Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stay Safe and “Know Before You Go” Off-Road

(Salt Lake City, UT) – As thousands of Utahns head to the mountains and deserts for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation this summer, Utah State Parks and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) are reminding riders to “know before you go” by obeying Utah laws and wearing a helmet.

UDOH data show that in 2010, more than 1,800 Utahns were treated in the emergency department or hospitalized for OHV-related injuries and 20 died. OHVs include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), off-road motorcycles, and snowmobiles. OHV crashes are also a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in Utah.

Jenny Johnson, spokesperson for the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program, stresses the importance of staying within your riding limits. “We want Utahns to get out and enjoy our beautiful recreation areas. But remember, OHVs aren’t toys. When handled improperly or beyond the driving abilities of the operator or manufacturer specifications, they can be deadly.”

Operators between the ages of eight and 15 are required by law to take an OHV Safety Education class approved by Utah State Parks and Recreation and obtain their Utah OHV Safety Education Certificate before operating OHVs. It is illegal for any child under age eight to operate an OHV on public land. Drivers 16 years of age and older must have a valid driver’s license to operate one.

“More than 50,000 Utahns have taken the OHV Safety Education classes. They are an invaluable teaching tool for young drivers and their parents,” said Chris Haller, OHV Program Manager for Utah State Parks and Recreation. The classes focus on safety, handling, maintenance, and riding etiquette. Online OHV safety education courses are available at

Helmets with at least a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved safety rating for motorized use are required for all OHV operators and passengers under the age of 18.

“A helmet is always a must,” said Reed Embley, President of the Northern Utah ATV Trail Riders. “As a former EMT, I know how devastating head injuries can be. When you ignore safety, the outcome will usually not be pleasant. A small, almost inconsequential accident can change your life forever."

UDOH and State Parks officials recommend the following when enjoying OHVs:
     · Always wear a helmet and other safety gear. Other safety gear includes goggles or a face shield, long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and boots that cover the ankles.
     · Ride a machine that is the right size for you. Children should only ride OHVs that the manufacturer indicates are appropriate for their age and size. Riding a machine that is too big or too small is a major cause of crashes. Riders should be able to straddle the machine with a slight bend in the knees while both feet are on the footrests. Riders should be able to reach the controls while turning.
     · Always ride in control. Never attempt anything that is beyond your skill level or machine capability.
     · Only carry passengers if an OHV is specifically designed for it. Off-road motorcycles and most ATVs are designed to be ridden by only one person.
     · Don’t drive or ride on an OHV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

For more safety tips, information on trails and riding conditions, and OHV Safety Education classes, contact the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation OHV Program at 801-538-RIDE or visit

Media Contacts:
Jenny Johnson, UDOH
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569
Chris Haller
Utah State Parks and Recreation
(o) 801-349-0487


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Smoking Ban to Take Effect at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Facilities

SALT LAKE CITY - In a press conference today, the Utah Departments of Health (UDOH) and Human Services (DHS) reported that by July 1, 2012, more than 150 publicly-funded substance abuse and mental health facilities across Utah will have implemented a tobacco-free environment campus policy. The facilities will also be offering tobacco cessation treatments for their clients as a part of the Recovery Plus Wellness Initiative.

Dr. Robert Rolfs, Deputy Director, Utah Department of Health, said that research supports concurrent treatment for substance abuse and tobacco cessation.

“Studies show that substance abuse patients who also smoke can increase their rate of recovery by up to 25 percent when they receive treatment for both addictions simultaneously,” Rolfs said.

Clients have also found the programs useful in their recovery.

“I was able to incorporate the same principles I was using to stop using drugs and alcohol, said Danielle, a client at the House of Hope. “I used those same principles, techniques, and tools in not smoking. It was a combination effect; if I was going to quit, I was going to quit everything.”

According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, people with mental illness die 25 years earlier on average than the general population, largely due to conditions caused or worsened by smoking.

“We know that tobacco use for residents of Utah suffering from mental illness or substance abuse is much higher than for the general population in Utah,” said Palmer DePaulis, Executive Director, Utah Department of Human Services. “With these facilities going 100% tobacco-free and treating tobacco use, substance abuse and mental health providers can save lives.” 

Recovery Plus was created in response to an urgent need for guidelines for creating a tobacco-free campus policy. Integrating tobacco cessation with current treatment protocols will increase recovery rates and life expectancy for individuals with substance abuse issues and/or mental illnesses.  It’s estimated that nearly 17,000 tobacco users will benefit from the cessation programs.

