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

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Boil Water Advisory for Part of St. Marys

Health Officials Encourage Wildfire Smoke Precautions

Smoke from wildfires burning in South Georgia is making its way into some coastal counties and as a result, Coastal Health District officials are encouraging residents to take precautions. For healthy people, smoke from wildfires that contains particles from burning trees and shrubs can irritate your eyes and respiratory system. However, smoke can worsen chronic health problems such as lung disease, asthma, and allergies. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to health effects from this smoke.

It’s important to limit your exposure to the smoke and take precautions to protect your health and the health of your family.

  • Stay inside and away from the smoke.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
  • Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
  • Keep airways moist by drinking plenty of water.
  • Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
  • Follow the advice of your doctor or other health care provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease.

Seek medical attention if you are having difficulty breathing or if your symptoms worsen.

CDC: Georgia’s Early Childhood Vaccination Rates Among Nation’s Highest

ATLANTA – Georgia is leading the country with above average early childhood vaccinations with 75.6 percent of children 19-35 months old protected, compared to national averages of 72.2 percent for the 7-vaccine series. However, health officials here say statewide immunization statistics show that more can be done to stop vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks in Georgia.

As recent disease outbreaks demonstrate, immunizing infants and young children remains a critical component of protecting vulnerable infants against potentially deadly diseases.

So far in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 1,200 cases of mumps across the U.S. Other recent outbreaks include a pertussis outbreak in 2012 that infected more than 48,000 people, and a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and impacted 188 people in 2015. Each of these diseases is preventable by vaccines.

During National Infant Immunization Week, April 22-29, the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics urge parents to check with their pediatrician to ensure their child is up-to-date on vaccinations.

“Immunizations are the best way to protect infants and children from childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles that can be life-threatening at young ages,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “It is critical for parents to talk to their child’s doctor to ensure they are up-to-date on immunizations, because no child should have to suffer a vaccine-preventable illness.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to become aware of vaccination rates in their community. The AAP offers an interactive map (https://immunizations.aap.org/) that highlights vaccination rates in each state for recommended childhood vaccines, including vaccines that protect against measles, mumps, pertussis, polio and influenza. It also offers state-by-state information about community immunity thresholds, which is the level at which disease outbreaks are prevented.

“High immunization rates in the community provide a buffer of protection that makes it harder for diseases to break through,” said Georgia Chapter AAP President Ben Spitalnick, M.D., Savannah. “Vaccines protect children from diseases, and they also keep communities healthy by protecting infants who are too young to be vaccinated, or those who have compromised immune systems.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health and the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage everyone – in observance of National Infant Immunization Week – to protect the little ones who cannot yet protect themselves. Please contact your pediatrician or your local public health department to ensure your infant is up-to-date on vaccinations. For more information contact the Georgia Department of Public Health http://dph.georgia.gov/immunization-section or http://www.gaaap.org/immunizations/.

 

Five Important Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child

You want to do what is best for your children. You know about the importance of car seats, baby gates and other ways to keep them safe. But, did you know that one of the best ways to protect your children is to make sure they have all of their vaccinations?

Immunizations can save your child’s life. Because of advances in medical science, your child can be protected against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children are no longer common in the U.S. – primarily due to safe and effective vaccines. Polio is one example of the great impact that vaccines have had in the United States. Polio was once America’s most feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country, but thanks to vaccination the United States has been polio-free since 1979. Due to continual worldwide vaccination efforts, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries in the world that have never interrupted the spread of wild poliovirus, and only small pockets of polio still exist in these countries. 

Vaccination is very safe and effective. Vaccines are only given to children after careful review by scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals. Vaccine side effects are almost always mild such as redness or swelling at the site of the shot, but this is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and risk of injury and death from the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare. The disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccinated are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children.

Immunization protects others you care about. Children in the U.S. still get vaccine-preventable diseases. In fact, we have seen resurgences of measles and whooping cough (pertussis) over the past few years. For example, in 2014, there were 667 cases of measles in 27 states, the greatest number of cases since measles was eliminated in 2000. The following year saw measles cases as well. During 2015, 147 people were part of a large, multi-state measles outbreak linked to an amusement park in California. Almost one in 10 people who became sick with measles in this outbreak were babies too young to be vaccinated. While some babies are too young to be protected by vaccination, others may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia, or other reasons. To help keep them safe, it is important that you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones.

