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Interim Health Officer Message from the Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County
Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH

July 1st, 2016

Meningococcal Disease

  • All HIV-positive people; and
  • All gay/MSM individuals, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have close or intimate contact with multiple partners or who seek partners through digital applications (“apps”), particularly those who share cigarettes/marijuana or use illegal drugs.

What is Meningococcal Disease?

Vaccines to help protect against the types of meningococcal disease most common in the U.S. are the best way to prevent this disease. In addition to the recommendations above, meningococcal vaccinations are also recommended for:

  • Children and adults 2 months of age and older who are HIV-positive;
  • Preteens and teens. Click here for a graphic of recommended immunizations for this group;
  • First-year college students living in a residence hall;
  • Military recruits;
  • Individuals with a damaged or removed spleen;
  • Populations identified to be at increased risk because of disease outbreaks; and
  • Individuals who are 56 years and older, and traveling to countries where the disease is common.
  • Don’t share drinks, food, utensils, or toothbrushes;
  • Don’t share things you smoke, like cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and hookahs; and
  • Don’t have multiple kissing partners.

For more information and other resources on meningococcal disease, click here.


June 13, 2016

What is HIV?

Ways to prevent or lower the risk of getting HIV include:

  • Not sharing needles for any reason;
  • Using condoms during sex; and
  • Taking Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), when needed.

What is PEP and PrEP?


April 12, 2016

Alcohol is a huge continuing problem that affects many lives and can tear families apart. Alcohol is also the second leading cause of premature death and disability in Los Angeles County, contributing to more than 1000 deaths every year. In addition, the financial costs to society are staggering. In 2014, alcohol cost Los Angeles County more than $10 billion in related health care and criminal justice costs, lost productivity, vehicle and property damages, and death.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recognized April as Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding about alcohol abuse and alcohol-related issues. This local acknowledgment is part of a national effort, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), to highlight the importance of alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment.

This year’s theme "Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use" draws attention to the problem of drinking, particularly binge drinking, among young people and children, and highlights the role parents can play in preventing teen alcohol use. Reducing underage drinking is critical to securing a healthy future for America’s youth. A key strategy is to provide education on the dangers of alcohol and/or drug abuse and its effects on children — and parents need to know the important part they can play.

In Los Angeles County, 23 percent of youth ages 12 to 20 reported drinking at least one alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days. Furthermore, 15 percent of youth under 21 reported binge drinking, that is, drinking 4-5 drinks or more during a single session. For teens, binge drinking can lead to dangerous and unfortunate consequences that can have lifelong impacts. Excessive alcohol use among young people is linked to motor vehicle accidents, violence and injury, suicide, problems at school, alcohol poisoning, unsafe sex and other risky behaviors, even for those who may never develop a dependence or addiction.

We encourage parents and children, friends and families, and community members and leaders to reach out to each other and talk about the impact of alcohol use within their homes and communities. Here are some tips to get the conversation started:

Talk to your Teen about Alcohol and Drugs

  • Listen and Encourage Open Dialogue: Remember, this is a conversation, not a lecture. Showing kids that we are really listening to their thoughts and concerns is an important part of helping them.
  • Set Expectations: Clearly state the “house rules” about drinking. The expectations should reflect your own beliefs and values, and the family should agree upon the limits.
  • Provide Good Reasons Not to Drink: Focus on what your teen can gain by avoiding drinking: higher self-esteem, positive outlook, self-respect, or avoiding embarrassing and harmful situations. While it’s important to acknowledge the consequences of alcohol use, avoid scare tactics.
  • Be Positive: Many parents have discovered that talking about alcohol and drugs with their children has built bridges rather than walls between them and have proudly watched those children learn to make healthy, mature decisions on their own.
  • Know and Share the Facts: Educate yourself on the dangers of teen alcohol use and effective prevention strategies. If your family has a history of problems with alcohol, include this information as part of your honest and open dialogue with your children, just as you would with any other disease, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

With everyone's help, we can prevent the deadly and costly harms caused by alcohol abuse, and help those who need treatment find support and overcome alcohol use disorders.

Public Health Is Working For You
At the Department of Public Health we work with health providers, community partners and the public to raise awareness and understanding about alcohol and drug abuse.

  • The Substance Abuse Prevention and Control (SAPC) program leads and facilitates the delivery of a full spectrum of prevention, treatment, and recovery support services proven to reduce the impact of substance use, abuse, and addiction in Los Angeles County.
  • Anyone looking for treatment, information and resources in Los Angeles County can call toll-free (888) 742-7900 or visit the Public Health website.
  • About 15,000 individuals received treatment from publicly funded treatment centers in Los Angeles County each year (2005-2013), according to Los Angeles County Participant Reporting System data.

February 10, 2016

There has been a lot of information on Zika in the news lately. Below are some ways we can address this disease to keep our friends and family safe, and to prevent Zika transmission in our County.

What is Zika Virus?
Zika is a virus spread by mosquitos. There is no vaccine to prevent a Zika and there is no medicine to treat the infection. Shortly after being infected with the virus, about one in five people will experience mild symptoms, including fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, and pink eye. These symptoms last a few days, perhaps up to one week. Four in five people feel no symptoms at all.