For more information, visit www.RecoveryPlus.Utah.Gov.  For free help quitting tobacco, call the Utah Tobacco Quit Line at 1.800.QUIT.NOW or visit

Media Contact:
Amy Oliver
Media Coordinator
Tobacco Prevention and Control Program
(o) 801-538-6917 (c) 801-783-9067

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Utah Cancer Action Network Hosts Survivorship Social

(SALT LAKE CITY) – The Utah Cancer Action Network (UCAN) is the official host of the Survivorship Summer Social, a celebration of cancer survivorship in Utah.  The UCAN Quality of Life committee will hold the event Saturday, June 23 from 4-7 p.m. at the Cancer Wellness House, 59 South 1100 East in Salt Lake City.

“We work to provide a special day to bring survivors across the state together for fun activities, speakers, and social engagement with other survivors,” said committee co-chair Ginger Johnson. “It’s free for survivors and their families, and includes food, family-friendly activities, and cancer information booths, games, and prizes”

The Utah Cancer Action Network is a diverse group of organizations and individuals representing many key stakeholders in cancer prevention and control in Utah. UCAN’s Survivorship and Quality of Life committee promotes quality of life for all cancer patients in Utah through education, social involvement, and community outreach.  This first annual social is designed to meet the needs of cancer survivors and to encourage them to live happy and healthy lives.

“Everyone in Utah who has been affected by cancer is welcome to attend,” Johnson said. 

To register for the event go to or call 801-236-2294.

For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Sylinda Lee
Media Coordinator
(w) 801-538-6829
(c) 435-760-0685

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dog … A Baby’s Best Friend?

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Recently, a news story from Ghana hailed a lost dog as a hero after the canine was found protecting a two-week old baby who had been abandoned under a bridge. Searchers looking for the dog discovered the two snuggled up together. Although the baby had an infection, he is reported to be in good health. For many abandoned newborns, the outcome might not be so positive.

Fortunately, Utahns don’t have to rely on the neighbor's dog to safeguard a newborn. The Utah Newborn Safe Haven law, which was approved several years ago, allows an unharmed newborn to be turned over by the birth mother or any other person to any staff member at a hospital. The law protects newborns from injury or death by providing a safe place but also allows the identity of the person who is giving up the newborn to remain a secret.

Once the newborn has been checked out by the hospital, the Utah Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is contacted and the baby is placed for adoption through an expedited process. "Child safety and permanency are priorities for our division," said DCFS Director Brent Platt. "The safe relinquishment law has provisions to ensure both of these priorities are met should a parent choose to safely relinquish their newborn."

According to the bill’s sponsor, Representative Patrice Arent, “Utah was one of the early states to adopt a safe haven law. Similar laws have now been passed in all 50 states, providing a safe place for a mother in crisis to surrender her newborn without fear of prosecution. Many lives have been saved as a result of this legislation.”

A 24 hour toll-free information hotline is available at 1-866-458-0058. Details may also be found on the Safe Haven website at The site includes details on Utah’s law, frequently asked questions and contact information for the hospitals that take newborns.
Media Contacts:

Julia Robertson
UDOH Pregnancy Risk Line
Representative Patrice Arent
Utah House of Representatives – District 36
Utah Newborn Safe Haven Advisory Committee
(801) 930-0836

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer’s Here – and So is the Ozone

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Departments of Health (UDOH) and Environmental Quality (DEQ) have developed resources and recommendations for outdoor physical activity in the summertime to help avoid unhealthy exposure to ozone air pollution.

Ozone is created by the sun’s heat and light acting upon gases and pollution in the atmosphere. Ozone levels change throughout the day and are generally highest in the afternoon hours.

Exposure to high summer ozone levels can cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness, worsen allergy and asthma symptoms, and irritate the eyes, nose and throat. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on a person’s sensitivity to ozone, and can be felt immediately or as late as one or more days after exposure. People with heart and lung conditions, children, seniors, and people who work or exercise outdoors can be more sensitive to ozone.
“The most serious effects of ozone air pollution come from heavy or prolonged breathing of outdoor air when ozone levels are above the federal standard of .075 ppm,” said DEQ toxicologist Steve Packham, Ph.D. “It is important to check current ozone levels before outdoor activities, and especially before exercising outdoors.”
DEQ provides hourly ozone level updates on its website at
The agencies have developed materials to help Utahns assess their sensitivity to ozone. Available online, they include Recommendations for Outdoor Physical Activity During Ozone Season (May – September), and an ozone tracking tool. The ozone tool can be used to track outdoor activities, ozone levels, and symptoms experienced.

“By monitoring ozone levels and the symptoms you experience during outdoor activities, you can determine what level of ozone you are sensitive to,” said Kellie Baxter, UDOH Asthma Program. “This will help you plan your day and decide when to move your activities indoors to reduce your exposure.”
Video tutorials are available online to help Utahns assess their sensitivity to ozone using the ozone tracking tool. 

