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

Liberty News

HIV Director Susan Alt Receives Lifetime Achievement and Medical Provider of the Year Awards

Susan Alt, Coastal Health District HIV Director, was recently honored for 35 years of compassion and care for persons living with HIV and AIDS in coastal Georgia. Alt received the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Medical Provider of the Year Award from the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Office of HIV/AIDS.

Coastal Health District HIV Director Susan Alt

“Susan’s approach to all individuals impacted by HIV is marked by empathy, compassion and the highest quality standards possible,” said Georgia’s HIV Prevention Manager Brooke Mootry as she presented the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Her commitment to her work and to the community has been unwavering from day one.”

Alt joined the Chatham County Health Department’s HIV Program in the early days of the HIV epidemic. Since then, the program has grown from just 40 patients to more than 1,470 active patients in 8 counties, with Alt at the helm. The Coastal Health District was the first public health district in the state of Georgia to conduct HIV clinical trials and continues to pursue new and better ways to treat and prevent HIV.

But for Alt, it’s not about the disease – it’s about the people. “Susan is deeply devoted to making sure those living with HIV are treated not only medically but also with respect and compassion,” said Georgia’s HIV Care Manager Marisol Cruz as she presented the Medical Provider of the Year Award. This award is for medical providers (including nurses, physicians and pharmacists) who provide exceptional HIV/AIDS healthcare.

The Coastal Health District’s HIV Program provides comprehensive outpatient HIV care and case management to persons with HIV/AIDS. Every county health department provides free, walk-in HIV testing, and the Coastal Health District has 3 HIV Program centers for expanded services in Savannah, Brunswick and Hinesville. Get more information on our HIV Program page.

National HIV Testing Day Events

The Coastal Health District HIV Prevention Program will hold free HIV testing events on June 27 in observance of National HIV Testing Day. Testing will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:

Walgreens, 2109 E. Victory Drive, Savannah
Walgreens, 11509 Abercorn St., Savannah
Walgreens, 4210 Augusta Rd., Garden City
Walgreens, 4575 Altama Avenue, Brunswick

Testing is confidential and results will be available in one minute. A follow-up visit will be scheduled for anyone who test positive and counseling will be made available to those individuals. In addition to free HI testing, there will be staff available to discuss HIV prevention options such as PrEP, the daily pill t prevent HIV, and treatment as prevention. Gift cards and door prizes will also be given out at the testing events.

HIV testing is recommended as part of routine health care, yet many Americans are not being tested as often as advised. Whether living with HIV or not, there are more options than ever to stay healthy. The first step is knowing your status and getting tested for HIV.  National HIV Testing Day is an opportunity to normalize HIV testing and encourage people to   make it part of routine health care.

Our testing events are part of a nationwide activation in 245 cities with Walgreens, Greater Than AIDS, health departments, and local organizations to normalize HIV testing and encourage people to make it part of routine health care.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates around 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and one in eight people don’t know they have it. National HIV Testing Week is an opportunity to raise awareness, encourage people to get the facts, tested, get involved, and get linked to care and treatment services.

As a reminder, HIV testing is free at all health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties and available Monday through Friday during regular health department hours of operation.

Anyone with questions about testing can call Diane DeVore at (912) 644-5828 or e-mail

WIC Farmers Markets Scheduled

The Coastal Health District Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program will hold farmers markets for WIC clients at health departments in Chatham, Liberty, Glynn, and McIntosh counties in June and July:

Glynn County Health Department
2747 Fourth Street, Brunswick
9 a.m. – 2 p.m., June 17, 18, and 20
9 a.m.- 1 p.m., June 21

McIntosh County Health Department
1335 GA Hwy. 57, Townsend
9 a.m.-2 p.m., June 19

Liberty County Health Department
1113 E. Oglethorpe Hwy., Hinesville
9 a.m. – 2 p.m. on June 24, 25, 26, and 27
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. June 28

Chatham County Health Department
1395 Eisenhower Drive, Savannah
9 a.m. – 2 p.m., July 8, 9, 10, and 11
9 a.m. – 1 p.m., July 12

The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is a special nutrition program that provides nutritional education, food supplements, and referrals to health care providers to eligible women, infants, and children. WIC helps eligible pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age five.

At least once a year, the WIC program hosts farmers markets to provide fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants. Produce at the farmers market is provided at no cost to WIC clients who present a WIC ID card at the market. The market will remain open on the scheduled days and times until produce runs out.

All WIC services are free of charge. WIC can provide special checks to buy healthy foods from WIC-authorized vendors (such as milk, eggs, bread, cereal, juice, peanut butter, and more), information about nutrition and health to help you and your family eat well and be healthy, support and information about breastfeeding your baby, and help in finding health care and other community services.

