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Health Alerts, Announcements & Advisories

Archived Health Alerts & Advisories - Current Water Quality Information

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Oct. 29, 2019
Public Health Advisory Update

Ongoing: Local Shigellosis Outbreak in Santa Cruz County: Test & Report Symptomatic Patients

Current Situation:
Between June 1st - October 15th, 24 confirmed Shigella sonnei cases have been identified in an ongoing outbreak in Santa Cruz County. An average of 13 cases were reported during the same time period over the past three years. Fifty percent of the recent cases reported experiencing homelessness, though local Shigella sonnei cases continue to exist in the general population. Men who have sex with men are particularly affected as well.

Shigellosis is a diarrheal illness caused by the highly infectious Shigella bacteria, and infected persons can shed up to four weeks after illness. Infections can be subclinical or self-limiting. Typical symptoms last 5-7 days and include watery or bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and malaise. Read More

Oct. 24, 2019
Public Health Provider Reporting

INFLUENZA AND OTHER RESPIRATORY VIRUS REPORTING FOR 2019-2020
The following events must still be reported to the Santa Cruz County Communicable Disease Unit. Please report using a Confidential Morbidity Report (CMR), available at SantaCruzHealth.org/CDUnit.

  • Pediatric Deaths from influenza among children age 0-17
  • Deaths from respiratory syncytial virus among children age 0-4
  • Any suspected case of novel influenza
  • Outbreaks of influenza or acute respiratory illness occurring in institutions or congregate settings
  • Outbreaks assessed as having public health importance (e.g. case(s) that have recent exposure to swine, recent travel to an area where novel influenza is circulating, or contact with a confirmed case of novel influenza)

Similar to the 2018-2019 influenza season, the following situations are not reportable: ICU hospitalizations of persons with influenza or influenza deaths among adults ages 18-64. Read More

Santa Cruz County Influenza Report

Oct. 1, 2019
Public Health Provider Reporting

Chlamydia Infections in Santa Cruz County Residents Remain Locally Reportable

The California Department of Public Health, in consultation with the California Conference of Local Health Officers, recently updated Title 17 section 2500 of the California Code of Regulations.

NOTE: Chlamydia trachomatis infections in Santa Cruz County residents, including lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), remain locally reportable. Read More

Oct. 3, 2019
Press Release

Public Health Officials Announce "It's Time to Get Vaccinated for the Flu!"

The County of Santa Cruz Public Health urges everyone six months and older to get vaccinated early before the virus starts going around. The flu vaccine helps stop the spread of the flu and protects everyone’s health. The start of the flu season is unpredictable, and the vaccine takes two weeks to become fully effective.

Vaccines are available at doctors’ offices, and many pharmacies provide free and low-cost flu vaccinations to the public.

“Flu shots are the best way to protect yourself, your family, and the community from becoming seriously ill with the flu,” said County Health Officer, Dr. Gail Newel.

It is important to get the flu vaccine every year because flu strains change over time. Timely flu shots help prevent a disease that hospitalizes hundreds of thousands and kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. Read More

Oct. 1, 2019
Public Health Provider Advisory

Key Messages From CA Dept of Public Health (CDPH) Regarding Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Injury (VAPI)

  • Since June 2019, 102 cases of vaping-associated pulmonary injury (VAPI) requiring hospitalization have been reported to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Most patients report vaping the cannabis compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD), and some patients also report vaping nicotine products, although the exact cause of illness is not yet known.
  • Clinicians who identify cases similar to those described in this health advisory are asked to report the cases to their local health department.
  • Local health departments should report new cases or direct any inquiries to the CDPH Duty Officer dutyofficer@cdph.ca.gov or (916) 328-3605. Please also contact the CDPH Duty Officer when any vaping devices or supplies have been collected from a patient and can be turned over to CDPH for testing.
  • CDPH is urging everyone to quit vaping altogether, no matter the substance or source, until current investigations are complete.
  • Read More
Sept 27, 2019
Public Health Advisory

Opioid Overdoses from Fake Pills
You may have recently seen a “public health warning” regarding fake pills containing the powerful and deadly fentanyl. We are writing to provide additional information, guidance and context. These counterfeit pills have been found in neighboring Santa Clara and Monterey Counties. The following memo provides information about naloxone and guidance on talking with youth.