To help Utahns plan outdoor activities during ozone season, UDOH and DEQ guidelines recommend:
• The best time for outdoor summer physical activity is before noon or after 6:00 p.m.
• If you are physically active between noon and 6:00 pm:
o Consider light to moderate activity (e.g., walking instead of running).
o Consider indoor activities.
• Discuss physical activities with your doctor, especially if you have lung disease or a heart condition.
A copy of the physical activity recommendations, ozone air quality fact sheets, ozone tracking sheet, and video tutorials are available at or by calling the UDOH Health Resource Line at 1-888-222-2542.
Media Contacts:Kellie Baxter
(o) 801-538-6441 (m) 801-376-6032
Utah Department of Health
Donna Kemp Spangler
Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New Survey Methodology Changes Uninsured, Smoking Rates

(Salt Lake City, UT) – New methodology used to conduct the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, one of Utah’s most important sources of public health population data, has resulted in changes to Utah’s uninsured and smoking rates. The survey now includes interviews conducted by cellular telephone in addition to landline phones, and has also adopted a new weighting methodology.
As a result, the BRFSS now estimates 368,200 Utahns between the ages of 18-64, or 21.5 percent of this population, did not have health insurance in 2010. Under the old methodology, the estimate for this same population was 247,100 uninsured 18- to 64-year-olds, or 14.4 percent of that population.

Another health indicator impacted by the new methodology is Utah’s adult smoking rate. The new BRFSS estimates 220,000 Utah adults, or 11.2 percent of this population are smokers. The old methodology put the estimate on adult smokers at 175,000, or 8.8 percent of the adult population. This improved accuracy is critical for preventing tobacco use and providing services to those who want to quit.

Including cell phone users in the survey accounts for the increasing number of Utah households without landline phones, and also addresses an under-representation of males, adults with less formal education or lower household income, and racial and ethnic minorities.

However, the UDOH and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which oversees the survey, are quick to caution against misinterpretation of the changes in estimates that may result from the new survey design.

“It’s important to realize that shifts in prevalence estimates for 2011 might not represent actual changes in trends in risk factor prevalence in the population, but instead the changes may simply reflect improved methods of measuring these risk factors,” said Michael Friedrichs, UDOH Bureau of Health Promotion Epidemiologist.

In the coming months, the UDOH will be evaluating the effects of these changes on other public health indicators and publishing updated estimates online and in printed reports.

“Having more accurate data will allow us and our partners throughout the state to better target our efforts to help make Utah the healthiest state,” said UDOH Executive Director Dr. David Patton.

The BRFSS is a household health survey overseen by the CDC and conducted by individual state health departments. For more information on these methodology changes, please visit The CDC also released a report outlining the changes to the BRFSS and showing their effect on national level estimates of some health indicators. The report can be found at

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Media Contact:
Michael Friedrichs
Utah Department of Health

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two Hantavirus-related Deaths in Utah

(Salt Lake City, UT)  – Utah public health officials have confirmed two deaths as a result of hantavirus exposure.  The deaths occurred in Millard County and in Salt Lake County as a result of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), a rare, but deadly, lung disease. 

HPS is spread by breathing in dust around rodent-infested areas that contain hantavirus, and is not spread from person-to-person. This can happen when rodent urine and droppings that contain hantavirus become airborne. The average age of known cases is 35 years with an age range of 11 to 69 years.  No ethnic group appears to be more at risk than another.

Activities that can put people at risk include:
•  Improperly cleaning up mouse and rat urine, droppings and nests.
•  Cleaning a shed or cabin that has been closed for some time.
•  Working in areas where mice and rats may live (such as barns).

Although HPS is rare, infection can be prevented by avoiding contact with rodents and their droppings.  Try to avoid any activities that might stir up dust around rodent-infested areas.

To safely clean up rodent urine and droppings, wear a mask, glasses, and rubber or plastic gloves. Get the urine and droppings very wet with disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water.  Allow to soak for five minutes.  Use a paper towel to wipe up urine or droppings and throw the towel into the garbage. Mop the area with disinfectant or a bleach solution. 

When  finished, wash gloved hands with soap and water or spray a disinfectant or bleach solution on the gloves before taking them off.  Wash hands with soap and warm water after removing the gloves. 
The recommended cleaning solution is a mixture of 1½ cups household bleach and 1 gallon of water.  A smaller amount can be made with one part bleach and 10 parts water. 

Hantavirus symptoms generally begin with a fever greater than 100.5° F, muscle aches, and chills.  Other common symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and headache.  Less common symptoms are dizziness or a light-headed feeling, sweating, and joint, back, chest, or abdominal pain. If you experience symptoms, contact your medical provider immediately. 

Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
Media Coordinator
(801) 538-6822 (o)
(801) 647-5421 (m)