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health & wellness

NY bans e-cigarettes from all school grounds

Posted 26 July 2017 at 9:15 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday signed legislation (S.750 / A.611), which will immediately ban the use of electronic cigarettes on all public and private school grounds in New York State.

“Nicotine use in any form has shown to be damaging to teens and this measure will close a dangerous loophole that allows e-cigarettes to be used in New York schools,” Cuomo said. “This measure will further this administration’s efforts to combat teen smoking in all its forms and help create a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

Prohibiting electronic cigarettes on all school grounds will diminish youth access to electronic cigarettes and help bolster New York’s commitment to preventing childhood and teenage smoking. School grounds includes any building, structure and surrounding outdoor grounds contained within a public or private pre-school, nursey school, elementary, or secondary school’s property, and any vehicles used to transport children or school personnel.

In March, the Governor announced a survey released by the New York State Department of Health, which found that e-cigarette use by high school students nearly doubled in the last two years, from 10.5 percent in 2014 to 20.6 percent in 2016. Additionally, a recent U.S. Surgeon General’s report shows the number of high school students using e-cigarettes soared 900 percent between 2011 and 2015, becoming the most commonly used form of nicotine among youths.

Electronic nicotine and vapor delivery systems, which include e-cigarettes, vaping pens, e-hookah and similar devices, typically contain nicotine. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and harm the developing adolescent brain.

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Health Departments issue advisory, warning to leave wildlife alone

Posted 25 July 2017 at 12:58 pm

By Nola Goodrich-Kresse and Kristine Voos, Genesee-Orleans Public Health Education Team

RABIES ALERT!  STOP! and THINK!  Do NOT touch!  It can kill!

Any mammal is able to get rabies, it is very important to get your pets vaccinated and not to touch or handle any stray or wild animals including bats, deer, and baby animals.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system of mammals, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. There are over 4,000 different species of mammals, all of which are vertebrates (they have a backbone or spine), are endothermic (“warm-blooded”), have hair on their bodies, and produce milk to feed their babies.  Humans are mammals.

Transmission of the rabies virus usually begins when infected saliva of a host infected with the virus is passed to an uninfected mammal.  The most common way rabies is transmitted is through the bite and virus-containing saliva of an infected host.

“The only way to know for sure if an animal or person has rabies is by testing the brain tissue,” stated Sarah Balduf, Director of Environmental Health for Genesee and Orleans counties. “Therefore, if a wild animal bites or it is determined there may have been an exposure; it will have to be put down (euthanized) to rule out rabies.”

It is illegal to possess any wild animal that naturally lives in the state. Not only do these animals have the potential to spread rabies, but they often carry parasites, ticks or may carry diseases that can be spread from animal to human.

It is important to leave wild animals alone! More times than not baby animals are not orphaned but are kept hidden while the parents can hunt for food or stay away to protect them from predators. Nature will take care of nature.

Wild animals have had to be put down because humans have interfered in their lives. Leave them alone!  For more information about young wildlife visit the Department of Environmental Conservation web site at

If you are bitten or get saliva on you from an animal, (wild, stray or domesticated but not known if it has been vaccinated against rabies) it is important to wash the area carefully with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. Report all animal bites to your county health department, even if they seem minor. If treatment is initiated promptly following a rabies exposure, rabies can be prevented. If a rabies exposure is not treated and a person develops clinical signs of rabies, the disease almost always results in death.

By avoiding contact with stray or wild animals, saving the bat/animal that may have had contact with humans/domestic animals, and reporting an incident to your local Health Department, we may be able to avoid unnecessary medical treatment that averages over $3,000 per person.

Rabies is 100% preventable!  Here are some ways to protect your families and animals.

