Message from the Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County
Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH
August 12, 2016
Climate change is a source of concern for many, especially as warmer, drier weather is observed throughout the county. This affects us in many ways. While the mild El Niño season helped fill many of California’s reservoirs, water is still a major concern. We continue to experience record-breaking temperatures. In addition, in the past few weeks, a number of fires have caused many square miles of brush and property to burn.
Yet another result of our changing climate may be a rise in diseases, especially those that are related to insects. Warmer temperatures may allow mosquitoes to thrive, including two species of mosquitos recently introduced into Southern California that are known to spread diseases: Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito). Two mosquito-borne diseases I would like to cover this month include Zika and West Nile Virus.
On August 1st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released travel guidance advising pregnant women, or women who may become pregnant, to avoid Wynwood, a neighborhood in Miami, Florida. This warning followed reports of mosquito-transmitted Zika virus in the area. More than 20 people in Florida have become infected locally by mosquito bites. To date, no local transmission of Zika has been reported in LA County. However, the Aedes mosquitoes that can transmit Zika are present in the San Gabriel Valley and in the eastern part of the County.
Recently, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported that two infants with Zika-related microcephaly have been born in California to women who had Zika virus infections during pregnancy after spending time in a country where the virus is present. At the same time, state officials confirmed that a total of 21 infections have occurred in pregnant women. These events highlight the known, serious risks of Zika virus infection to the children of pregnant women. These include not only microcephaly, but also eye defects, hearing loss, impaired growth, and other brain defects. To learn more about microcephaly, click here. I urge all pregnant women and their partners to take steps to protect themselves against Zika virus.
The CDC outlines four simple recommendations to prevent Zika infection for women who are pregnant:
For couples who want to get pregnant, tell your doctor if you plan to travel to or if you or your partner recently returned from an area with known mosquito-borne Zika transmission.
West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus (WNV) is another disease spread by mosquitoes that are present throughout the county. Local transmission of the virus occurs every year in Los Angeles County and typically occurs during warm weather months when mosquitoes are the most active. In 2015, there were 300 cases leading to 24 deaths in LA County. This year, seven cases have been reported so far. More cases will occur as the summer progresses.*
WNV can cause very serious illnesses such as meningitis, encephalitis, paralysis and even death, while others who are infected may experience only mild flu like symptoms. Although everyone is at risk of WNV infection, the elderly and those with weak immune systems are more likely to experience severe effects. Practice mosquito bite prevention to protect yourself from the disease. Click here for more information on WNV.
Protect Your Community
To protect the people most at risk for serious harm due to mosquito-borne disease and to help keep LA County free of Zika transmission, help reduce the spread of mosquitoes by getting rid of places where they lay their eggs. Follow these tips:
Those you love are counting on you!
*Please note, these numbers exclude cases reported to Long Beach’s and Pasadena’s public health departments.
In the last two months, 7 cases of invasive meningococcal disease have been reported within the Los Angeles County Public Health jurisdiction. Additional cases have been reported in surrounding jurisdictions.
June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. The day is a great reminder to get tested for people who don’t know their HIV status or who may have been exposed to HIV since their last test.
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
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.
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.
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:
November 16-22, 2015 is Get Smart Week. The goal of Get Smart Week is to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance.
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.
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.
08/10/15 - 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.
07/06/15 - 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.
04/22/15 - 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.
03/17/15 - 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
11/24/14 - 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.
11/17/14 - 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.
11/10/14 - 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.
11/4/14 - 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.
10/28/14 - 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.
10/21/14 - 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.