Why Is This Important?
Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid drug — 80-100 times more powerful than morphine — and exposure to even small amounts can cause overdose and death. The County Medical Examiner has reported 44 opioid deaths* from January 1, 2019 to August 31, 2019. Of the 44 deaths, 11 have involved fentanyl, including those of a 15 and 16-year-old. Several of these deaths have been linked to these fake pills containing the chemical fentanyl, made to look like a 30 mg oxycodone prescription pill (Percocet®). People who took these pills thinking they were taking oxycodone were unaware that they were taking lethal doses of fentanyl. Read More

Sept 24, 2019
Public Health Advisory

California Department of Public Health Issues Public Health Advisory Urging Everyone to Refrain from Vaping
Health Advisory Warns About Imminent Public Health Risks
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a health advisory today urging everyone to refrain from vaping, no matter the substance or source, until current investigations are complete. The health advisory follows an executive order signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last week to confront the growing youth epidemic and health risks linked to vaping.

As of September 24, 2019, CDPH has received reports that 90 people in California who have a history of vaping were hospitalized for severe breathing problems and lung damage, and two people have died. Across the U.S., there are more than 500 reports of lung damage associated with vaping across 38 states and 1 U.S. territory, and more reports are coming in nearly every day. Read More

Sept 23, 2019
Public Health Alert

Order for Licensed Healthcare Facilities to Implement a Mandatory Influenza Prevention Program for Health Care Workers

Influenza infection accounts for up to 49,000 excess deaths in the US each year and approximately 200,000 hospitalizations. Health Care Workers (HCWs) are both at risk for influenza and can transmit the virus to their vulnerable patients. Influenza vaccination of HCWs protects medically fragile patients and reduces employee absenteeism during influenza season.

State law requires that acute care hospitals and certain employers offer influenza vaccinations to employees or have the employee sign a declination statement if they choose not to be vaccinated. While compliance to these existing laws is high, actual HCW vaccination rates are not and may be below that which will blunt the spread of infection in a health care setting. Mandatory vaccination with masking policies have been shown to increase HCW vaccination rates to above 90%. Read More

Sept 20, 2019
Media Advisory

National Recovery Month Celebration & Recognition Awards

On September 26th, the Santa Cruz County Substance Use Disorder Commission is holding its local Recovery Month Celebration at the Mid-County Senior Center. Recovery Month, now in its 30th year nationally, highlights the achievements of individuals who have reclaimed their lives in recovering from substance use disorders, and honors the prevention and treatment services of the providers who make recovery achievable. The following awards will be given to recognize outstanding contributions in the areas of prevention, treatment, or recovery in Santa Cruz County:

  • Robert E. Neff Award: Community members who have demonstrated excellence in service to the recovering community as demonstrated through a commitment to carry the message that recovery is possible.
  • Bill Manov Award: Professionals in the field of substance use disorder services who have demonstrated

Read More

Aug 29, 2019
Public Health Advisory

Increase in Shigella Cases and Antibiotic Resistance

Current Situation: Santa Cruz County Public Health notes that the number of reported Shigella sonnei cases in the first eight months of 2019 is double the average annual count between 2016 and 2018 – excluding outbreaks (21 vs 10). Persons experiencing homelessness (PEH) and men who have sex with men (MSM) are particularly burdened, though Shigella sonnei cases continue to exist in our general population. Emerging evidence shows reduced susceptibility to ciprofloxacin and azithromycin (see “Actions” and “Additional resources” below). Transmission occurs easily via the fecal-oral route, and sexual transmission is known to occur. Consider testing patients with Shigella for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV; more than 20% of our recent shigellosis cases are living with HIV. Read More

Public Health Advisory 8/29/19: Increase in Shigella Cases and Antibiotic Resistance

Aug 20, 2019
Public Health
Advisory

Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Injury

Current Situation: A Health Advisory has been issued for lung injuries related to vaping cannabis, cannabis oils or nicotine products in Santa Cruz County after the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a statewide Health Alert. There are currently no cases of vaping-associated lung illness reported in the County, however Health Officer, Dr. Gail Newel, has requested local clinicians to watch for symptoms, inquire about use of vaping products, and report any suspected cases.

