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Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Feds to aid in response to foodborne outbreaks

By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA - The Auglaize County Health Department is now enrolled in a federal program designed to help improve response to foodborne outbreaks such as salmonella.
Director of nursing Cindy Jones told board members Tuesday the health department applied and was approved for the Foodborne Diseases Centers for Outbreak Response program, known as FoodCORE, to better handle cases such as food poisoning. The program is available free of charge.
"These investigations are really involved," she said. "Those interviews can take lots and lots of time."
To find out exactly what food may have caused an illness, health officials sometimes must ask detailed questions such as the type of groceries purchased, foods eaten at home or other locations, and places traveled, Jones said.
One of the seven FoodCORE centers across the U.S. is located in Ohio; others are in Connecticut, New York City, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. The federal agents at the centers work with state and local health officials to develop new and better methods to detect, investigate, respond to and control multi-state outbreaks of foodborne diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009 funded the pilot program in three centers with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Association of Public Health Laboratories. Due to its success, CDC the following year expanded the project with additional centers.
Efforts are primarily focused on outbreaks caused by bacteria such as salmonella, shiga toxin-producing escherichia coli and listeria.
Also on Tuesday, county medical director Dr. Juan Torres spoke about a pair of issues he believes many residents should address this year: obesity and smoking.
"If we would lose weight and stop smoking, it would take care of most of our health problems," he told the board.
He warned that many tobacco manufacturers use flashy packaging and designs on cigarettes to lure younger smokers due to limited advertising rights.
"These companies now put all their marketing into their packaging," he said.
Torres shared a recent issue of John Hopkins Magazine, which showed examples of the colorful packaging including small, red hearts on the tips of cigarettes.
He noted that other countries - unlike the U.S. - require tobacco companies to use a large portion of the cigarette pack to place warnings about the health hazards linked to smoking.
Torres also recommended that primary care physicians help patients attain healthy weights by steering them into some type of intervention sessions lasting at least six months to achieve long-term results.
"They can be one on one or in a group and can continue for a year," he said.
Torres said losing just 10 percent of a person's weight can reduce or eliminate need for blood pressure medication and other drugs, and greatly diminish the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The board also,
• approved estimated revenue this year for the general fund at $2,200,068 and expenses at $1,889,068.
• learned the environmental department achieved its goal by reducing in-office time by 9 percent in 2013; more hours were spent in the field doing inspections and other tasks. The data was collected and presented to the board in a year-end summary by environmental director Curt Anderson.
• learned the seasonal flu is now widespread locally and across the state and this year's dominant strain appears to be H1N1 - one of the strains people can get immunized against by getting the influenza vaccine.
County director of nursing Cindy Jones said H1N1 more frequently sickens the young and middle age.
"It's never too late to get protection," she said, adding the health department still has vaccines available.
• approved a $3,500 Medical Reserve Corp grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The amount is the same as last year.
• learned an emergency preparedness exercise is planned for April 9 and will involve 18 counties in the northwest region. The four-hour event will help numerous emergency response agencies such as the health department prepare for an influenza pandemic with mass fatalities, health commissioner Charlotte Parsons explained.
The exercise will take place in the county similar to a tabletop format but will require communication between agencies and other partners to implement actions such as setting up a temporary morgue, she said.
• elected Linda Kitzmiller to continue serving as board president.
• set 8:30 a.m. Feb. 18 for the next board meeting at the health department in Wapakoneta.
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