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

Public Health Topics


Eat Right, Bite by Bite

Choosing nutritious foods and getting enough physical activity can make a significant difference in your health. For National Nutrition Month® 2020, in March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages people to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits.

Each March, the Academy focuses attention on healthful eating through National Nutrition Month®. This year’s theme, Eat Right, Bite by Bite, promotes eating a variety of nutritious foods every day, planning and creating healthful meals each week and the value of consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist.

“Developing healthful eating habits does not mean undertaking drastic lifestyle changes,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Jerlyn Jones, a national spokesperson for the Academy based in Atlanta, Ga. “Registered dietitian nutritionists help their clients develop individualized eating and activity plans with simple steps that can help them meet their health goals. These simple steps are developed to become lifelong habits.”

Registered dietitian nutritionists provide recipe ideas, cooking tips and other healthful advice for everyday issues such as cooking dinner or meal preparation for picky eaters. In addition, many registered dietitian nutritionists provide medical nutrition therapy to help clients manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. They often work as part of a medical team to help clients set nutrition goals to improve their health.

Medical nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist includes reviewing the client’s eating habits and lifestyle, assessing their nutritional status and creating a personalized nutrition treatment plan. Many medical plans cover the costs of seeing a registered dietitian nutritionist. To find a registered dietitian nutritionist near you, use the Academy’s online Find an Expert service.

Test your knowledge about nutrition: NNM_Quiz_2020_v2_Final

National Nutrition Month® was initiated in 1973 as National Nutrition Week, and it became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to growing interest in nutrition. The second Wednesday of March is celebrated as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day to commemorate the dedication of registered dietitian nutritionists as the leading advocates for advancing the  nutritional status of Americans and people around the world. This year’s celebration will be March 11.

As part of National Nutrition Month®, the Academy’s website will host resources to spread the message of good nutrition and the importance of an overall healthy lifestyle for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. The public also can follow National Nutrition Month® on the Academy’s social media channels including Facebook and Twitter using #NationalNutritionMonth.

Black HIV/AIDS Awareness

February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) which highlights the importance of HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and community involvement in black/African American communities. 

The Coastal Health District HIV Prevention Program will hold free HIV testing events at  several locations throughout the month of February in observance of NBHAAD. Although the events are being held to commemorate NBHAAD, these testing events – and all HIV testing events offered in the Coastal Health District – are open to the public. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), blacks/African Americans accounted for 43 percent of all HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2017. Currently, there are around 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and one in eight people don’t know they have it. Getting tested and getting those who are HIV positive into treatment right away is vital in stopping the HIV epidemic.

As a reminder, HIV testing is always 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.

HIV Testing Events in Febuary
Thursday, February 6

12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Campus, Savannah

*Friday, February 7
11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Walgreens, 2270 U.S. Hwy. 17, Richmond Hill
*The first 25 people to be tested at the event in Richmond Hill will receive gift cards.

Saturday, February 8
12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Savannah Civic Center (Black Heritage Festival)

Monday, February 10
12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Georgia Southern University, Liberty Campus, Hinesville

Wednesday, February 12 and February 19
Time TBD
Savannah State University

Thursday, February 13
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
College of Coastal Georgia, Brunswick

Celebrate Heart Month

Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is that we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we join forces with others. NHLBI launched the #OurHearts movement to inspire us to protect and strengthen our hearts with the support of others.

Here are some facts, how-to tips, and resources to inspire you to join with others to improve your heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. About 90 percent of middle-aged people and more than 74 percent of young adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease.

Why Connecting is Good for Your Heart

Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight.       Having people in our lives who motivate and care for us helps, as do feelings of closeness and companionship.

Follow these heart healthy lifestyle tips with your friends, family, coworkers, and others in your community and you’ll all be heart healthier for it:

  • Be more physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Reduce your stress.
  • Get enough quality sleep.
  • Track your heart health stats.

You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go.

Move More

Invite family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your efforts to be more physically active:

  • Ask a colleague to walk with you on a regular basis, put the date on both your calendars, and text or call to make sure you both show up.
  • Join an exercise class at your local community center and bring a neighbor along. Carpool or walk there together to make it a regular date.
  • Grab your kids, put on music, and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or dance.
  • Make your social time active and encourage everyone—family and friends alike—to think of fun activities that get you off the couch and moving.

How much is enough? Aim for at least 2½ hours of physical activity each week—that’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises 2 days a week. Can’t carve out a lot of time in your day? Don’t chuck your goal, chunk it! Try 10 or 15 minutes a few times a day. NHLBI’s Move More fact sheet provides ideas to get and keep you moving.

