Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Newborn Screening Test IDs Rare, Sometimes Fatal Condition in Utah Baby

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Jody Bell and Logan Hauenstein are hoping they can bring their newborn infant home by Christmas. Their daughter, now 6 weeks old, was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) through the Utah Newborn Screening Program. Babies with SCID appear normal at birth but cannot fight infections and may die within the first year of life without treatment. If SCID is diagnosed early, before the onset of infections, a bone marrow transplant can successfully treat the disorder and with fewer complications.

Prior to newborn screening, infants with SCID with no family history of the disease had been diagnosed only after developing serious infections. Currently, 23 states have adopted the T-cell receptor excision circle (TREC) assay as part of their routine newborn screening programs. Utah began screening for SCID on July 1, 2013 and has screened approximately 61,000 newborns for SCID to date. The prevalence of SCID was thought to be 1:100,000; however, through newborn screening, more children are being diagnosed and the prevalence appears to be closer to 1:50,000.

The absence of T-cells and antibody immunity prevents infants from being able to fight severe infections; they develop diarrhea and failure to thrive. These were the problems that brought infants with SCID to medical attention before screening was implemented.

Population-based newborn screening is different from diagnostic testing done by providers confronted with a known or suspected disorder in their practice. Screening tests are performed on a large scale in centralized state public health laboratories that use blood from a heel stick that is spotted onto filter paper and dried, as first developed in 1963 by Robert Guthrie for population-
based testing of newborns for phenylketonuria. These dried blood spots (DBS) can be handled by

automated testing and tracking methods, enabling state laboratories to run thousands of samples at a time. Including SCID, there are 38 disorders on the Utah’s Newborn Screening Panel. A rigorous review is performed prior to the addition of a disorder. These disorders, as with SCID, allow for early diagnosis, treatment and successful outcomes.

For SCID, it is important to have an early diagnosis in order to avoid contact with non-family members and reduce the chances of an infection. Even something as simple as a cold can be devastating for these infants.

As for Jody and Logan, their daughter has been in isolation at Primary Children’s Hospital since she was only a few days old, awaiting a bone marrow transplant. Neither parent was a match for their daughter, but an anonymous donor who does match is ready to donate when physicians give the go-ahead. In addition to getting all babies’ newborn screens completed, Jody and Logan encourage everyone to register on the Be the Match donor website for others who may be in need of a transplant.

Note: The family, medical providers and newborn screening program staff will be available to answer questions Thursday, October 23, 2014 from 2:00-2:30 PM at the Utah Department of Health CSCHN Building, 44 Mario Capecchi Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Media Contacts
Cyndi Bemis
Office of Public Information and Marketing
(o) 801-538-6348 (m) 801-538-6348
Kim Hart
Newborn Screening Program

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Life After Brain Injury: Conference gives TBI sufferers, families hope

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Every day in Utah, 54 people are treated in and released from an emergency room due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Another eight are hospitalized or die each day from a TBI.  In Utah, the leading causes of TBI are falls, car crashes, and bicycle crashes.

“Traumatic brain injuries can dramatically impact a person’s life,” said Trisha Keller, Manager, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “TBIs can affect a person’s ability to work, his or her short- and long-term memory, as well as vision, sleep, mood, and movement. The real tragedy is that most TBIs are preventable.”

The Brain Injury Alliance of Utah (BIAU) is sponsoring the 25th Annual Families and Professionals Conference this week to help family members and health care providers better understand how to help those suffering from a TBI. “Life Will Go On” is the theme for this year’s conference, which will focus on helping individuals transition back to school and work.

The conference will be held Friday, October 24, 2014 at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center in Ogden, Utah.

Among the conference keynote speakers is Dr. Debra Braunling-McMorrow, President and CEO of Learning Services, a national leader in post-TBI neuro-rehabilitation. Braunling-McMorrow has more than 25 years’ experience in the brain injury field and will discuss some of the hidden issues and long-term consequences of brain injury.

Other conference topics will include neuroplasticity and how to teach the brain new tricks, managing brain injury in medical settings, brain injury and aging, executive function, meditation and relaxation techniques, and everything you need to know about guardianship.

To register for the BIAU Conference visit
Find more TBI-related data, resources, and information about Utah’s TBI Fund for survivors at

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Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
UDOH Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569

Monday, October 20, 2014

'Share the Memories' - Families of Teen Crash Victims Share Their Grief

(Salt Lake City, UT). Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teens across the U.S. In 2013, 18 families were devastated to learn that their teenager had been killed in a motor vehicle incident on Utah roads. Today, they shared their stories to encourage others to drive safely and buckle up.

Melissa Brown’s 16-year-old daughter, Amanda, was a passenger in a single vehicle rollover on June 28, 2013. Amanda was with two friends when the driver of the pickup truck she was riding in overcorrected and lost control. The truck rolled down an embankment six times. None of the teens were wearing a seat belt. Amanda and her friend, Tyler Stuart, were both ejected and the 18-year-old driver suffered a broken back. Tyler died instantly, while Amanda suffered severe head trauma and died a few days later.

