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News


It is not too late to sign up for Health Insurance (But it soon it will be)

The Polk County Health Department and other community partners will be holding a health insurance enrollment fair on Saturday, March 22, 2014 from 10:00am to 3:00pm at the Evelyn Davis Center for Working Families (801 University Ave, Unit 3 in Des Moines).The health insurance enrollment fair is being held as a part of the “Financial Fitness Day” being held at the Center that day.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said “For many people this may be the last opportunity to sign up for health insurance until the fall. We’d like to see as many people as possible take advantage of this opportunity.”

Trained Navigators, Certified Application Counselors and Health Insurance professionals will provide individuals with detailed information about available insurance options. They will also be able to help determine eligibility for Marketplace subsidies.

In order to complete the enrollment application at the fair, please bring the following information:

  • Current ID
  • Social Security Card
  • 2012 or 2013 Income Tax Returns
  • If working, last pay stub

“This is a wonderful opportunity for families to get their health and medical costs covered at a price that is affordable. By doing so they will improve their physical, mental and financial health,” said Kozin.

In 2010 it was estimated that 13% of adults in Polk County were uninsured. Many others may have inadequate insurance to meet their family’s needs. People without health insurance often delay getting necessary care until it is unavoidable and more costly. A number of our community partners have trained their staff in the details necessary to provide assistance to families so they can take advantage of this opportunity. Spanish interpreters will be available.

To learn more visit www.healthcare.gov or call Ana at 515-323-5227 with questions about the enrollment fair.


Using the Polk County Air Quality Index for Heart Health

The Polk County Air Quality (AQI) can help you protect your heart. Check it out http://www.polkcountyiowa.gov/airquality/

“How many times have you heard a forecast that said, ‘Air pollution levels are forecasted to be unhealthy for sensitive groups”, but didn’t know what it meant if you have a heart condition?, said Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director.

Sensitive groups for air pollutants include people with heart disease, older adults, and children. When exposed to air pollution people with heart disease and older adults are more likely to visit emergency rooms, be admitted to hospitals or even die. Exposure to air pollution may cause people with heart disease to experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Air pollution has also been associated with cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks. Major sources of these particles include motor vehicles, haze, smoke, residential wood burning, agricultural burning, some industrial processes, and other combustion process.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health. “Our Air Quality Index can give people with heart health issues some valuable information so they don’t put themselves at unnecessary risk”, said Jeremy Becker, Polk County Public Works Department Air Quality Manager.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.; the risk of heart attacks may begin as early as the mid-40s for men and mid-50s for women, but heart disease is preventable and controllable.


Free Colorectal Cancer Screening Offered by Polk County Health Department

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the Polk County Health Department is participating in a free and ongoing colon cancer screening program. The Iowa Get Screened: Colorectal Cancer Program helps save lives from one of the most deadly, yet most preventable diseases by providing free colorectal cancer screening to individuals who qualify.

The Iowa Get Screened program is funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health. To participate in the free screening program individuals must be between the ages of 50-64, be uninsured or underinsured, have a household income of up to 250% of the federal poverty guidelines ($59,625 for a family of 4), and have not previously been screened for colorectal cancer. For more information or to see if you qualify call 286-2192.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said, “Because 7 out of 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer had no warning signs it is extremely important to have regular screening done. In fact if everyone aged 50 or older were screened regularly as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.”

Colorectal cancer starts as a tiny growth or “polyp” in the colon (large intestines) or rectum. Screening gives doctors a chance to find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer. Most people have no symptoms at all but some people can have symptoms that include blood in their stool, belly pain for no clear reason, or unintentional weight loss. People who have a close family member who has had colorectal cancer are at a higher risk of developing it as well.

“Getting regular screenings, living a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercise, and knowing your family history are the best ways to reduce your chances of dying from colorectal cancer” said Mr. Kozin.

Even though colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. only 64% of Iowans aged 50 and over have ever been screened. Everyone over age 50 should be screened. People who are younger than 50 and have had signs or symptoms, have a close relative who has had colorectal cancer, or has ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease should be screened.


Get Healthy DSM Project

The Polk County Health Department, partnering with community organizations, such as the American Lung Association of Iowa, Easter Seals, Lutheran Services in Iowa, and West Des Moines Community Schools are implementing a series of five health events that began in November and will continue throughout the upcoming calendar year. These five events are part of the “Get Healthy DSM Project,” an effort coordinated by the Polk County Health Department that helps advance the Healthy Polk 2020 priority to empower more people to take responsibility for maintaining their health.

Click Here for the full press release


Health Insurance Enrollment Fair Success Prompts Another Event

The Polk County Health Department, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), and other community partners will be holding a health insurance enrollment fair on Saturday, February 15 from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the Evelyn Davis Center for Working Families (801 University Ave, Unit 3 in Des Moines). In January, the group held a very successful event. Because of this success another event will be held.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said “Ninety-four people attended the event we held last month. Many of them, for the first time, were able to sign up for health insurance. We learned that having someone available to walk them through the process is what is necessary for some people to get signed up.”

