Public Health Info

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Upper Respiratory Infection

Upper Respiratory Infection

What is an Upper Respiratory Infection?
An Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) can involve the nose, throat and upper airway. It is usually caused by a virus.

Who can get Upper Respiratory Infections?
URI can affect people of any age.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and tiredness.

How long after exposure do symptoms first begin?
Symptoms begin within 12 hours to five days, but usually 48 hours after exposure.

How is it spread?
The URI virus is spread by direct contact or inhaling droplets. Some viruses are spread indirectly by hands and articles freshly soiled by drainage from the nose and mouth of infected people.

How long is the person contagious?
A person can be contagious several hours before onset of illness up to five days after symptoms begin.

Are there complications?
Prolonged URI symptoms may indicate a more serious condition and require an evaluation by a doctor.

Is there a treatment for Upper Respiratory Infections?
Treatment for URI involves treating the symptoms of the illness. This includes bed rest, drinking fluids and use of over-the-counter medications if recommended by your physician. See a doctor if symptoms do not improve.

How can Upper Respiratory Infections be prevented?

  • Reduce contacts with infected persons as much as possible.
  • Cough or sneeze into tissues and throw away immediately. Then wash your hands.
  • Use good hygiene and hand washing before eating and after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid putting fingers in nose, mouth or eyes.

Arsenic Facts

Arsenic Facts

What is Arsenic?
Arsenic is found in nature at low levels. Arsenic joins with oxygen, chlorine and sulfur to make inorganic arsenic compounds. Arsenic in plants and animals combines with carbon and hydrogen to make organic arsenic. Organic arsenic is usually less harmful than inorganic arsenic. Most arsenic compounds have no smell or special taste. Inorganic arsenic compounds are used to preserve wood and to make insecticides and weed killers. Check the labels of treated wood and insecticides to see if they contain arsenic.

How could I be exposed to Arsenic?
Since arsenic is a natural part of our environment everyone is exposed to some amount of it. You can come in contact with arsenic in the following ways:

  • From the food we eat every day. Some fish and seafood contain high amounts of arsenic. This type of arsenic is much less harmful to humans than inorganic arsenic from groundwater.
  • By either drinking arsenic contaminated water or by eating food that has been cooked in this water. Arsenic found in well water and food is absorbed through the stomach and the intestines.
  • By breathing in smoke from burning arsenic containing materials, like wood treated with preservatives. It can also be absorbed through the air in industrial settings. Arsenic in water or food does not evaporate into the air, and is not easily absorbed through the skin.

How could Arsenic get into my drinking water?
Mineral deposits contain high levels of arsenic in some areas. Groundwater flowing through these deposits can dissolve arsenic from the minerals. This may result in elevated levels of inorganic arsenic in well water. Arsenic has no smell or taste in drinking water so you need to test your well water to find out if you have it.

Will Arsenic in my water cause health problems?
If you are exposed to arsenic, several factors that work in combination with each other will determine whether harmful health effects may occur. These factors are:

  • Dose: How much arsenic is in my body?
  • Duration: How long and how often have I been exposed?
  • Type of Arsenic: Have I been exposed to inorganic or organic arsenic?
  • General health, nutritional status, age and lifestyle.
    Some people may be affected by small levels of arsenic, others may not. Young children, the elderly, people with long-term illnesses and unborn babies are at greatest risk. They can be more sensitive to chemical exposures.

What are the health affects of Arsenic poisoning?
The way arsenic harms our bodies is not fully known. Studies have not shown all the health problems caused by drinking contaminated water.

Based on studies in other countries, long-term exposure to elevated arsenic levels in drinking water has caused the following health effects:

  • Thickening and discoloration of the skin; sometimes these changes can lead to skin cancers that can be easily cured if discovered early.
  • Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Numbness in the hands and feet.
  • Some of these problems can be seen with other illnesses, which makes it difficult for a doctor to detect arsenic poisoning. If you or your family members are worried about health problems you think are due to arsenic in your well water, see your doctor. You also should have your well water tested.

Can a medical test tell me how much Arsenic is in my body?
Yes, there are several ways you can be tested for arsenic exposure. A urine test is a simple way to tell if you are being exposed to arsenic at levels of concern in your drinking water. However, this test will not tell you what type of arsenic is in your body. To get the most accurate urine test results, do not eat any fish or seafood for at least three days before your test.

Who should I contact to have my well water tested?
The Environmental Health Division can give you a list of certified laboratories that will test for arsenic in your water.

What should I do if there is an elevated amount of Arsenic in my water?
Stop using your well water for drinking and cooking food. Bottled water can be used for these purposes. You may wish to have one or more additional water samples tested to confirm that your water is above the arsenic guideline.

In-home water treatment devices are not a permanent solution, require maintenance and should be considered only after other options have been considered.

Source: 2002 Town of Vail Environmental Health

Biological Pollutants

Biological Pollutants

What are Biological Pollutants?
Common indoor biological pollutants are: bacteria, molds, viruses, animal dander and saliva, dust mites, cockroach parts and pollens. Biological pollutants can travel through the air and are not always easy to see.

There are many sources for these pollutants. For example, pollens and fungi come from plants and outdoor air. Viruses and bacteria are spread by people and animals. Household pets are sources of saliva and animal dander. Dust mites can grow in any damp, warm place. Central air handling systems and humidifiers that are not cleaned well can spread fungi, bacteria and other biologicals.

