Welcome the New Surgeon General

This week, a new Surgeon General of the United States was named. The man is Dr. Jerome Adams and was President Trump’s nominee for the role. His 4 year term presiding over the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a subdivision within the US Department of Health and Human Services, was approved by Congress. He will also be a part of the National Prevention Council, a department that emphasizes our country’s growing involvement in public health and preventative care. This council primarily focuses on prevention, wellness, and health promotion by utilizing the coordinated efforts of multiple departments. He will take over this post from Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams who was the Acting Surgeon General after the controversial resignation of Dr.Vivek H. Murthy, who was appointed by the Obama administration.

Prior to taking this position, Dr. Adams served as the state health commissioner for Indiana. He has also worked as an anesthesiologist and assistant professor of Indiana University School of Medicine. Besides having a medical degree, Dr. Adams also has a masters in public health, an education that has helped advise his actions as the state health commissioner. Last year, he notable helped quell an HIV outbreak in Indiana by working with the CDC to establish a needle exchange program in the state. The results have been noted to be a great success but have not reached the root of the problem, which is drug addiction. It has been generally supported that Dr. Adams may have the knowledge and interest in public health necessary to make real, impactful changes in field during his 4 year term.

The new Surgeon General has announced that opioid epidemic, obesity, and issues regarding cost and access to healthcare are his top priorities upon taking the position. His particular focus on the opioid epidemic comes at a most appropriate time as the ongoing, worsening crisis has been urged by many to be declared a public health emergency. In fact, it was noted by the commission that “142 Americans die from drug overdoses every day,” and this figure is a monumental increase from the amounts seen at the start of the millennium. Stories of the impact of this epidemic can be seen littering newspapers and news sites across the country. Examples can be found here, here, and here, to name a few. The stories have even leaked into news centers across the globe, as can be seen in an article published by BBC, a British based news source.

Let us wish Dr.Adams best of luck and informed decision making in his endeavor to reign in the public health issues of our nation. He certainly has large shoes to fill as health care and public health continue to be hot topics of public interest, and the need for definite, firm leadership could not have come at a more opportune moment.


 Salmon, Sammy, Salmonella

Summer time is a season of picnics, poolside lunches, and grill outs. Get togethers with friends and family are often centered around food and outdoor activities. Unfortunately, warm weather is also accompanied by a spike in foodborne illness. During summer months, there are often multiple reports of food recalls due to contamination or reported illnesses due to eating unsafe foods. A simple search through recent news almost always reveals cases or recent articles about these sicknesses. Starting in May, there were reports of tuna contaminated with hepatitis A in Hawaii. Additional fish that had been shipped to the mainland also tested positive for hepatitis A, leading to a recall of the contaminated fish to prevent the use of the contaminated fish. Earlier this month, there was a salmonella outbreak linked to a restaurant in Michigan with associated cases in Ohio and Illinois. As such, food safety is not an issue that should be ignored. Below I have outlined the basics of food safety and explained what exactly causes food poisoning.

According to the CDC, “1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages,” leading to approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning every year. That is a lot of preventable sickness affecting our friends, family, and community. These illnesses can be caused by any number of bacteria, parasites, or viruses in our food due to contamination, cross contamination, or improper handling. Symptoms of foodborne illness usually brings to mind vomiting and diarrhea, but they can be as varied as blurred vision, weakness, fever, or even bleeding within the skin. Of course, if the symptoms are not managed appropriately or if the disease is contracted by someone with a compromised immune system, there is a higher risk of hospitalization or even death. The FDA website has a handy table of common pathogens and their disease symptoms, as seen here.

It is also important to note that some people are more susceptible to food poisoning than others. At risk groups of people include the elderly and children because their immune systems are not as effective as the general population, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals. Pregnant women are at risk because their immune systems change when they are pregnant. Both the mother and the unborn baby (who does not have a developed immune system) are at risk. Immunocompromised individuals have a weak immune system or are taking medications to prevent immune function as part of another disease treatment plan.

