Southland Air Quality Unhealthy: Stay Indoors, Limit Activity

December 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Smoke from four wildfires raging across Southern California has resulted in unhealthy air quality across the San Fernando Valley, along with coastal areas and surrounding portions of Los Angeles County.

All people in those areas should avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and limit all physical exertion, said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer.

“It is difficult to tell where ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of dust particles in the air, so we ask all individuals to be aware of their immediate environment and take actions to safeguard their health,” Gunzenhauser said.

“Smoke and ash can be harmful,” Gunzenhauser said, especially for vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly, children, people with asthma or individuals with other respiratory or heart conditions. Throughout the county, sensitive individuals should stay indoors as much as possible — even in areas where smoke, soot, or ash cannot be seen or there is no odor of smoke, Gunzenhauser said.

“We are also advising schools that are in session in smoke-impacted areas to suspend outside physical activities, including physical education and after-school sports, until conditions improve,” Gunzenhauser said.

People can participate in indoor sports or other strenuous activity in areas with visible smoke, soot, or ash, provided the indoor location has air conditioning that does not draw air from the outside and has closed windows and doors, Gunzenhauser said.

“If you see or smell smoke, or see a lot of particles and ash in the air, avoid unnecessary outdoor activity to limit your exposure to harmful air,” Gunzenhauser said.

If outdoor air is bad, try to keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed. Air conditioners that re-circulate air within the home can help filter out harmful particles. People were urged to avoid using air conditioning units that only draw in air from the outside or that do not have a re-circulating option. And residents were advised to check the filters on their air conditioners and replace them regularly.

Residents in affected areas should also keep their pets inside.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has also extended its unhealthful air and “No-Burn” alerts through Friday. Residents are prohibited from using wood-burning fireplaces, burning rubbish, or any other activity that adds to poor air quality.

World AIDS Day: County Health Launches HIV/AIDS Initiative

December 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles County health officials announced an effort Friday aimed at significantly reducing the number of annual HIV infections in the county and helping bring an end to the virus that causes AIDS.

Nearly 61,000 people are living with HIV in Los Angeles County, and about 1,850 new cases are diagnosed each year — mostly among gay men and residents who are black, Latino or transgender, according to the county Department of Public Health.

“While we have made great progress in reducing new infections, HIV continues to significantly impact our county,” said Mario J. Perez, director of the department’s Division of HIV and STD Programs. “The rates of infection among certain groups are at epidemic proportions. If we can get people into treatment, the virus becomes undetectable — and undetectable equals untransmittable.”

Perez said the number of new cases each year has dropped from 6,500 in the 1990s to the current 1,850 cases annually, “and our goal is to get to 500 (new cases per year) by 2022.”

“We are now at a point where 60 percent of all cases in the county are virally suppressed — which means no detectable levels of HIV in their blood,” he said.

The county announced its goals for ending HIV/AIDS Friday — World AIDS Day — at a news conference at downtown’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer, explained that the department is working to increase the proportion of people living with HIV who are diagnosed to at least 90 percent by 2022 and to increase the proportion of diagnosed people living with the disease who are virally suppressed to 90 percent in the next five years. Achieving viral suppression among people living with HIV is the single most effective strategy for reducing new infections and ending the epidemic, he said.

Perez said the Public Health agency is calling “for collaboration, communication and accountability from all sectors, including the community, all levels of government, and the private health sector.”

Grissel Granados, community co-chair of the initiative, said the HIV epidemic in Los Angeles can be contained.

“This is the time to center people of color, transgender people and young gay men; be unapologetically sex positive; and catch up to the science of HIV prevention, which includes the fact that when the virus is undetectable in people living with HIV, they cannot transmit HIV and that when HIV-negative people take Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, they reduce their chances of acquiring HIV,” he said.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis — or PrEP — is a daily pill taken by people at high risk for HIV. Taken as prescribed, PrEP can reduce the chance of becoming infected by up to 99 percent. Increasing the number of people who are on PrEP is one of the most effective ways to significantly reduce new HIV infections, according to Perez.

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