The main issue that is causing considerable concern is a possible link between Zika virus and babies born with microcephaly. Microcephaly is an uncommon condition that causes unusually small heads in infants, leading to severe developmental issues and sometimes death. Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy is possible during all three trimesters. To learn more about microcephaly, click here.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel warning that advises pregnant women to postpone travel to Zika-affected countries. It is recommended that pregnant women check the CDC travel advisories if they plan to travel for any reason and to delay travel if their plans include any countries where Zika outbreaks are occurring. There are approximately 30 countries with active Zika virus transmission. For a map and list of these countries, click here. If travel plans cannot be changed, pregnant women are advised to consult with their obstetrician or other medical provider before traveling.

A recent case of Zika in Texas in which the virus appears to have been transmitted sexually has also caused concern. In response, the CDC released guidelines to prevent possible Zika transmission through sexual activity. Sexual activity includes vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Men who live or have traveled in a Zika-affected areas are advised to abstain from sex or to consistently and correctly use condoms every time for vaginal, anal or oral sex with pregnant partners throughout their entire pregnancy.

How to Prevent Zika Virus Infection
At this time, no Zika transmission has been documented in LA County. To prevent Zika virus from becoming established here, as well as to prevent other mosquito-borne diseases, there are things that all of us can do. This is especially important as mosquitos also spread dengue, chikungunya, and West Nile Virus among humans, as well as heartworm among animals. Let’s protect the health of people and pets by doing our part to eliminate mosquito breeding sites around our homes.

  • Get rid of places where mosquitos lay their eggs.
  • Every two to three days, dump and drain water from potted plants, pet water bowls, bird baths, and other places where water collects.
  • Also check inside homes and workplaces for eggs, and eliminate any location where eggs can be laid. Mosquitos that transmit Zika virus like to live and lay eggs indoors.
  • Contact the Los Angeles County Vector Control at www.lawestvector.org or call (310) 915-7370 to report a potential mosquito breeding situation.

People can also protect themselves from Zika virus infection in affected countries by avoiding mosquito bites. Follow these tips to protect yourself:

  • Cover up. Wear clothes that cover the whole body, such as long-sleeves, pants, close-toed shoes, and other protective clothing when outside;
  • Apply EPA-approved mosquito repellent. The most effective repellents contain DEET or picaridin. Click here for a table showing the efficacy of commercially available mosquito repellents based on a 2015 study. If wearing sunscreen, apply repellent after putting on sunscreen;
  • Wear clothes treated with Permethrin. Permethrin is the only approved insect repellent used for factory-treated clothing. For more information about Permethrin, click here; and
  • Stay indoors when possible. Make sure any open windows or doors have screens to keep mosquitos out.

To learn more about Zika and mosquitos, click here.

Public Health Is Working For You
Due to the rising concern about Zika virus, Public Health has been quick to respond by:

  • Investigating possible cases of Zika virus infection in our communities. There has been only one confirmed case of Zika virus infection in LA County. The person became infected while traveling abroad in El Salvador last November. The person has since recovered;
  • Updating our website with information and education on Zika virus for LA County residents. You can find our Zika webpage with Zika resources here; and
  • Developing outreach plans and education activities for medical providers and populations more likely to travel to Zika-affected areas.

For more information on Zika virus, check out our fact sheet here.


January 14, 2016
Cervical Health Awareness Month
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. It’s a great time to learn more about cervical cancer and ways to prevent this disease from affecting family and friends.

What Is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells that line the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vaginal canal. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the 3rd most common cancer among women and the 2nd most frequent cause of cancer-related death. Fortunately, the availability of screening tests such as the Pap test have greatly reduced cases of cervical cancer in the U.S. In addition, several vaccines are available that can prevent the human papilloma virus (HPV) types that cause most cervical cancers.

Today, approximately 12,000 women in the U.S. get cervical cancer each year, and 4,000 women die from it. Compared to all women, Latina women are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, while African American/Black women are more likely to die from it. These health disparities are largely the result of unequal access to healthcare, which leads to lower cervical cancer screening rates and delayed treatment if abnormal cell growth or cancer is identified. Some real-life stories from women and their families impacted by cervical cancer and HPV are available at this link.

Cervical Cancer Screening: What You Need to Know
Ensuring women receive the recommended screening tests for cervical cancer is critical for detecting and treating early signs of cervical cancer. The Pap test (sometimes called Pap smear) looks for cell changes on the cervix that might develop into cancer if left untreated. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause abnormal cells on your cervix that can lead to cancer. The U.S. Prevention Services Task Force recommends these standard guidelines:

  • Women 21 to 65 years of age receive a Pap test every 3 years; Women 30 to 65 years of age may alternatively choose to receive a Pap test and HPV test every 5 years (co-testing).
  • Women older than 65 years if they have not received adequate screening in the past.
Women are encouraged to talk with their health provider to find out when they should get a cervical cancer screening next. To learn more about Pap tests, click here.

The HPV Vaccine Helps Prevent Cervical Cancer
Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact during sex. Nearly all sexually active men and women get HPV at some point in their lives. In many cases, the virus goes away on its own and does not cause health problems, but it can lead to cervical and other types of cancer in some people.

There is an HPV vaccine available to protect people from diseases caused by HPV, including cervical and other cancers. The vaccine is safe and effective. Currently, it is recommended for:

  • All girls and boys ages 11 or 12 years. This helps protect them from getting HPV before they first have sex.
  • Men through age 21 and women through age 26 if they did not get the vaccine when they were younger.
  • Men who have sex with men through age 26, and for men with compromised immune systems (including HIV) through age 26 if they did not get HPV vaccine when they were younger.
The more people who are protected by the vaccine means there are less people who will get HPV and pass it on to their sex partners.

