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Douglas County Video Tour

The Future is the Focus for Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, but it is estimated half a million children in the United States have a blood lead level above 5 micrograms per deciliter. That’s the reference level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends public health actions begin.

Making people more aware of that and making “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future” is the purpose of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, October 21-27. It only takes a simple blood test to prevent permanent damage that lasts a lifetime, and the Douglas County Health Department is dedicated to eliminating this threat.

Through a cooperative program with the EPA, DCHD’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program provides the following services at no charge:

  • Offers inspections and education in Pre-1978 homes where children under the age of 7 years reside, regardless of blood lead level.
  • Offers inspections for lead, which may include sampling for lead dust, and education in homes where a child under the age of 7 years old has a venous blood lead level of 5.0 µg/dL to 9.4 µg/dL (micrograms per deciliter).
  • Provides case monitoring when a child under the age of 7 years old has a venous blood lead level ≥9.5 µg/dL (micrograms per deciliter).
  • In those cases the Douglas County Health Department visits the home, conducts lead education for the family, and performs a lead risk assessment and environmental inspection. DCHD also coordinates follow-up with the Lead Risk Assessor, clinic, family, property owner, and person assigned to monitor blood lead levels.
  • DCHD also operates the Interior Lead Dust Project with services exclusively available to homes that have previously had the soil on their property removed and replaced with clean soil (“remediated” for lead) by the EPA and/or the City of Omaha. For those homes DCHD will provide education, dust wipe sampling (for lead dust) and a free HEPA vacuum.  Eligible homes are located within the Lead Superfund Area. To find out if your home is eligible, go to www.dogis.org/dchdleaddust .

For more information, call DCHD's Lead Program at (402) 444-7825.


Make Halloween a Real Treat - Keep it Safe & Healthy

            If all goes well, a child’s costume will be the scariest part of their Halloween. Adults can help by making sure there is a balance of fun and safety, and with a little planning, you can even promote good health by offering healthy treats and getting some exercise during the evening.

                “The excitement that comes with an evening of costumes and candy can make children forget what they need to do to stay safe,” said Douglas County Health Director, Dr. Adi Pour.

                The first thing to think of when choosing a costume is to consider how visible your child will be to passing drivers as darkness falls. Plan for an outfit that is bright, or make darker colors more noticeable with the simple addition of reflective tape. And, don’t overlook size, said Travis Hedlund, Trauma Injury Prevention Coordinator at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. .

                “It’s important that a costume fits properly.  Have the child try it on before buying, and make appropriate alterations or adjustments to borrowed costumes and hand-me-downs.  Wearing the right size is important in preventing trips and falls or accidental contact with a lighted jack-o-lantern,” he said.

                Using non-toxic face paint instead of wearing masks helps children see while trick-or-treating, and shoes that fit also are important, added Hedlund, along with flame-resistant fabrics, wigs, and accessories.

                Never let children trick or treat alone, and talk to them about safety before the big night: 

  • Cross streets at corners and use crosswalks when available.
  • Look twice and look again before crossing.
  • Walk, never run, and use sidewalks and paths. Do not walk in the street.
  • Only visit well-lit houses and never enter the home of a stranger.
  • Avoid candles or luminaries and wear flame-resistant costumes.
  • Carry a flashlight or a glow stick to increase visibility.
  • Broken glow stick fluids can cause a stinging or burning sensation in the mouth or eyes.
  • Marijuana edibles may be wrapped as candy – another reason to check your child’s bag.

Halloween offers a chance at some healthy family activities. Walking around the neighborhood provides good exercise, and Dr. Pour suggested replacing sugary treats with healthy options like fresh fruit.

Consider apples, bananas, raisins, trail mix or pretzels. Non-food treats, including small toys, pencils or other school supplies are another popular option for Halloween handouts.

                It’s also a good idea for families to wrap up the night with a thorough check of treats. Remove candy, foods or toys with small pieces that are not age-appropriate and are a potential choking hazard for young children. Additionally, parents should closely examine all items and throw away anything that is unwrapped, spoiled or appears suspicious. 


Douglas County Updates Improved STD Rate

 When the Douglas County Health Department released STD rate for 2017 earlier this year, there was encouraging news. The infection rate for chlamydia appeared to be leveling off. That was a positive sign after more than a decade of battling what the Board of Health has labeled an epidemic.

Now there is even better news as recently released updated census data for 2017 shows a population increase in Douglas County. That population increase changes the infection rate. DCHD and the Adolescent Health Project now can report a decrease in chlamydia rates for last year from 662.2 per 100,000 population to 658.5 per 100,000 population.

“This is a time to recognize our success,” Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said. “This means we have been doing the right thing, but our work is far from over. We will continue to educate, test, and provide outreach to as many people as we can.”