In order to help individuals understand their choices and assist them with the sign-up process the health fair will be staffed by professionals from Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Coventry Health Care, Proteus, Primary HealthCare, Mercy Medical Center, UnityPoint Health Des Moines, Broadlawns Medical Center and CoOportunity Health. This enrollment fair will provide individuals with detailed information about each Marketplace health insurance plan offered in Iowa and can help determine eligibility for Marketplace subsidies.

In order to complete the enrollment application at the fair, please bring the following information:

  • Current ID
  • Social Security Card
  • 2012 Income Tax Returns
  • If working, last pay stub

“For thousands of Iowans, this is the first real opportunity they will have to get their families health and medical costs covered at a price that is affordable” said Kozin.

In 2010 it was estimated that 13% of adults in Polk County were uninsured. Many others may have inadequate insurance to meet their family’s needs. People without health insurance often delay getting necessary care until it is unavoidable and more costly. A number of our community partners have trained their staff in the details necessary to provide assistance to families so they can take advantage of this opportunity. Spanish interpreters will be available.

To learn more visit www.healthcare.gov or call Ana at 515-323-5227 with questions about the enrollment fair.

Click Here for the official press release.


Polk County Health Department to Hold “Diabetes Screening Day”

On Monday, January 27 from 8-11:00 am, Polk County Health Department will hold a “Diabetes Screening Day” at 1907 Carpenter Avenue in Des Moines where you can get free diabetes and dental screenings and access to resources to manage or prevent diabetes.

“Untreated diabetes can cause debilitating consequences that can affect your every-day life such as losing a foot or leg to amputation, becoming blind, or having pregnancy complications. Imagine not being able to take your dog for a walk, not reading to your grandchild a bedtime story, or not having a healthy baby,” said Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director.

At Diabetes Screening Day you will get a free blood glucose screening and dental screening as well as getting connected to resources and programs that can help you better manage or prevent diabetes. If you have diabetes you can live a normal life by improving nutrition, using medications appropriately, and incorporating physical activity into every day.

“We know that early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment can decrease the chance of complications from diabetes. But, we also know people need information and a plan to improve their eating and activity habits,” said Leah Gabriel, ARNP, Polk County Health Department Nurse Practitioner.

According to data from the Iowa Department of Public Health from 1990-2009 about 42% of the Iowa adult population has diabetes or pre-diabetes, many of them undiagnosed. The main reason that many cases of diabetes do not get diagnosed is because many of the symptoms seem so harmless. Symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, fatigue, irritability and blurry vision.

Screenings will be available, free of charge, to any Polk County resident. In order to be tested do not eat or drink anything other than water for eight hours prior to event and bring all prescriptions and over the counter medications that you are taking.


Flu activity increasing in Iowa, dominant strain good match to vaccine

Surveillance data in Iowa shows that while still relatively low, influenza activity is increasing and that the dominant strain is 2009 H1N1. In 2009 this strain posed a higher risk for complications such as pneumonia and hospitalizations in very young children and pregnant women. Fortunately this strain was included in this year’s flu vaccination.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said “flu season typically peaks in January and February and can continue into spring months so it is not too late to get vaccinated.”

Influenza usually causes the most illness and complications in the elderly, very young and people with chronic health conditions but in the past the 2009 H1N1 strain caused the most illness among young children, young and middle-age adults, and pregnant women. Influenza is more than a stuffy nose or scratchy throat, it can cause fever, headaches and fatigue for up to two weeks and can be very contagious, even before people have symptoms.

“Because we’re seeing mostly the 2009 H1N1 strain this means that even healthy young adults can be at risk for getting very sick and passing it on to others,” said Kozin. “The best protection remains the flu vaccination but it is also extremely important to wash hands often and thoroughly and to stay home when you are sick.”

However, don’t count on everyone else getting vaccinated as your protection against the flu (herd immunity). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the beginning of flu season only about 40% of Americans had received their flu shot.

Influenza vaccinations are widely available in a variety of types at an affordable price. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccination. Anyone who is at high risk for complications (pregnant women, young kids, people with chronic health conditions) should see their doctor as soon as possible if they suspect they have influenza. If given antiviral medications within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms the severity and duration of illness can be decreased. Antibiotics are not effective at treating influenza.

Flu vaccinations are available at the Polk County Health Department on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm and until 7:00 pm on Tuesdays. Most types of insurance are accepted or the fee is $20 for people without health insurance however no one will be turned away because of an inability to pay.


Health insurance enrollment fair to be held

The Polk County Health Department, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), and other community partners are holding a health insurance enrollment fair on Saturday, January 11 from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the Evelyn Davis Center (801 University Ave, Unit 3 in Des Moines).

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said “Through the Affordable Care Act uninsured or underinsured individuals, regardless of their health status, could have access to health insurance. But learning about the options and getting signed up can be a difficult process for some.”

In order to help individuals understand their choices and assist them with the sign-up process the health fair will be staffed by professionals from Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Coventry Insurance and CoOportunity Health. This enrollment fair will provide individuals with detailed information about each Marketplace health insurance plan offered in Iowa and can help determine eligibility for Marketplace subsidies.