  • Don’t feed, touch or adopt wild animals, stray dogs or cats, including the babies.
  • Be sure your pet dogs, cats and ferrets as well as horses and valuable livestock animals are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Vaccination protects pets if they are exposed to rabid animals.  Pets too young to be vaccinated (under 3 months old) should be kept indoors and allowed outside only under direct observation.  Keep family pets indoors at night.  Do not leave them outside unattended or let them roam free.
  • Do not attract wild animals to your home or yard. Keep your property free of stored bird seed or other foods that may attract wild animals.  Feed pets indoors.  Tightly cap or put away garbage cans.  Board up any openings to your attic, basement, porch or garage.  Cap your chimney with screens.  Bats can get in spaces as small as the width of a pencil.
  • If nuisance wild animals are living in parts of your home, consult with a nuisance wildlife control expert about having them removed. You can find wildlife control experts, who work on a fee-for-service basis, in your telephone directory under pest control.
  • Teach children not to touch any animal they do not know and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten by any animal.
  • If a wild animal is on your property, let it wander away. Do NOT feed it, do NOT touch it!  Bring children and pets indoors and alert neighbors who are outside.  You may contact a nuisance wildlife control expert who will remove the animal for a fee.
  • Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to your local health department. Do NOT let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies.  Depending on the species, it can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment.  This includes bats with skin contact or found in a room with a sleeping person, unattended child, or someone with mental impairment.  Bats have small, sharp teeth and in certain circumstances people can be bitten and not know it.

For more information on rabies and a video on how to catch a bat safely and much more visit

Upcoming FREE rabies clinics are in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties:

Orleans County Clinics are held on Saturdays from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

  • August 26, Town of Shelby Highway Building, 4062 Salt Works Road, Medina
  • October 14, County Highway Building, 225 West Academy Street, Albion

Genesee County Clinics are held on Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

  • August 17, Genesee County Fairgrounds, 5031 East Main Street, Batavia
  • September 21, Pembroke Highway Department, 1145 Main Road (Route 5)
  • October 19, Le Roy Village Highway Garage, 58 North Main Street

Wyoming County has a clinic scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14, from 9:00am – 11:30am, Wyoming County Highway Department, 4328 Route 19, Rock Glen. (Registrations are not accepted the last 15 minutes.)

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Gillibrand says bipartisan support to combat opioid crisis by limiting prescriptions to 7 days

Posted 24 July 2017 at 11:55 am

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

JAMESTOWN – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County to announce the Opioid Addiction Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation to crack down on one of the most dangerous root causes of the opioid addiction crisis – the over-prescription of opioids for patients with short-term, acute pain.

The bill, modeled after New York State law, would limit the supply of an initial opioid prescription for acute pain to seven days. Many individuals become addicted to opioids after taking prescriptions for acute pain, such as a broken bone or wisdom tooth extraction.

The Opioid Addiction Prevention Act would require medical professionals to certify, as part of their DEA registration, that they will not prescribe an opioid as an initial treatment for acute pain in an amount that exceeds a seven-day supply, and may not provide a refill as part of that initial prescription.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data this month that shows that the over-prescription of opioids continues to be a serious public health problem in the United States. While the overall amount of opioids prescribed in the U.S. decreased between 2010 and 2015, the amount prescribed in 2015 was still three times as high as the amount prescribed in 1999. In response to this latest report, CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat said the amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was enough “for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.”

“The bipartisan Opioid Addiction Prevention Act would target one of the root causes of the opioid addiction crisis, which is the over-prescription of powerful and addictive opioid drugs for acute pain,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Too many lives have been destroyed, too many families have been torn apart, and too many communities all over New York are suffering because of this epidemic. This fight is urgent, and I will do everything I can in the Senate to pass this bill.”

“The (Mental Health Association) in Chautauqua County is happy to see bipartisan support for preventative care opioid addiction,” said Kia Briggs, Executive Director of the MHA in Chautauqua County. “We would like to thank Senator Gillibrand and Senator McCain for introducing this legislation.”

Under current federal law, a medical professional must register with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in order to be allowed to prescribe a controlled substance in the United States. This registration must be renewed every three years. This legislation would require medical professionals to certify, as part of their DEA registration, that they will not prescribe a schedule II, III, or IV opioid as an initial treatment for acute pain in an amount that exceeds a seven-day supply, and may not provide a refill as part of that initial prescription.

This limit does not apply to the treatment of chronic pain, pain being treated as part of cancer care, hospice or other end of life care, pain treated as part of palliative care, or addiction treatment.