HPV vaccines are covered under most health insurance plans. Those who do not have health insurance may visit our Immunization Program website or call our Office of Women’s Health hotline at 1 (800) 793-8090 for referrals to providers that may offer HPV vaccines at low to no cost. For more information about HPV and the HPV vaccine from our Immunization Program, click here.

DPH Is Working for You
At the Department of Public Health (DPH) we work with health providers, community partners and the public to raise awareness and promote cervical cancer screenings and the use of HPV vaccines. The following are a few activities focused on this important topic:

  • The Office of Women’s Health hotline is multilingual and helps low-income, uninsured women get appointments for Pap tests at low or no cost. The hotline can also refer callers to locations that offer the HPV vaccine. Call the hotline at 1 (800) 793-8090 for more information.
  • We provide education about cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccines through the Women’s Health hotline, during community events, on our website, and through social media. Follow us on Twitter at @lapublichealth.
  • Our Immunization Program works with providers to promote the use of HPV vaccines and serves on an HPV Community Advisory Board led by the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Southern California.

For more information, check out our fact sheet in English or Spanish on cervical cancer screening, HPV vaccine recommendations, and resources for getting these services.


December 8, 2015

I would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season! I hope many of you are able to spend time with family and friends while enjoying and sharing your cultural traditions. To help you and your loved ones celebrate safely over the next few weeks, here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Prevent food-borne illnesses. Improperly prepared or stored food can make you and your guests sick.
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after using the restroom.
    • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating or cutting into them.
    • Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods such as fruits and vegetables. Avoid cross contamination by using separate cutting boards, knives, and platters for these foods.
    • Wash cutting boards, utensils, and platters after preparing each food item and before going on to the next item.
    • Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when re-heating.
    • Keep hot foods hot (135°F or above). Use chafing dishes or pans with Sternos or other heating devices, or keep foods in the oven until they are served.
    • Keep cold foods cold (40°F or below). Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours. Throw out foods that should have been kept cold, but have been left out for more than two hours.
    • Leftovers should be used within 3 to 4 days. Avoid “taste testing” food or drinks to see if they have spoiled.
    To test your own food safety habits, take our Environmental Health Division’s Home Kitchen Self-Inspection!

  2. Ensure everyone gets to the party and back home safely. Don’t let people drive when they’re “tipsy,” “buzzed,” or drunk.
    • Encourage people to plan ahead if they intend to drink alcohol; make sure they have a non-drinking driver to take them home.
    • Arrange alternate transportation if someone is unable to drive home safely. This may include a sober friend or family member, a car-share or taxi service, or public transportation. The Metro will offer free service during the night of Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and some companies offer free rides or car tows for drivers who have consumed alcohol on New Year’s Eve night.
    • When hosting an event:
      • Offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks;
      • Serve standard-sized drinks to help guests accurately estimate their alcohol intake and prevent overindulgence; and
      • Stop serving alcohol at least an hour or two before the party ends to reduce the likelihood of someone driving immediately after consuming a cocktail.
    Also keep in mind that blood alcohol content (BAC) is affected by the number of drinks, a person’s individual characteristics (e.g., weight, sex, food intake, individual metabolism), and passage of time. Refer to the BAC chart from the California DMV for more information. Here’s some more information about Drinking and Alcohol Abuse from our Substance Abuse Prevention and Control Division.

  3. Give kids gifts that are age-appropriate, accessible, and safe. Avoid toys that can accidentally choke, burn, or injure a child.
    • Avoid giving young children toys with small parts (including magnets and “button” batteries). If a piece can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it’s not appropriate for kids under age three.
    • Include properly-fitted protective gear (e.g., helmets, knee pads, elbow pads) when giving sports equipment, bikes, scooters, skateboards, and skates. It’s also a good idea to orient the child on safety rules before they’re allowed to play with them.
    • Avoid toys (and clothes) that can hurt children, such as ropes and cords, heating elements, and flying objects (e.g., bb guns, sling shots, etc.).
    • Watch out for toys and other gifts with lead. Check out this fact sheet on tips for lead-safe toys.
    • When purchasing toys for children with access and functional needs:
      • Take into consideration the strength, fine motor skills, and cognitive ability needed to use the toy; and
      • Search for items that allow for adjustable heights, sound volume, and difficulty levels.
      Consult the AblePlay website for more information.
    • Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Recall by Product website before you buy or save your receipts. You can sort the latest product recalls by babies and kids, electronics, sports and recreation, and toys.

  4. Protect you and your family from the flu. Get your annual influenza (flu) vaccine. The flu season usually peaks in winter between December and February. Find out more about the flu vaccine here.

As the year comes to a close, take a moment to reflect on important events that occurred throughout the year and get ready to ring in 2016! The Department of Public Health looks forward to our continued partnership with you in keeping your family healthy, active, and safe for many years to come.



November 2, 2015

Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work

November 16-22, 2015 is Get Smart Week. The goal of Get Smart Week is to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that allows them to grow in the presence of drugs that would normally kill them or limit their growth. Every year, more than two million people in the U.S. get infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a result. In Los Angeles County, we have seen several examples of ‘superbug’ outbreaks in hospitals as a result of this growing problem.

Unnecessary antibiotics can be harmful.