In order to complete the enrollment application at the fair, please bring the following information:

  • Current ID
  • Social Security Card
  • 2012 Income Tax Returns
  • If working, last pay stub
  • Every client must have an email address to receive notice of coverage decisions and requests for additional information.

“For thousands of Iowans, this is the first real opportunity they will have to get their families health and medical costs covered at a price that is affordable” said Kozin.

In 2010 it was estimated that 13% of adults in Polk County were uninsured. Many others may have inadequate insurance to meet their family’s needs. People without health insurance often delay getting necessary care until it is unavoidable and more costly.

A number of our community partners have trained their staff in the details necessary to provide assistance to families so they can take advantage of this opportunity.

To learn more visit www.healthcare.gov or call Ana at 515-323-5227 with questions about the enrollment fair. If you plan on attending the enrollment fair please email HealthDept@PolkCountyIowa.gov.


Vaccine Refusal Linked to California Pertussis Outbreak

New evidence suggests that clusters of people who refused the whooping vaccine may have been one of the factors that contributed to California's 2010 whooping cough outbreak.

See the full story


Polk County Health Department Announces Schedule for Flu Clinics

Polk County Health Department will be holding nearly 50 community flu vaccination clinics beginning September 25 through November 2013. The annual “drive-thru flu clinic” will be held on Saturday, October 5 at the Polk County Health Department. The full schedule is available at www.polkcountyiowa.gov/health. Vaccinations are also available at the Polk County Health Department (1907 Carpenter Ave) M-F from 9-4:30 and Tues until 6:30 pm on a walk-in basis.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said, “We know that getting vaccinated, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands are extremely effective at reducing the spread of the flu in our community. When a high percentage of the community has been vaccinated against a contagious disease like influenza it is very difficult for it to be spread from person to person.”

People who get influenza are also at greater risk for catching pneumonia. The elderly, children and people with chronic diseases are more likely to get sick, and to get sicker, in addition to being at a higher risk for developing pneumonia or other serious complications that can cause hospitalization or even death.

“Getting the flu is more than just a stuffy nose or sore throat. It can cause symptoms such as coughing, headaches and fatigue that can last for up two weeks. Most people will feel miserable for at least a few days and will then recover but for some, like the elderly and kids or people with chronic diseases, the flu can cause complications like pneumonia or hospitalization. At a minimum, the flu will cause you to miss several days of work or school.” said Mr. Kozin.

Since a higher percentage of children get the flu, and because of how easily they can spread it to others, it is recommended that all children over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against flu. Older adults, and people with chronic health conditions (who are more likely to get sick and be sicker than other people) are encouraged to receive their shots sooner rather than later. “You can have the flu and be contagious before symptoms arise so to best protect yourself as well as your grandma, and your children, you should all get a flu vaccination,” said Mr. Kozin. Scientific advances in flu vaccinations have increased the options for flu vaccinations, ranging from painless to extra strength. Your doctor, a nurse or a pharmacist can help you decides which of the following types of vaccination is best for you:

  • The trivalent shot that has been the standard flu shot to protect against three strains of flu and can be used by anyone age 6 months and older.
  • New this year is the quadrivalent shot that protects against four strains of the flu and should be especially helpful for protecting children (note: this vaccination is NOT available at the Polk County Health Department clinics).
  • The nasal spray, or FluMist, is a painless option that is popular with children and includes protection against four strains of flu. It should not be used by pregnant women or those with chronic health conditions because it contains live, weakened flu viruses.
  • A high-dose vaccine, FluZone, that protects against three strains is used mainly for older adults to give them a quick boost in immune response and protection since this population is at higher risk for complications from the flu.
  • The intradermal vaccine is a smaller needle that injects the vaccine into the skin rather than the muscle and is a good option to protect against three strains of the flu for those who are afraid of needles.
  • FluBlok is a new vaccine made available this year and is made without eggs and is a good alternative for adults 18-49 with egg allergies (note: this vaccination is NOT available at the Polk County Health Department clinics).

To speed up the process at the flu clinics people can download the Consent Form from the Health Department Web Page (www.polkcountyiowa.gov/health) and bring the completed Consent Form to the clinic. For updates or changes in the clinic schedule call the Polk County FluLine, 286-3609. Most major insurance plans are accepted. The cost for those without insurance is $20. Nobody will be turned away because of an inability to pay.


Take precautions outdoors and use cool nights to avoid heat related illness

This week is expected to bring record high temperatures however, cool overnight hours provide protection from heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Anyone is at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke during extreme heat but older adults, people with chronic health conditions, outdoor workers and athletes practicing outdoors are at an increased risk.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said, “because daytime temperatures are so high anyone working outdoors or participating in athletics is at an increased risk for heat stroke and heat exhaustion and should take precautions.”

