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The Central District Health Department works hard to provide the most accurate and up to date information available. If you have questions on any of the pieces presented here please contact us at (308) 385-5175. 


This Thanksgiving, “Pass the Gravy, Not the Baby”

In recent weeks, lab confirmed RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases across the nation as well as in the Central District have been steadily increasing, raising concern for the health of the very young. As the holidays quickly approach, Central District Health Department advises steps to take to ensure a safe and healthy holiday season.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes mild, cold like symptoms when it infects the nose, throat, lung and breathing passages. Most people can recover quickly but RSV can be serious for infants as well as for older adults. People can shed the virus before they show symptoms, spreading it to others.

“The problem is that people are contagious before they notice symptoms,” explains Teresa Anderson, Health Director, adding, “You may think you are healthy when you kiss that sweet baby or visit with an elderly person, but you may actually be spreading the virus.”  

Common symptoms for RSV include a runny nose, a decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing. RSV can live on surfaces for hours and on hands for 30 minutes or more. If you suspect you have RSV, avoid direct contact with young children or older adults who are immunocompromised. Whether it is Covid, influenza or RSV, do your part to keep your germs to yourself.

At holiday gatherings everyone can do something for others. With RSV and other viruses circulating during the holidays, here are tips to help limit the spread:

·         Cover your coughs and sneezes; do not use your hands and discard tissues promptly  

·         Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds 

·         Avoid close contact such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils with others 

·         Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices 

Because RSV can be spread through touch and close contact, CDHD advises: “This Thanksgiving, Pass the gravy, Not the baby.”

For more information, contact CDHD at (308) 385-5175


COVID Numbers Surge Prior to Thanksgiving Holiday

Grand Island, NE – In recent weeks, Grand Island wastewater samples have shown a significant increase in SARS-CoV-2 levels, indicating a rapidly increasing number of cases of COVID-19 just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Starting on October 30th, the levels have nearly doubled each week over the prior week and are now at “very high” levels. The full report can be read at our website, www.cdhd.ne.gov. In addition, CDHD has seen 136 positive test cases over the last 7 days, though with the use of home tests, this is a less accurate measure of COVID-19 in the district.

Taken together, these indicators point toward continuing and unwelcome increase in COVID-19 in Hall, Hamilton and Merrick Counties.

“The timing of this surge is not unexpected, but it certainly is ill timed,” Teresa Anderson, CDHD Health Director, said. “With families gathering for the holidays its important to remember the basic practices to help mitigate the risk of exposure to you and your loved ones.”

Number one among these practices is to stay home and stay away from others when you are sick. Whether it’s COVID-19 or another seasonal illness like Influenza, the best way to avoid spreading diseases to friends and loved ones is to simply avoid exposing them to illness. The other major action is to get “up to date” with your COVID-19 vaccinations. Staying “up to date” means being vaccinated and boosted with a bivalent booster meant to stop the spread of COVID variants like the Omicron variant.

Flu shots are also essential to good health. Both Flu and COVID-19 shots can be given at the same time. While flu (influenza) activity is still low, there are a number of other viruses including RSV (respiratory syntycial virus) are circulating much earlier and more aggressively than in the last two years.  Symptoms of the various viruses are similar.

For more information, contact CDHD at (308) 385-5175.


Be Safe With Turkey Prep This Thanksgiving

Grand Island – Cooking a turkey this Thanksgiving (November 24) is a tradition for many. Safety when preparing and cooking turkey should be an important part of this tradition, as undercooked or incorrectly prepared meat can lead to illness for your friends and family. Follow these tips to be sure everything is safe this holiday.

Thawing Your Turkey

There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely – in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave oven.

Refrigerator – In a refrigerator 40 degrees or below, allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. For example, if you have a 12 – 16 pounds turkey, thaw for 3 to 4 days. Keep the turkey in its original wrapper and place it on a try or pan to catch leaking juices.

Cold Water – In cold water allow approximately 30 minutes per pound of turkey. For example, if you have 12 – 16 pounds of turkey, thaw for 6 to 8 hours. Change the water every 30 minutes and cook the turkey after it is thawed.

In a Microwave – Remove all outside wrapping and read the owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in the microwave and minutes per pound for thawing. Microwaves vary from model to model. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

Roasting Your Turkey

Do not cook stuffing inside of your turkey. Be sure to cook stuffing separately to ensure proper cooking temps are reached in both the turkey and the stuffing.   

