September 21, 2014

Case of rare respiratory virus confirmed in Panhandle

Nebraska becomes the latest state to confirm a case of enterovirus.

Health officials are on heightened alert now that a rare respiratory virus has made its way into Nebraska’s panhandle.

The state is now among 18 with 153 confirmed cases of Enterovirus D-68 after a resident in the Panhandle was confirmed as infected on September 17.

The rare strain has been around since the early 60’s but hardly ever reported in the United States during the past 40 years, according to Panhandle Public Health District. Children in Colorado have been hospitalized with the condition, but Wyoming has not confirmed a case as of Thursday.

Infants, children and teens are most likely to contract the virus according to PPHD because their immune systems don’t have previous exposure to general enteroviruses. Symptoms are as light as a simple cold but can become more extreme and include wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Protect yourself by washing your hands regularly, avoiding close human contact with people who are sick, cleaning surfaces and staying home when you feel ill.

By  Dave Collins, KSID

Five Nebraska lakes under health alerts going into weekend

State officials have issued a health alert for Lone Star Lake in Fillmore County.

Health alerts remain in effect for four other Nebraska lakes.

Alerts continue at Big Indian Creek Lake in Gage County, Kirkman’s Cove in Richardson County, Iron Horse Trail Lake in Pawnee County, and Willow Creek Lake in Pierce County.

Samples taken at those lakes this week found their water contained a toxin released by blue-green algae above the threshold set by the state. Each of the lakes recorded more than 20 parts per billion (ppb) of total microcystin (a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae.

State officials say that though samples taken at Kirkman’s Cove fell below the threshold this week, they were so high last week, it remains under a health alert.

Lakes must record two consecutive weeks of readings below the threshold for the state to lift the alert.

Swimming areas at the lakes have been closed. Boating and fishing are permitted. The public is advised to avoid immersion in the water or ingesting the water. Picnics and other outdoor activities are unaffected.

The lakes will continue to be monitored weekly throughout the 2014 recreational season. Sampling results for toxic algae and bacteria will be updated every Friday and posted on NDEQ’s web site. Go to it by clicking here.

(For more information about potential health effects of toxic blue-green algae, what to look for, and steps to avoid exposure, please refer to the Fact Sheet.)

Most Americans fail at recommended dietary guidelines

USDA’s Food Pyramid started appearing on food items back in 1992 when it was replaced by MyPlate in 2011.  Both provide information on the current nutrition guidelines regarding food categories and amounts one should eat for a healthy diet. So, how are Nebraskans and other Americans doing following those guidelines? Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee member Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz says most people are nowhere near their recommendations.

The committee is meeting this week and they report that dietary habits have not changed much in the last ten years. They report fruit consumption is stable but on the low side. Vegetable consumption is down, especially children and teens. There is a slight increase in whole grain consumption and dairy is steady.

The committee is looking at dozens of new studies and reports. Dr. Siega-Riz says the hope to find a way to get people to meet them at least half way in making healthy choices. Their new recommendations should be available by the end of next year.

AAA holds free CarFit checks for older drivers on Friday

Triple-A Nebraska is holding a free CarFit Inspection to help senior citizens drive safer and longer.

AAA spokesman Gene LaDoucer says the program is designed to make sure the senior driver “fits” into their vehicle by going through a 12-point checklist.

Trained technicians from Creighton School of Occupational Therapy and AARP will perform the checks that include making sure the driver is sitting properly in the vehicle. They check to see if the seat, seat belt, mirrors, steering wheel, head restraint, gas/brake pedals and other controls are positioned properly. LaDoucer says they can also make suggestions on exercise or special equipment that may help tasks easier.

LaDoucer says this is an event to assist seniors and not to identify those who should no longer be driving. Each check takes about 20 minutes so registration is suggested but walk-ins are welcome.

The free CarFit Inspections will be held at Immanuel AgeWell at 6801 N 67th Plaza, Suite 100 in Omaha on Friday, September 19th from 9 am until noon.  For details or to reserve a spot call 402-829-3200.

Ebola patient becoming more talkative, but tires easily


Dr. Rick Sacra, serving in Liberia

Nebraska Medical Center reports that Dr. Rick Sacra continues to improve and had a good weekend. Dr. Sacra is being treated for the Ebola virus and remains in their biocontainment unit.

Staff members are trying to find new ways to keep him entertained. Dr. Sacra’s wife, Debbie says “They’ve brought in books and chess board so that has been helpful. Someone also brought in a Nerf hoop which Rick discovered he might need a lot more practice with.

Debbie reports that her husband still physically tires very easily but mentally he is becoming sharper every day. She reports he is holding long conversations with several people and he also spoke with his pastor back home in Holden, Mass.

Medical Center staff report they are pleased with his progress.