As little as two hours in the air conditioning greatly reduces the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion but for those who spend time outdoors follow these precautions:

  • If possible move outdoor activity indoors or to morning hours.
  • Slowly increase practice intensity and duration.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors.
  • Drink water before, during and after practice.
  • Be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

“People who are indoors can also protect themselves by taking advantage of the cool overnight temperatures by keep windows and blinds closed during the day and open at night. Use a fan to circulate air in your home, but do not sit directly in front of it because it can speed up dehydration,” said Kozin.

Signs of heat exhaustion include feeling faint, body aches, stomach pain, nausea, and elevated body temperature. Heat stroke on the other hand is an emergency situation and can be life threatening. Signs and symptoms to watch for include shock, unconsciousness, and seizures. To learn more visit www.polkcountyiowa.gov/health.


Health Risks from a fire at 1422 Scott Ave

A warehouse fire at Taylor Recycling on 1422 Scott Ave last night, created a smoke plume that can cause health risks due to poor air quality.

Jeremy Becker, Polk County Air Pollution Engineer said, “Concentrations measured are high enough to be a concern for sensitive populations such as. the young, elderly and those with health issues like asthma. We are continuing to monitor the area.”

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director advises people and businesses in the immediate area, or those who can smell it, to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid prolonged exposure.
  • Avoid strenuous activity.
  • Stay indoors and use the air conditioning-the furnace filter will help filter the air
  • Schools, childcares etc. should have indoor recess periods.

Overnight cooling shelter closing due to cooler overnight temperatures

The Polk County Health Department overnight cooling shelter that has been open at Zion Lutheran Church in Des Moines will be closing today (Friday, August 30). Temperatures are expected to drop below 80 degrees by 11:00 pm tonight and Saturday night and get as low as 69 degrees. This drop in overnight temperature should be enough to provide relief from the extreme heat that the cooling shelter had previously been providing.

However, because daytime temperatures today will still be high, there are several locations that will be open until 8:00 pm tonight for cooling.

  • Polk County Health Department (1907 Carpenter Ave)
  • North Community Center (Park Fair Mall, 2nd Ave & Euclid)
  • Norwoodville Community Center (3077 NE 46th Ave)

Daytime Hours: Many public places are open during their regular business hours and allow residents to seek relief from the heat. See a complete list at www.polkcountyiowa.gov/health.


Overnight cooling shelter and extended daytime cooling shelters open

The prolonged extreme heat that is expected this week and weekend can pose as serious risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion or death, especially in older adults and people with chronic health conditions. As little as two hours in air conditioning each day can greatly reduce your risk. The Polk County Health Department has identified an overnight option and a number of daytime and extended hours options for individuals to seek relief from the heat.

Overnight: An overnight shelter will be open Wednesday, August 28 and Thursday, August 29 from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am at Zion Lutheran Church at 4300 Beaver Ave. Doors lock at 11:00 pm and cots, blankets, pillows, water and food will be provided.

Extended Daytime/Evening Hours: The following locations will all be open until 8:00 pm for cooling tonight (Wednesday, August 28) and Thursday, August 29:

  • Polk County Health Department (1907 Carpenter Ave)
  • North Community Center (Park Fair Mall, 2nd Ave & Euclid)
  • Norwoodville Community Center (3077 NE 46th Ave)

Daytime Hours: Many public places are open during their regular business hours and allow residents to seek relief from the heat. See a complete list at www.polkcountyiowa.gov/health.

DART is offering free rides to the overnight shelter, which is along Route 14. The offer is good on all local routes from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on both Monday and Tuesday evenings. To ride for free, passengers need only tell the bus operator that they are going to the overnight cooling shelter. Those who stay overnight at the shelter can get a free return trip in the morning by catching the bus at the nearest stop to the shelter, at the intersection of Aurora Avenue and 46th Street.

Schedule information is available online at www.ridedart.com or by calling the Customer Service Line at 515-283-8100 until 7 p.m. For calls after 7 p.m., please call 515-283-8108.


Prolonged extreme heat dangerous to athletes, outdoor workers, those without AC

This week and into the weekend is expected to bring record high temperatures and because of the mild weather so far this summer our bodies may not be as prepared as usual to adjust to extremely hot weather, increasing the risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Anyone is at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke during prolonged extreme heat but older adults, people with chronic health conditions, outdoor workers and athletes practicing outdoors are at an increased risk.

An overnight cooling shelter will be open at Zion Lutheran Church, 4300 Beaver Ave in Des Moines, Monday and Tuesday night from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am. Cots, water and food will be provided, doors are locked at 11:00 pm. Many public places are open to provide respite to the heat, see the full list of daytime cooling centers at http://www.polkcountyiowa.gov/health (note: extended cooling hours are available until 9:00 pm on Monday and Tuesday at the Polk County Health Department, North Side Community Center, Southside Community Center and the Noorwoodville Senior Center. Additionally, there are ways to stay safe in your home without air conditioning.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said, “Additionally, with the start of school, many students are participating in athletics and practicing outdoors. As their bodies are adapting to new levels of exertion, extreme heat can put additional stress on their bodies.”

The Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut is dedicated to reducing heat related deaths in athletes and urges parents and coaches to take the following precautions:

  • Be aware of the signs or heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Slowly increase practice intensity and duration.
  • If possible move outdoor activity indoors or to morning hours.
  • Drink water before, during and after practice.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors.

These guidelines also apply to outdoor workers. To learn more about Iowa’s athletic practice guidelines and heat exhaustion and heat stroke prevention visit http://www.ksi.uconn.edu.

“While those who are exerting themselves outdoors are certainly at an increased risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, periods of prolonged extreme heat like we are expecting this week can quickly raise the temperature to dangerous levels in homes that do not have air conditioning,” said Kozin.

The absolute best way to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke is to get just two hours every day in air conditioning. However, there are ways to stay safe in your home without air conditioning.

  • Do not use appliances such as washer/dryer, dishwasher, stove during afternoon hours.
  • Keep windows and blinds closed during the day to keep the heat out.
  • Temperatures will be in the 70s for just a few hours in the early morning. Open windows when temperatures are lowest, from 4-7am.
  • Use a fan to circulate air only, do not use it for your primary cooling source. Do not sit directly in front of a fan. While you may feel cooler, it can actually dehydrate your body quicker, increasing your risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Place a cool washcloth on your head and the back of your neck. Take periodic cool baths or showers.
  • Most importantly, check on those who don’t have air conditioning at least twice each day.

Signs of heat exhaustion include feeling faint, body aches, stomach pain, nausea, and elevated body temperature. Heat stroke on the other hand is an emergency situation and can be life threatening. Signs and symptoms to watch for include shock, unconsciousness, and seizures.


Polk County Health Department to Hold Free Adult Screening Day

On Wednesday, August 21 from 8-11am, Polk County Health Department will hold an Adult Screening Day at 1907 Carpenter Avenue in Des Moines where adults can receive free diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol and dental screenings.

These screening tests can provide valuable information about your health and give you the opportunity to catch a developing disease, such as diabetes or heart disease, early enough to do something about it and prevent serious complications.

No appointment is needed, please fast for 8 hours prior to screening for most accurate results. Call Sarah at 286-3895 with questions.


Cryptosporidium cases continue to rise in Polk County: Prevent spread in schools

The number of cryptosporidium cases in Polk County has continued to rise to over 170 cases since early July. This parasite causes severe diarrhea for up to 30 days. So far this outbreak has been spreading through contaminated recreational water, but it can also be spread from person to person.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director, said “We have been working with local swimming pools to slow down the outbreak but as summer ends we will be focusing on reducing the secondary spread of the parasite in order to keep the outbreak out of schools when classes begin. The cryptosporidium parasite is resistant to many typical disinfectants and can survive on surfaces making it possible to spread from person to person.”

Cryptosporidium can live in the intestine of humans and animals and is passed in the stool of an infected person. A person can get cryptosporidium by coming in contact with the feces of another person who has it. This can happen by changing a diaper or when a person sick with cryptosporidium fails to wash their hands thoroughly after using the restroom then touches an object or prepares food. The parasite can also be found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with feces from infected humans or animals. A person can become infected by accidentally swallowing the parasite.

“In addition to proper pool etiquette you can reduce your risk of not only cryptosporidium but a range of other illnesses by washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and by washing fruits and vegetables,” said Kozin.

Everyone should wash their hands thoroughly often but especially before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before and after helping someone who has used the bathroom or has diarrhea. Because fecal matter and the cryptosporidium parasite are microscopic, fecal contamination is usually not visible to the eye.

See your health care provider if you suspect you have a parasite illness or if you are in poor health, have a weakened immune system or are pregnant. These people and young children are at higher risk for more severe and prolonged illness or dehydration. To learn more about cryptosporidium visit http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/


Polk County Health Department prevents lead poisoning through home repair assistance

As you prepare to get your older children ready for school, it’s time to maximize your toddlers ability to have lifelong learning by making sure they live in a lead safe house now. The Polk County Health Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program can provide financial assistance to eligible families who have lead hazards in their home. For many families this means new siding, windows and doors and most families pay nothing for these repairs.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said “lead poisoning can cause permanent brain damage in young children and is one of the top three preventable causes of mental retardation. Because lead-based paint is the primary source of lead poisoning it is 100% preventable.”

Lead based paint is usually found in homes that were built before 1978 and becomes a hazard when it starts to peel or chip off the walls or window sills and becomes easy for young children to ingest. Polk County has a large number of homes built before 1978 and in some of our neighborhoods, the rate of children who are tested for lead poisoning with elevated blood levels is 3 to 8 times greater than the national lead poisoning rate.

“The best way to prevent lead poisoning in young kids is to remove the lead-based paint hazards from their home. The Metropolitan Partnership for Lead Safe housing can help pay for those repairs,” said Kozin.

Families who have a home built before 1978 and have a child under 6 who lives in or visits the home for at least 60 hours each week can check into the program. The family must live in Polk or Dallas counties and be current on mortgage, utilities and taxes. Call the program to see if you meet eligibility at 286-2115 or visit http://www.metroleadsafe.org.