To find out if you are eligible for WIC please call (toll-free) 1-855-262-7670. or go to and complete the WIC Eligibility Assessment.

WIC is an equal opportunity provider.

Georgia WIC Comment Survey

Let us know what you think about WIC! We want to make the program better but we need your help. Please go to to give us your feedback. The survey will be open through June 30.

Potential Hepatitis A Exposure from Restaurant Worker

A case of hepatitis A has been diagnosed in a food handler at the Zaxby’s located at 5971 Ogeechee Road. A public health investigation found that this employee worked while infectious, March 29 through April 3.

It is relatively rare for restaurant patrons to become infected with hepatitis A virus due to an infected food handler. However, anyone who consumed food and/or drink at the restaurant between March 29 and April 3 should watch for the symptoms of hepatitis A infection.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver, and symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Brown-colored urine and light-colored stools
  • Yellowing of the skin of eyes

Symptoms can appear up to 50 days after exposure to the virus. If anyone develops these symptoms, they should stay at home and contact their healthcare provider immediately.

There is also a safe and effective vaccine for hepatitis A that is available through some healthcare providers and all health departments. Even if the vaccine is given after the person was exposed, it can provide protection against developing hepatitis A.

Careful hand washing, including under the fingernails, with soap and water, is always an important tool to prevent the spread of this and many other diseases. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase risk of infection.

The following flyer has more information about hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A Information

Additional information can be found at

Ladies Who PrEP Summit Scheduled for April 13

The Georgia Department of Public Health Office of HIV/AIDS, Sister Love, Inc., and the Coastal Health District will host the “Ladies Who PrEP Summit” in Savannah on April 13 at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront.

WHO: The Georgia Department of Public Health Office of HIV/AIDS, Sister Love, Inc., and the Coastal Health District

WHAT: Ladies Who PrEP Summit

WHEN: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday, April 13

WHERE: Savannah Marriott Riverfront, 100 General McIntosh Blvd., Savannah

WHY: Attendees will be empowered to take control of their sexual health as they discuss women’s sexual health issues and learn about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as an HIV prevention option. The day will be a great blend of education and fun as attendees will enjoy food, celebrity guest panels, music, and interactive skill building activities from health experts.

This event is free and open to the public but registration is required:

Click here for more information about PrEP.

Raccoon in Midway Tests Positive for Rabies

A raccoon in the Billy Harris Point area of Midway has tested positive for rabies. A family dog that came into contact with the raccoon was not up to date on his rabies vaccination but has since received the vaccine.  The dog will remain under quarantine for 45 days as a precaution.

Several species of wild animals that are native to coastal Georgia – including raccoons, foxes, and bats – can carry rabies. Rabies is a potentially deadly virus that is primarily spread by infected animals. The Liberty County Environmental Health office offers these tips to protect you and your family from rabies:

  • Avoid contact with animals you don’t know.
  • Make sure your pets receive the proper immunizations. Dogs and cats should get rabies vaccines after 12 weeks of age, followed by a booster shot within one year and vaccination every 1-3 years depending on veterinary recommendation and vaccine used.
  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or by leaving pet food out at night.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call animal control or a properly licensed animal rescue agency for assistance.
  • Teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn.

Symptoms of rabies in animals include a change in behavior, biting, aggression, showing no fear of natural enemies (such as humans), foaming at the mouth, and paralysis.

If an animal ever bites you, seek medical care immediately and contact Liberty County Animal Control at 912-876-9191 and the Liberty County Environmental Health office at 912-368-5520.

County Health Departments Awarded Car Seat Mini-Grant; Buckle Up Right, Every Trip, Every Time

Health departments in Bryan, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties were awarded the 2019 Car Seat Mini Grant by the Georgia Department of Public Health, Injury Prevention Program. Health departments in those counties will use the Mini-Grant funding to educateparents and caregivers on how to properly install and use car seats, offercar seat inspections, and providecar seats and booster seats to financially eligible families.

The program is funded by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to help ensure Georgia’s children are safe while riding in motor vehicles. Since 2007, the education, car seats, and booster seats provided through the Mini-Grant prevented serious injury or death and saved over 300 of Georgia’s children who were involved in crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car seats reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent among infants and by 54 percent among children ages 1 to 4 years in passenger cars.

Car seats offer the best protection for children in the event of a crash, and they are most effective when installed and used correctly. Nearly three out of every four car seats are not used properly, placing children at unnecessary risk.

Through the Car Seat Mini-Grant, agencies supporting more than 130 counties are working to keep Georgia’s children safe. These programs help families get their children buckled up right, every trip, every time.