Antibiotics are powerful drugs. They can be lifesaving when used appropriately, but using antibiotics incorrectly or when it is unnecessary can lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Therefore, it is very important to only use antibiotics when needed to treat bacterial infections. They do not work and should not be used to treat infections caused by viruses. Use of antibiotics when someone has a viral infection can actually be harmful. Antibiotics won’t cure a viral infection and can kill protective bacteria in our bodies, increasing the chance to develop a serious infection or an infection caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotics can also cause an allergic reaction or other unpleasant side effects.

Protect yourself and your loved ones. Use antibiotics appropriately.

Be a champion for proper antibiotic use at your doctor’s office, in your family, and in your community. Here are a few tips to help prevent more antibiotic resistance in our communities:

  • Don’t demand antibiotics from your doctor. Antibiotics are used to fight bacteria and should only be used for bacterial infections. They will not help cure infections like the common cold or flu that are caused by viruses. Talk with your doctor about the type of infection you have and ask whether or not antibiotics would be useful in treating it.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as directed when prescribed by your doctor. Even if you start to feel better, never skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early unless your doctor tells you to do so.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed for you; do not share or use leftover antibiotics. Unused antibiotics may not be the right medicine for the problem and can lead to serious harm. Even if the drug seems to work and the pain or symptoms go away, it may not actually cure the infection. Without the right treatment, the health condition will remain and may even get worse over time. Discard old antibiotics (and other unused/expired prescriptions) at a County Household Hazardous Waste and Electronic Waste Permanent Collection site.
  • Reduce your risk of getting sick. Take these steps to help keep you healthy during cold and flu season:
    • Get the flu shot. The flu shot will help protect you from getting the flu.
    • Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds (about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice).
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and face.
    • Avoid contact with people who are sick.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) works hard to ensure that antibiotics are used properly in hospitals, nursing homes, and in the community. We track antibiotic-resistant infections, as well as antibiotic use in healthcare facilities to prevent and measure our progress in limiting the spread of these life-threatening infections. We also collaborate with healthcare facilities to improve infection prevention practices throughout the County. In the community, DPH plans to provide educational resources for patients at community health clinics on proper antibiotic use.

Thank you for helping us to reduce the rise of antibiotic resistance in our communities!

COMMUNITY RESOURCES:

To learn more, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/.



October 9, 2015

It's the Start of the Flu Season

The 2015-2016 influenza season has started. Make sure you and your family are protected! Get your influenza vaccine now.

Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that causes mild to serious illness. Flu symptoms usually start suddenly and may include fever, coughing, sore throat, headaches, body aches, chills, runny or stuffy nose, extreme tiredness, and weakness. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children. Most people get better within two weeks, but some people can develop serious complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections. In Los Angeles County, residents are hospitalized each year due to flu complications and some will die.

Protect Your Loved Ones – Get the Flu Vaccine

The flu spreads from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing or by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching a surface that had the virus on it. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine. The vaccine helps protect you from getting the flu and then passing it on to your family, friends, and people at work. Everyone ages 6 months and older should be vaccinated, especially those at serious risk for flu-related complications. These include people 65 years of age and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and young children. The flu vaccine is available in the form of a shot or nasal spray. Ask your doctor which vaccine may be right for you and your family.

I encourage everyone to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. Some key facts about the flu vaccine include:

  • The vaccine is effective. It helps protect against several flu strains, including the H3N2 strain most likely to cause illness this flu season. If you do get sick with the flu, being vaccinated may also lessen the severity of illness.
  • The vaccine is safe. The most common side effects are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the flu shot was given and nasal congestion after the flu vaccine nasal spray. These side effects are usually mild and are less serious than having the flu. Serious allergic reactions are very rare.
  • The vaccine does not cause the flu. The vaccine contains killed or weakened viruses that cannot cause flu illness. People sometimes mistake the vaccine's side effects for flu symptoms.
  • You can get the flu vaccine at no charge. Most insurance plans fully cover flu vaccines as a preventive health service. There is typically no out-of-pocket costs for patients who get the vaccine at their doctor’s office or at some pharmacies. If you have health insurance, please contact your regular healthcare provider or insurance carrier to confirm your benefits.

The Department of Public Health (Public Health) kicks off a number of County-wide flu prevention activities this month.  Throughout the fall, we will offer flu vaccines at our public health centers and flu clinics organized across the County. Flu clinic sites may include senior and community centers, schools, public libraries, and churches. Click here for a listing of all flu clinics by date and city. Appointments are not necessary, and there is no charge for vaccines to ensure access to those who don't have health insurance or whose healthcare provider does not offer flu vaccines.

More Ways to Protect Yourself from the Flu

The following are some other tips to help protect you and your family from the flu:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds (about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice);
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and face;
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick. People with the flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away; and
  • If you are sick, stay home until 24 hours after the fever ends. People can spread the flu to others for up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.

For more information about the flu, check out our flu fact sheet.



