Public Health Notices
The notices below provide information gathered from press releases and other public notices about current public health concerns.
Hepatitis C Facts
- Hepatitis C is a type of virus that can damage the liver. It is the most common, chronic, blood- borne infection (spread by blood and body fluids) in the US affecting an estimated 3 million people.
- For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness but for 70-85% of people who become infected with Hepatitis C, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. It is the leading cause of liver transplants and liver cancer. Currently there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.
- As many as 50% of those with chronic Hepatitis C show no outward symptoms and do not know they are infected. This is why screening is important for high-risk populations.
- When symptoms do occur they can include:
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stool
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
Who Should Get Screened
- It is estimated that 75% of those with chronic Hepatitis C were born during 1945-1965. Therefore, anyone born during this time period should get screened.
Others who possess certain risk factors should also be screened:
- Current or former injection and intranasal drug users.
- Those who received clotting factor concentrates made before 1987.
- Those who received blood transfusions or solid organ transplants prior to July 1992.
- Chronic hemodialysis patients.
- People with known exposures to HCV, such as:
- Health care workers after needle sticks involving HCV-positive blood
- Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested HCV-positive
- Anyone with HIV infection
- Anyone with unexplained persistently high ALT levels (liver enzymes)
- Incarcerated persons
- People who get an unregulated tattoo
- Testing for Hepatitis C is a simple blood test. This can be completed at the SXU Health Center or at your medical provider's office.
- A positive blood test would result in a referral to a liver specialist for further treatment. Prompt referral is vital for Hepatitis C patients because early treatment has been shown to be more effective at early-stage disease.
Multi-state Outbreak of Coagulopathy
The CDC and IDPH are warning about a current outbreak (starting in March of 2018) of coagulopathy (difficulty clotting the blood) from exposure to synthetic cannabinoid products. The synthetic cannabinoids products associated with this outbreak are especially dangerous because they contain brodifacoum, a chemical used as rat poison that can cause uncontrolled bleeding.
The outbreak was discovered in March of 2018 by the Illinois Department of Public Health. This is now a multi-state outbreak with 202 reported cases, including 5 deaths. Illinois currently has the most cases reported (164 cases and 4 deaths).
What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?
- Per the CDC, synthetic cannabinoids are not one drug. Hundreds of different synthetic cannabinoid chemicals are manufactured and sold and new ones with unknown health risks become available each year. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they act on the same brain cell receptors as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana; however, synthetic cannabinoids may affect the brain in different and unpredictable ways compared to marijuana.
- Synthetic cannabinoids are used in a variety of ways including:
- Sprayed onto plant material and then smoked
- Used in electronic nicotine delivery devices (such as e-cigarettes)
- Ingested when added to herbal tea or food.
- The CDC recommends that you do not use synthetic cannabinoids as it is impossible to know exactly what chemicals are in the product, how much you are being exposed to, and how your body will react to the chemicals. This is especially important now given the outbreak of uncontrolled bleeding from the cannabinoids containing brodifacoum.
- People who have used synthetic cannabinoids in the past three months and are concerned about their health should contact their healthcare provider. Synthetic cannabinoids users who develop any unusual bruising or bleeding should seek medical attention immediately.
Travel Health Notices
The CDC's Travel Health Notices are designed to inform travelers and clinicians about current health issues related to specific destinations. These issues may arise from disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, natural disasters, or other conditions that may affect travelers' health. Be sure to check your destination before you travel.
Categories of risk include:
- Level 1 (Watch): Usual baseline risk or slightly above baseline risk for destination and limited impact to the traveler. Reminder to follow usual health precautions.
- Level 2 (Alert): Increased risk in defined settings or associated with specific risk factors; certain high-risk populations may wish to delay travel to these destinations. Follow enhanced precautions.
- Level 3 (Warning): High risk to travelers. Avoid all non-essential travel to this area.
Travel Safety Advisories
The U.S. State Department provides Travel Advisories for every country in the world. Each country is assigned a level of travel advisory, with additional information given on the country-specific page. Every traveler is encouraged to check their destination before traveling, as well as enrolling in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
There are four levels of travel advisories:
- Exercise normal precautions
- Exercise increased precautions
- Reconsider travel
- Do not travel
Zika Virus Facts
- Zika is an infection caused by the Zika virus, which is spread primarily by a certain type of mosquito. It can also be spread through unprotected sexual contact.
- As of September 2016, Zika virus has been transmitted in nearly all of South and Central America. There have been been confirmed cases of Zika transmission in the Miami, Fla. area, although there were no cases of mosquito-borne transmission in the continental U.S. in 2018. Please see the CDC's Zika Travel Information for the most up-to-date information.
- The best way to prevent the spread of Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Wear insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants and stay inside.
- Many people who get Zika do not have any symptoms or very mild symptoms. These symptoms may include: fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (pink eyes), muscle pain and headache.
- The CDC has issued specific advice for pregnant women and Zika. Zika has been linked to serious birth defects, such as microcephaly (babies born with small heads and brains). If you are pregnant or may become pregnant soon it is not advised for you to travel to areas where Zika has been transmitted. If you are pregnant and have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, do not have unprotected sex during your pregnancy as the virus can be spread through sexual contact. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, discuss all of your travel plans with your OB/GYN or midwife.
See CDC Zika Virus for more information.