Some foods are also at a higher risk of carrying disease carrying pathogens than others. For example, uncooked or improperly cooked meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and poultry can be dangerous if consumed. Unpasteurized milk, juice, diary products, and cheeses. Unwashed produce and raw sprouts can also carry risk. Proper food safety and preparation can help reduce the risk of eating contaminated food or spreading germs from person to person.

So, what can you do to reduce your likelihood of contracting a foodborne illness? There are 5 easy to follow tips for safer foods outlined by the WHO. The first is to keep yourself and your kitchen clean by washing your hands and all surfaces that food comes into contact with. This can help reduce contamination by common germs. The second is to keep raw foods separate from cooked food, including using separate utensils, cutting boards, and containers. Raw food, especially meat, fish, and poultry, contain microscopic organisms that can make you sick and can contaminate your cooked foods or raw produce. This leads to ther third tip. Properly cooked and prepared foods significantly reduce your risk of food poisoning because it kills harmful bacteria. Furthermore, store foods promptly after eating, and keep the foods that are being served at an appropriate temperature. When food becomes room temperature, this is the perfect environment for microorganisms to grow and multiply, increasing your chances of getting sick. This is why food at picnics and parties pose such a risk. Additionally, be sure that all the food you are eating is fresh, properly prepared, and cleaned with clean, safe water.

Although foodborne illnesses seem daunting, simple rules and food handling procedures can help keep you and your family safe this summer. Don’t cancel your summer beach bash simply because you fear eating warm potato salad. Instead, prepare ahead and have a little responsibility during your party to ensure that all your guests are safe. After all, taking a minute to put uneaten food in the fridge or wipe down counter tops is a small sacrifice to make when the alternative is hearing about how ill your friends feel the next day! Have a safe and fun summer in the sun!


“She’s Your Lobster”

Unlike Ross and Rachel from Friends, being a lobster isn’t always a good thing. A day in the sun can leave you red, burned, and in serious pain. Sun safety is a serious matter, and in the sunny state of Texas, it has been a little slow to take hold.(For those of you who are wondering, the episode of Friends is “The One With The Prom Video,” Season 2 Episode 14).

Although tanning beds have been slowly disappearing from our area, laying out and deliberately avoiding sunscreen in order to get some stellar tan lines is still popular. Most all of us can recall returning to school in the fall touting to one another something along the lines of “OMG! You are so tan!” or “Wow, look at your tan lines! You are so dark!” Why we thought white bands of skin along with brown, burned skin was the epitome of cool, I will never know, but alas, it was the end goal of almost every kid’s summer vacation during my childhood.

The CDC states that skin damage can occur in as little at 15 minutes in the sun, due to ultravoilet (UV) rays. These are the same rays that your sunscreen protects you against, and it’s with good reason. UV rays are what cause skin cancer. Luckily, there are some easy things you can do to protect yourself and reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. The UV index scale used by the EPA helps set guidelines for your level of precaution and level of potential damage due to UV light on any given day. You can easily check your area’s UV level by inputting your zip code into the UV Index mobile app.

The American Cancer Society makes a few recommendations regarding sun safety that are clear and easy to follow. If you are going to be spending time outdoors, try to position yourself in the shade, whether you are under a tree or an umbrella, this will help reduce the amount of direct radiation reaching you. The Shadow Rule can help tell you when it is time to seek some shade or go inside for a bit. However, even if you are sitting in the shade, it doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen, hat or cover-up. These items offer additional protection from the sun and indirect rays that are reflected off of the ground and nearby objects. Also, if you choose to wear additional clothing (which you should!), note that dry clothes offer more protection than wet clothes, and dark clothing offers more protection than lighter pieces. The boys in my house are particularly prone to sunburns, so over the years, we have become huge fans of clothing that has built in, tested UV protection, such as the shirts carried by Under Armour.

