Friday, September 23, 2016

Report Illustrates Critical Shortage of Nurses in Utah Schools

(Salt Lake City, UT) – A new report from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) indicates the state does not meet the national recommendation of one school nurse for every 750 healthy students, or even one nurse for every school. In fact, the state’s ratio of one school nurse for every 4,318 students is one of the lowest in the country.

“Ideally, each student would have daily access to a school nurse, which can improve students’ health, safety, and their abilities to learn. But the bottom line is that Utah is woefully understaffed when it comes to nurses in the schools,” said BettySue Hinkson, school nurse consultant for the UDOH.

Over the past year the focus has been moving away from ratios in preference to student acuity, social determinants of the community, and health disparities. However there remains a heavy emphasis on student to nurse ratios, and according to the report, for each school in Utah to have a nurse, the state would need an additional 959 more school nurses at an estimated cost of $91 million dollars. To meet the national recommendation of one nurse for every 750 students, $68 million would be needed.

“Students are best able to achieve their educational potential when they are healthy. And for many kids, a school nurse is the only healthcare provider they see on a regular basis,” said Hinkson.

Many students have chronic health conditions which need may need interventions while at school. During the 2015-2016 school year, school nurses were responsible for the care of 21,455 students with asthma; 9,606 students with severe and extreme allergic reactions; 2,057 students with diabetes, and 2,372 students with a seizure diagnosis. Many of which had individualized healthcare plans (IHP) and emergency action plans (EAP) as well as a need for medication at school, such as an inhaler, glucagon, or epinephrine, in case of emergencies.

School nurses perform a variety of duties, such as helping students manage chronic health conditions; providing direct care; administering medications to students; developing IHPs and EAPs; training staff and students on a variety of topics from maturation to how to respond to anaphylaxis; and providing vision, dental, hearing, and scoliosis screenings. School nurses also provide essential care for medically complex, medically fragile, and nursing-dependent students.

To download a copy of the 2015-2016 Nursing Services in Utah Public Schools report, visit

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Media Contact:
Dave Mecham
(801) 538-6654

Thursday, September 22, 2016

1 out of 3 Utah Adults Aged 65+ Will Fall This Year

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Every 58 minutes in Utah, emergency medical services personnel are dispatched to the residence of an older adult because of a fall. That means, that every week 179 Utahns aged 65 and older are treated in an emergency department. Sixty-one of them require hospitalization and three die, all due to complications related to a fall. The sad part is, falling does not have to be a normal part of aging.

“Older adults want to stay active, independent, and safe in their homes, but many worry about their risk of falling,” said Sally Aerts, falls prevention specialist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH). “In fact, one out of three older adults will fall at least once this year. But falling is not a normal part of aging and older adults have the power to prevent a fall.”

Data from the UDOH show that falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injury-related hospital admissions in Utah, costing more than $104 billion in 2013 alone. Sixty-eight percent of Utahns aged 65 and older who fell sustained a fracture of some kind (nearly one-fourth of these were hip fractures). Other common injuries resulting from falls include: traumatic brain injuries (17%), spinal fractures (12.1%), and broken ribs (7.3%).

“Our goal is to help seniors remain healthy and independent. One fall can be the beginning of a downward health spiral that may include limited mobility, dementia from a head injury, and complications from major surgeries like blood clots and seizures. Even minor falls can impact a person’s sense of safety and well-being,” commented Aerts.

The majority of older adult falls which require hospitalization happened in the home, with 22.0% occurring in the bathroom, 14.7% in the bedroom, and 10.4% of falls occurring in the kitchen.

However, most falls are preventable when older adults remove hazards from their homes and increase their strength and balance. The UDOH recommends six basic steps to reduce the risk of falls:
  • Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise improves strength and balance, as well as coordination. Many of the state’s local Area Agencies on Aging and local health departments offer classes specifically designed to reduce the risk of falling. To sign up for a free class near you, call 888-222- 2542 or visit
  • Make your home safer. Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs and clutter in walkways and stairs. Install grab bars next to your toilet and shower.
  • Talk to your health care provider. Ask your doctor if you are at risk of falling. Your doctor also needs to know if you’ve fallen in the past so he or she can help you determine what prevention steps are needed to stay independent.
  • Have your health care provider review your medicines. Some medicines or combinations of medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and cause you to fall.
  • Have your vision and hearing checked. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling. It’s also important that you can hear properly, as your eyes and ears are key to keeping on your feet.
  • Talk to your family members. Remember, falls aren’t just a seniors’ issue. Ask your family and friends for help in taking simple steps to stay safe.
Utah will join 48 other states in recognizing September 22, 2016 as Falls Prevention Awareness Day. For more information about how to prevent older adult falls, visit