Since June, 36 cases of vaping-associated lung illness requiring hospitalization were reported in California. In Kings County, located in California’s Central Valley region, seven patients experienced trouble breathing that worsened after an initial diagnosis of pneumonia or bronchitis. Those patients reported vaping cannabis or cannabis-based oils in the weeks prior to hospital admission and failed to respond to antibiotic treatment. Medical tests for infectious disease were negative. Read More

Clinicians who identify cases similar to those described in this health alert are asked to report the cases to the Santa Cruz County Communicable Disease Unit at (831) 454-4114.

Background: Vaping refers to the practice of inhaling vapor from an e-cigarette device, which works by heating a liquid that can contain nicotine, marijuana, or other drugs. The long-term health impacts of vaping are unknown. The liquids used in e-cigarettes can contain toxic chemicals that can cause lung damage.

July 29, 2019
Public Health Provider Advisory

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Continues to Spread – Help Stop the Epidemic

Current Situation: Since September 2018, 313 suspected or confirmed pertussis cases have been identified in a community-wide epidemic, with most cases associated with multiple school outbreaks. Even with the academic summer break, pertussis persists at higher than normal levels. Co-mingling during summer extracurricular activities may be contributing to the disease’s persistence across the county. Public Health is asking healthcare partners to help stop this epidemic from extending into the new school year through prompt diagnosis, treatment, and education. Read More

Provider Advisory: Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Continues to Spread – Help Stop the Epidemic

April 29, 2019

MAKING TRAVEL PLANS?
MAKE SURE YOU’RE IMMUNIZED AGAINST MEASLES
Public Health Departments Urge Vaccination Before International Travel

As travel season approaches, Santa Cruz County residents should ensure they are protected against measles. Nationwide, measles cases now total 704 in 2019, the highest since 1994. Nearly all these cases have been linked back to international travel by unvaccinated people and subsequent spread in unvaccinated populations in the U.S. So, protection against measles is especially critical for those who plan to travel internationally and for those in communities that might have lower vaccination rates.

“Measles is a highly contagious and potentially serious disease. In the U.S., about 1 in 4 people who get measles will be hospitalized. Luckily, measles is also preventable through a safe, effective, and widely available vaccine,” Jennifer Herrera, Santa Cruz County’s Director of Nursing. “The vaccine protects you as well as vulnerable babies and community members with medical conditions who can’t be vaccinated.”

For both adults and children, completing the recommended two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best protection against measles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two doses of MMR vaccine for everyone: the first dose at 12-15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 years of age. If you are unsure of your immunization status consult with your doctor. Adults should get vaccinated for measles if they did not receive the two doses as children. Read More

Press Release:  Read Press Release

April 17, 2019

Take Charge of Your Sexual Health: Get Tested
Young people encouraged to get tested for STDs

April is sexually transmitted disease (STD) awareness month. STD prevention and testing are critical to overall health.

STD Awareness Month is not just about awareness but also about action. Local health officials urge everyone who is sexually active, especially young people, to take charge of their sexual health and get tested. Young people and men who have sex with men are at particular risk and should get tested more often.

STD testing is now more crucial than ever because rates continue to rise in Santa Cruz County and statewide. Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis continue to grow, and syphilis has re-emerged as a significant public health concern. Still, all STDs can be prevented and treated, and most can be cured. Read More

March 27, 2019

Extension of Influenza Season
Based on local influenza activity surveillance and continued widespread influenza activity throughout the State, I am extending the official end to the influenza season to April 30, 2019. While we may continue to see cases of influenza even beyond the extension, I am assigning a specific date to the end of flu season to aid health care facilities in determining when unvaccinated employees may stop using masks. Read More

March 21, 2019
Public Health Provider Alert

Wound Botulism Update (See orginal alert 11/16/18)
Recently, a wound botulism patient presented to local emergency departments with a history of injection drug use and symptoms suggestive of botulism (i.e. difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, and general weakness). The patient eventually required prolonged intensive care treatment. The source of the botulism remains unknown and additional cases may occur. Public Health asks that local health care providers be aware of this local case and the overall increase in reported wound botulism cases associated with injection drug use, including several local clusters in California. Read More