Aim for a healthy weight

Find someone in your friend group, at work, or in your family who also wants to reach or maintain a healthy weight. (If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss of 5–10 percent helps your health.) Check in with them regularly to stay motivated. Do healthy activities together, like walking or playing on a neighborhood sports team. Share low-calorie, low-sodium meals or recipes. Check out NHLBI’s Aim for a Healthy Weight web page.

Try these tips each day for a month to keep your heart healthy.

Eat heart healthy

We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. Together, try NHLBI’s free Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Research shows that, compared to a typical American diet, it lowers high blood pressure and improves blood cholesterol levels. Find delicious recipes at NHLBI’s Heart Healthy Eating web page.

Quit smoking

To help you quit, ask others for support or join a support group. Research shows that people are much more likely to quit if their spouse, friend, or sibling does. Social support online can also help you quit.   All states have quit lines with trained counselors—call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You’ll find many free resources to help you quit, such as apps, a motivational text service, and a chat line at BeTobaccoFree.hhs.gov and Smokefree.gov.

If you need extra motivation to quit, consider those around you: Breathing other people’s smoke, called secondhand smoke, is dangerous. Thousands of adult nonsmokers die of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

Manage stress

Reducing stress helps your heart health. Join with a friend or family member to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation, or participate in a stress management program together. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. Talk to a qualified mental health provider or someone else you trust.

Improve sleep

Sleeping 7–8 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as does getting a 30-minute daily dose of sunlight. Take a walk instead of a late afternoon nap! Family members and friends: remind each other to turn off the screen and stick to a regular bedtime. Instead of watching TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.

Track your heart health stats, together

Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort. Check out NHLBI’s Healthy Blood Pressure for Healthy Hearts: Tracking Your Numbers worksheet.

Visit #OurHearts for inspiration on what others around the country are doing together for their heart health. Then join the #OurHearts movement and let NHLBI know what you’re doing with friends, family, or others to have a healthy heart. Tag #OurHearts to share how you’re being heart healthy together.

Cervical Cancer Awareness

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and the Coastal Health District wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to prevent cervical cancer. Each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity, and it causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV don’t know they are infected.

The good news?

  • The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV.
  • Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests and follow-up care.

In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties encourage:

  • Women to start getting regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21
  • Parents to make sure pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12

HPV Vaccine

Teens and young adults also need to get the HPV vaccine if they didn’t get it as pre-teens. The HPV vaccine is recommended for everyone through age 26. There are additional recommendations for those over the age of 26.

For more information, check out gachd.org/hpv.

Here are some more great resources:

How to Talk to Your Pre-Teen about HPV Vaccine

HPV Vaccine Information

HPV Safety Fact Sheet for Parents

HPV & Cancer


Cervical Cancer Screening

The Georgia Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP) provides access to breast and cervical cancer screening for women who have no insurance (or very limited insurance) and meet certain annual income guidelines. The program provides breast examinations and mammogram referrals to uninsured, low income women between the ages of 40-64 and pap smear testing and pelvic examinations to screen for cervical cancer in women 21-64 years of age.

Get more information on BCCP here.

Five Minutes for Better Health in 2020

A new year is a great time for a fresh start but it’s not always easy to keep resolutions. Why? Oftentimes, we set lofty goals and become overwhelmed at the thought of trying to accomplish them. What if taking some healthy steps to improve your life only took five minutes – or less? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come up with tips that do just that.

Here are six basic steps we can all take to make sure good health stays on the forefront in 2020.

Get more Five Minutes (or Less) Healthy Tips here.

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.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly. Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or feces. You should handle soiled items carefully without agitating them. Wear rubber gloves while handling soiled items. Wash the items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length.
  • 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.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, and cook seafood thoroughly. Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them. Norovirus can survive temperatures as high as 140°F, and quick steaming processes are often used for cooking shellfish. Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.


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:
Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures


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.

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.

Food Safety Education

September is Food Safety Education Month and a good time to remember that the best way to prevent getting sick from food is to prepare and handle food correctly.

There are more than 250 foodborne diseases. Foodborne illness can be particularly dangerous for older adults, young children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.

You can be a Food Safety Superhero by always following these Four Steps – Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill –  to protect you and your family from food poisoning.

Check out these great resources on food safety:

CDC Food Safety

FightBAC! Partnership for Food Safety Education

USDA FoodKeeper App

Protect Your Family’s Future by Getting Vaccinated this August

August is National Immunization Awareness Month which serves as a reminder that people of all ages require timely vaccinations to protect their health.