As far as sunscreen goes, as I’ve gotten older, I have learned about how much misinformation I had been told about sunscreen usage and how much I straight up didn’t know. Hopefully we can shed some light on the situation and get things straightened out today. While I have come across conflicting information regarding some sunscreen information, such as that the CDC recommends at least SPF 15 but the American Academy of Dermatology recommends at least SPF 30, the information is clear and consistent on everything else. When it comes down to it, apply broad spectrum sunscreen every time you are in the sun, and always reapply every 2 hours. The AAP recommends using 1 ounce of sunscreen to cover your body. That is approximately enough to fill a shot glass. Also, did you know that sunscreen isn’t waterproof? It’s actually only water resistant and it has to be reapplied every 40-80 minutes after sweating, swimming, or even toweling off. However, sunscreen is the best protection we have from the sun to date, so it’s important not to skip over the important stuff. Also, don’t forget to cover your lips with a lip balm containing sunscreen, too!

The best information I found about eye protection from the sun actually came from the FDA’s website. Did you know that pricier sunglasses don’t ensure greater UV protection, and darker lenses are not necessarily better protection for UV light? Be sure to buy sunglasses labelled as having UV-A and UV-B protection to ensure that you are protecting your eyes from damage, and pair your sunglasses with a wide brimmed hat.

Think you know everything there is to know about sun protection? Try testing yourself. The American Cancer Society offers a nifty quiz that you can take to check your sun safety knowledge.



Water, Water Everywhere!

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Summer in the Texas heat can be unbearable. As a result, most of us spend our weekends (and evenings!) in the water to cool down. While a dip in the pool, a trip to the lake, or even a drive to the beach are all great ways to beat the heat, it is important to be educated about water safety so that a relaxing afternoon poolside doesn’t turn into a nightmare at the emergency room. The CDC says “Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.” Therefore, water safety is not a matter to be taken lightly. Here are some tips on how to stay safe this summer for you and your family.

Little kids need the most supervision around water, since they are small and often not strong swimmers. A child should never be left alone near water. Anyone under the age of 5 or without good swimming skills should be accompanied by an adult at all times. It is interesting to note at the American Academy of Pediatrics is wary of children’s floaties because they give a false sense of security to parents and children. Floaties and pool noodles can never replace the security of a life jacket, and they should never be used in place of close supervision. It is also important to note that, while swimming lessons may help make your child more confident in/around water and improve their swimming skills, even the best swimmers can drown. Most of us can recall the story of Tate Ramsden, the college swimmer who drowned in 2015.

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When going swimming with a group of people, an adult should be clearly assigned to the role of supervising water activities. Whether the members of your group rotate responsibility during the trip or you work out some other system amongst yourselves, the designated “watcher” should be sober and actively observing the members of your party in the water. He or she should not be playing cards or using their phone, even if there is a lifeguard present. Cook Children’s Medical Center recommends taking 15 minute shifts of responsibility so that everyone stays actively involved in their role.

Additionally, it is always a good idea to become CPR certified. I know when I was a nanny for the summer, becoming CPR certified was on the top of my list. Not only could is save a life in an emergency until professional help arrives, it also teaches you how to handle emergency situations appropriately. The American Red Cross teaches CPR and basic first aid as well as basic water safety, and many local fire stations also teach classes for a small fee.

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Among teens and young adults, it is important to educate them on the risk alcohol and drug ingestion pose to water safety. Not only is someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol unable to be a designated “watcher” or make good decisions in an emergency, but he or she also poses a risk to themselves. The CDC says “alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation.” Alcohol impairs your judgement of risk and your own ability levels, which leads to risky behaviors. Additionally, an intoxicated person has reduced coordination and slower reaction times because brain processing is reduced. Most importantly, did you know that alcohol consumption reduces the effectiveness of CPR on an intoxicated person and number of physical changes (outlined on the Royal Life Saving website).

While swimming and water activities can be a fun way to have fun and stay cool this summer, it is important to follow the necessary precautions and know what to do in an emergency. By taking a little bit of time and responsibility, your fun and relaxing afternoon poolside can become a safer place for you and your crew.