To find out more about the Polk County Health Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and what they can do to fix your lead hazards and provide a lead safe home for your family, please call 286-2115 or visit http://www.metroleadsafe.org


Cryptosporidium cases rising in Polk County: Swimming pool etiquette can reduce spread

Cryptosporidium is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States and Polk County is seeing far higher numbers than usual, with 68 cases so far in July compared to just 6 in July 2012. This parasite is most commonly spread through drinking water and recreational water and can cause watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration, nausea and vomiting with symptoms lasting 2-4 weeks. Most people who have a healthy immune system can manage diarrhea by drinking plenty of fluids and will recover without treatment.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director, said “because cryptosporidium is very tolerant to chlorine disinfection, it is not uncommon to see more cases in the summer months if people are not following proper etiquette and safety precautions when in pools and recreational water. This year we’re seeing more cases than usual and earlier than usual.”

Cryptosporidium can live in the intestine of humans and animals and is passed in the stool of an infected person. A person can get cryptosporidium by coming in contact with the feces of another person who has it. This can happen by changing a diaper or when a person sick with cryptosporidium fails to wash their hands thoroughly after using the restroom then touches an object or prepares food. The parasite can also be found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with feces from infected humans or animals. A person can become infected by accidentally swallowing the parasite. To prevent the spread of cryptosporidium in pools, fountains and lakes follow these tips:

  • Do not swim if you have diarrhea (this is essential for children in diapers). If you have been diagnosed with cryptosporidium or another parasite do not swim for at least 2 weeks after diarrhea stops.
  • Shower before entering the water.
  • Wash children thoroughly (especially their bottoms) with soap and water after they use the toilet or their diapers are changed and before they enter the water.
  • Take children on frequent bathroom breaks and check their diapers often.
  • Change diapers in the bathroom, not at the poolside.
  • Avoid swallowing pool water.

“In addition to proper pool etiquette you can reduce your risk of not only cryptosporidium but a range of other illnesses by washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and by washing fruits and vegetables,” said Kozin.

Everyone should wash their hands thoroughly often but especially before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before and after helping someone who has used the bathroom or has diarrhea. Be sure to scrub fruits and vegetables rather than just rinsing with water.

See your health care provider if you suspect you have a parasite illness or if you are in poor health, have a weakened immune system or are pregnant. These people and young children are at higher risk for more severe and prolonged illness or dehydration.

To learn more about cryptosporidium visit This Link


New Vaccination Requirement for 7th Grade Iowa Students

Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year the State of Iowa will require all students entering 7th grade and who are born on or after September 15, 2000 to provide proof of an adolescent Tdap booster vaccination before enrollment. This booster vaccination will protect students from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

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Diarrheal Illness Common Symptom of Other Parasite Diseases

Cyclospora isn’t the only parasite that can cause diarrhea and stomach pains. Cryptosporidium is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States. This parasite is most commonly spread through drinking water and recreational water and can cause watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration, nausea and vomiting with symptoms lasting 1-2 weeks. Most people who have a healthy immune system can manage diarrhea by drinking plenty of fluids and will recover without treatment.

For more information on this issue Click Here.


First Human West Nile Virus Case of 2013 in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus disease in Iowa of 2013. The case is a male middle-aged adult (41 to 60 years of age) from Linn County, who is recovering. “This case is a reminder that West Nile virus is out there and Iowans should be taking proper precautions to protect against mosquito bites,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Especially going into the holiday weekend when many of us will be spending time outdoors, it’s important to use mosquito repellant and to rid your yards of mosquito breeding areas.”

West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites. The best way to prevent the virus is to eliminate mosquito breeding areas and to use insect repellent when outdoors. Iowans should take the following steps to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus:

  • Use insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Always read the repellent label and consult with a health care provider if you have questions when using these types of products on children. For example, DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years old.
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks whenever possible outdoors.
  • Eliminate standing water around the home because that's where mosquitoes lay eggs. Empty water from buckets, cans, pool covers and pet water dishes. Change water in bird baths every three to four days.

Approximately 20 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will have mild to moderate symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches and vomiting. Less than one percent of people infected become seriously ill and rarely, someone dies.

Since West Nile virus first appeared in Iowa in 2002, it has been found in every county in Iowa, either in humans, horses, or birds. In 2012, there were 31 human cases of West Nile virus and no deaths.

For more information about West Nile virus, visit This Link.


New Study Shows HPV Vaccine Helping Lower HPV Infection Rates in Teen Girls

A new study looking at the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infections in girls and women before and after the introduction of the HPV vaccine shows a significant reduction in vaccine-type HPV in U.S. teens. The study, published in [the June issue of] The Journal of Infectious Diseases reveals that since the vaccine was introduced in 2006, vaccine-type HPV prevalence decreased 56 percent among female teenagers 14-19 years of age.

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Measles Epidemic in Wales tops 1,000 Cases

Public health officials warn that tens of thousands of children and young adults across Wales remain at risk. The number of cases in the Swansea measles epidemic has topped the 1,000 mark. Public Health Wales says the figure now stands at 1,011 but added that about 5,000 youngsters in the area aged between 10 and 18 still need vaccinating.