A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

If your turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey with a food thermometer.

Storing Your Leftovers

Discard any turkey, stuffing, and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.

Reheating Turkey

Reheat turkey to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.

To keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.

Information taken from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website, more tips can be read at the following link: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/lets_talk_turkey/index.asp


CDHD’s First All Online Diabetes Prevention Program Starts January 16th

Grand Island, NE – CDHD is encouraging those at risk for Type 2 Diabetes to sign up for the first ever Diabetes Prevention Program to be hosted entirely online. Registration is now open, and the program starts the week of January 16th. There is no cost to sign up.

Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, but both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can begin during childhood and adulthood. Type 2 is more common in older adults, but the increase in the number of children with obesity has led to more cases of type 2 diabetes in younger people.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes or will develop it over their lifetime. More concerning is that among those millions of Americans, 1 in 5 do not know that they have developed Diabetes and many others  would be able to prevent Diabetes  by making different lifestyle choices. It is these choices that the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) seeks to influence through a proven curriculum, development of skills, and support from a community and trained lifestyle coaches.

CDHD has offered this class in the past, but by moving it online it allows participants to complete the course on their own time instead of attending meetings. There will be support from others in the group who have similar goals and are going through the same course.

Those who should consider signing up for this course include:

            •Those who are overweight.
            •Those who have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes.
            •Anyone wanting to increase their physical activity.
            •Mothers who experienced “gestational diabetes” when pregnant.
            •Those whose Health Care Provider has recommended the program.

If you have been diagnosed with “pre-diabetes” this class can give you all the information you need to make a positive change, stop you from developing diabetes, and even save money on medical bills.

To sign up, please visit www.cdhd.ne.gov or call us at (308) 385-5175.


Bat in Hall County Test Positive For Rabies

Grand Island, NE – A bat tested positive for rabies last week in Grand Island, underlining the need for awareness of this extremely dangerous disease and for practicing care when coming into contact with wild animals.

No person is known to have come into contact with the infected animal found in Grand Island. The bat which tested positive is one of 20 animals (17 of which were bats) to test positive for rabies in Nebraska this year. This compares to 30 cases in 2021, which is the highest count in the last 5 years according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal which attacks the central nervous system of animals causing disease in the brain which leads to death. While bats are the primary animal associated with rabies, other wild animals such as raccoons, skunks and foxes can be infected and spread the disease.

From the Center for Disease Control: “If you’ve been in contact with any wildlife or unfamiliar animals, particularly if you’ve been bitten or scratched, you should talk with a healthcare or public health professional to determine your risk for rabies or other illnesses. Wash any wounds immediately with soap and water and then plan to see a healthcare provider.”

They add that bats can leave very small puncture marks that disappear quickly. If you are unsure if you’ve been bitten by a rabid bat, seek medical advice quickly. Treatment includes a series of shots that will protect you from developing symptoms of the disease.

CDHD and other public health agencies keep a close eye on rabies and encourage the public to educate themselves about this very serious disease. You can learn more about rabies at our website, www.cdhd.ne.gov. For more information, please call us at (308) 385-5175.


FLU SHOTS NOW AVAILABLE IN THE CENTRAL DISTRICT

Grand Island, NE – Flu shots have arrived at CDHD and we are encouraging everyone in the Central District to get ahead of this year’s seasonal flu virus by getting vaccinated now.

Yearly flu shots are recommended by the Center for Disease Control for everyone 6 months and older. CDHD currently offers flu shots including high dose flu shots for those 65 and older each week day.

“It’s not too early to start thinking about protection against influenza,” Teresa Anderson, CDHD Health Director, said. “With some signs pointing toward a resurgence in flu cases this year, it’s important to act now to protect yourself and your family.”

Flu season in the United States is considered October through May. It typically reaches its peak in February, when the weather is cold, and most people have been inside and in close contact with others for longer periods of time. The CDC encourages the public to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in the community, with everyone being vaccinated ideally by the end of October. It is recommended those 65 and older, who are most susceptible to becoming very sick from the flu, be vaccinated starting now.

The flu vaccine is reformulated each year to be effective against the strains of the virus predicted to be most prevalent. Most insurance plans provide flu shots at no cost to the consumer. Additionally, CDHD has vaccine to provide to those without insurance at no cost.

In addition to the flu vaccine, CDHD has also received shipments of COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccine that protects against both the initial strain and the currently circulating COVID-19 variant. It is acceptable to receive both vaccines at the same time.