March 13, 2019
Public Health Provider Advisory
Measles Cases Confirmed in 12 U.S. States and Multiple Countries Worldwide
Three measles cases were confirmed in the Bay Area, all linked to the same international flight that landed at SFO in February. The person who was contagious with measles during the flight was a Santa Cruz County resident. This case did not re-enter Santa Cruz County while infectious. The two other cases are San Francisco and Santa Clara County residents. Public health investigators investigated all three cases and controlled the outbreak; there is no evidence indicating that measles is spreading further within the impacted counties. Read More
Feb 20, 2019
Press Release

Santa Cruz County Celebrates all Three Hospitals receiving the Baby-Friendly Designation

All three birthing facilities in Santa Cruz County-- Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center, Dominican Hospital Santa Cruz, and Watsonville Community Hospital—have earned the prestigious Baby-Friendly Hospital designation.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program that requires hospitals to provide mothers with the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding and/or safely feed formula. To earn the Baby-Friendly designation hospitals must complete 10 rigorous steps, which include developing policies, training staff, and educating patients and then passing a comprehensive onsite review by surveyors. Other key requirements include emphasizing mother-baby bonding with practices such as placing the baby on the mother’s chest immediately after birth, and having mother and newborn share the same room. Read More

Press Release:  Santa Cruz County Celebrates all Three Hospitals receiving the Baby-Friendly Designation

Jan 30, 2019
Public Health Provider Advisory

Measles Outbreak in Washington and Oregon

A large measles outbreak is occurring in Washington state and Oregon. From January 1-28, 2019, there have been 35 confirmed cases of measles in Clark County, WA. Children aged 1-10 years comprise 25 of these cases while 9 cases are aged 11-18 years. Importantly, 89% (31) of the cases are unimmunized for measles and 4 cases have unverified immunization status. Two additional cases linked to Clark County have been confirmed in King County, WA and Multnomah County, OR. Local health departments in each county are conducting contact investigations with support from the Washington State Department of Health.

Measles is a highly contagious and potentially serious illness caused by a virus. The virus can linger in the air for up to two hours after an infectious person has left. Airborne transmission can easily occur in congregate settings like healthcare facilities, schools, childcares, shopping centers, public transportation, airports, and amusement parks. Clinicians should be vigilant in identifying and managing suspected measles cases to avoid ongoing transmission. It is also very important to ensure that patients and staff are up-to-date with immunizations. Read More

Provider Advisory: Measles Outbreak in Washington and Oregon

Jan 14, 2019
Public Health  Press Release

Health Services Agency Funded for Impaired Driving and Traffic Safety Education
The Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (HSA) Substance Use Disorder Services (SUDS) was recently awarded a California Office of Traffic Safety grant totaling $100,000 to implement programs that emphasize collaboration and community education to improve community safety on local roads. Read More

Press Release: Health Services Agency Funded for Impaired Driving and Traffic Safety Education

Jan 10, 2019
Public Health  Press Release

Santa Cruz County Staff Train for All-Hazard Emergencies
As winter rains begin to fall, leading to road closures and power outages, residents can rest assured that local Emergency Preparedness professionals are being trained to respond to a wide variety of emergencies. Recent disasters across California have heightened awareness for the need to have individuals and families prepared to evacuate or shelter-in-place. Santa Cruz and the surrounding regions have been impacted by flooding, mudslides, earthquakes, wild fire and disease outbreaks. This week over fifty environmental and public health professionals convened at the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s complex to train and prepare for all-hazards emergencies that might impact our communities. State, county and private partners trained together over two days exploring mass care and sheltering, mass feeding and response operations. Read More

Press Release: Santa Cruz County Staff Train for All-Hazards Emergencies
Dec. 21, 2018 Pertussis Information (Whooping Cough)
Dec. 21, 2018
Public Health  Press Release

City of Santa Cruz Bans Flavored Tobacco Products
The Santa Cruz City Council voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city during its November 27 meeting. The ban covers products with any “characterizing flavor” other than tobacco, including candy and fruit-flavored electronic smoking devices such as Juul. Santa Cruz joins two dozen other California jurisdictions who have placed restrictions on the sale of these products.

