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

Public Health Topics


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.

Measles: What You Need to Know

Measles has been in the news a lot lately. As of April 29, 2019, six residents in Georgia (none in Coastal Health District) have been reported as having measles. Measles have also been reported in nine other states. Measles is highly contagious and can be very dangerous, especially for young children.
The best way to prevent measles is for all children to be fully vaccinated on time. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and effective and prevents measles and two other viral diseases – mumps and rubella. More than 95% of the people who receive a single dose of MMR will develop immunity to all three viruses. A second dose boosts immunity, typically enhancing protection to 98%.

Measles is spread by air-borne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can live in the air and on surfaces for 2-3 hours. Measles typically begins with a fever, followed by cough, runny nose, and/or red, watery eyes. After two to three days, the fever peaks and a rash appears at the hairline and spreads progressively downward covering the face, neck, trunk and extremities. Symptoms from measles usually appear within 10 – 14 days after exposure. Measles patients are considered to be contagious anywhere from 4 days before to 4 days after the rash appears.

Measles is endemic in many parts of the world and transmission in the U.S. is most often associated with unvaccinated travelers (Americans or foreign visitors) who get measles while they are in other countries.

Who is at increased risk of becoming infected with measles?

  • Infants who are too young to have been vaccinated (less than 1 year of age)
  • Persons who have never been vaccinated
  • Pregnant women
  • Immunocompromised persons (these include persons undergoing cancer chemotherapy or other immune-suppressive treatments, transplant recipients or those with diseases that affect the immune system such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE).
  • Anyone who becomes sick or thinks they may have been exposed to measles should contact your health care provider immediately and let him or her know that you may have been exposed to measles.

Anyone who becomes sick or thinks they may have been exposed to measles should contact their health care provider immediately. DO NOT go to the doctor’s office, the hospital, or a public health clinic without FIRST calling to let them know about your possible contact with measles. Health care providers who suspect measles in a patient should notify public health immediately. For more information about measles, log on to https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html

Measles Fact Sheets for Parents in English and Spanish

E. coli Illness in Georgia: What You Need to Know

As of April 10, 2019, at least 17 people in Georgia have confirmed cases of E. coli infection, and these cases are linked to a larger multi-state outbreak involving nearly 100 people in 5 states. Because the investigation is ongoing, the number of cases will likely rise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Department of Public Health and other agencies are working to uncover a common source of the infection, such as a specific food item, grocery store or restaurant chain. Public Health is interviewing the people who became ill, asking them about foods they’ve recently eaten and any other possible exposure they could all have in common.

The particular bacteria is E. coli O103, and usually causes symptoms about 3-4 days after someone has swallowed the germ. Symptoms of E. coli O103 include:

  • diarrhea (often bloody)
  • severe stomach cramps
  • vomiting

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should see your doctor. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing complications from E. coli infection.

“Most people recover from E. coli O103 infections within a week, but some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure,” said Cherie Drenzek, DVM, MS, DPH chief science officer and state epidemiologist. “It is crucial that the public understands how serious E. coli O103 infections can be, and to heed all recommended precautions about handwashing and food preparation.”

Ways to prevent E. coli infection include:

  • Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals.
  • Cook meats properly. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for three minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
  • Keep raw meats separate from foods that won’t be cooked before eating.
  • Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with soap after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and other dairy products, and unpasteurized juice.
  • Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.

For more information about E. coli O103, log on to https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/index.html.

For more information about safe food handling and preparation, log on to https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/clean/index.html.

CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® Campaign To Air Hard-Hitting Commercials Beginning April 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is continuing its national tobacco education campaign—Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®)—with hard-hitting TV commercials that feature real people who have experienced the harms caused by smoking. The campaign ads, which air beginning April 2019, will again highlight the immediate and long-term damage caused by smoking, and encourage smokers to quit.

CDC launched the first Tips campaign in 2012 to lower smoking rates and save lives, and the campaign has been very successful since then. Results of a CDC study published in the journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, show that during 2012-2015, CDC’s Tips campaign was associated with over half a million sustained quits among U.S. adult smokers, and over 9 million quit attempts.

Americans pay a high price in illnesses and deaths due to tobacco use. Unfortunately, even though smoking rates among adults have declined over the years—from 20.9% in 2005 to 14% in 2017—tobacco use still results in far too many deaths, disabilities, and smoking-related illnesses in the United States. For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.

“Most smokers want to quit. They don’t want to suffer or be a burden on their families,” said Corinne Graffunder, DrPH, MPH, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “By showing how real people and their families are affected by smoking-related diseases, the Tips campaign can help motivate people to quit for good.”

For more information about the Tips campaign and resources for quitting smoking, visit CDC.gov/tips. For help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Tips From Former Smokers. Smoking Causes Immediate Damage to Your Body. Learn More.

STD Awareness

STDs are making a comeback across the nation. The surge of STDs endangers the health of too many in the United States (U.S.). According to the CDC, from 2013-2017, syphilis cases nearly doubled, gonorrhea cases increased by 67 percent, and chlamydia cases remained at record highs.