Immunizations can save your family time and money. A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or daycare facilities. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability care. In contrast, getting vaccinated against these diseases is a good investment and usually covered by insurance. The Vaccines for Children program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children from low-income families. To find out more, visit the CDC VFC site, or ask your child’s health care professional.

Immunization protects future generations. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide. Your children don’t have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease no longer exists anywhere in the world. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), we have dramatically reduced the risk that pregnant women will pass this virus on to their fetus or newborn, and birth defects associated with that virus are seen in only rare cases in the United States when a pregnant woman who was never vaccinated against rubella is exposed to someone who contracted rubella in another country. If we continue vaccinating now, and vaccinating completely, parents in the future may be able to trust that some diseases of today will no longer be around to harm their children in the future.

For more information about the importance of infant immunization, visit CDC’s vaccine website for parents.

National Transgender HIV Testing Day Event Scheduled for April 18

The Coastal Health District Prevention Program will offer free and confidential HIV testing event in observance of National Transgender HIV Testing Day from
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18, at the Chatham County Health Department located at 1395 Eisenhower Drive in Savannah.

National Transgender HIV Testing Day (NTHTD) is a day to recognize the importance of routine HIV testing, status awareness, and continued focus on HIV prevention and treatment efforts among transgender and gender non-binary people. In observance of this day, the Coastal Health District will offer free, rapid confidential testing. No appointment is necessary. Anyone who gets tested at the event will receive a gift card.

Syphilis Strikes Back

Nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur in the United States every year costing the American healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone, says a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). America’s youth shoulder a substantial burden of these infections. CDC estimates that half of all new STDs in the country occur among young men and women aged 15 to 24.

The high incidence of STIs in the general population suggests that many Americans are at risk of exposure to STDs, underscoring the need for prevention. Despite this news, there are effective ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat STDs. STD screening and early diagnoses are essential in preventing transmission and the long term health consequences of STDs.

Abstaining from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and consistently and correctly using condoms are all effective prevention strategies. Safe, effective vaccines are also available to prevent hepatitis B and some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause disease and cancer. And for all individuals who are sexually active – particularly young people – STI screening and prompt treatment (if infected) are critical to protect a person’s health and prevent transmission to others.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can have very serious complications when left untreated, but it is simple to cure with the right treatment. It’s divided into three stages with primary and secondary (P&S) being the most infectious stages of the disease. Without appropriate treatment, long-term infection can result in severe medical problems affecting the heart, brain, and other organs of the body. Having syphilis also makes it easier to get HIV.

At one point, syphilis was almost gone. Now, it’s back with a vengeance. According to the CDC, the number and rate of cases is higher than it’s been in more than 20 years. If syphilis isn’t treated, it can cause severe health problems affecting the brain, eyes, heart, and other organs.  Syphilis can be cured with the right treatment. Find out more about preventing and treating syphilis HERE.
Syphilis Strikes Back #STDMONTH17


The Lowdown on Preventing STDs

 

Free “Growing Fit” Training Offered for Early Care Centers

Physical activity and nutrition are essential for children to develop healthy lifestyles that will help reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life. To that end, the Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Shape, HealthMPowers, Inc. and Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning have developed Growing Fit Kit: Wellness Policies for Georgia’s Early Care Environment. A free training on the kit will be offered to staff from early care centers from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, at the Coastal Health District office located at 420 Mall Blvd. in Savannah.

Training will center around a tool kit which provides a step-by-step process to guide early care educators in the development and/or improvement of nutrition and physical activity policies and practices.  It also contains an explanation of the importance of a wellness policy, a self-assessment tool to evaluate current policies and practices, success stories from other early care settings, healthy eating and physical activity resources, and a planning document with suggestions and examples for writing the policy.

This educational learning experience is a Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning approved CEU course allowing participants to earn required training units while strengthening their wellness policy efforts to create healthy environments for students to learn and teachers to work. This training also helps move centers toward achievement of Quality Rated standards set by the Department of Early Care and Learning.

To register for either training session, please contact Cristina Gibson at 912-644-5818 or email cristina.gibson@dph.ga.gov.