Where are Biological Pollutants found?
Biological pollutants are everywhere, however, nutrients and moisture are needed for biological pollutants to grow. These conditions are found in rooms such as bathrooms or damp or flooded basements. You can also find them in wet appliances (humidifiers or air conditioners) and even some carpets and furniture.

How do Biological Pollutants affect health?
The effects on our health depend upon the type and amount of biological pollution and the individual person. Some people do not get health problems from certain biological pollutants, while others may have allergic, infectious or toxic reactions.

Allergic reactions triggered by some biological pollutants range from uncomfortable to life-threatening, as in an asthma attack. Some common symptoms of allergic reactions are: watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, trouble breathing or itching. Infectious illnesses, such as flu, measles and chicken pox, are also caused by some biological agents. And some biologicals (such as certain fungi) release toxins that can hurt many organs and tissues in the body.

Steps to reduce Exposure:
Moisture Control

  • Fix leaks and water seepage.
  • Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawlspaces.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens. Vent clothes dryers outside.
  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners. Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture collects. Open doors between rooms. Use fans and move furniture from wall corners to increase air and heat circulation.
  • Pay special attention to carpet, particularly on concrete floors. Carpet can absorb moisture and aid biological pollutant growth.
  • Clean moist surfaces, such as showers and kitchen counters.
  • Remove mold from walls, ceilings, floors and paneling.
  • Replace moldy shower curtains, or remove them and scrub well.
  • Take care of and clean all appliances that come in contact with water.
  • Have major appliances, such as furnaces, heat pumps, central air conditioners, window or wall air conditioning units, and furnace-attached humidifiers, inspected and cleaned regularly by a professional, especially before seasonal use.
  • Empty room humidifiers and dehumidifiers daily and clean often.
  • Clean refrigerator drip pans often.
Dust Control
  • Always wash bedding in hot water (at least 130 degrees Farenheit) to kill dust mites. Launder all bedding at least every seven to ten days.
  • Use synthetic or foam rubber mattress pads and pillows. (Use plastic mattress covers if you are allergic.)
  • Clean rooms and closets well. Dust and vacuum often to remove surface dust.

Source: 2002 Town of Vail Environmental Health

Campylobactor Facts

Campylobactor Facts

What is Campylobacter?
It is a germ that causes an infection when it gets into the intestine. It is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in the world.

What are the symptoms of Campylobacter?
Illness usually lasts two-to-five days, sometimes longer in adults. Some people may have the germ with no signs of illness at all (that is an "asymptomatic" infection). Symptoms include:

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

How long is a person contagious?
2-3 weeks, but usually 1-2 days with treatment.

How is it spread?
It is spread by eating food contaminated with the bacteria. These germs are often passed by eating undercooked meat and poultry, drinking contaminated water and unpasteurized milk, contact with stool of infected persons, dogs, cats and other animals.

Is there a treatment?
Many infections are mild and clear up by themselves. The only treatment needed is to replace body fluids lost due to diarrhea. However antibiotics are recommended for severe illnesses. If an antibiotic is given, the person should be sure to finish all of the medicine as directed by the doctor.

How can I prevent it?

  • Thoroughly cook all foods that come from animals such as meats, eggs and especially poultry.
  • Do not re-use utensils that were used on raw meat or poultry until they are washed in hot soapy water.
  • Use pasteurized milk and dairy products.
  • Don't drink water from unsafe or unknown sources.
  • Take care of pets and provide them with proper veterinary care.
  • Use good hygiene and wash your hands.
  • If you are a food service worker, a health care worker or a child care worker: Report your illness to your supervisor and do not return to work until your illness is over.

Source: 2002 Town of Vail Environmental Health

West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus

What is West Nile Virus (WNV)?
West Nile Virus causes an infection that results in swelling of the brain. In a small percentage of people infected by the virus, the disease can be serious, even fatal.

How is West Nile Virus Spread?
WNV is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that carries the virus. Horses bitten by mosquitoes that carry the virus can also become infected. A human or horse that has the disease can not spread the virus. The risk of getting WNV is highest from late July through September.

What is the Treatment?
There is no know cure for WNV infection. Doctors can treat the symptoms of WNV. Those over 50 years of age are more likely to become ill.

What are the symptoms?
Most people show no symptoms or have mild symptoms of this disease. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, often with skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More serious cases of the disease include headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, coma, tremors, paralysis and death.

What can you do to protect yourself?
The best way to protect yourself is to minimize your contact with mosquitoes by:

  • Eliminating standing water that collects in bird baths, boats, buckets, tires, unused pools, roof gutters and other containers.
  • Using insect repellents. Insect repellents containing no more than 30% Deet work best. Follow label directions carefully. Do not use repellents on children younger than two years of age.
  • Wearing protective clothing such as long sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Avoiding shaded areas where mosquitoes may be resting.
  • Maintaining window and door screening to keep mosquitoes out of buildings.

Why report dead birds?
In 1999 a connection was made between an outbreak of human WNV infections and disease in birds, especially American crows. Dead crows should be reported to the Eagle County Department of Environmental Health at 970-328-8755. Avoid bare hand contact with dead birds and other animals. Use gloves or double plastic bags. Keeping track of the locations of dead birds may be important in determining the level of human risk in a particular area. Source: 2002 Town of Vail Environmental Health

Contact Info

Kristen Bertuglia
Environmental Sustainability Director

Beth Markham
Environmental Sustainability Coordinator

Peter Wadden
Watershed Education Coordinator