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July 22, 2018

STATE'S HEPATITIS A OUTBREAK IS WORST IN NATION, BUT SEEMS TO BE FADING IN LOUISVILLE, WHICH FEDS SAY IS 'GOLD STANDARD' FOR RESPONSE

Kentucky’s hepatitis A outbreak is now the biggest outbreak in the United States. As of July 7, the outbreak had struck 65 of Kentucky's 120 counties with 1,094 hepatitis A cases and eight deaths. But federal officials say Louisville is a national example for how to respond to an outbreak, reports Phillip M. Bailey of the Courier Journal.

Epidemiologist Rui Zhao meets with others at Louisville Metro Health and Wellness. (Courier Journal photo by Marty Pearl)Epidemiologist Rui Zhao meets with others at Louisville Metro Health and Wellness. (Courier Journal photo by Marty Pearl)As of July 17, Louisville had 540 cases and four deaths. While the liver disease continues to spread around the state, there is evidence that it may be declining. "It feels like we’re coming out of it," Rui Zhao, epidemiologist for the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness told Bailey.

"New reports of hep A infections reached as high as 4.1 cases per day in April," Bailey reports. "Since then, that figure has plummeted to about 3.8 in May; 2.5 in June; and 1.67 in July."

Officials of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came to Louisville July 21 to praise the health department's work, WDRB-TV reports: "Louisville has set the gold standard for responding to the hepatitis A outbreak and set standard for the rest of the country," CDC epidemiologist Doug Thoroughman said.

Since the outbreak was declared on November, the Louisville health department has vaccinated more than 78,000 people by focusing on homeless camps, health clinics and the jail. "It also has an aggressive campaign to shake the general public's consciousness that they, too, can catch the disease," Bailey reports. "About 10 percent of Louisville's hep A diagnoses aren't in those high-risk groups, according to health officials."

State and local officials urge everyone in Kentucky that is part of the outbreak to get vaccinated. They also reminded everyone to practice good hand hygiene, particularly after using the restroom and before eating or preparing food.

Health officials stressed the virus in the outbreak is being passed person-to-person. There has been no evidence that it is being spread by food or drink as was the case during the hepatitis A outbreak that struck Louisville in 1988. However, "Louisville restaurants have taken the lead by vaccinating their staff," Bailey reports.


Boyd County and Ashland, its largest city, "recently passed measures requiring all food service workers to be vaccinated against the virus," and adjoining Greenup County "is poised to join them," reports Will Wright of the Lexington Herald Leader. "Boyd County has one of the highest infection rates of hepatitis A per-capita in the state, with 134 reported cases since August 2017." Greenup has had 46 cases; Carter County, which adjoins them both, has had 85.

While the outbreak leads the nation, Dr. Jeffrey Howard, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said “Our surveillance and the fact that we’ve hospitalized about 60 percent of all cases has kept our death rate below that of other states experiencing hepatitis A outbreaks.”
Posted by Al Cross at 8:51 PM

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Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

 

July 13, 2018

Tanya Horn, Senior Environmentalist for the health department models our newest head to toe protection suit. With this vinyl body armor Tanya and other staff members can handle any infestation and complete their assignments in a professional, timely manner.

Tanya Horn, Lawrence Co.  Health Dept. Senior environmentalistTanya Horn, Lawrence Co. Health Dept. Senior environmentalist

 

With ticks, mosquitos, and other airborne pests being so overwhelming this year, total protection is just another way that the Lawrence County Health Department ensures that county residents will get the best service possible for all your site inspection and other environmental needs.

Suits like Tanya is wearing are available to our entire Epi Rapid Response Team, trained professionals who respond to widespread biological environmental health concerns. If we didn’t try to strive to be more than the best, then we wouldn’t be your local health department.

Tanya Horn has been with the Lawrence County Health Department in environmental services for over 15 years. Her experience and dedication are a true plus to Lawrence County.

If you have any questions about how you might better protect yourselves for outside adventures this Summer, please give Tanya a call at 606-638-4389.

