Environmental Health Specialists conduct many types of investigations and surveillance to control the spread of diseases within our communities.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease affecting warm-blooded animals (including humans). It is often spread by bite or, in some cases, lick of an infected animal. The disease is contained in the United States by strict laws and protocols, however it is still very prominent among other countries in the world and is almost 100% fatal when contracted. All animal bites are investigated by Environmental Health personnel and treated in a manner to prevent human infection.
How do I prevent Rabies?
Be a responsible pet owner. Vaccinate your dogs, cats or ferrets for rabies per veterinarian instruction. Most often vaccines should be updated with “boosters” between 1 and 3 years depending on its type. TRDHD conducts rabies clinics each year at which you can obtain the vaccine for $5.00 each. Contact your local Health Center for more information
- Be a responsible pet owner. Vaccinate your dogs, cats or ferrets for rabies per veterinarian instruction. Most often vaccines should be updated with “boosters” between 1 and 3 years depending on its type. TRDHD conducts rabies clinics each year at which you can obtain the vaccine for $5.00 each. Contact your local Health Center for more information.
Never handle, attract or feed wild animals. Most wild animals can not be vaccinated for rabies and should not be purposely encountered for risk of exposure.
- Never handle, attract or feed wild animals. Most wild animals can not be vaccinated for rabies and should not be purposely encountered for risk of exposure.
- Avoid and prevent bats. Bats are beneficial members of our ecosystem, however they should not be allowed to enter living spaces or spaces occupied by humans. They can have rabies, too. Contact your local exterminator if you see a bat in your home, office, etc. so as they may humanely remove the bat(s).
- The local animal control officer should handle stray animals. If you have stray animals in your neighborhood, contact animal control to collect them.
- If you are bitten by an animal (wild or domestic), wash the wound thoroughly and immediately. See your physician or go to the hospital if you believe the wounds to be severe enough. If the animal is a stray, contact the animal control officer to capture it. Gather all of the information possible, including animal type, description, owner (if domestic), addresses, phone numbers, etc. and contact the local health department so that proper steps can be taken to quarantine or test the animal. Post exposure treatments are available, however they are expensive and typically can be avoided if proper steps are taken to assure the animal does not have rabies.
LEAD POISONING PREVENTION:
All children under the age of 6 years are encouraged to be screened for lead poisoning. Lead poisoning prevention is conducted among several departments within the Health Department, including the clinic, health education and environmental health. Children may be screened at their doctor’s office or at their local Health Department. If elevated levels are found, (typically 15 µg/dl (micrograms per deciliter) or more) education and further investigations are conducted by environmental health personnel in attempts to determine the cause through a risk factor analysis and sampling. Other elevated levels below 15 µg/dl require follow up testing and education. Depending on the levels found, the homeowner may be given recommendations or required to utilize a certified contractor to remove the lead hazards.
Is my family at risk for lead poisoning? You may be if your child,
- Eats or chews on nonfood things, such as paint chips or dirt.
- Lives in or often visits a house that was built before 1950.
- Lives in or often visits a house that was built before 1978 and is being remodeled.
- Has playmates or friends that have high lead levels.
- Lives in a home in which the plumbing has lead pipes, lead solder or lead containing holding tanks.
- Has family members that work at a place or has a hobby that involves any of the following:
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is found at varying levels across the country. The gas is caused by a radioactive breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in rocks and soil. Radon can then seep into houses through basements and crawl spaces. Three Rivers District is considered to be a “high karst” area and therefore, high levels of radon have been found throughout the area. According to the U. S. Surgeon General, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the United States. Only cigarette smoking causes more deaths by lung cancer. Exposure to both cigarette smoke and radon gases can significantly increase your risks of contracting lung cancer. Because any building can have high levels of radon, it is important to test your home. Testing is easy and free kits are available from your local Health Department. While there are no safe levels of radon, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that any home with levels of 4pC/L (picoCuries per liter) or above should have actions taken to reduce the levels. Certified contractors can reduce radon to the acceptable levels through mitigation practices.
PRIVATE WATER TESTING:
Many homes within Three Rivers District operate on a private water source such as a well or a cistern. Proper maintenance must be done on these water sources to assure safe drinking water. Upon request, environmental personnel can test these private water sources for harmful bacteria and offer recommendations on how to properly care for them. Contact your local Health Department for more information.
FOOD BORNE ILLNESS:
The primary responsibility in the retail food sector for environmental health specialists is to prevent food borne illness. Through inspections, complaint investigations, mandatory food manager trainings and certifications, and required posted inspections for public viewing, Three Rivers District Health Department personnel strive for prevention of food borne sickness. Additionally, when an outbreak occurs, a variety of steps are taken to determine the source of illness and to prevent its spread.
What to do if you believe you have been “food poisoned”:
- Go to your physician and or hospital for treatment and diagnosis.
- Many food borne pathogens require several hours or days before displaying symptoms. Many times it is not the last thing you ate that made you sick, rather something you ate days earlier. Think about items you ate over the past 72 hours and write them down.
- If you believe a particular item made you sick and there is product left that was not eaten, put it in the refrigerator and notify the Health Department. The food item may be tested if it is believed to be the source of the physician’s diagnosis.
Environmental Health personnel conduct investigations on nuisance complaints regarding failing septic systems, rodent and/or vector harborage, garbage disposal, etc. Complaints are conducted in accordance with KRS 212.210.
What to do if you have a complaint:
- Gather necessary information (if available): location of nuisance, name of owner, address, phone, etc. The more information you can provide the Environmentalist, the quicker they can respond.
- Contact the local Health Department and file the complaint.
- Photographs or any other evidence may be beneficial to the investigation.