The Facts on the Growing Opioid Epidemic:

  • In Western New York between 2004 and 2015, the number of prescription opioid-related deaths rose by over 1,600 percent, from 16 deaths in 2004 to 277 deaths in 2015, based on data from the New York State Department of Health.
  • In 2015, more than 15,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to opioid pain relievers, over 3.5 times the number in 1999, according to CDC.
  • In 2015, 2.1 million more Americans started misusing prescription opioids, including 415,000 adolescents and 596,000 young adults, according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Every day, roughly 3,000 more young people misused a prescription opioid for the first time.
  • Nearly 2 million Americans abuse or are addicted to prescription opioids, and nearly half a million more are addicted to heroin, according to SAMHSA.
  • The increase in opioid addiction is linked to an increase in opioid prescriptions. The amount of opioid prescriptions in 2015 is three times as high as the amount of opioid prescription in 1999, according to CDC.
  • In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills, according to CDC.
  • Teenagers who receive an opioid prescription by 12th grade are 33 percent more likely to abuse opioids after high school. The risk for opioid abuse is even higher among teenagers who report little to no previous use of illicit substances, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Over half of people aged 12 and older who misused prescription pain relievers in the last year obtained the opioids from a friend or family member. Over one-third obtained the opioids from a doctor, according to SAMHSA.
  • In a paper published by the American Dental Association in 2011, 64 percent of dentists surveyed preferred prescribing hydrocodone with acetaminophen for patients to use as needed after a wisdom tooth removal, a procedure common in young adulthood. The average prescription was for 20 pills.
  • 4 in 5 individuals who use heroin report prior abuse of prescription opioids, according to SAMHSA.

State approves $3.7 million grant for healthcare ‘transformation’ in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 July 2017 at 11:35 am

File photos by Tom Rivers: The County Administration Building on Route 31, behind The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center, will have an addition to make room for relocated county offices, including the Public Health Department.

ALBION – Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that Orleans County would receive a $3,682,748 grant to “protect and transform” healthcare in Orleans County.

The funding would support primary care staff from Oak Orchard Health to work out of the county mental health department. The bulk of the funding would go towards an addition on the County Administration Building for the Health Department.

The Health Department currently is housed in a site owned Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC. Comprehensive acquired that building as part of the $7.8 million acquisition on Jan.1, 2015 of the former county nursing home.

County officials pay an annual six-figure rent to Comprehensive for use of the space for the Health Department, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.

The entire addition could be $8 million. The state funding “makes the numbers work,” Nesbitt said.

This rendering from Wendel shows a proposed 22,000-square-foot addition to the County Administration Building.

The county can use the lease payments it currently pays Comprehensive to offset some of the local cost for the addition. The county may also relocate the Department of Social Services to the addition, which would bring additional state reimbursement.

County officials initially eyed the addition for the County Legislature and its staff, including a meeting room. That wouldn’t bring state funding.

The county could instead renovate space that would be vacated for the Legislature, Nesbitt said.

The nearly $3.7 million will allow the county to move forward with the project.

“It really is a big deal,” Nesbitt said. “It’s full speed ahead.”

The Public Health Department leases space next to the former Orleans County Nursing Home on Route 31 in Albion.

The state funding is part of  $491 million announced statewide for healthcare projects in the “Health Care Facility Transformation Program.”

The funding will improve patient care through the development of high-quality medical facilities and programs serving the inpatient, primary care, mental health, substance use disorder and long-term care needs of communities throughout New York State, Cuomo said.

“Now, more than ever, we need to protect health care in New York and ensure the system in place is meeting the needs of current and future generations of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While others seek to decimate our hospitals and reduce access to quality healthcare, we are investing to help ensure a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

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Foodlink’s Curbside Market adds Holley to help ease void of losing grocery store

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 July 2017 at 10:33 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – Foodlink’s Curbside Market, a food truck with fruits and vegetables, made its first stop in Holley today.

The Curbside Market has been making stops in Albion and Medina. Foodlink decided to include Holley to help fill the void in the community from the closing of its only grocery store, Save-A-Lot, last Sept. 17.

The Curbside Market sells fruits and vegetables at discounts. It is open to everyone, and accepts cash, Debit, EBT and FMNP.

Carol Miller (right), the curbside operator for Foodlink, and Shaunita Foster Smith, a Foodlink employee, are pictured inside the truck today.