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Media Contact:
Katie McMinn
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-6156

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Three Out of Four Car Seats Not Installed Properly: Safe Kids Utah announced as one of 11 national ‘Buckle Up for Life’ partners

(Salt Lake City) – What if there was a way to prevent a leading cause of childhood death, but three out of four of us were doing it wrong? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 75 percent of car seats in the U.S. are used incorrectly.

Today, Buckle Up For Life, a national car seat education program created by Toyota and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, announced Safe Kids Utah was selected as one of 11 new national partners for the program. The other 10 national partners selected this year include:
  • American Family Children's Hospital, Madison, WI
  • Cardon Children's Medical Center, Mesa, AZ
  • City of Rocky Mount Fire Department, Rocky Mount, NC
  • Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center, Sacramento, CA
  • Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, Portland, OR
  • Safe Kids Grand Forks - Altru Health System, Grand Forks, ND
  • Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford, CT
  • Trustees of Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN
  • University Health System San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
  • Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, Detroit, MI
“Whether you’re a first-time parent, doting grandparent, or seasoned baby sitter, car seats are not always the easiest things to figure out,” said Cambree Applegate, Safe Kids Utah director and UDOH employee. “That’s why we are so excited to join Buckle Up For Life to help Utah families stay safe on the road.”

Staff with Safe Kids Utah and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) will work closely with the Salt Lake County, Utah County, and Weber-Morgan Health Departments to educate families and caregivers about the proper use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Families in need may receive free car seats and will be matched with certified child passenger safety technicians to learn how to install them properly.

National research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that proper use of car seats can reduce the chance of an infant being killed in a crash by 71 percent and the risk of a toddler being killed by 54 percent. Kids in booster seats are also less likely to be killed or injured than children who are restrained only by a seat belt.

Buckle Up for Life was created by Toyota and Cincinnati Children’s in 2004 to help keep child passengers safe. More than 45,000 people have been impacted by the program in 17 cities around the country. In one city alone, the program nearly tripled the use of proper car seats among participating families. Community organizations that have offered the program have observed a marked improvement in participants’ auto safety behaviors, including:
  • The average rate of children unrestrained in cars decreased from one in four to fewer than one in 20;
  • The average rate of children in car seats increased from roughly one in four to one in two; and
  • The use of seat belts by adults increased an average of 13 percent, from 68 percent to 81 percent.
Safe Kids Utah and local Safe Kids coalitions across the state will announce the launch of Buckle Up for Life in conjunction with free car seat checks and other safety events during National Child Passenger Safety Week, observed September 18-24, 2016. Event details can be found at

For more information about Buckle Up for Life, visit

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Media Contact:
Cambree Applegate
Safe Kids Utah
(o) 801-538-6852 (m) 435-862-8773

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Health Officials Unable to Pinpoint Transmission Route of Zika Case

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah health officials today updated their progress on a months-long investigation into a unique case of Zika virus discovered in the state in July. The case was unique because the individual had no known risk factors for Zika virus, had not traveled to an area with Zika transmission and had no sexual contact with a person with Zika virus. 

However, health officials were able to determine the person helped provide care to another patient who was infected with Zika virus. This other patient, who subsequently passed away, was infected with an unusually high amount of virus, approximately 100,000 times higher than an average infection.

The investigation was a collaborative effort of the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD), Davis County Health Department, University of Utah Health Care, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local Mosquito Abatement Districts.

To date, as part of the investigation, public health officials have tested more than 200 people for Zika virus. These individuals included family contacts of both cases, health care workers who cared for the deceased patient, and members of the general public who lived near both of the cases. No additional cases of Zika virus have been identified as part of the investigation. 

Local Mosquito Abatement Districts, working with the CDC, also trapped and tested mosquitoes around the homes of both cases. No mosquitoes from the two invasive species (Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus) known to carry Zika virus were found during the investigation.

“An important part of any public health investigation is working to identify additional cases of disease,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist for the UDOH. “Finding new cases can help lead us to answers during an investigation, and while we’re happy nobody else was infected, the lack of additional cases leaves many questions unanswered.”