Unite to End TB

Often when people hear the word “tuberculosis,” they think of a disease that caused harm decades ago. But tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is still a very real problem in the United States and in Georgia where 335 new cases of TB were reported in 2014. In fact, Georgia ranked fifth highest in the country for newly reported TB cases in 2014. March 24 is World TB and this year’s theme is “Unite to End TB.”

TB is a disease that usually affects the lungs but can attack any part of the body. TB is caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air when a person with active TB coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. Although a relatively small number of people exposed to the disease actually contract the infection, active TB disease can be life threatening if left untreated.

TB is preventable and curable. Yet, too many people in the United States still suffer from this disease. TB elimination would have widespread health, economic, and social benefits for our country. Anyone can get TB. People with TB disease can be found in every state; in rural areas and cities; in schools, workplaces, homes; and in many other places where people are in close contact.

People with active TB disease may spread the TB germs to other persons who are usually individuals with whom they have been with in an enclosed space for a prolonged period of time, such as family members and co-workers. Symptoms of TB include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever, and sweating at night.

Up to 13 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have latent tuberculosis (TB) infection. Latent TB infection is a condition in which a person is infected with the TB bacteria, but does not currently have active TB disease and cannot spread TB to others. However, if these bacteria become active and multiply, latent TB infection can turn into TB disease. Without treatment, on average 5-10% of people with latent TB infection will develop TB disease. For some people, that risk is much higher.

Anyone who thinks he has been exposed to TB should contact a healthcare provider or local health department to get tested. For more information on TB, go to cdc.gov/tb.

Georgia Preteen Vaccination Awareness

Let’s face it – nobody likes getting shots – but a shot lasts a second; diseases last much longer.

In an effort to protect every adult and child, the Georgia Department of Public Health established Georgia Preteen Vaccine Awareness Week, observed March 13-17, 2017, to serve as a reminder for parents to talk with their preteens and teens about getting immunized against vaccine- preventable diseases.

“Preteens are at an age where they are becoming more independent and social. They spend more time out with friends playing sports, going to sleepaway camps and attending parties. While this is a fun part of growing up, these activities could increase their risk for contracting potentially life- threatening diseases,” said Sheila Lovett, director for the Georgia Department of Public Health Immunization Program. “Parents, make it a priority to vaccinate your preteen against these preventable diseases.”

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health Rule (511-2-2), all students born on or after January 1, 2002, entering or transferring into seventh grade and any “new entrant” into eighth -12th grades in Georgia need proof of an adolescent pertussis (whooping cough) booster vaccination (called “Tdap”) AND an adolescent meningococcal vaccination (MenACWY). This law affects all public and private schools including, but not limited to, charter schools, community schools, juvenile court schools and other alternative school settings (excluding homeschool).

Vaccines are the best defense we have against serious, preventable and sometimes deadly contagious diseases. They help avoid expensive therapies and hospitalization needed to treat infectious diseases like influenza and meningitis. Immunizations also reduce absences both at school and after school activities and decrease the spread of illness at home, school and the community.

The CDC currently recommends the following vaccines for preteens and teens:

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap)
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Meningococcal Disease (MenACWY)

Georgia Preteen Vaccine Awareness Week is an opportunity to raise awareness through schools, health care providers and the media regarding preteen immunizations, particularly Georgia’s pertussis and meningococcal requirements for incoming seventh-grade students. Speak with your physician today to find out if your preteen is up-to-date. For more information, click here.


Get the Facts!

Georgia Preteen Vaccine Awareness Week Fact Sheet

“Cupcakes & Condoms” National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Event March 10

The Coastal Health District is observing National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with “Cupcakes & Condoms,” a free, confidential HIV testing event. There will be giveaways, including cupcakes, and candid talk about sexual health. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, March 10, at the Chatham County Health Department located at 1395 Eisenhower Drive.

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) is an annual observance that sheds light on the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and girls. Every year on March 10, and throughout the month of March, federal, national, and community organizations come together to show support for women and girls impacted by HIV and AIDS. This year marks the 12th observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Today, about one in four people living with HIV in the United States is female. Only about half of women living with HIV are getting care, and only four in 10 of them have the virus under control. Women face unique HIV risks and challenges that can prevent them from getting needed care and treatment. Addressing these issues remains critical to achieving an HIV- and AIDS-free generation.