The market stops every other Wednesday in Orleans County. The schedule the next three months includes the second and fourth Wednesdays each month. The Medina stop is from 10:15 to 11 a.m. at Ricky’s Place: Maple Ridge Estates; outside the Main Street Store on Main Street in Albion from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.; and at the Public Square in Holley from 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Foodlink started the Curbside Market in 2013 and has three trucks on the road in the Rochester region.

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Public urged to take precautions against ticks

Posted 16 June 2017 at 4:47 pm

By Nola Goodrich-Kresse and Kristine Voos, Genesee-Orleans Public Health Education Team

Ticks can spread disease. Not all ticks can cause disease and not all bites will make you sick, but as these diseases become more common it’s important to learn how to prevent a bite, how to remove a tick and what to do if you think you could have a tick- borne disease.

“Lyme is endemic (widespread) throughout New York State,” states Brenden Bedard, Director of Community Health Services for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

“Lyme disease is also the most common disease spread by ticks in New York but there are other serious diseases they spread including Anaplasmosis, Erhichioisis, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. There are many different species of ticks but locally the most common is the Deer Tick. The Deer Tick is a vector (carrier) for several diseases (Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis) and received the name because of its habit of living and feeding on white-tailed deer, however ticks acquire Lyme disease by feeding on infected mice and other small rodents.”

Ticks may be found in many types of settings such as woodlands, tree stumps, lawns and gardens, around stone walls, nature trails, outdoor summer camps, and playing fields. Ticks do not jump or fly, they attach to their host when a human or animal makes contact with something that a tick is on, like tall grass, shrubs, or an animal.

“Although Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties have had less than 15 reported cases of Lyme disease annually in 2016, ticks are here locally and you can’t tell which are infected by disease or not,” stated Paul Pettit, Genesee and Orleans Public Health Director.

The risk of human infection with Lyme is greatest in late spring and summer, but ticks can be active any time the temperature is above freezing. “We know the ticks that cause Lyme disease are in Western New York, that is why it is so important to make sure you do regular checks for ticks while outdoors and when you first get home,” said Pettit.

Lyme can only be transmitted after being bit by an infected tick- seeing an attached tick or a tick bite does not necessarily mean Lyme has been transmitted. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it takes 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted once the tick has attached to the host (human or animal). If a tick is removed quickly (within 24 hours), it will greatly reduce the chance of spreading Lyme disease to the host.

It generally takes between three days to one month after a tick bite for Lyme disease symptoms to develop. In 60-80 percent of Lyme cases a “bulls-eye” circular rash or solid red patch develops at or near the site of the tick bite first and steadily gets larger or spreads out. You can also get several patches of rash on your body.

Early on in the disease (days to weeks post-tick bite) you may develop symptoms such as fever, chills, headaches, joint pain and/or swelling, fatigue, or facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy), sometimes these can be very mild. As Lyme disease progresses more severe symptoms like arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling may develop months-to-years post tick bite in 60% of persons who are not given antibiotic treatment.

It is important to keep in mind that getting Lyme disease once does not provide protection against getting Lyme in the future, if you are bitten again at a different time you can get Lyme disease again. If you develop any of these symptoms you should call your doctor right away to inquire about getting tested and treated.

Courtesy of

To prevent tick-borne illness exposure while outdoors you and your family can do the following:

• Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.

• Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.

• Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently while outdoors.

• Use insect repellent with 20-30% DEET.

• Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid dense woods and busy areas.

• Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.

• Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.

• Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.

• Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks

promptly. (Courtesy of

Additional prevention tips for homeowners to create a tick-free zone in your backyard to keep you, your family and pets safe from tick exposure:

• Keep grass mowed, along with clearing tall grasses and brush.

• Remove brush and leave around stonewalls and wood piles.

• Keep wood piles and bird feeders away from your home.

• Keep family dogs and cats out of wooded areas to reduce ticks brought into your home.

• Place swing sets, sand boxes, decks and patios in a sunny spot away from yard edges and trees.

• Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment.(3)

What you can do if you find a tick attached to you, a family member, or a pet:

• You should use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the ticks by its mouth parts, as close to the surface of the skin as you can. Carefully pull the tick straight up without twisting. Do not touch the tick. Do not squeeze the body of the tick (it may increase your risk of infection). Clean your hands and the areas on your skin where the tick was. Watch the site of the bite for rash (3-30 days after bite). Removing a tick within 36 hours of attachment to the skin can lower the risk of contracting Lyme disease.