September 8, 2015

Prescription drugs play a critical role in treating people when they are sick or feel pain. It is also very important to properly dispose of all unused or expired medications. Unused medication can pose a major health and safety risk if left in the home. Consider these facts:

  • Prescription drugs are widely available in the home. According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, an estimated 200 million pounds of unused or expired prescription drugs are stored in medicine cabinets across the United States.
  • Prescription drugs left in the home can be misused. Nearly 75% of LA County residents who used prescription drugs incorrectly got them from family members, other relatives, or friends.
  • Young children may consume prescription drugs while unsupervised at home. In 2012, poison control centers across the country fielded 490,000 calls from caregivers regarding a possible medication overdose involving a small child and more than 64,000 kids nationwide were treated in an emergency room for medicine poisoning. If you believe a child in your care has accidentally overdosed on prescription or over-the-counter medication, call (800) 222-1222 as soon as possible.
  • Older children and adults may abuse prescription drugs that are easily accessed at home to get high. In a 2013 survey, 3 in 4 teens said it was easy to get prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinet and over one-third who have misused or abused a prescription drug got it from home. This can have serious consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 44 people die every day from an overdose of prescription painkillers and many more become addicted. In LA County, 8,265 drug-related deaths were reported between 2000 and 2009; 61% of those deaths involved a commonly abused prescription or over-the-counter drug.
  • Giving unused prescription drugs to friends or family when they are sick is dangerous. Unused medications that are given to others can lead to serious problems. Medications can lead to a severe allergic reaction or other serious unintended side-effects. In rare cases, these can be fatal. Even when the drug seems to work and the person’s pain or symptoms go away, it may not actually cure the problem. Without proper medication or the correct dose, the individual’s health condition will persist and may even get worse over time.

For these reasons, finding ways to properly discard unused and expired medication is important to protect our communities.

Use the following methods to properly dispose of unused prescription medication:

Currently, the Department of Public Health is working on an initiative with other County Departments to expand safe and secure disposal options. This will help prevent more unused prescription medication from misuse and abuse.



August 10, 2015

Last Thursday the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced a case of human plague in California. The patient lives in LA County and was hospitalized for the illness after a family trip to Yosemite State National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. Officials are still investigating where the individual may have contracted the disease.

Human plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and takes one of three forms depending on the area of infection within the body. Bubonic plague is an infection of the lymph nodes; pneumonic plague is an infection of the lungs; and septicemic plague is an infection in the blood stream. All three types of infections can be deadly in about 50% of infected individuals if not treated right away.

Today, human plague is rare but does occur in the western United States, including California. It is typically transmitted by flea bites from infected rodents or direct contact with sick animals. In very rare cases, it can spread person-to-person from a patient with pneumonic plague. The last reported previous case in California was in 2006, although two other cases of human plague have been reported this year in Colorado. Both patients in Colorado died from the disease.

Reduce your risk of exposure to human plague by doing the following when hiking or camping:

  • Avoid feeding squirrels, chipmunks, or other rodents in picnic or campground areas. Store food and refuse in rodent-proof containers;
  • Never touch sick or dead rodents;
  • Avoid walking, hiking, or camping near rodent burrows;
  • Wear long pants tucked into socks or boots to reduce exposure to fleas;
  • Spray insect repellent containing DEET on socks and pant cuffs; and
  • Leave pets at home when visiting rural areas. They can get plague from wild animals or fleas and increase potential exposure to their owners.

When at home:

  • Prevent wild animals, such as rodents or stray cats, from seeking shelter in and around your place. Remove heavy brush and block access to crawl spaces, attics, and under decks or porches;
  • Never trap or relocate a wild animal on your own. Call your local animal control office for help;
  • Get rid of outside sources of food that may attract wild animals. Keep pet food indoors. Pick up fallen fruit from trees. Secure trash with a tight fitting lid; and
  • Use flea control products on your pets.

Visit here for more information about human plague.


July 06, 2015

I am happy to report that new Ebola cases in West Africa have significantly declined due to the extraordinary efforts by healthcare professionals to care for infected individuals and reduce community transmission. The number of new weekly cases in West Africa has remained below 30 for several weeks and efforts remain strong to bring the epidemic to a closure as soon as possible. Here in LA County, we continue to maintain surveillance activities as necessary to ensure the health and safety of travelers returning from Ebola-affected countries and we anticipate a decrease in active monitoring as the situation continues to improve in West Africa. At this time, I wish to thank all of our County Departments and community partners for their very strong support and dedication in the deployment of our Ebola preparedness and response strategy. Their collaboration strengthened local efforts to protect LA County residents, and there remains no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in our jurisdiction.

Second, I want to share that Senate Bill 277 was recently passed by our state legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The new law no longer allows personal belief exemption (PBE) from school vaccination requirements. I recognize the importance of this measure as it is designed to protect the public’s health by ensuring that as many individuals as possible receive needed vaccinations against potentially fatal diseases. In California, 90% of kindergartners were up-to-date with required immunizations in 2014, and Los Angeles County was slightly below the state average with 86% up-to-date. PBEs may be a contributing factor to this recent decline in vaccination rates for school required immunizations.

Vaccines are the best defense we have to prevent serious illnesses from spreading in our communities, such as diphtheria, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), and polio. For example, it is likely that higher vaccination rates would have better contained the multi-state measles outbreak experienced last December. Many individuals who fell ill during the outbreak were not immunized.