The investigation has not been able to definitively identify how the case was infected. More than 2,900 cases of Zika have been identified in the continental United States and Hawaii and this is the only case that has an unknown mode of transmission.

“This investigation will remain active, and we will continue working to learn more about Zika virus and how it may be spread,” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, medical director from the SLCoHD. “People should continue to take the appropriate steps to prevent Zika virus infection – especially pregnant women, and health care workers who are caring for severely ill patients with the disease.”

The Utah investigation was highlighted in this week’s MMWR report, a weekly publication issued by CDC that addresses public health information and recommendations. More tips on Zika prevention are available at

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


Monday, September 12, 2016

Data Shows Half of Utah Youth Who Report Using Alcohol Also Vaping

(Salt Lake City, UT) – In 2015, more than half (55.5%) of Utah youth reporting alcohol use in the past 30 days also reported using electronic cigarettes or vape products. Both alcohol and nicotine can damage the developing brain.

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and the Utah Department of Human Services (DHS) teamed up to look at how Utah youth are using both alcohol and tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The findings published in the UDOH Health Status Update (HSU) show high co-occurrence for use of both substances.

“About one-fourth of Utah youth who drank alcohol in the past 30 days reported that they also smoked conventional cigarettes,” said Janae Duncan, program manager for the UDOH Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. “Nicotine is highly addictive and most adult smokers become dependent before the age of 19, making use of tobacco products among adolescents a concern.”

Additional highlights from the report showed:
  • Utah students in grades 8, 10, and 12 were significantly more likely to report ever trying alcohol (23.4%) and e-cigarettes (22.9%) than conventional cigarettes (13.1%).
  • More than 10% of students reported current e-cigarettes use, followed by alcohol use (8.6%), and cigarette smoking (3.4%).
  • Use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes was highest in Southeast Utah health district (8.2%), comprised of Carbon, Emery, and Grand Counties.
  • Youth alcohol use was highest in Summit County (17.8%).
“We know that alcohol and nicotine can affect how a teen’s brain develops. Use of these products alone or together can ‘hard-wire’ the brain for addiction into their adult life,” said Susannah Burt, prevention program manager at the DHS Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Data was analyzed from the Utah SHARP (Student Health and Risk Prevention) survey, which is conducted in Utah public schools in the spring of odd-numbered years in collaboration with the UDOH, DHS, and the Utah State Board of Education. The survey asks questions about physical and mental health, substance abuse, anti-social behaviors, and the risk and protective factors that predict these behaviors.

“Even though more research is needed, we already know that nicotine and alcohol use damage the developing brain. We look forward to collaborating with other agencies to develop policies to protect our youth from e-cigarettes and underage drinking. It is important that we work together because ultimately we all want to prevent addiction in adulthood,” said Duncan.

Visit for a copy of the HSU findings. For help quitting tobacco visit Parents who want to learn about prevention of underage drinking may visit

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Media Contact:
Brittany Karzen
Utah Department of Health
714-267-3679 (m)
Susannah Burt
Department of Human Services
801-538-4388 (o) 801-920-7448 (m)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

New Report Details Utah Suicides, Suicide Attempts

(Salt Lake City, UT) – A report from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) shows that an average of two Utahns die from suicide every day and 12 Utahns are hospitalized or treated in an emergency department due to injuries from a suicide attempt. In 2014, 555 Utahns died from suicide, a decline from 570 in 2013. Preliminary data suggest the number of suicides will exceed 600 for 2015.

Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in Utah and the suicide rate was the 7th highest in the country in 2014 (22.9 per 100,000 persons vs. 15.4 per 100,000 persons). “We have a more comprehensive, collaborative approach to suicide prevention in Utah than ever before,” said Andrea Hood, suicide prevention coordinator at the UDOH. “Our hope is that the strategies we are all working so hard on will save lives and bring hope to those who are feeling alone or hopeless, because each life matters.”

While suicide prevention among youth continues to be a priority for state and local officials, prevention efforts are needed for all ages. Data from 2012-2014 shows the highest rate for suicide in Utah were persons aged 45-54 years (34.0 per 100,000 population), whose suicide rate is approximately five times higher compared to the youth rate (7.5 per 100,000 population).