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Kendall students help celebrate ‘World No Tobacco Day’

Provided photos: Kendall students place 1,300 pinwheels in the ground to represent the 1,300 people who die daily from tobacco-related causes in the United States.

Posted 7 June 2017 at 2:57 pm

Press Release, Reality Check

KENDALL – Last week on May 31 we celebrated World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) as a way to raise awareness and envision a life without tobacco. While the general public understands the threat tobacco imposes on individuals, the World Health Association (WHO) focused on tobacco as a threat to development around the globe.

A Reality Check group from Kendall Central School participated in an all-day event to protect health and promote development in the community.

The outreach event, which involved both the school and community audiences, was designed to visually grasp the volume of people affected by secondhand smoke in an extreme way. Cigarette smoke is responsible for 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, more than 41,000 deaths of which come from secondhand smoke exposure. That’s about one in five deaths annually or 1,300 deaths every day. The Reality Check group decided to use 1,300 pinwheels to represent the 1,300 innocent individuals who suffer due to tobacco’s role in society and the environment.

Shelby Kurger, a student involved with the Kendall Reality Check group, felt strongly about WNTD. “I’m a part of Reality Check to make sure we can be the first tobacco-free generation. For every one person that quits or dies from smoking, two youth become a replacement. Don’t be a number.”

To reinforce that messaging, the youth built a WNTD sign with their pinwheel display. Instead of viewing the 1,300 as a statistic and feeling desensitized about the deaths occurring, they wanted to put into perspective what an impact tobacco has in the United States alone on a daily basis.

Just a few days before the Kendall event, on May 26, the Reality Check group from Holley School sponsored a cigarette butt pick up and scan in Holley Village Park. According to WHO, up to 10 billion cigarettes are disposed of in the environment every day. Since tobacco waste contains over 7,000 toxic chemicals, the environmental influence alone is astounding and part of the development issue that WHO based their WNTD theme on.

Reality Check and students from St. Joe’s School in Batavia were also involved in a Chalk the Walk program, utilizing parking lots and church walkways. They also put up signage outside of school. Reality Check is a teen-led, adult run program that seeks to prevent and decrease tobacco use around New York State.

For more information about Reality Check, click here.

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Orleans County Mental Health director honored for efforts to expand services

Photo by Tom Rivers: Mark O’Brien has been director of mental health and community services at Orleans County Department of Mental Health the past four years.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 May 2017 at 12:24 pm

ALBION – The director of the Orleans County Department of Mental Health was honored last week for his efforts to work with other agencies and expand mental health services in Orleans County.

Mark O’Brien, the county’s Mental Health director since April 2013, received the Constance Miller Award from the Mental Health Association of Genesee & Orleans. The award is named in honor of the founder of the MHA in 1993.

“We want to recognize people working promote mental wellness in the community,” said Scott Wilson, vice president of the MHA board of directors.

Wilson is also the Orleans County Jail superintendent. He has seen O’Brien work with many local agencies in the community to expand mental health services, including at the jail.

The Mental Health Department has two clinicians working at the jail, which has reduced psychotropic medication and suicide attempts, Wilson said.

O’Brien also has worked with all five Orleans County school districts to establish satellite clinics in the schools where county mental health therapists work with students.

He also is pursuing partnerships with the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Orleans Community Health and Oak Orchard Health to have mental health staff at their sites.

O’Brien said the Mental Health Department could expand to 15 satellite locations if all the partnerships move forward.

With the school districts, O’Brien said he heard of two other counties that had success with therapists in schools. He presented the option to local school superintendents, and all five have supported the service, including summer hours when school is out of session. O’Brien said having mental health staff in schools reduces the transportation barrier and is less disruptive to a student’s school day because they only have to walk down the hall for an appointment, rather than travelling to Albion for an appointment at the Mental Health Department.

He also supports having mental health staff at GCASA, and the healthcare facilities.

“It’s making mental health services more accessible to the community and reducing the stigma because they are not going to a classified mental health building,” he said.

He also has worked to make county mental health building more accessible to the public by having open access where people don’t need an appointment to be served during regular business hours.