Last month our Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology released a new report, “What Do Parents Think? Knowledge and Attitudes about Immunization.” The report includes results from a survey of parental knowledge and attitudes toward vaccinations, immunization facts, and recommendations. The following are facts everyone should know about vaccines:

  • Vaccines are safe: Many vaccines can have mild side effects, such as fever or soreness around the injection site. More serious side effects are extremely rare, and vaccine-preventable diseases that might occur in unvaccinated persons are likely to cause much more harm. There is no evidence that the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine or Thimerosal, a preservative in some vaccines, cause autism. The original research paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in The Lancet that alleged a vaccine-autism link in 1998 was retracted in 2010 by the medical journal following no corroborating scientific evidence. Thimerosal has also been removed from all childhood vaccines in 2001, with the exception of inactivated flu vaccines due to an abundance of caution and a general efforts to reduce childhood mercury exposure.
  • Vaccines are effective: Vaccine-preventable diseases have declined dramatically over the past century. Smallpox was successfully eradicated worldwide in 1977, the U.S. has been polio-free since 1979, and measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. This means that measles is no longer endemic in the U.S. population. Recent outbreaks have been the result of unvaccinated travelers bringing the virus from other countries into the U.S. We know LA County is a popular tourist destination with a bustling Tom Bradley International Airport, so our communities are at some risk for diseases imported from abroad that are typically no longer seen in the U.S.
  • Vaccines protect individuals and the people around them: High vaccination rates in a population protect those who are unable to receive immunizations for health reasons by preventing the spread of the disease. This concept is called herd immunity. Unfortunately, if the vaccine rate in a population dips below a certain level, it is more likely that herd immunity will decline and an outbreak will occur, disproportionately affecting the unvaccinated, including infants too young to vaccinate, immune-compromised individuals, and people with life threatening allergies to the vaccine.

To improve immunization rates and protect residents from vaccine-preventable diseases, our Immunization Program works to raise awareness and ensure access to immunizations. The program assists residents in making informed decisions about immunizations and conducts ongoing surveillance to detect and quickly respond to cases of vaccine-preventable diseases to prevent further transmission. Click here for a list of clinics that provide no- to low-cost immunizations to youth 18 years of age and younger in LA County.

For more information about immunizations or other health topics, please review the material available on our webpages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County to speak with an operator.


April 22, 2015

Progress continues to be made as the world responds to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Although the situation has improved greatly and the weekly number of new cases has fallen well below 100, we must remain vigilant until the number of new cases in affected countries reaches zero. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola. We maintain our surveillance and actively monitor a small number of travelers each day who have returned from Ebola-affected countries. There are currently no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in LA County.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) maintains efforts to ensure we have the most effective strategy possible in place to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. DPH and our County partners are strongly committed to protecting your health and safety. Ongoing departmental activities include:

  • Tracking and monitoring travelers returning to LA County from affected West African countries;
  • Ensuring hospitals remain prepared to medically support an individual with Ebola, including their staffs’ ability to access and properly use personal protective equipment (PPE). Some medical centers in LA County are included on the federal list of Ebola Treatment Centers designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH); and
  • Refining County-wide protocols to effectively handle a suspected or confirmed case of Ebola in LA County.

For more information about Ebola, please review the material available on our webpages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County to speak with an operator. Operators have general information about Ebola, including how it is prevented, how it is spread, and why the risk of getting Ebola in LA County is low. The information can help you and your family stay informed.


March 17, 2015

The world response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has decreased the number of new cases occurring there and there is hope that the epidemic can be stopped sometime this year. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola. We maintain our surveillance and actively monitor a small number of travelers each day who have returned from Ebola-affected countries. There are currently no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in LA County.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) maintains efforts to ensure we have the most effective strategy possible in place to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. DPH and our County partners are strongly committed to protecting your health and safety. Ongoing departmental activities include:

  • Tracking and monitoring travelers returning from affected West African countries to LA County;
  • Ensuring hospitals remain prepared to medically support an individual with Ebola, including their staffs’ ability to access and properly use personal protective equipment (PPE). Some medical centers in LA County have been added to the federal list of Ebola Treatment Centers designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH); and
  • Refining County-wide protocols to effectively handle a suspected or confirmed case of Ebola in LA County.

For more information about Ebola, please review the material available on our webpages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County to speak with an operator. Operators have general information about Ebola, including how it is prevented, how it is spread, and why the risk of getting Ebola in LA County is low. The information can help you and your family stay informed.



December 01, 2014

There are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in LA County. Our level of vigilance remains high as we continue to closely monitor individuals who have traveled here from affected countries and may be at risk of developing Ebola based on their activities abroad.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) maintains efforts to ensure we have the most effective strategy possible in place to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. DPH and our County partners are strongly committed to protecting your health and safety. Ongoing departmental activities include:

  • Tracking and monitoring travelers returning from affected West African countries to Los Angeles County;
  • Ensuring hospitals remain prepared to medically support an individual with Ebola, including their staff’s ability to access and properly use personal protective equipment (PPE); and
  • Refining County-wide protocols to effectively handle a suspected or confirmed case of Ebola in LA County.

For more information about Ebola, please review the material available on our webpages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County to speak with an operator. Operators have general information about Ebola, including how it is prevented, how it is spread, and why the risk of getting Ebola in LA County is low. The information can help you and your family stay informed.



December 01, 2014

There are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in LA County. Our level of vigilance remains high as we continue to closely monitor individuals who have traveled here from affected countries and may be at risk of developing Ebola based on their activities abroad.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) maintains efforts to ensure we have the most effective strategy possible in place to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. DPH and our County partners are strongly committed to protecting your health and safety. Ongoing departmental activities include:

  • Tracking and monitoring travelers returning from affected West African countries to Los Angeles County;
  • Ensuring hospitals remain prepared to medically support an individual with Ebola, including their staff’s ability to access and properly use personal protective equipment (PPE); and
  • Refining County-wide protocols to effectively handle a suspected or confirmed case of Ebola in LA County.

