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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


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.

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