Monday, July 18, 2016

Public Health Officials Investigating Unique Case of Zika

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah health officials confirmed today a new case of Zika in Utah and have launched an investigation to determine how the person became infected. The new case is a family contact who helped care for the individual who died from unknown causes and who had been infected with Zika after traveling to an area with Zika. 

Laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in Utah confirmed Zika infection in both Utah residents. A CDC team is in Utah to help with the investigation. 

The new case is the eighth Utah resident to be diagnosed with Zika. Based on what is known now, the person has not recently traveled to an area with Zika and has not had sex with someone who is infected with Zika or who has traveled to an area with Zika. In addition, there is no evidence at this time that mosquitoes that commonly spread Zika (aedes species) virus are in Utah. 

The investigation is focused on determining how the eighth case became infected after having contact with the deceased patient who had a uniquely high amount of virus in the blood. 

“Our knowledge of this virus continues to evolve and our investigation is expected to help us better understand how this individual became infected,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist at the UDOH. “Based on what we know so far about this case, there is no evidence that there is any risk of Zika virus transmission among the general public in Utah.”

Public health investigators are interviewing the person and family contacts to learn more about the types of contact they had with deceased patient. They are also collecting samples for testing from family members and others who had contact with the deceased patient while they were ill and are working in the communities where the two cases lived to trap and test mosquitoes.

“We’re doing our part as public health officials to learn more about the virus and about this specific case,” said Gary Edwards, executive director of the SLCOHD. “In the meantime, the public, and especially pregnant women, should continue to take recommended steps to protect themselves from Zika virus.”

The CDC recommends that women who are pregnant not travel to areas with Zika. They should also use condoms or not have sex with partners who have traveled to or live in an area with Zika for the duration of their pregnancy. For a list of areas with Zika visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.  CDC also recommends people take steps to prevent mosquito bites: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/prevent-mosquito-bites.html.

More tips on Zika prevention are available at http://health.utah.gov/epi/diseases/zika/.

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Media Contacts:
Tom Hudachko
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6232
(m) 801-560-4649

Pam Davenport
Salt Lake County Health Department
(o) 385-468-4122
 

Zika Virus Investigation Update

What: The Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCOHD), University of Utah Health Care and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update the media on an on-going investigation of a unique Zika virus case in Utah.

Who: Gary Edwards, Health Officer, SLCOHD
                Angela Dunn, MD, Deputy State Epidemiologist, UDOH
Ed Clark, MD, Associate Vice President of Clinical Affairs, University of Utah Health Care
Erin Staples, MD, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
When:  Monday, July 18, 2016 
                10 a.m.

Where: Salt Lake County Government Center, Council Chambers
2001 S. State 
                Salt Lake City, Utah
 
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Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko
Utah Department of Health
801-538-6232 

Don't Use Water from Utah Lake, Jordan River, or Related Canals


SALT LAKE CITY -- Elevated levels of a harmful algae in Jordan River and lower Little Cottonwood Creek have prompted state and local agencies to post warning signs and limit access to the Jordan River system. Utah Lake remains closed.

Algal blooms can last for days or weeks and toxins can last for days after the bloom. Response agencies don't expect to have a forecast on when the water can be used for any purpose for at least a week.

This warning does not affect drinking water, since it comes from a separate source.

Residents who receive secondary water from the Jordan River should not use it. Secondary water is commonly used for watering lawns and gardens.

Salt Lake County Health Department is posting warning signs at all major recreational access points to the Jordan River within Salt Lake County; the Jordan River and all canals in the county are potentially unsafe for people and animals. The river is not closed at this time.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) strongly advises farmers and ranchers against using water from Utah Lake for food production, especially fruits and vegetables, and livestock watering until lab results are available early next week. If farmers and ranchers have access to other water sources UDAF advises them to use those alternative sources to water crops, livestock and other animals.

Pet owners are also advised to keep animals away from the lake, river and canals and should not let them drink the water. Pets that have been exposed to affected waters and are exhibiting symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian. Symptoms in pets include weakness, fatigue and excessive saliva production.

Anglers are also currently advised not to fish, or consume fish from Utah and sections of the Jordan River that feed in and out of the lake. Anyone who has caught fish from those areas in, or after July 10,  is advised to not consume their catch.

North Jordan Irrigation Company has been shutting down weirs to slow irrigation flow to their customers..

Sampling in Utah Lake on July 13 led to the discovery of the harmful cyanobacteria. The toxins that can be produced by the species can cause liver damage and/or neurological damage. Toxin

data will be available on Tuesday or Wednesday. Exposure to the algae can cause vomiting, headaches, and skin rashes. Contact your physician or the Utah Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) if you believe you may be experiencing symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom.