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Eliminate Breeding Mosquitoes in Standing Water to Reduce Disease Risk

Des Moines, IA – Mosquitoes that can carry West Nile Virus will be breeding in the standing water from the recent heavy rains and warm temperatures. Polk County Public Works will begin its annual “Mosquito Control Spray Program” the first week of June but the public can take steps to reduce mosquitoes in their neighborhoods.

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Polk County Health Department to Host Unveiling of Inspirational Artwork by Local Artist

On May 17th, from 5-8pm the Polk County Health Department is hosting a reception to unveil the first of six paintings to be completed over the next two years. “Bike Club” is a 6' x 11', oil on canvas painting by local artist, Dick Shook, of a group of cyclists making their way along a rural bike path. The series of paintings is intended to motivate visitors to be more physically active.

Click Here For Official Press Release


Polk County Health Department Hosting Heart Attack Risk Event

The Polk County Health Department will host a free heart attack risk screening event on May 8 from 8-11:00 am at the Polk County Health Department to help women understand their risk for having a heart attack. The Polk County Health Department has been awarded $10,000 from the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office to increase the number of Latino women in Polk County who recognize heart attack symptoms, call 911 when experiencing heart attack symptoms, and increase heart healthy behaviors. The Spanish language awareness campaign, “Know Your Heartbeat (Conoce tu Latido)” started in February.

Click Here For Official Press Release


Polk County Health Department Receives Adult Immunization Grant

The Polk County Health Department has received a $10,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Program Office and JBS International, Inc. to increase vaccination rates among adults in Polk County, specifically the Tdap vaccination that protects against whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, and tetanus. Immunizations are proven and safe ways to avoid many contagious diseases, yet most Polk County adults are not up to date on their immunizations.

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Free Colorectal Cancer Screening Offered by Polk County Health Department

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the Polk County Health Department is participating in a free and ongoing colon cancer screening program. The Iowa Get Screened: Colorectal Cancer Program helps save lives from one of the most deadly, yet most preventable diseases by providing free colorectal cancer screening to individuals who qualify.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said, “Because 7 out of 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer had no warning signs it is extremely important to have regular screening done. In fact if everyone aged 50 or older were screened regularly as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.”

Colorectal cancer starts as a tiny growth or “polyp” in the colon (large intestines) or rectum. Screening gives doctors a chance to find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer. Most people have no symptoms at all but some people can have symptoms that include blood in their stool, belly pain for no clear reason, or unintentional weight loss. People who have a close family member who has had colorectal cancer are at a higher risk of developing it as well.

“Getting regular screenings, living a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercise, and knowing your family history are the best ways to reduce your chances of dying from colorectal cancer” said Mr. Kozin.

Even though colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. only 64% of Iowans aged 50 and over have ever been screened. Everyone over age 50 should be screened. People who are younger than 50 and have had signs or symptoms, have a close relative who has had colorectal cancer, or has ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease should be screened.

The Iowa Get Screened program is funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health. To participate in the free screening program individuals must be between the ages of 50-64, be uninsured or underinsured, have a household income of up to 250% of the federal poverty guidelines, and have not previously been screened for colorectal cancer. For more information or to see if you qualify call 286-2192.

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Gonorrhea Becoming Resistant to Antibiotics

The most common sexually transmitted diseases in Polk County are gonorrhea and Chlamydia and both are usually treated easily with antibiotics. However, gonorrhea has been developing a resistance to antibiotics and doctors are now left with one antibiotic treatment option, an option that has also showed signs of resistance. If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammation, severe pregnancy complications and female infertility.

Mr. Kozin said “Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that until recently has been easily treated with antibiotics. Resistance to commonly used antibiotics to cure the infection was detected several years ago in Japan and has spread to Europe and now North America.”

The Polk County Health Department tracks and investigates all cases of HIV, syphilis, Chlamydia and gonorrhea in order to ensure individuals who may have been exposed are treated in an effort to reduce the spread. Some STDs, such herpes and genital warts (HPV) cannot be cured but others, such as Chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea are still treatable but possibly not for long.

“Most sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented by practicing safe sex, which includes using a condom every time, limiting the number of partners you have, and knowing who your partners are. If left untreated STDs can be passed to others and can cause permanent health problems, such as infertility, dementia and even early death,” said Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director.

Many STDs have no signs or symptoms so anyone who is sexually active should be tested at least once a year for STDs. Some people, like men who have sex with men, should be tested more frequently. Many people, especially teens and young adults, do not practice safe sex consistently. Public health professionals know that with high numbers of diseases, like Chlamydia, it only takes one time having sex without a condom to contract an STD.

“Kids are exposed to sex at younger and younger ages through TV, the internet and even their friends so it’s not a surprise that this is leading to kids having sex at younger ages. Research shows that parents have the largest impact on a child’s decision making so it’s important to start having conversations about your family’s values and healthy choices frequently and at a young age,” said Kozin.