For more information about Ebola, please review the material available on our webpages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County to speak with an operator. Operators have general information about Ebola, including how it is prevented, how it is spread, and why the risk of getting Ebola in LA County is low. The information can help you and your family stay informed.



November 24, 2014

Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Mali to the list of Ebola-affected countries, which continues to include Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. To date, more than 15,000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,420 related deaths worldwide. In the United States, a second Ebola-related death occurred last Monday after Dr. Martin Salia was transferred to Nebraska Medical Center from Sierra Leone for medical care following several days of illness. His tragic passing highlights the critical importance of early intervention and care in recovery.

There are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in LA County. Our level of vigilance remains high in LA County as we continue to closely monitor individuals who have traveled here from affected countries and may be at risk of developing Ebola based on their activities abroad.

The Department of Public Health has spent the last several weeks strengthening local efforts to ensure we have the most effective strategy possible in place to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. To test key elements of our Ebola preparedness and to practice our response, the Department successfully completed a tabletop exercise with our County partners. The exercise demonstrated our high level of preparation and strong commitments to protect LA County residents’ health and safety. Additional departmental activities that are ongoing include:

  • Tracking and monitoring travelers returning from affected West African countries to Los Angeles County
  • Ensuring hospitals remain prepared to medically support an individual with Ebola, including their staff’s ability to access and properly use personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Refining countywide protocols to effectively handle a suspected or confirmed case of Ebola in LA County.

For more information about Ebola, please review the material available on our web pages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County to speak with an operator. Operators have general information about Ebola, including how it is prevented, how it is spread, and why the risk of getting Ebola in LA County is low. The information can help you and your family stay informed.



November 17, 2014

Ebola outbreaks continue to affect Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa with some new cases reported in Mali. While the rate of new cases in Liberia and Guinea has leveled off, the rate of rise in Sierra Leone continues to accelerate. To date, approximately 14, 000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,160 related deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to monitor the situation and coordinate relief efforts to control the spread of infection. It is important to note that only two cases of Ebola have been exported from West Africa to other parts of the world, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the strategies that are in place to prevent spread. Those two cases are, of course, the case that was diagnosed in Dallas on September 30, and the more recent case in a physician in New York City who has recovered and been released.

There are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in LA County. Our level of vigilance remains high in LA County as we continue to closely monitor individuals who have traveled here from affected countries and may be at risk of developing Ebola based on their activities abroad.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) has spent the last several weeks strengthening local efforts to ensure we have the most effective strategy possible in place to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. To test key elements of our Ebola preparedness and to practice our response, this week the Department will host a tabletop exercise with our County partners. Additional departmental activities that are ongoing include:

  • Tracking and monitoring travelers returning from affected West African countries to Los Angeles County
  • Ensuring hospitals remain prepared to medically support an individual with Ebola, including their staff’s ability to access and properly use personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Refining countywide protocols to effectively handle a suspected or confirmed case of Ebola in LA County.

For more information about Ebola, please review the material available on our webpages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County to speak with an operator. Operators have general information about Ebola, including how it is prevented, how it is spread, and why the risk of getting Ebola in LA County is low. The information can help you and your family stay informed.


November 10, 2014

The Department of Public Health continues to coordinate efforts to ensure we have an effective strategy to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. As part of these ongoing efforts, we met last week with the Hospital Association of Southern California and the California Association for Health Facilities. The meetings were held jointly with LA County Emergency Medical Services and provided hospitals and long-term health care facilities with an update on Ebola, our current activities, and response plans for LA County. Each meeting was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and facilitate coordination with all health care providers who may play a role in identifying and treating an individual with Ebola.

To date, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in LA County. We remain prepared to respond should a case occur here. Our strategy remains unchanged and includes three key elements: to rapidly identify and isolate any individual suspected of having Ebola, ensure the safe care of that individual, and monitor any individuals who may have been exposed. This includes closely monitoring individuals who have returned from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa and may be at risk of developing Ebola so that we can quickly isolate anyone who might develop symptoms and prevent the possible spread of this disease. As needed, I may issue quarantine or other orders to specific individuals. The Department is also in close communication with workplaces, schools, and other entities that may be directly impacted by any quarantine order.

The University of California announced that all five UC Medical Centers are willing and able to provide in-patient care for individuals who have confirmed cases of Ebola. This includes the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Public Health continues to work closely with UCLA and other hospitals throughout LA County to ensure that they remain prepared to medically support an individual with Ebola and safeguard the health of their workforce who may be involved in the patient’s care.

For more information about Ebola, please review the material available on our webpages or call 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County to speak with an operator. Operators have general information about Ebola, including how it is prevented, how it is spread, and why the risk of getting Ebola in LA County is low. The information can help you and your family stay up-to-date.



November 04, 2014

VIDEO Videos: English | En Español

The State Health Officer from the California Department of Public Health recently issued a risk-based quarantine order for any individuals coming into California who had contact with a person confirmed with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will comply with the State’s order.

To date, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in Los Angeles County. We remain prepared to respond should a case happen here. Our strategy is threefold: to rapidly identify and isolate any individual suspected of having Ebola, to assure the safe care of that individual, and to monitor any individuals who may have been exposed.

The State’s directive builds upon a multi-layered strategy to strengthen local efforts that ensure that those who are at risk of developing Ebola are under close monitoring. This order creates a standard, statewide protocol for managing those individuals at highest risk of developing and possibly spreading this disease.