Among the most successful programs has been free condom distribution. The health benefits of community condom distribution programs have been realized. And in the past 15 months, more than 1 million condoms have been distributed through the Adolescent Health Project. Free condoms are available at all STD testing locations as well as at more than 150 locations throughout the Omaha metro.

 “An increase in sexual health knowledge and improved health outcomes are results of providing unrestricted access to STD testing and treatment as well as free condoms to reduce STDs,” said Brenda Council, Adolescent Health Project Manager at the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

As part of the Adolescent Health Project, an initiative of the Women’s Fund of Omaha, the Douglas County Health Department and other clinical partners make STD testing accessible by screening people at locations that are convenient to them, including public libraries. There are an average of 40 outreach testing sites offered by DCHD throughout the county each month in addition to normal testing hours at the health clinic.

“This slight decrease is a bright light for our continued work in the community. We are optimistic that with access to education and safer sex resources, more people will be able to take control of their sexual health,” Dr. Pour said. “We know the only way to maintain this trend is to continue with our hard work and create sustainable, community-wide changes.”


Rabies Found in Douglas County Bat

Douglas County’s bat population appears to be plentiful and active which can be a problem for the human population.  We are approaching that time of the year when bats begin to seek shelter in homes to keep warm at night.

This week a bat found in the Dundee area tested positive for rabies. Anyone who is exposed to a rabid bat should go to a local emergency room as soon as possible. Rabies, which can be fatal, is why the Douglas County Health Department and the Nebraska Humane Society are asking residents to protect themselves from these evening invaders.

The first step is educating the public to avoid exposure. The next is to make certain proper treatment follows if someone is exposed.

The Douglas County Health Department recommends rabies treatment:

  • If a bat is found in any room with a sleeping person or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with an unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated person, the Nebraska Humane Society should be contacted and the bat should be tested for rabies. For this reason it is important to keep an eye on the bat until NHS arrives. If the bat is positive, the individual needs to be treated.
  • If the bat is not tested, it would be recommended that the potentially exposed person receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

Anyone with questions is urged to call the Douglas County Health Department Epidemiology Section at (402) 444-7214.

The best option is to keep bats out of your home. You can begin to “bat-proof” a home by closing any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch. To do this, caulk the opening or use window screens, chimney caps, or stainless steel wool. Outside entry points are especially important to cover. Doors to the outside should be kept tightly closed.

Just this past week, the Nebraska Humane Society fielded more than 100 calls about bats, according to Vice President of Field Operations Mark Langan.


Anyone who finds a bat in their home should call The Nebraska Humane Society at 402-444-7800, Extension 1. A laboratory test is needed to confirm if a bat has rabies. If you are bitten by a bat or exposed to bat saliva, call the Nebraska Humane Society and your doctor.


For more information on bats and how to protect yourself from their bites, just go to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Web site at www.cdc.gov and enter bats in the search box.

 Plan Now for Safe Cookouts

             Cookouts in Nebraska generally start as soon as possible in the spring and some people never stop. The idea is to gather people around the grill and dinner table to share food and fellowship, so most people don’t plan for a family trip to the emergency room. It can happen, however, if proper food safety practices are not followed.

             Foodborne illness is a major public health concern, and while not every case involves a cookout, about 48 million Americans every year – one in six – will suffer a foodborne illness.

              In recent years well more than half the illnesses most often associated outdoor grilling were diagnosed from May to September. Most of the recommendations for safe grilling may also apply to your daily cooking. DCHD suggests these guidelines to help your cookout be successful and healthy.

            Outdoor dining safety rules:

  • Clean your grill between each use.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure you thoroughly cook meat and poultry.
  • Beef and pork should be “rested” for three minutes after being removed from the grill to allow the heat to spread and kill more contaminants.
  • Make sure you keep the cold foods cold, 41 degrees or below, and the hot foods hot, above 135 degrees.
  • Promptly refrigerate any leftovers.

            Grilled meat needs special attention.  You can avoid cross-contamination by putting cooked meat on a clean platter and not reusing a plate that earlier was used for raw meat. If you used a sauce to marinate meat, do not reuse that same batch of sauce on cooked food. Wash your hands, utensils, and cutting boards if they were in contact with raw meat or poultry.

            The internal temperature of cooked meats should be:

  • Beef and pork, steaks, roasts and chops – 145 degrees
  • Hamburger and other ground meats – 155 degrees
  • Poultry – 165 degrees
  • If you are reheating any precooked foods, they should be warmed to 165 degrees

The only way to be certain meat is safe to eat is by using a food thermometer. You cannot tell if meat is safe to eat simply by looking at it.



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