STDs are preventable and treatable. The best way to prevent STDs is to understand how to protect yourself. Anyone who is sexually active can get an STD. According to the CDC, there are 20 million new STD infections in the United States every year.

Did you know that the most common STD – human papillomavirus (HPV) – can be prevented by a vaccine? Get the lowdown on how to prevent STDs here. STD testing and treatment is available at all Coastal Health District health departments.

National Nutrition Month



March is National Nutrition Month and a time to focus on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

Below is some information we hope you will find helpful.

Dietary Guidelines
MyPlate, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and food labels can help you create a healthy eating plan that includes a variety of foods from all food groups. Learn more at https://sm.eatright.org/aboutDGA.

Food Safety
Reduce your risk of food poisoning by following these four easy steps: https://sm.eatright.org/4HFSsteps

Dining Out
Restaurant food is meant to look, smell and taste great, and that means nutrition can sometimes fall by the wayside! Try these tips to dine out while sticking to a healthy eating plan: https://sm.eatright.org/diningout

Benefits of Healthy Eating Style
A healthy eating plan can help prevent illnesses and keep you feeling great! Learn about some of the benefits of a healthful diet: https://sm.eatright.org/preventillness

Eating Right Isn’t Complicated
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated! Start building a smarter plate by choosing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy — foods that are packed with the nutrients you need.
Get more tips at https://sm.eatright.org/ERnotcomplicated.

Portion Sizes
A key part of healthful eating is choosing appropriate amounts of different foods. Learn the important differences between the terms “serving size” and “portion size”: https://sm.eatright.org/srvprtnsizes



Protect Your Preteen’s Future: Vaccinate Today

Vaccinate your preteen today so they can have healthy tomorrow.

In an effort to protect every adult and child, the Coastal Health District is joining the Georgia Department of Public Health in recognizing March 11-15, 2019 as Georgia Preteen Vaccine Awareness Week. This week serves as a reminder for parents to talk with their preteens and teens about getting immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Every parent wants to protect their child from danger, yet many times parents don’t see vaccination as a priority,” said Sheila Lovett, Immunization Program director for the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Vaccinating your child is the single best way to protect them from these preventable diseases, so we urge parents to make this a priority.”

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.

School Requirements

  • All students born on or after January 1,2002, and entering or transferring into seventh grade and any new entrant into eighth through 12th grades, in Georgia must provide proof of an adolescent pertussis (whooping cough) booster vaccination (called “Tdap”) and an adolescent meningococcal vaccination (MenACWY).
  • Proof of both vaccinations must be documented on the Georgia Immunization Certificate (Form 3231).
  • If your preteen has not yet received the whooping cough booster shot or meningococcal vaccine, please contact your doctor or local health department.

Join Together To Protect Your Heart and Celebrate #OurHearts During American Heart Month

Cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death in all eight of our Coastal Health District counties (Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and Chatham). Through our health departments and other public health facilities, we promote healthy eating, moving more, and smoke-free living as part of the preventive prescription for control or against development of heart disease. While we promote these things year round, they take on even more significance during American Heart Month every February.

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 meeting our health goals when we join forces with others. To underscore this point and mark American Heart Month this February, NHLBI is launching the #OurHearts movement, to inspire people to protect and strengthen their 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 a leading cause of death in the United States. Most middle aged people (90 to 95 percent) and young adults (75 to 80 percent) have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high blood cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having more than one risk factor increases your risk for heart disease much more than having just one.

Why Reaching Out Is GoodHaving positive, close relationships and feeling connected with others benefits our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight. Having people in our lives who will motivate and care for us helps, but having feelings of closeness and companionship helps our health too.

Making the following heart healthy lifestyle changes will be easier and more successful if you work with other motivated people:

  • Get physically active.
  • Achieve a healthy weight and maintain it.
  • Eat heart healthy foods.
  • Quit smoking.

Remember, you don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go. Here are some tips to get you going.

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 to make it a regular date.
  • Grab your kids, put on some music, and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or just dance.
  • Make your social time active and encourage everyone—family and friends alike— to think of fun things that get you off the couch and moving.

If you have a health condition, including heart disease or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before increasing your activity.

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
If you’re overweight, find someone in your friend group, at work, or in your family who also wants to lose weight. (Every little bit can help!) Check in with them regularly to stay motivated or join a weight loss program together. Do healthy activities together, like walking or playing on a neighborhood sports team, and share low-calorie, low-sodium meals or recipes. (Pregnant women should not try to lose weight, but they can exercise.)

Eating Heart Healthy
We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join you in your effort to eat healthier. Need healthy eating ideas? Try NHLBI’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. It’s free and scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and improve blood cholesterol levels.

Quit Smoking
To help you quit, ask others for support or join a support group. Research has shown 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 the websites BeTobaccoFree.hhs.gov and Smokefree.gov.

If you need extra motivation to quit, consider the health of your friends and family: Being around 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.

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

Teens and young adults also need to get the HPV vaccine if they didn’t get it as pre-teens. Women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 can still get the vaccine.

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