CDPH Releases Annual End of Life Option Act Report

June 29, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

SACRAMENTO  – From June 9 to Dec, 31, 2016, 191 individuals received aid-in-dying drugs under the End of Life Option Act, and 111 people died following ingestion of the prescribed drugs, state health officials reported Tuesday.

The information comes from the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) first annual report on the number of people who decided to end their life under the provisions of the state’s End of Life Option Act (Act).

The Act, which became law in June 2016, allows qualified terminally ill adults in California to obtain and self-administer aid-in-dying drugs. It also requires state health officials to annually report the number of prescriptions written and the number of known individuals who died using aid-in-dying drugs.

The Act also requires state health officials to include demographic information on the individuals who use the Act to end his or her life, including age and underlying illness.

According to the report, of the 111 individuals, 87.4 percent were more than 60 years of age, 96.4 percent were insured and 83.8 percent were receiving hospice and/or palliative care.

To read the full report, visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/

Study Finds Children Living Near Exide Have Higher Levels of Lead in Blood

April 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Children who live near the former Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon have higher levels of lead in their blood than those who live farther away, according to a report released today by state health officials, who said the age of the homes the children live in was also a
contributing factor.

The study performed by the state Department of Public Health at the request of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, found that children under age 6 who lived near the plant were likely to have more lead in their blood than children in Los Angeles County overall.

According to the study, 3.58 percent of young children who live within a mile of the plant had levels of 4.5 micrograms of lead or more per deciliter of blood. Among children who lived between one and 4.5 miles of the plant, 2.41 percent had 4.5 micrograms or more, the study found.

By comparison, only 1.95 percent of children countywide had such levels of lead in their blood in 2012, state officials said.

According to DTSC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers 5 micrograms or greater to be an indicator of significantly high lead levels requiring public health action. California’s baseline, however, is 4.5 micrograms.

Although the study focused on proximity to the plant, researchers found that the age of housing was a contributing factor to lead levels, noting that homes closer to the facility tend to be older. The age of housing is significant, since lead levels in paint were not regulated until 1978.

According to the study, 3.11 percent of young children living near Exide in homes built before 1940 had elevated blood lead levels, while only 1.87 percent of children near the plant in homes built after 1940 had elevated levels.

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.

As of last August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid by March 2020, according to state officials.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed spending $176.6 million for further testing
and environmental cleanup of the area surrounding the plant. The state Senate approved the funding on Thursday. The issue will now go before the Assembly.

State officials said the funding would pay for testing of residential properties, schools, day care centers and parks within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant, and fund cleaning of as many as 2,500 properties with the highest lead levels.

First Infant Death From Flu Confirmed

November 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

State health officials today confirmed that an infant in Stanislaus County had dies from the flu.

California Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said it’s the “first influenza-related fatality in a person under the age of one year for the 2015-2016 flu season.”

“As California’s public health officer, I am saddened when the flu turns into loss of life,” Dr. Smith said. “It is especially troubling when a baby, too young to be vaccinated, passes away. To protect babies who cannot yet be vaccinated, we should get our flu shots. Preventing the spread of this often deadly disease is why getting vaccinated is so important.”

Health officials reminded the public that children under 6 months of age are at higher risk of severe influenza or flu because they are too young to be vaccinated.

However, newborns get some protection if the mother is vaccinated while pregnant.

Anyone who expects to be around a newborn or any other “high-risk” person should get vaccinated to reduce the risk of spreading the illness.

So far this year, overall flu activity has “been sporadic,” says Dr. Smith, but added that flu virus activity usually peaks from December to April.

Smith urged people to be vaccinated before the spread of illness reaches peak levels, “to protect yourself and those around you.”

Of the millions of people who contact the flu, hundreds of thousands will wind up in the hospital and thousands, to tens of thousands will die, according to California’s public health department.

To reduce this threat, CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women. Two of this season’s vaccine components, the influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B (Yamagata lineage) strains, have been updated to match the viruses Californians are likely to face during the 2015-2016 flu season.

The elderly and people with weak immune systems are also at higher risk of serious complications from the flu, however, there were 78 influenza-associated deaths reported in persons under 65 years of age in California during the 2014-15 influenza season.

Common symptoms of the flu include fever or feeling feverish, a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, chills, fatigue and body aches. Children may also have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

To stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses, Californians should also:

—Stay home when sick;

—Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue and properly dispose of the used tissue;

—Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;

—Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

To find out where to get the flu vaccine, contact your primary physician, clinic or pharmacy. The Los Angeles County Health Department offers low- or no-cost flu immunizations. For more information about the flu visit the CDPH influenza web page .To find a flu vaccine location near you, visit www.flu.gov.

State Issues Valley Fever Warning

August 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

An infectious disease caused by the spore of a fungus that grows in certain types of soil in the Southwest United States has prompted California health officials to issue a statewide advisory warning that Valley Fever can be fatal.

“Valley Fever is an ongoing concern in California and other areas of the Southwest United States,” cautioned Dr. Karen Smith, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer. “It is important for people living in Valley Fever areas to take steps to avoid breathing in dusty air, such as staying indoors when it is windy.”

While the southern Central Valley region — Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties — has the highest rate of infections, Valley Fever affects hundreds of thousands of people statewide each year, according to health officials.

August is designated as Valley Fever Awareness Month in California. Also known as coccidioidomycosis, or cocci, Valley Fever is contracted by breathing in spores contained in dust that gets into the air when it is windy or when soil is disturbed, such as digging in dirt during construction or gardening.

While most people exposed to the disease will not get ill, others will experience flu-like symptoms that can last a month or more. More severe cases can include pneumonia and infection of the brain, joints, bone, skin or other organs.

If you think you might have Valley Fever, visit your health care provider as soon as possible, advised health officials.

Those most at-risk for the severe disease include people 60 years or older, African Americans, Filipinos, pregnant women, and people with diabetes or conditions that weaken their immune system. People who live, work or travel in Valley Fever areas are also at a higher risk of getting infected, especially if they work or participate in activities where soil is disturbed, from  farming to construction.

According to health officials, the best way to reduce getting sick is to avoid breathing in dirt or dust in areas where Valley Fever is common. They suggest staying inside and keeping windows and doors closed when it is windy outside and the air is dusty.

While driving, keep car windows closed and use recirculating air conditioning, if available. If you must be outdoors in dusty air, consider wearing an N95 mask or respirator. Refrain from disturbing the soil, whenever possible.

It’s not yet clear what if any affect the drought has had on the spread of Valley Fever, however, some climate factors, including rainfall amount, may influence the growth of the Valley Fever fungus in the soil, the state health department said in its statement. They added, however, that climate conditions have not proven to be a consistent indicator of how many people will get infected each year.

In the past decade, the highest number (5,217) of cases was reported in 2011. Since then, the incidence has declined. There were 2,217 cases reported in 2014.

The CDPH website has information about Valley Fever and how to protect against infection, including ways to prevent work-related Valley Fever.

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