Responding to natural disaster; Time for flu shots

Illinois helping Puerto Rico
In the aftermath of the devastating hurricane which struck Puerto Rico, disaster assistance resources from Illinois have been making their way to the U.S. territory in the Caribbean. The assistance comes in response to the major health and safety threats following the landfall of the Category 4 Hurricane Maria, whose rain and winds causes significant damage to the island’s infrastructure.

First responder personnel from the Chicago Fire Department have already been deployed to Puerto Rico with equipment necessary for emergency medical responses. Disaster recovery personnel from the Illinois National Guard, who come from various units throughout the state, have also been placed on alert. The 550 National Guard personnel on alert are trained in community relief efforts. Just in the past few months, the Illinois National Guard has deployed personnel and equipment to Texas for Hurricane Harvey relief and to Florida following Hurricane Irma.

Department of Public Health urges Illinoisans to get flu shots
The Department of Public Health is reminding Illinoisans of the need for flu shots this fall. Every year, the flu season starts around October and hits its peak during the wintertime. So now is the time to protect yourself and your family from the flu. IDPH is recommending that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccination as soon as possible.

As it did last year, the department is also recommending that people get the actual flu shot and not the nasal spray, as there have been questions raised about its effectiveness. IDPH also recommends what it calls the Three C’s: Cover your coughs, Clean your hands with soap and warm water, and Contain your germs by staying home if you are sick.

For information on flu shot availability in your community, contact your physician or your local health department.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $15,350,854,684 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

Overdose drug Naloxone to be made more available
Over the last few years, Illinois and the nation have been in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis. The numbers of addictions, overdoses and deaths from these drugs have been on the rise. Police, medical personnel and policymakers have been searching for methods to help save lives that might otherwise be lost. The best option, of course, is to prevent the addiction in the first place, and that is one of the tasks of the state’s new Opioid Prevention and Intervention Task Force. Now, in addition, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has taken action to make a life-saving emergency treatment more accessible for those who have overdosed.

IDPH has issued a statewide standing order covering naloxone, better known as “Narcan.” Naloxone can be administered to persons found suffering from drug overdoses. The General Assembly has already enacted legislation which gives access to nonprescription naloxone to first responders. The new order from IDPH will grant access to naloxone to individuals at risk of an overdose and to their family and friends. The order requires those pharmacists who distribute naloxone without a prescription to give training on how to administer it.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, opioid overdoses, including heroin overdoses, are on the rise here and around the country. IDPH reported almost 1900 fatal opioid overdoses in Illinois last year alone. The fastest rates of increase in these incidents occurred in downstate Illinois. The problem is not just limited to drugs like heroin, as public health experts have shined a spotlight on prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet, as well as opioid drugs that are obtained illegally, such as fentanyl.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
We all know someone, perhaps a friend or family member, who has been afflicted with breast cancer. Luckily, breast cancer can be successfully fought with prompt, rapid diagnosis and treatment. Doctors, nonprofits and public health leaders from around the state have come together to create Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness about the role of self-care, prompt reporting, and scheduled scans and checkups in the fight against cancer.

For over 20 years, Illinois has had a program in place to help the many Illinoisans who face financial stress when dealing with health care. The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program offers free mammograms, exams and tests to eligible women. If a cancer is diagnosed, the program can help with treatment options as well. More information can be obtained from the Women’s Health Line, which can be reached toll-free at 1-888-522-1282.

Did You Know?
The Great Chicago Fire began on October 8, 1871. Over 3 square miles of the city were destroyed and at least 250 people died. The cause of the fire was never definitively determined, but legend blames “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow” for kicking over a lantern into some hay inside a barn on DeKoven Street. Fanned by high winds and fed by tons of dry material due to a lengthy drought, the fire burned for 27 hours before finally being doused by rain.