For updates on lake and river conditions in Utah County, go to alerts.utahcounty.gov and sign up for an account. After signing up, select the method of contact, create a profile, and select a location. Then choose the alert subscription for “Utah Lake” under “Utah County Alerts.”  
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Agencies involved include various State agency departments, including the departments of Agriculture and Food, Environmental Quality, Health, Natural Resources, Public Safety and various divisions within those departments. At the local level, responding agencies include the Utah County, Salt Lake County health departments, irrigation companies and water districts, as well as the municipalities in the affected counties.

Donna Kemp Spangler
Utah Department of Environmental Quality
801-536-4484 (office)
801-554-4944 (cell)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Utah’s WIC Program Launches an Innovative Approach for Clients with Special Nutritional Needs

(Salt Lake City, UT) – In a first-of-its-kind approach, Utah’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program has partnered with Intermountain Healthcare and Utah-based UHIN to develop a secure, HIPPA compliant electronic transmission process for submitting prescriptions to Salt Lake County’s WIC clinics. These prescriptions cover medical formulas and food that have been determined to be medically necessary for Utah WIC participants with special nutritional needs that cannot be met with conventional healthy foods available in grocery stores. 

Currently, WIC clients with special nutritional needs must go through a manual hard copy process that involves physicians completing the Utah WIC Formula and Food Authorization Form (FAFAF) which is then given to the patient to take to a WIC clinic.  Unfortunately, due to incomplete forms which can take up to three weeks to correct, clients may experience significant delays which could have an adverse impact on the nutritional status of high risk, medically fragile infants and children. 

This new electronic process means that Intermountain Healthcare doctors, upon determining that a child or infant covered by WIC needs a special formula, will simply open the WIC module in their EMR, complete the required data fields and transmit the prescription electronically to the appropriate Salt Lake County WIC clinic via cHIE Direct, UHIN’s secure email system based on nationally-accepted standards. Chris Furner, WIC Services Director says, “We’re grateful to UHIN for making the interoperability of these documents possible.”

Officials believe this process will dramatically improve communications between the health care providers and the Salt Lake WIC staff creating a faster, safer, and easier process for everyone.  

This process will be piloted in mid-July with certain Intermountain Healthcare physicians and the Salt Lake County Health Department, which operates Salt Lake County’s WIC Program.  The Utah WIC Program expects that other medical entities will follow suit and implement an electronic process for submitting prescriptions to any Utah WIC clinic throughout the state.  

Media Contact:
Phyllis Crowley
Utah WIC Program

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey to Retire



(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Todd Grey, has announced his retirement following a 30-year career at the Office of the Medical Examiner (OME). Dr. Grey’s retirement is effective July 1, 2016.

Dr. Grey first joined the OME in 1986 as an assistant medical examiner and was promoted to chief medical examiner in 1988. During his career, Dr. Grey has performed approximately 8,860 autopsies and another 4,070 external examinations.

“The significance of Dr. Grey’s career in Utah can’t be overstated,” said Utah Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Joe Miner. “He has helped provide answers to thousands of families about what happened to their lost loved ones, has played a critical role in the prosecution of criminals, and has had an immeasurable impact on public health in the state.” 

Dr. Grey received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his medical degree from Dartmouth. His career highlights include: Overseeing the design and construction of the current OME building in 1991, as well as a new building the office will move into later this year; changing state law to give the OME jurisdiction over motor vehicle-related deaths; and expanding the OME staff from two to six pathologists.

Dr. Grey is also widely credited for intitially identifying the epidemic of prescription drug related overdose deaths in Utah.

“Being able to sound the alarm about emerging public health threats has been one of the most important aspects of my career,” said Dr. Grey. “We’re uniquely positioned to identify trends in what is causing deaths – whether it’s suicide, prescription drugs, or communicable diseases – and to then work with our colleagues in public health to help implement programs that will hopefully reverse those trends.”

Dr. Erik Christensen will replace Dr. Grey as the chief medical examiner effective July 1, 2016. Dr. Christensen has worked as an assistant medical examiner in the OME’s office since August 2008. Prior to joining Utah’s OME office Dr. Christensen served as assistant chief medical examiner in Richmond, Virginia and Greenville County, South Carolina. He is board certified in anatomic, clinical, and forensic pathology. Dr. Christensen attended Brigham Young University as an undergraduate and received his medical degree from the University of Virginia.

One of Dr. Christensen’s top priorities as chief medical examiner will be improving turnaround time of OME cases. “Families are directly impacted when we fall behind with our caseload, as are law enforcement agencies, funeral homes and insurance companies,” said Dr. Christensen. 

For more information on the OME, visit https://ome.utah.gov.

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Media Contact
Tom Hudachko
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6232
(m) 801-560-4649