O’Brien also has been influential with the Mental Health Association, helping the agencies in Orleans and Genesee to merge, and the newly merged group to open an office in Albion at the Arnold Gregory Office Complex, 243 South Main St.

“He’s done a lot for the MHA,” said Scott Wilson, the board vice president.

O’Brien said the MHA is a “great partner” for the Mental Health Department. His agency provides treatment, while the MHA provides important peer support and a drop-in center.

He thanked the County Legislature for supporting the efforts for the agencies to work together and expand mental health services for the community.

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275 attend For Women Only event, raising $5K for Orleans County cancer patients

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 May 2017 at 11:02 am

Provided photos

LYNDONVILLE – The 21st annual For Women Only event last week attracted a crowd of 275 people and raised $5,000 to support cancer patients in Orleans County.

The top photo shows Jessica Salamone, a certified genetic counselor from Elizabeth Wende Breast Clinic.

Salamone worked at the University of Rochester Medical Center for 10 years, providing genetic counseling to patients in a variety of settings including reproductive, pediatric and cancer genetics. She is an adjunct faculty member at Rochester Institute of Technology, teaching medical genetics and introductory genetic counseling.

Amy Murray, an ovarian cancer survivor, shared her story and related to women to “listen to their bodies.” If something doesn’t seem right, Murray urged the women to have it checked out. She just had a check-up the day before the event and is cancer free.

Cancer survivors were recognized at the event for their strength, courage, hope and inspiration.

The event included vendors and a Chinese Auction. The money raised from For Women Only goes to Orleans Community Health for the cancer services program, which assists women who are unable to afford screening due to insufficient or no insurance.

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Health director warns of health risks from flooding

Posted 3 May 2017 at 11:21 pm

Mold growth, bacterial contamination among the threats to public health

Health Advisory by Nola Goodrich-Kresse, Public Health Educator/Public Information Officer for Orleans County Public Health

Because of the recent rainstorms and high water levels of Lake Ontario and surrounding creeks and rivers, Paul Pettit, Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, advises residents of the steps they can take to prevent health risks linked with home flooding.

“Flooded homes and basements can present a number of health risks if not addressed adequately,” Pettit said. “Problems connected with home flooding include bacterial and viral contamination from sewage backup and mold growth from left over moisture. These problems can lead to human infection and illnesses.”

Flooding may cause wastewater to back up into homes that have private septic systems. Once the water recedes, a high water table may still prevent these systems from working properly for some time.

Residents with municipal sewer systems may also experience sewage back-up. Sewage back-up can be caused by surging floodwater overwhelming older systems or power outages during a storm surge.  Sewage contains bacteria, viruses, and other germs that can cause disease.

The most common signs and symptoms after exposure to raw sewage are stomach and bowel distress (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea) and skin problems such as rashes and sores. Individuals who experience nausea, diarrhea or vomiting after exposure to sewage should contact their primary care providers.

“Wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup if sewage has backed up into your home,” advises Sarah Balduf, Environmental Director of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.  “Remove and discard contaminated household goods such as wall coverings, rugs, cloth and drywall that cannot be disinfected,” Balduf said. “Be sure to thoroughly disinfect all contaminated surfaces that come in contact with food and children’s play areas. Disinfect non-porous surfaces with a solution of three tablespoons of bleach to one gallon of water (or one cup bleach to five gallons water). Never mix bleach with ammonia cleaners.”

Individuals with open cuts or sores should try to avoid contact with sewage-contaminated floodwater. If accidentally exposed, keep skin (especially any cuts or sores) as clean as possible by washing with soap and clean water. Apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a sterile bandage to reduce the risk of infection.

If you have deep cuts and/or puncture wounds and have not had a tetanus vaccination within the past 10 years, or are unsure of the date of the last tetanus shot, get a tetanus booster.

For additional information on managing sewage back-ups, click here.

Mold will grow in flooded homes and buildings that do not dry out quickly. People living or working in buildings with wet carpets, walls, mattresses or furniture may develop health problems such as allergies, asthma and sneezing.

Persons at highest risk are those with allergies, asthma, chronic respiratory diseases, infants, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems.  For information on preventing and managing mold, click here.

For information on drinking and food guidance after a flood, click here.

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