CDHD is open from 8 am – 4:30 pm Mondays – Fridays with Thursday clinics running until 6 pm. CDHD now provides curbside vaccinations through front row handicap parking along with a phone number to call upon arrival. For more information or questions on the flu or COVID-19 vaccine and boosters, please call (308) 385-5175 or see our website, www.cdhd.ne.gov.


“Updated Boosters” Approved For Use, Will Arrive Next Week

Grand Island, NE – As we move into the fall and winter seasons when a surge of COVID-19 is anticipated, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have just approved an “updated booster” designed to provide improved protection against COVID-19.

The new Pfizer and Moderna bivalent boosters are formulated to protect against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants as well as the original COVID-19 virus. Both the FDA and the CDC recommend that anyone seeking a booster wait and watch for the availability of the bivalent booster.

“Pausing boosters is a bit uncomfortable for us,” Teresa Anderson, Health Director of CDHD, said. “In public health, we never want to miss an opportunity to vaccinate, but we have been advised to ask people to wait until next week when we expect to receive the bivalent booster vaccine.”

Children ages 5-11 are eligible for the current Pfizer booster. The bivalent Moderna booster is approved for those age 18 and older and the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster is approved for those age 12 and older. Bivalent boosters can be administered at least two months following a primary series or a booster vaccination. Influenza (flu) shots and COVID-19 vaccinations can be given at the same time. You can find more information about boosters at our website, www.cdhd.ne.gov or at this link

Please watch our social media for news of when the bivalent boosters will be available. CDHD encourages everyone to be up to date on all vaccines including COVID-19  and flu vaccines. Those who are more likely to become very sick from a COVID-19 infection include those with pre-existing medical conditions and the elderly.

If you have questions, please contact us at (308) 385-5175 or log onto www.cdhd.ne.gov.


WASTEWATER DATA SHOWS COVID-19 NUMBERS RISING

Grand Island, NE – Water samples taken from the Grand Island Water Treatment Facility for the week ending July 23rd shows a markedly higher weekly average concentration of COVID-19 at the facility than at any point this year.

Wastewater surveillance involves testing and monitoring wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 can serve as an early warning signal, track variants, and help direct resources for health departments. Each week, two to three samples are taken, and the average is calculated for trending purposes. See CDHD Wastewater Reports at: https://cdhd.ne.gov/covid-19/covid-19-clinics.html

“This steep increase means that we had a lot of COVID-19 virus in our community two weeks ago. The viral activity was definitely on the rise then and most likely is still quite high,” Teresa Anderson, CDHD Health Director, said. “We have home tests which are great tools for us, but we are no longer able to see actual numbers of positive cases. As the pandemic progressed, scientists determined that wastewater sampling is an exceptionally good indicator of viral activity.”  

The Nebraska Wastewater Surveillance System (NeWSS) is a collaboration between wastewater treatment facilities, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, and Nebraska DHHS.

Reducing the spread of COVID-19 means staying home when not feeling well and testing using at home test kits. Vaccines remain the best way to protect against the worst symptoms of COVID-19, including potential hospitalization and death. In the past week, CDHD has started offering Novavax Vaccine to protect against COVID-19. Novavax is not an MRNA vaccine, like Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, but a protein-based vaccine much like Flu vaccine. CDHD is currently offering all three COVID-19 vaccines, and no longer offers the J&J vaccine.

CDHD is open from 8 am – 4:30 pm Mondays – Fridays and until 6 pm on Thursdays. We offer free at-home, digitally proctored COVID-19 tests at our front desks. In addition, Nomi Health offers drive thru COVID-19 testing from 8 am – 3 pm Mondays – Thursdays in the CDHD parking lot. For more information, please call us at (308) 385-5175 or log onto www.cdhd.ne.gov.


COVID-19 Vaccine Now Available For Children 6 Months And Up

Grand Island, NE – Children ages 6 months and up are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously voted for an Emergency Use Authorization on Saturday. This change means that over 17 million children across the United States can now be protected against the worst symptoms of COVID-19.

Central District Health Department has received both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine for children as young as 6 months. The Pfizer vaccine is administered as a primary series of three doses, while the Moderna vaccine is a primary series of two doses.

“Many parents have been waiting for this news and we are glad to be able to provide vaccination for their children,” Teresa Anderson, CDHD Health Director said. “We are here to answer questions from parents who are uncertain about these vaccines, and we encourage parents to talk to their child’s health care provider about any concerns they may have.” With COVID-19 numbers in our community rising recently, this news comes at a great time.