Public Health applauds the brave and extraordinary work of health care workers in West Africa, and we welcome these dedicated individuals upon their return. Our department is in constant communication with local agencies that send health care workers to West Africa, and we will work with these organizations to identify any returning individuals to whom this order may apply.

We will have an open process and clear communication with returning health care workers as to what the quarantine order entails. Our goal is to ensure the health and safety of all people in LA County, including the health care workers transitioning back home.

If you have questions about Ebola, I encourage you to review the material available to you on our webpages, or dial 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in LA County and speak with one of the operators. These operators have general information about Ebola, including how it is prevented, how it is spread, and why the risk of getting sick with Ebola in LA County is low. This information can help ease concerns that you and your family might have about Ebola.



October 28, 2014

VIDEO Videos: English | En Español

Last week a doctor based in New York, who had treated patients with Ebola in Guinea, tested positive for Ebola. In Los Angeles County there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, and we remain prepared to respond should a case happen here.

I have confidence in the procedures we have in place to keep the public safe. It is important for everyone to note that of the four cases that have been diagnosed in the U.S., two had exposures in West Africa and two were health care workers who had provided care to an Ebola patient.

Our efforts to ensure the safety of the people of Los Angeles County are ongoing. The Department of Public Health continues to work with hospitals and health care providers to support their abilities to quickly identify and isolate any individual suspected to have Ebola. We are also actively engaging first responders, health care professionals, local elected officials, and community members with information on Ebola and supporting efforts to train health care workers on how to care for patients with Ebola symptoms and to capture patients’ travel histories.

For example, Public Health recently partnered with the UCLA Medical Center to test the hospital’s plan and processes for caring for people with Ebola. UCLA emergency room doctors and nurses prepared as if they were receiving a person who was suspected to have the disease. Emergency department nursing staff led the patient through an outside entrance into an isolation room in the emergency department. The medical team then admitted the patient directly to a specially designated and prepared room in the hospital. Doctors and nurses practiced putting on the personal protective equipment, taking blood tests, disposing of waste, and taking off the personal protective equipment.

Public Health doctors and nurses observed the drill and provided feedback to the UCLA physicians and nurses. Our role as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is to be the bridge that connects us as quickly as possible with the lessons learned in other communities and puts those lessons learned into practice here locally. Our goal is to keep all health care workers, especially those on the front lines of patient care, safe.

I recognize that ongoing coverage about Ebola has caused concern for adults and children alike. It’s normal to feel some stress and anxiety; however, it is very important to manage our feelings effectively. We’ve been collaborating with the LA County Department of Mental Health to identify things we can all do to stay healthy:

  1. Manage Our Stress
    • Keep usual routines for eating, sleeping and exercising.
    • Talk openly about feelings of fear, anxiety and irritability.
    • Try relaxing stretches and breathing exercises.
    • Fight fear with facts. Refer to credible sources for periodic updates on the situation.
  2. Connect with Our Community
    • Keep contact with friends, extended family, coworkers, and neighbors.
    • Participate in fun activities in your community, neighborhood, or faith group.
    • Be careful not to exclude others who are from or have traveled to affected regions since unwarranted discrimination and be emotionally harmful.

I would like to affirm once again that there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in Los Angeles County. We continue to monitor and learn from events that are occurring elsewhere in the U.S. and in the world so that each day we are more prepared than we were yesterday.

For general information about Ebola, dial 2-1-1 from any land or mobile phone in Los Angeles County. For more information about mental health assistance, please call the Access Center 24/7 Helpline at (800) 854-7771.



October 21, 2014

VIDEO Videos: English | En Español

As the news continues to evolve around Ebola, I want to reassure all residents in Los Angeles County that, to date, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in Los Angeles County. This past week, we have worked diligently to update and strengthen our plans to address Ebola. We are more prepared today than we were yesterday, and we will be more prepared tomorrow than we are today.

Our efforts to reach out and partner with all the organizations that may be involved in the response to a case of Ebola are continuing. A taskforce consisting of multiple County agencies and departments is working together so that we are all prepared in the event we need to take action. We are working with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to address safety concerns regarding rail and bus lines, and to ensure people feel safe traveling by public transit.

We continue to work with health care facilities. Our role as the Department of Public Health is to be the bridge that connects us as quickly as possible with the lessons learned in other communities and puts those in practice here. Our goal is to keep all health care workers safe in addition to ensuring patients have the best care possible. We encourage all hospitals in the County to develop training exercises for their staff that can be adapted to their own facility’s unique needs to help ensure staff is comfortable and skilled in the use of those safety procedures.

I also want to reassure everyone in Los Angeles County that while health care facilities continue to train their staff to respond should a case of Ebola occur here, these same hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices remain open to treat any patient with any illness.

Finally, I encourage everyone to get the influenza vaccine as we enter flu season. This time of year, people start to travel more as we near the holiday season. Public transportation, including air travel, means that we are in close contact with each other, whether on a bus, a train, or airplane. The flu virus is much more common and more easily spread than Ebola. Influenza and Ebola may share some of the same symptoms, but there is very low risk of catching Ebola and very high risk for catching the flu. Free flu vaccines will be available at our public health centers and over 100 flu clinics organized throughout the county. Flu Clinics for a listing of our flu clinics. Services are available to everyone at no cost.




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Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.
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