October 10, 2015

Organize a blood drive, win a college scholarship

LifeServe Blood CenterNebraska’s high school and college students with the power of persuasion can earn some money for college with a unique scholarship opportunity. Claire DeRoin, at LifeServe Blood Center, says students can earn a $750 scholarship by getting people to donate blood.

“Students will need to organize, recruit, plan and do the back-end planning to organize a blood drive,” she says. “Students will need to get at least 50 units of blood — that’s 50 people coming in the door and donating — in order to achieve that scholarship.”

Getting 50 people to attend a blood drive may not seem like a lot for young people who are involved with social media, but DeRoin says the students will have to actively recruit donors.

That will include making phone calls, hanging up posters and going to people in the community and personally asking them to come out and donate blood. DeRoin says the scholarship is a way to help students while also getting out the message of the importance of blood donation from a young person.

“I, as a public relations person, can tell you a thousand different facts about why it is good to donate blood, but it really just takes someone to say ‘Hey I am organizing this blood drive would you do this as a favor to me?’ That’ll get people in the door and then they’ll say ‘Oh I help you out but I also saved lives with this and it only took an hour.'” DeRoin explains.

She says it also gives students some experience in organizing an event. Students have until October 12th, that’s next Monday, to sign up to organize a blood drive and be eligible for the scholarship. Learn more at the LifeServe website.

LifeServe provides blood and blood products to more than 100 hospitals located across Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.


Nebraska beware: bats are becoming more active

Photo courtesy of DHHS

Photo courtesy of DHHS

Nebraskans are being reminded to avoid bats.

Nebraska Health and Human Services Epidemiologist Dr. Tom Safranek says bats become very active this time of year, increasing the possibility of humans being exposed to rabies.

“We’re seeing large number of bats in the area right now and they’re seeking warmer places and it brings humans into contact with bats more than is ordinarily the case.” Safranek tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “We’ve seen rabies in these bat populations. It’s a definite concern.”

Safranek says that in addition to bats, other wildlife such as skunks, foxes, coyotes and raccoons can also have rabies and transmit it to people.

He advises to stay clear of all wildlife.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports many of the bats carry rabies.

Safranek cautions to seek medical attention immediately if bitten.

“A lot of times you get bit by a bat you’re going to know it. They’re really like a rodent with wings,” according to Safranek. “Sometimes those bat bites are imperceptible. We worry about people who may have gotten bit at night or if you have a young infant who may not be able to communicate the fact that a bite has occurred.”

According to DHHS, rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal or if saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into an open wound or a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Rabies is generally fatal without preventive treatment.

DHHS has issued the following tips:

Keep vaccinations of pets up-to-date.

Take your pet to the veterinary if it is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.

Call animal control to get rid of any strays.

While no human cases of rabies have occurred in Nebraska since the 1920s, there have been confirmed cases in animals, according to DHHS:

2015 – 26 animals tested positive for rabies so far (15 bats, 7 skunks, 2 cattle, 1 dog, and 1 cat)

2014 – 21 cases (10 bats, 7 skunks, and 4 cattle)

2013 – 33 cases (14 skunks, 7 cattle, 6 bats, 3 cats, 1 dog, 1 horse, and 1 llama)

2012 – 59 cases

2011 – 35 cases

2010 – 53 cases

2009 – 90 cases

For more stats on rabies in Nebraska, click here.

For help in bat-proofing your home, click here.

General information about rabies can be found by clicking here.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this story.




Beatrice looks to repurpose old hospital to serve veterans

Veterans Admin logoBeatrice Community Hospital is expanding into a new facility on the city’s north side and new uses are being envisioned for the vacant hospital building in the middle of town.

Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth suggests the old hospital be repurposed to serve veterans. Mayor Wirth says it could be staffed by local clinicians and doctors providing outpatient care as there are 1,700 veterans in the six-county area.

“Those individuals, if they’re going to go for service, they’ll need to go to a C-BOC, a community-based outpatient clinic in Hastings, midtown Omaha, Topeka, Kansas,” Wirth says, “and some of those individuals don’t like negotiating those distances.”

Wirth says the project could serve veterans all across southeast Nebraska and northeast Kansas.

The mayor says, “We hopefully would partner with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist some of those veterans in transition, some of those that are needing a little direction and maybe some skills for employment possibilities.”

Wirth says he’s met with Southeast Community College to assist with training for veterans. Wirth says he plans to work with the Gage County Veterans Service Office, state officials and Senator Deb Fischer’s office on the prospect of making use of the former hospital.

The project would have to be approved by the U.S. Veterans Administration. Recently, both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Southeast Community College unveiled programs to assist veterans.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Nebraska loses ground, gains pounds, in obesity rankings

Rich Hamburg, Trust for America's Health

Rich Hamburg, Trust for America’s Health

Nebraska ranks as the 20th most obese state in the country, according to a new study from the Trust for America’s Health. The state ranked 23rd on last year’s report, so the situation is worsening.

Rich Hamburg, deputy director of the trust, says this study focused only on adults, but he says the obesity numbers for children are beginning to reflect a change.

“We’re definitely beginning to see some decreases among youth and that’s a real focus,” Hamburg says. “Prevention, particularly among children, is key. It’s certainly easier and more effective to prevent obesity than it is to reverse trends.”

The report, called The State of Obesity, reviews key programs that can help prevent and address obesity by improving nutrition in schools, increasing physical activity, expanding health care coverage and by making healthy foods more affordable.

“More than 95% of schools now meet the nutrition standards required by the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 for school meals,” Hamburg says. “There’s a Smart Snacks program starting last year for competitive foods, those are foods sold a la carte invending machines.”

For more than 20 years, the numbers have continued to worsen for all states but in the past few years, some states have shown dropping obesity rates among adults. Nebraska isn’t one of them.

Last year’s study showed 29.6% of Nebraska adults were obese, while this year, it’s risen to 30.2%. The worst-ranked states for obesity are: Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, while the best-ranked states are: Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, California and Vermont.

Obesity increases a person’s risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Cardiovascular diseases are the number-one cause of death in the nation while stroke is number-five.



National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is Saturday

Those with unwanted, unused and expired prescription medications in their homes are urged to get rid of them on Saturday – National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Nebraska Regional Poison Center spokesperson and registered nurse Joan McVoy says medications can become dangerous or ineffective over time and can be abused by someone looking through your medicine cabinet.

McVoy says, “More than 50% of the calls that come into the Poison Center are about medications and the ones we really worry about are these prescription pain medications. The age groups we have most of these poisoning deaths from prescription drugs are in that 50 to 59 age group. Most of the calls that come into the Poison Centers are for children under the age of six so get them out of your home. This is a chance you can do so easily.”

On National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day there will be more than 5,000 collection sites across the country and many drop-off sites will be located in Nebraska. Over the past ten years Americans have turned in over 4.8 million pounds of prescription medications at these events.

McVoy says there are also sites that will take medication in Nebraska all year round. Residents are asked to call 1-800-222-1222 and poison center nurses will be able to answer all of your questions and will help quickly locate the nearest take-back site.