While COVID vaccines have been available for ages 5 and older for some time, the CDC and Food and Drug Administration spent considerable time and effort in evaluating both the effectiveness and the safety of these vaccines in very young children. The agencies analysis of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines was rigorous and comprehensive. You can learn more about their research here.

Currently in the Central District, just over 50% the population has received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. It is the hope that with this authorization, parents will choose to protect their children from this virus and increase the vaccination rate in our area.

CDHD hosts vaccine clinics from 8 am – 4:30 pm Mondays – Fridays with Thursday clinics running until 6 pm. Nomi Health also offers COVID-19 testing from 8 am – 3 pm Mondays – Thursdays. Free at home COVID-19 tests are also available. For more information, please contact us at (308) 385-5175 or log onto www.cdhd.ne.gov.


Free Radon Test Kits Available For Your Home

Grand Island – CDHD is offering free Radon test kits to everyone in the Central District with the goal of reducing exposure to this dangerous gas that can be found in homes. Thanks to a grant from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, these tests are available from our office free of charge.

Radon is a colorless odorless gas, you can’t see, smell, or taste but that is present in some homes.

A naturally occurring radioactive gas, Radon has been identified as a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking, in the United States. The EPA’s most recent health risk assessment estimates that 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year are due to radon.

Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and then into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it may build-up. Any home can have a radon problem including both new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.

The only way to know whether radon exists at elevated levels, which is at or above 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter), in your home, is to test for it. Children may be at an increased risk for health complications because their lungs are not fully developed and the sensitive tissues in their lungs are more vulnerable. Smokers, if exposed to radon, face a lung cancer risk 15 times greater than that of non-smokers.

All tests distributed as part of this grant include postage paid envelopes and free lab analysis and include short-term detectors, which are used for 3-7 days, provide quick screening measurements, and indicate potential radon problems and long-term detectors can be left in place for fourteen days to one year.  These kits provide the advantage of seasonal change which may impact radon levels.  Both detectors are usually placed in main living areas on the lowest level of the home.

Kits can be picked up free of charge at the Central District Health Department at 1137 S. Locust Street in Grand Island and can be picked up from 8 am – 4:30 pm Mondays – Friday and until 6 pm on Thursdays.  If you have any questions please call 308-385-5175.


Grand Island, NE – Two new medications to treat COVID-19 have arrived in the Central District and are free with a prescription.to those who have tested positive for the virus.

Paxlovid from Pfizer and Molnupiravir from Merck have both been given Emergency Use Authorization status by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of COVID-19. If you have a positive COVID test and take either of these medications with in 5 days after you first notice symptoms, these medications can prevent some of the worst effects of the virus, including hospitalization and death. These medications are particularly aimed at those at higher risk for severe symptoms of COVID-19 and include two pills taken each day for 5 days.

These medications, which must be prescribed by a medical professional, are available to be filled at the following locations:

-Super Saver 5 Points in Grand Island
-U-Save 4th Street and U-Save North West in Grand Island
-Memorial Community Health Clinic in Aurora
-Merrick Medical in partnership with Jim’s U-Save in Central City

These medications are free to the patient as part of a National program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you test positive for COVID, please talk with your medical professional of choice to see if you could benefit from these medications.

While Paxlovid and Molnupiravir work well for those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine and those who have not, vaccination remains the best way to prevent becoming very sick with COVID-19. CDHD offers no cost COVID-19 vaccinations from 8 am – 4:30 pm Mondays – Fridays and until 6 pm on Thursdays. Nomi Health also offers COVID-19 testing from 8 am – 3 pm Mondays – Fridays and from 8 am – 11:30 am on Saturdays. For more information visit www.cdhd.ne.gov or call (308) 385-5175.


Novel Coronavirus (2019-CoV)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will strategically expand wastewater testing for poliovirus in select jurisdictions across the country.

Today, CDC is awarding $3.2 billion to help state, local, and territorial jurisdictions across the United States <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/infrastructure/">strengthen their public health workforce and infrastructure</a>.

In 2021, a record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose: 25 million children missed their first dose and an additional 14.7 million children missed their second dose, a joint publication by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

A study released today from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 3.08 million (11.3%) U.S. middle and high school students reported current (past 30-day) use of any tobacco product in 2022, which includes 2.51 million (16.5%) high school students and 530,000 (4.5%) middle school students.