For more information on the car seat program in the six Coastal Health District counties that received funding, please contact the local health department directly.  Contact information for Coastal Health District health departments can be found at


It’s Not Too Late to Get a Flu Shot

Although we’re heading into spring, the flu is still circulating widely in Georgia. Getting vaccinated is the best protection against the flu and it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties still have flu vaccine available.

“The flu is out there and as long as the flu virus is circulating, it’s never too late to vaccinate,” said Lawton Davis, M.D., district health director for the Coastal Health District. “Flu season can run as late as May.”

Influenza can be a serious disease that leads to hospitalization and sometimes death. Regardless of race, age, gender or ethnicity, anyone can get sick from the flu. Those especially at risk are adults 65 years of age and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, people with certain chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other long-term medical conditions. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine. 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:

  • 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.

Coastal Health District Team Members Named Georgia Medical Society Health Care Heroes

Debbie Hagins, M.D., Jonathan Gibson, and Ilya Snyder-Shvahbeyn. Not pictured, Cristina Gibson.

The Georgia Medical Society (GMS) recently named the 2018 Health Care Heroes and two Coastal Health District team members were among those recognized. Debbie Hagins, M.D., was presented the Health Care Innovation Award, and Cristina Gibson – along with her son Jonathan and his classmate, Ilya Snyder-Shvahbeyn – was presented the Community Outreach Award. A total of six awards are given annually in recognition of contributions made by individuals and organizations that “have helped enrich the length, the joy, and the comfort of the lives of the citizens.”

Health Care Innovation Award
The GMS Health Care Innovation Award was given to Debbie Hagins, M.D., medical director and principal investigator for the Coastal Health District CARE Centers which provide comprehensive outpatient primary care (including nutritional services and oral health) and case management to persons with HIV/AIDS. The Coastal Health District Ryan White HIV program serves an eight-county geographic region and has the highest HIV incidence outside of the metro Atlanta area.

Twelve years ago, Dr. Hagins helped spearhead the effort to bring HIV clinical trials to the Coastal Health District. The trials provide medication for individuals who otherwise may have never had access to research and that research will help determine what drugs will work best in treating HIV. Since 2006, she has served as Principal Investigator for 46 trials related to HIV care with a special focus on enrolling and maintaining two groups that have been historically overlooked or excluded: minority and female patients.

Dr. Hagins’ hard work in the area of clinical trials has garnered local, state, and national attention bringing to light the important efforts being put forward in public health regarding HIV medication research and treatment. Her exceptional performance in providing comprehensive primary care to HIV patients and as Principal Investigator for numerous clinical trials has resulted in her participation as a key note speaker at several national meetings and she recently shared her expertise for an article in MD Magazine. She has co-authored many publications, abstracts and posters (several on the international stage).

Dr. Hagins is highly respected in her field and is an excellent representative for public health and a strong advocate for providing comprehensive health care to underserved populations, especially those living with HIV. She achieved and has maintained certification as an HIV Specialist from the American Academy of HIV Medicine and was named a Fellow of the Academy of Physicians of Clinical Research (FAPCR). The FAPCR designation is reserved for Academy of Physicians of Clinical Research members who have shown significant commitment to, and achievement in, clinical research.

Community Outreach Award
The GMS Community Outreach Award was given to Coastal Health District Chronic Disease Prevention Director, Cristina Gibson, her son Jonathan and his classmate, Ilya Snyder-Shvahbeyn.  As a dedicated public health employee and head of the Chronic Disease Prevention program for our eight-county health district, Cristina is very attuned to the public health-related issues facing our citizens – particularly when it comes to health disparities – and has always looked for ways to help narrow the gap. A couple of years ago when Cristina’s son Jonathan and his classmate Ilya were trying to come up with a community outreach event as a class assignment, the three brainstormed and created Everybody Eats Fresh FREE Fridays (E2F3).

E2F3 is a produce- and bread-only distribution program that provides access to healthy foods to residents in need, primarily on Savannah’s southside. The distribution takes place in a local church parking lot which gives it somewhat of a farmers market feel. To make this happen, Cristina, Jonathan, and Ilya partnered with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank to relieve the Food Bank of healthy foods that might otherwise be thrown out. Through its partnership with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank, E2F3 has been able to distribute an average of 12 tons of produce each year – tons of produce that would have otherwise been thrown away because of spoilage. During each event E2F3 is serving an average of 70 families and about 283 individuals (a majority of these being children and seniors).

E2F3 serves those who are in the middle – they don’t quite qualify for government assistance but their income may not be enough to cover all necessities and often, food is an easier sacrifice than rent. E2F3 has been so successful that three additional sites are now running in the Savannah area. With the addition of the partner sites, E2F3 is able to provide even more Savannahians with healthy food that may give them a reprieve from worrying about where their next meals are coming from and allow them to redirect their dollars towards paying an electricity bill or paying down a medical bill.