Suicide is complex and generally cannot be attributed to a single cause or event. Suicide is often preceded by a lifetime history of traumatic events. Additional factors that put a person at risk of suicide may include alcohol or drug abuse, having a diagnosable mental health disorder, easy access to lethal means such as guns or pills, family history of suicide or violence, lack of social support, loss of a close family member or friend (especially if it was by suicide), physical health issues such as a traumatic brain injury or chronic pain, relationship or school problems, and other stressful life events or losses.

Findings in the report point to specific circumstances and stressors surrounding risk for suicide deaths in Utah. Males were more likely to have a crisis within two weeks of their death, intimate partner problems, job problems, school problems, and legal problems compared to females. Females were more likely to have a diagnosed mental illness, current mental illness treatment, history of mental illness treatment, and a history of suicide attempts prior to their death compared to males.

“Suicide is one of those things that can be uncomfortable to talk about. But research shows that asking directly about suicide does not cause them to act out on those thoughts. Rather, it opens up the door for that person to get the help they need,” said Kimberly Myers, suicide prevention coordinator for the Utah Department of Human Services. “Treatment and intervention work. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or talking about suicide, help is available. Don’t give up. You are not alone.”

All suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts should be taken seriously. Get help 24/7 by calling the Statewide CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK. Help is also available online at Trained consultants will provide free and confidential crisis counseling to anyone in need.

For a copy of the Suicide in Utah report visit For more information on suicide prevention visit

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Media Contacts:
Andrea Hood, UDOH
(o) 801-538-6599 (m) 801-913-6304
Kimberly Myers, DSAMH
(o) 801-538-4028 (m) 801-633-2408

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Avoid Possible Exposure to Rabies by Avoiding Bats

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah public health officials are asking everyone to remember that bats are particularly active this time of year, which means the possibility of exposure to rabies is increasing.  To date, 70 bats have been tested this year and seven tested positive.  In Utah, bats are the primary carrier of the rabies virus.

Rabies affects the nervous system of humans and animals. A person may contract rabies through a bite, scratch, or saliva from the infected animal. Unfortunately, because a bat’s teeth and claws are so small, a bat bite or scratch may not be seen or even felt by the injured person. However, since rabies is considered 100% fatal once symptoms develop, all potential exposures must be taken seriously.

“If you find yourself near a bat, dead or alive, do not touch, hit, or destroy it and do not try to remove it from your home,” said Dallin Peterson, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH). “Call your local animal control office to collect the bat and call your health care provider or local public health department immediately to report the possible exposure and determine whether preventive treatment is necessary.”

Every year, it is estimated that 40,000 people receive a rabies prevention treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) due to a potential exposure to rabies. Not all animal exposures will require PEP.  Unfortunately, most people are given PEP due to close contact with domestic animals, such as cats or dogs. Knowing how to prevent rabies can reduce your risks and save pets from unnecessary grief.

The Utah Department of Health and local health departments urge all Utahns to avoid the heartache of unnecessarily euthanizing pets and undergoing rabies treatment by ensuring their pets’ rabies vaccines are up-to-date. Utah law requires all domestic dogs, cats and ferrets receive the rabies vaccine. Pet owners are encouraged to check with their veterinarian for information on rabies vaccine.

In addition to vaccinating your pets, following these guidelines can help reduce your risk for getting rabies.
Keep your pets confined. Keep your pets inside and supervise them when outside. This will help keep your pets from coming in contact with wild animals.
Report stray animals to local authorities. Call your local animal control officials to report stray dogs and cats.
Don't approach wild animals. Wild animals with rabies may seem unafraid of people. It's not normal for a wild animal to be friendly with people, so stay away from any animal that seems unafraid. If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to animal control.
Keep bats out of your home. Seal any cracks and gaps where bats can enter your home. If you know you have bats in your home, work with a local expert to find ways to keep bats out or contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Services.
Consider the rabies pre-exposure vaccine if you're traveling. If you're traveling to a country where rabies is common and you'll be there for an extended period of time, ask your doctor whether you should receive the rabies vaccine.
Take action if you are bitten. If you are bitten by any animal (domestic or wild), immediately wash the wound well with soap and water and see a health care provider. Contact animal control if you are bitten by an animal, to assist in capturing the animal for observation or rabies testing.

In domestic animals, signs of rabies include:
behavior changes
general sickness
trouble swallowing
an increase in drool or saliva
biting at everything, if excited

For more information on rabies, visit

Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
(o) 801-538-6682
(c) 801-352-1270