 

 

July 12, 2018

Over 10,000 people in Pike and Martin Counties alone lost Medicaid benefits, Harris says

 Democratic Rep. Chris Harris, center, addresses the audience at an event he hosted with Rep. Angie Hatton at the Pikeville library Tuesday. The event focused on the estimated 500,000 Kentuckians who were recently cut from their dental and vision benefits. Pictured with Harris, from left to right, are: former State Auditor Adam Edelen, Rep. Hatton and two candidates for the House of Representatives, Ryan Mosley and Craig Lindon. (News-Express photo by Josh Little) Democratic Rep. Chris Harris, center, addresses the audience at an event he hosted with Rep. Angie Hatton at the Pikeville library Tuesday. The event focused on the estimated 500,000 Kentuckians who were recently cut from their dental and vision benefits. Pictured with Harris, from left to right, are: former State Auditor Adam Edelen, Rep. Hatton and two candidates for the House of Representatives, Ryan Mosley and Craig Lindon. (News-Express photo by Josh Little)

Democratic leaders gathered at the Pikeville Public Library Tuesday for an event hosted by local representatives Chris Harris and Angie Hatton to address dental and vision cuts made by the Bevin administration.

Harris said Tuesday that nearly 500,000 people lost vision and dental benefits as the result of a federal judge ruling against Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid changes.

“Just in my house district alone, the 93rd House District, which is all of Martin County and most of Pike County, dental and vision benefits are being stripped from thousands of people, over 10,000 people in Pike and Martin Counties alone,” said Harris. “That’s about 15 percent of the population of those two counties that will now be without dental or vision coverage.”

Harris said not only is eliminating those benefits harmful to those who will no longer have them, but he said it will also mean more cost for taxpayers than it will save the state.

“The governor knows this, yet he continues along this path,” said Harris. “The truth is, eliminating oral health services for Kentucky’s working families who qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage amounts to a 1 percent savings in the expanded Medicaid budget.”

Harris said those patients, without benefits, will now be treated in a hospital emergency room as opposed to a dental office, which he said costs three times more. Harris said by treating oral patients in an emergency room, as opposed to a dental office, it will only add to the opioid crisis the state faces.

“Hospital emergency rooms don’t treat the underlying problem, what they do instead is they treat the patients pain that they’re in with more opioids, or more pain medicine,” he said.

Harris said another important cut that will effect many in Eastern Kentucky is nonemergency medical transportation services.

“It’s estimated that about 43,000 people of the nearly 500,000 Kentuckians impacted by this decision don’t have access to a car. They can’t get to the doctor to get the services they need,” said Harris. “This may not be a big issue in more urban areas that have public transportation, but here in Appalachia, in rural districts … many are dependent on these non-emergency medical transportation services.”

Another topic representatives discussed Tuesday were the economic repercussions of the cuts. Rep. Hatton said job creation in Kentucky requires making sure citizens are healthy enough to take those jobs being created. She said expanded Medicaid coverage in Kentucky not only allowed people to be healthy enough for work, but also created jobs across the state. Hatton said the expanded coverage added $3.5 billion to the state’s economy.

“People, these are jobs. Keeping clinics open saves and creates jobs,” she said. “The Affordable Care Act, in one clinic system in my counties, was able to hire over 100 people. They expanded dental coverage, they expanded mental health services and they expanded drug treatment programs that were available for the very first time, to a population that (contains) some of the unhealthiest people in the world.”

Hatton said there was no warning that the cuts were coming. She said the act of cutting those benefits seemed “spiteful” and “immorally wrong.”

Pikeville Dentist William “Bill” Collins, DMD, outgoing president of the Kentucky Dental Association, said Tuesday that an oral surgeon he is acquainted with had to cancel six operations in the first week of the cuts. He said another oral surgeon he knows has canceled more than 200 appointments as of Tuesday morning.

“Medicaid should not be a way of life, I do agree with that, but as a way out of poverty by increasing their quality of life,” said Collins. “It should not be used as a hand out, but as a hand up.”

Rep. Rocky Adkins of the 99th district said a letter was sent to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to find out how and why dental and vision benefits were cut.

According to a statement released Tuesday, all 37 house Democrats signed the letter which was initiated by state representatives Joni Jenkins and McKenzie Cantrell of Louisville. In the letter, representatives ask about the process used to remove benefits; how the new benefit structure is affecting recipients and providers; the expected impact of removing dental and vision benefits; and how premiums already collected will be returned, the statement said.

Harris, Hatton, Adkins and Collins were joined by former state auditor Adam Edelen and state representative candidates Ryan Mosley and Craig Lindon at Tuesday’s event.

 

By Josh Little
Appalachian News-Express

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