“We miss her and love her so much,” said Brown. “This is a sad tragedy that changed three families’ lives forever. As parents, the most important thing we can do is to talk to our teens about wearing their seat belts.”

Teens have the lowest seat belt usage rate of any age group. In 2013, nearly three-fourths of all teens killed on Utah roads were not restrained. “The simple decision to choose to wear your seat belt every time you are in a vehicle can and does save lives,” said Carlos Braceras, UDOT Executive Director. “If I could change a single behavior of every Utahn, it would be to make sure they are always buckled up, no matter what.”

This is the seventh year the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) have collected stories of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes. The book

will be used by state and local agencies as a prevention tool to help young drivers realize the
impact their decisions have on others. The books will also be distributed to high school driver education classes in the state.

Joycelyn Weese lost her 18-year-old son, Devereaux (Dev), in an auto-pedestrian crash. Dev was hit and killed as he crossed the street on his bicycle. The driver was distracted by a cell phone.  “My son lost his life because someone thought their phone was more important than paying attention to the road,” said Weese. “No phone call or text is worth taking someone else’s life.”

Data from the Utah Highway Safety Office show that in 2013, 23 teen drivers were involved in a fatal crash, killing more than two dozen people, including six of the teen drivers. Teen drivers were also 1.3 times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speeding, in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages.

“Policies such as Utah’s Graduated Driver Licensing laws and efforts by our state and community partners have saved lives,” said David Patton, UDOH Executive Director. “In 2012, for the first time in more than a decade, teen drivers did not have the highest crash rates. We are making a difference and the goal of zero fatalities on Utah roads is within reach.”

“The book we’ve compiled shows the ripple effect our driving decisions can have on our families, friends, and communities,” said Jenny Johnson, UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “These teens’ memories will live on, and their stories will not be forgotten.”

To download a copy of the book Share the Memories: Remembering 10 Lives Lost on Utah Roads, visit or

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Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569

Friday, October 10, 2014

Newborn Found in California Dumpster a Reminder of Utah Safe Haven Law

(Salt Lake City, UT) –The Utah Department of Health’s Newborn Safe Haven program is asking everyone to make the right decision to get newborns to a safe place. Passed in 2001, the Safe Haven law allows mothers to anonymously drop off their babies at any Utah hospital, no questions asked, and no police.

“Fortunately, the newborn found in California was healthy and is now safe,” said Utah Rep. Patrice Arent, sponsor of the legislation passed in Utah. “But this is a reminder that every state has a safe haven program. There is no reason a newborn should be left in a dumpster. This life-saving law protects not only newborns, but the identity of anyone who safely drops off a baby at a hospital.”

The Utah Safe Haven hotline number is 866-458-0058 and is staffed 24/7.  For more information, please visit The website offers details on the law, provides helpful answers to frequently asked questions, and contact information for hospitals and crisis and respite nurseries across Utah.

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Media Contacts:
Cyndi Bemis
Public Information Specialist
Utah Department of Health
(o) 538-6348 (m) 801-865-0648
Rep. Patrice Arent
Chair, Utah Newborn Safe Haven Advisory Cmte.
(801) 889-7849

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

UDOH Releases Annual Report on Healthcare-associated Infections

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) has released the 2013 hospital-specific report of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in licensed hospitals.* The report provides information on specific types of HAIs that are reportable in Utah, including central line-associated blood stream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), surgical site infections (SSIs) associated with colon surgeries and abdominal hysterectomies, Clostridium difficile (C. diff), and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia infections.

Utah State regulation (Rule 386‐705, Epidemiology, Healthcare-associated Infection) requires the UDOH to collect and report data on HAIs. The Utah data are self-reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) by each facility that is required to report HAIs by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

•   Overall results from 2013 show that Utah had significantly fewer CLABSIs than the national rate, but significantly more CAUTIs and colon SSIs than the national rate.
•   There was not a significant difference from the national rate for SSIs associated with abdominal hysterectomies.
•   Utah acute care facilities had significantly fewer C. difficile infections compared to the national rate.
•   Utah acute care facilities had significantly fewer MRSA bacteremia infections compared to the national rate.
•   Because 2013 was the first year long-term acute care and inpatient rehabilitation facilities provided CLABSI and CAUTI data to NHSN, there is currently insufficient data to establish a national comparison.

Dr. Allyn Nakashima, UDOH State Epidemiologist, says, “Utah continues to see improvement in reducing HAIs. We encourage collaborations among all healthcare facilities across the state to identify “best practices” in infection control to further reduce HAIs.”