The Polk County Health Department offers confidential STD testing and treatment. For tips on starting a conversation with your kids visit http://www/polkcountyiowa.gov/health/.

Click Here For Official Press Release


Polk County Receives Funding for Women’s Heart Health

The Polk County Health Department has been awarded $10,000 from the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office to increase the number of Latino women in Polk County who recognize heart attack symptoms, call 911 when experiencing heart attack symptoms, and increase heart healthy behaviors. The Spanish language awareness campaign, “Know Your Heartbeat (Conoce tu Latido)” will begin in February.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said “Even though heart disease is the number one killer among women, Latino women are less likely to recognize heart attack signs. Only 53% said that they would call 911 if they thought they were having a heart attack.”

On average one woman dies of a heart attack every minute in the U.S. and risk increases between ages 50 to 60. In men the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. While this is true with women, they are also more likely to experience other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, unusual fatigue, and pain in the back, shoulders, and jaw.

“Because a heart attack can happen quickly, it is important that in this campaign we work directly with Latino community leaders to reduce the barriers that prevent women from calling 911. We want women to recognize that they might be saving their own life and that it is not a burden on others to call 911,” said Mr. Kozin.

The activities that the Polk County Health Department will undertake are designed to educate women on the range of symptoms of a heart attack in women; empower women to call 911 to save their own life; empower bystanders to act to save the lives of their sisters, mothers, and friends; and encourage women to adopt new behaviors to improve their health. The campaign will work directly with the Latino community through La Ley, La Reina, El Latino, health care providers and advocates. To learn more visit www.womentshealth.gov/heartattack/.

Click Here For Official Press Release


Staying Home When Sick and Handwashing Can Reduce Spread of Flu

Influenza season is underway and expected to be more severe than previous years. While flu vaccinations are the most effective ways to prevent influenza, staying home when you are sick and frequent handwashing are alternatives that have proven effective at reducing the spread of disease.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said, “During the H1N1 pandemic when vaccine was not readily available we worked very hard at spreading the message that staying home when you are sick and frequent handwashing can help reduce the spread of disease. Consequently, we saw a decrease in school absentee rates and a less severe pandemic than was anticipated.”

Influenza is an airborne virus that spreads when an infected individual coughs or sneezes so can easily be passed from person to person. The easiest way for germs to enter our body is when we touch our nose or mouth with unclean hands. Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm water.

“Washing your hands is an effective way to stop germs from entering your body. We hope that anyone unfortunate enough to get sick will take the necessary steps to make sure no one else gets sick ,” said Mr. Kozin.

If you have influenza and go to work, school or daycare you are not only bringing irritating coughs, sneezes and sniffles, you are putting others at risk of catching influenza. Some people, like young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions are at higher risk for complications like pneumonia, hospitalization or even death.

“If you have symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, runny nose, weakness or fatigue, cough, diarrhea or vomiting you should stay home from work, school or daycare. You are most contagious when you have a fever or for about five days after your symptoms appear,” said Mr. Kozin.

The best way to recover from the flu is to stay home, get plenty of rest, drink a lot of fluids, and treat symptoms such as fever and cough with over the counter medications. Local hospitals are asking community members to refrain from visiting emergency rooms for non-emergent medical care. Instead individuals experiencing non-life-threatening illnesses who are unable to see their primary care doctor should seek treatment from a local urgent care or walk-in clinic. Flu vaccinations are still available at the Polk County Health Department.


Polk County Health Department to Hold “Diabetes Screening Day”

On Wednesday, January 9 from 8-11:00 am, Polk County Health Department will hold a “Diabetes Screening Day” at 1907 Carpenter Avenue in Des Moines where you can get a free diabetes screening and access to resources to manage or prevent diabetes.

“Untreated diabetes can cause debilitating consequences that can affect your every-day life such as losing a foot or leg to amputation or becoming blind. Imagine not being able to take your dog for a walk, not reading to your grandchild a bedtime story, or not having a healthy baby,” said Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director.

At Diabetes Screening Day you will get a free blood glucose screening and get connected to resources and programs that can help you better manage or prevent diabetes. If you have diabetes you can live a normal life by improving nutrition, using medications appropriately, and incorporating physical activity into every day.

“We know that early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment can decrease the chance of complications from diabetes. But, we also know people need information and a plan to improve their eating and activity habits,” said Leah Gabriel, ARNP, Polk County Health Department Nurse Practitioner.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health there are 120,000 people in Iowa who are living with diabetes and don’t know it and an additional 670,000 people in Iowa who have pre-diabetes. The main reason that many cases of diabetes do not get diagnosed is because many of the symptoms seem so harmless. Symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, fatigue, irritability, and blurry vision.

Screenings will be available, free of charge, to any Polk County resident. It is recommended that you fast for 8 hours and bring all prescriptions and over the counter medications that you are taking. Patients diagnosed with diabetes could be eligible for free care, except for medications. You will also receive assistance in finding additional free or reduced-cost medication and supplies.

Click Here For Official Press Release

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