“I’m grateful to city council members for their leadership,” said Mimi Hall, Director of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency. “This is an important step in protecting our youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and I look forward to working with other local jurisdictions to pass similar protections.” Read More

Press Release: City of Santa Cruz Bans Flavored Tobacco Products

Nov. 21, 2018
Public Health Provider Advisory & Press Release

Local Increase in Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Cases

The number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases continues to increase across Santa Cruz County. Since September 1st, the Public Health Division has received 66 reports of suspected or confirmed pertussis cases, with most cases associated with multiple school outbreaks.Public Health officials recommend that providers be vigilant in evaluating individuals for pertussis, particularly those in close contact with infants and pregnant women as whooping cough can progress to severe symptoms, including death, in infants less than one year old. Be aware that early symptoms may resemble a common cold and that vaccinated individuals may present with milder symptoms.

Due to the recent events, Santa Cruz County Public Health officials recommend that local medical providers consider pertussis in any individual presenting with a progressive cough illness lasting longer than one week, particularly if posttussive vomiting and/or paroxysmal coughing occurs. Be aware that early symptoms may resemble a common cold and that vaccinated individuals may present with milder symptoms. Read More

Ongoing Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases

Spring is a time of high tick activity in our coastal hills and residents should be aware when spending time outdoors. Santa Cruz County Mosquito and Vector Control (SCCMVC) staff and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) collaborate to collect and test ticks in the County. At least 2% of Western black-legged ticks (Ixodes pacificus) tested in recent years contain the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. In 2013, there were 5 reported cases of Lyme disease in Santa Cruz County, about the annual average (1.66 cases per 100,000 people).

The western black legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) and other human biting ticks found in Santa Cruz County such as the Pacific Coast tick (Dermacentor occidentalis) may carry other tick-borne diseases. Thus, SCCMVC plans to conduct surveys for these tick species and will submit them to the CDPH for testing. Because of tick-borne disease risk, residents are advised to take precautions to protect themselves from tick bites.

The tick starts out as an egg then matures into a larva, nymph and adult stage over several years. The nymph life stage is active in spring and summer, and is found on tree trunks, fallen logs, wooden benches and in leaf litter and feed on smaller animals, but they will also attach to people and pets. Adult ticks are active in fall when they climb to the tips of vegetation, often alongside trails or paths, and attach themselves to hosts, such as deer, pets or humans that brush against them.

Ticks feed by sticking their mouthparts into the skin of their host and sucking blood. Infections such as Lyme disease may be transmitted when the feeding tick is attached for at least a day. Immature ticks are about the size of a pinhead, and may be missed without careful examination.

The risk of being bitten by ticks may be reduced with the following precautions:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck pant legs into boots or socks and tuck shirts into pants.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen.
  • Use a repellent registered for use against ticks; always follow label directions.
  • Stay in the middle of a trail and avoid logs, tree trunks, trail margins, brush and grassy areas.
  • Inspect yourself frequently while in tick habitat. Once out of tick habitat, thoroughly check your entire body and pets. Parents should examine their children, especially on the scalp and hairline.
  • Shower and launder clothes soon after activity in tick habitat.

To reduce the possibility of infection, remove attached ticks as soon as possible. Gently and firmly grasp the tick close to the head and pull it straight out, preferably with a tick tool or with fine-pointed tweezers. Save the tick for identification. Ticks should be kept alive by placing the tick into a sealable bag or container with a moist cotton ball in a refrigerator or cooler. The person removing the tick should wash their hands before and after removal and apply antiseptic to the bite area. Insecticides, Vaseline, lighted matches or gasoline should not be used to remove ticks because these techniques are ineffective or unsafe. Anyone who develops symptoms after being bitten by a tick should consult his or her physician.

Painful redness that occurs less than 24 hours after a tick bite and does not expand is likely a local allergic reaction to the tick bite. Early Lyme disease also has a rash but the Lyme disease rash appears three to 30 days after the tick bite, is often painless, and spreads to greater than 5 cm in diameter. The spreading rash can be accompanied by flu like symptoms, such as fever and body aches. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics and most patients recover without complications, particularly when the disease is diagnosed early. If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to arthritis and in some cases serious nervous system problems.

Individuals should consult their physician immediately if symptoms similar to those described for Lyme disease develop within one to several weeks after being bitten by a tick.

Click here to view the media release

Prevent Tick Bite - Pamphlet provided by CDPH

Additional information on Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases

Current Water Quality Information - Archived Health Alerts & Advisories