The Healthcare-associated Infections Annual Report includes a full year of reported HAI data for 2013. Annual reports are published every October. The reports contain information for all infections required to be reported to NHSN by CMS according to the CMS Healthcare Facility HAI Reporting Requirements timeline. To read the entire HAI Report, visit

*Licensed hospitals include acute care, long-term acute care, critical access, rehabilitation, psychiatric, government, and children’s hospitals. 

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Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
(o) 801-538-6348 (m) 801-352-1270

Monday, October 6, 2014

41,000 More Utahns Had Health Insurance in 2013

(Salt Lake City, UT) – New data from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) show that 335,700 Utahns, or 11.6 percent of the total population, did not have health insurance during 2013. The figure represents a decrease in the uninsured by 40,900 people compared to 2012.

The estimates come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based cell and landline telephone survey that measures key public health indicators, including health care coverage.

The data show that adults between the ages of 19 and 64 with incomes less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the population targeted by Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah Plan, continue to be uninsured at a much higher rate than the rest of the Utah population. Of adults in the Healthy Utah population, 33.5 percent were uninsured in 2013.

Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) also show there were fewer people in the Healthy Utah target population during 2013 compared to 2012 (309,600 compared to 323,100).

“It’s encouraging that we’ve seen the number of uninsured Utahns decline in the past year,” said UDOH Executive Director David Patton. “By implementing the governor’s Healthy Utah Plan we can make an even bigger difference, and begin to provide health care coverage for more of those who really need it.”

Healthy Utah is Gov. Herbert’s alternative to Medicaid expansion and would provide health care coverage through the private market to approximately 92,000 Utahns by the end of 2015. The plan still needs approval from the federal government and the Utah State Legislature.

Other findings from the new data include:

•   The drop in the uninsured rate may be due to Utah’s improving economy and declining unemployment rate. The number of adults ages 19-64 who were employed full time in 2013 rose by 24,300 compared to 2012, while the number of uninsured adults in this population fell by 18,400.

•   The percentage of uninsured adults ages 27-34 fell dramatically, from 26.1 percent of this population in 2012 to 19.5 percent in 2013.

•   Changes from the Affordable Care Act that allow married children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they’re 26 years old appear to be having a positive impact. In 2010, nearly 29 percent (110,700 people) of this population was uninsured; in 2013 that fell to 18.4 percent (68,500 people).

•   There was a slight decrease in the number of children ages 0-18 living under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. In 2012 there were 393,900 children in this population. According to ACS estimates, the number fell to 367,800 in 2013. However, the percentage of those children without insurance increased from 13.1% (31,400) in 2012 to 14.5% (39,700) in 2013.

The source of the data, the BRFSS, is a household health survey overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and conducted by individual state health departments.  Poverty estimates are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.  Additional data on the estimated number of uninsured Utahns can be found by clicking here.

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Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko
Public Information Officer

Thursday, October 2, 2014

All Utah Newborns Now Screened for Critical Congenital Heart Disease

(Salt Lake City, UT) As of October 1, 2014, a new Utah law requires every newborn infant born in the state to be screened for critical congenital heart disease or CCHD. Utah joins 38 other states that require this pulse oximetry screening to detect a CCHD shortly after birth.

 Every year in Utah, an estimated 64 babies are born with critical congenital heart disease. CCHDs are a group of heart conditions that can go undiagnosed in the newborn period. If not diagnosed soon after birth, CCHD can lead to serious medical problems or even death. 

The screening takes just minutes and senses the oxygen saturation by placing a soft probe on the infant’s hand and foot.  Low saturation values can signal a problem. “This simple, non-invasive screening can save lives,” said Dr. Harper Randall, Medical Director over the newborn screening programs at the Utah Department of Health. Data from the Utah Birth Defect Network show that CCHDs occur in roughly 12 of every 10,000 babies, or one in every 835 births in Utah.  While many cases are diagnosed prenatally by ultrasound, those that are not may be identified through screening soon after birth.

“'We're so fortunate to live in an era where we can screen effectively for a greater number of diseases, said Dr. Paul Wirkus, Community Pediatrician with Cottonwood Pediatrics. “The earlier we find serious conditions with preventable consequences, the more effective our interventions can be.  Newborn screening of all types has made the world a safer place for children," Wirkus said.

During the 2013 legislative session, Representative Paul Ray introduced House Bill 276 to help ensure that all babies born in Utah receive the potentially life-saving screening. 

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH), in collaboration with the University of Utah, began a demonstration project two years ago to pilot CCHD screening at two hospitals. When the demonstration project began, a minority of Utah birthing facilities were screening for CCHD. UDOH has provided birthing facilities with educational material and training opportunities, which has contributed to the majority of birthing facilities in Utah screening for CCHD well before the mandated start date of October 1.

For more information on CCHD, visit  or call the Utah CCHD Screening Project office at 1-866-818-7096.

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Media Contact:
Amy Nance 
Program Manager