1, 2002 who are attending seventh grade must have received one dose of tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) and meningococcal (meningitis) immunizations prior to entering school. For more information on required vaccines,  click on the HERE.

For more information on the event, please your local health department.

Microsoft Word - CHD Back to School Clinics

Beat the Heat This Summer

The summer season has arrived. The state has already experienced higher than normal temperatures, and it doesn’t look like that trend is slowing down as we enter peak summer months. As you make plans for your summertime activities, learn how to protect yourself from health issues associated with extreme heat.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reminds Georgians to avoid prolonged exposure to the heat and sun and to limit strenuous outdoor activity to prevent heat-related illnesses. Keep the following tips in mind to protect your health when temperatures are high:

  • Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
  • Stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library or a friend or relative’s home – even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath is a much better way to cool off.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Never leave infants, children, adults or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open. Remember to always Look Again to be sure everyone is out. If you see anyone locked in a hot vehicle, call 911.
  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours and cut down on outdoor exercise. If you must exercise, take short breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Protect yourself from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on the labels).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends three key ways to protect your health in extreme heat: stay cool, stay hydrated and stay informed.

It’s also important for everyone to know the signs of heat illnesses and how to respond.

Symptoms such as heavy sweating, cold or clammy skin, nausea and fainting are all signs of heat exhaustion. If you see someone experiencing this symptoms, move to a cooler location, apply cool wet cloths to the body and give them water.

The more serious health effect of extreme heat is stroke, which is indicated by body temperatures about 103°F, rapid pulse and hot, red, dry or moist skin. In this case, call 911 immediately for help.

To learn more about extreme heat and precautions to take to prevent heat-related illnesses, visit www.cdc.gov/extremeheat.

Article written by Carly Ralston, Health Communications Specialist for the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Children 1st Program Makes Big Impact in Coastal Georgia

There’s really nothing that can prepare you for being a new mother. Just ask Bethany Shantz. The energetic, astute businesswoman and owner of Gigi’s Cupcakes in Savannah quickly realized that taking care of premature, newborn twins takes a whole different kind of savvy.

“We didn’t have a clue,” she said with a laugh. “I had no idea what their schedule should be – when they should be eating or sleeping. I had at least 10 books on the subject but nothing prepared me. All I could think was, ‘I don’t know how to be a mom!’”

Initially, Bethany turned down services offered through Children 1st, a state-funded program created by the Georgia Department of Public Health to promote the healthy development of young children, because she didn’t think she would need extra assistance or guidance with her babies. It didn’t take long for her to discover otherwise, however, and after a couple of months at home with newborns Weston and Taylor Anne, Bethany picked up the phone.

“I immediately called Sarah and said, ‘Please come save me!’”

“Sarah” is Sarah Harper, R.N., a nurse specialist with Children 1st in the Coastal Health District. Sarah’s role in the Children 1st program is to complete home visits and developmental screenings on children, educate parents on a wide variety of pediatric topics, link families to public health and community resources, and partner with local hospitals to ensure that children at high risk for developmental delay are identified and offered services upon discharge.  Because Children 1st doesn’t require a referral from a healthcare provider or hospital, Bethany was able to reach out to Sarah directly for services.

“She was unbelievably sweet,” said Bethany. “On her first visit she checked their developmental skills – motor skills, hearing, vision, everything – and was able to tell us how they were tracking. As a parent that makes you feel so good because of course you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing and going about things the right way.”

Sarah was also able to help get the babies some specialized care that they needed as a result of having severe protein allergies and acid reflux and she helped coordinate physical therapy for Weston who had torticollis which is the twisting of the neck muscles.

“Sarah was such a blessing and a Godsend,” said Bethany. “I would not have survived the first year without her.”

The feeling is very much mutual for Sarah when it comes to working with families like the Shantzes.

“I honestly feel so blessed to have the opportunity to work with families in this program,” said Sarah. “I get to experience miracles every day – from watching babies that were on the brink of viability grow and thrive to seeing little ones who are struggling, succeed – just by providing parents with the education and tools necessary to make their goals a reality.”

Just a few years before Weston and Taylor Anne were born, Bethany wasn’t sure being a mom would ever become her reality. In 2012, she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) which is a type of cancer of certain blood cells found in the bone marrow. That startling emotional blow was followed by the news that she had been pregnant and lost the baby and would not be able to carry a baby to term.