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. Adults should check with their healthcare 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).

School Vaccination Requirements

Children born on or after January 1, 2002 who are attending seventh grade and new entrants into Georgia schools in grades 8 through 12 must have received one dose of Tdap vaccine and one dose of meningococcal vaccine. (“New entrant” means any child entering any school in Georgia for the first time or entering after having been absent from a Georgia school for more than 12 months or one school year). The HPV vaccine is also recommended for both girls and boys ages 11–12 to protect against cancers and other diseases caused by human papillomavirus.

Before starting the 2020-2021 school year, all students entering or transferring into 11th grade will need proof of a meningococcal booster shot (MCV4), unless their first dose was received on or after their 16th birthday. Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness that affects the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis can cause shock, coma and death within hours of the first symptoms. To help protect your children and others from meningitis, Georgia law requires students be vaccinated against this disease, unless the child has an exemption.

Some schools, colleges, and universities have policies requiring vaccination against meningococcal disease as a condition of enrollment. Students aged 21 years or younger should have documentation of receipt of a dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine not more than five years before enrollment. If the primary dose was administered before the 16th birthday, a booster dose should be administered before enrollment in college

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).

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. This link is to the recommended adult immunization schedule:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-schedule-easy-read.pdf

Hepatitis A: What You Need to Know

Several states, including Georgia, are experiencing outbreaks of Hepatitis A, a very contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis virus (HAV) that can cause mild to severe illness. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks that are contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. 

Symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

Symptoms usually start appearing four weeks after exposure but can occur as early as two and as late as seven weeks after exposure; however people can spread hepatitis A even if they don’t look or feel sick.

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 is a vaccine-preventable disease. The best protection against HAV infections and outbreaks is through widespread vaccination, particularly among  populations most at risk:

  • All children at age 1 year
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Men who have sexual encounters with other men
  • People who use or inject drugs
  • People with chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • People with clotting factor disorders
  • People with direct contact with others who have hepatitis A
  • People experiencing homelessness

Get more information on Hepatitis A.

 

Safe and Healthy Summer Fun!

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer! Below are some tips on staying safe while having fun.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes and summer go hand in hand in Georgia. Avoiding mosquito bites protects you and your family from mosquito-borne illness and helps prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illness in Georgia.

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET (20-30%) or Picaridin, IR3535 or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Follow all label instructions for safe and effective use. If you’re using sunscreen, apply it first, followed by insect repellent.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, including loose-fitting long-sleeves, pants and socks to help protect against mosquito bites.
  • Tip ‘n Toss standing water after every rainfall or at least once a week to eliminate breeding locations for mosquitoes and prevent the spread of illness.

Foodborne Illnesses

Foodborne illnesses tend to increase during the summer months for two reasons. One reason is that bacteria tend to multiply faster when it’s warm. Another reason is that people are cooking outside more, away from the refrigerators, thermometers and washing facilities of a kitchen.

  • Clean surfaces, hands and utensils with warm water and soap.
  • Wash produce under running water before cutting, eating or cooking.
  • Separate raw and cooked meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods (raw vegetables and fruits).
  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
  • Cook food to the proper temperature – use a food thermometer to check.
    • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts,chops): 145 °F with a three-minute rest time
    • Ground meats: 160 °F
    • Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165 °F
  • Chill. Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.

Swim Safely

We all share the water we swim in, and each of us needs to do our part to help keep ourselves, our families and our friends healthy.

  • Don’t swim or let children swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • Check out the latest pool inspection results. You can find pool inspection scores online.
  • Shower for at least one minute before you get into the water. This will remove most of the dirt and sweat on your body.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Take children on bathroom breaks and check diapers every hour.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area—not poolside—to keep germs away from the pool.
  • A responsible adult should constantly watch young children.
  • Check for a lifeguard or to see where safety equipment, such as a rescue ring or pole, is available.

Heat and Sun

Heat and sun can cause skin damage, skin cancer and serious illness, but there are ways to enjoy the summer and stay protected.

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, hat and sunglasses.
  • Use sunscreen with at least SPF (sun protection factor) 15 and UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) protection.
  • Reapply sunscreen if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, take breaks.
  • Never leave children or pets in a hot car.
  • Call 911 if someone has signs of heatstroke:
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Headache
    • Fatigue
    • Confusion
  • Find a place out of the sun to cool off.

Information provided by the Georgia Department of Public Health.