When Bethany’s best friend offered to act as a surrogate, Bethany agreed and realized she had a very small window to try and realize a very big dream. Accepting the risk that her cancer might recur, Bethany stopped taking her chemotherapy medicine for 17 days so her eggs could be harvested. Of the 12 eggs harvested, two had not been affected by the chemotherapy medication.

Thirty-two weeks and six days after conception, Weston and Taylor Anne made their grand entrance at 4 pounds, 5 ounces and 4 pounds, 2 ounces respectively.

Taylor Anne & Weston Shantz

Taylor Anne and Weston Shantz celebrate their first birthday. (Photo courtesy teresa earnest photography).

“They were such little miracle babies,” said Bethany.

Today, those miracle babies are thriving and just recently celebrated their first birthday. Although Sarah initially paid regular visits to the Shantz family for several months, she now checks up on them at six month intervals to ensure they stay on track and meet all their developmental milestones. And the Shantzes know that anytime they have a question for Sarah, she’ll be there with an answer.

“It just gives us such peace of mind to know that we have someone like Sarah that we can call,” said Bethany. “We feel so loved and special and cared for when she calls to check on us.”

The services provided through Children 1st can be accessed at no cost. If it is determined that a child is in need of other services then referrals can be made to programs such as Babies Can’t Wait, (Georgia’s early Intervention program serving children with significant developmental delays or children who may be at risk for delays due to a diagnosed medical condition); Children’s Medical Services (medical care for children from birth to age 21 who have disabling conditions or chronic diseases); or the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program (a comprehensive system of universal newborn hearing screening and assure early detection and intervention for hard of hearing and deaf children).

“Our program is especially useful for families with premature infants who are at high risk for developmental delays and who have special needs,” said Sarah. “In the case of the Shantzes, Mom and Dad have done a wonderful job and they have two beautiful little ones to show for all their hard work.”

Those little miracle babies continue to bring joy to Bethany and her husband, Chris.

“I’m just thankful every day to be alive and to have my babies,” said Bethany.

For more information on Children 1st and associated programs in the Coastal Health District please call 912-644-5805 or click HERE.

Special thanks to teresa earnest photography for the photos that accompany this article.

Residents with Functional or Medical Needs Urged to Register with Local Health Department

There are two words that no one in coastal Georgia likes to hear: hurricane season. As much as we would like to ignore it, hurricane season rears its ugly head every June and doesn’t go away until the end of November. For some, making an evacuation plan is fairly simple. But for others who may have functional or medical needs and no transportation, that’s not the case. That’s why the health departments along coastal Georgia maintain a list of people with functional and medical needs who may need help getting out of town when a hurricane is heading to our area.

The Functional and Medical Needs Registry is made up of residents who may require transportation and medical assistance during a hurricane evacuation and have no other resources such as family, friends, neighbors, or church members to help them if they need to evacuate. Residents must apply to be on the registry and if they meet the criteria, someone from the health department will explain to them, in detail, how and when the Registry will be activated should a storm threaten our area.

Those on the Registry will be evacuated to an American Red Cross shelter in an inland county that will likely be in a gymnasium or similar setting and could be several hours away. The Registry is truly a last resort, but if a hurricane is threatening our area, it is important that health department officials know where the most vulnerable residents are located so that evacuation assistance can be provided to them. People living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and personal care homes are not eligible for the Functional and Medical Needs Registry and must follow their facility’s emergency plan.

Functional needs registrants are individuals who may need services to maintain their independence in a shelter. This includes children and adults with physical, sensory, mental health, and cognitive and/or intellectual disabilities affecting their ability to function independently without assistance. Medical needs registrants are individuals who require support of trained medical professionals. This includes those individuals who may need assistance with managing unstable, terminal, or contagious conditions that require observation and ongoing treatment.

To apply, residents should call the local health department or go on line to print an application and health information authorization form.

Bryan County Health Department
912-756-2611 (Richmond Hill) or 653-4331 (Pembroke)
www.gachd.org/bryan

Camden County Health Department
912-576-3040 (Woodbine) or 882-8515 (St. Marys)
www.gachd.org/camden

Chatham County Functional/Medical Needs Registry
912-691-7443
www.gachd.org/chatham

Effingham County Health Department
912-754-6484
www.gachd.org/effingham

Glynn County Health Department
912-279-3350
www.gachd.org/glynn

Liberty County Health Department
912-876-2173
www.gachd.org/liberty

Long County Health Department
912-545-2107
www.gachd.org/long

McIntosh County Health Department
912-832-5473
www.gachd.org/mcintosh