Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 22, 2017

Board of health hears some 'old' diseases making a comeback

Mar 26, 2014


Mt. Pleasant News

“I will be giving you a little doom and gloom,” said Community Health Director Travis Johnson during the regular Board of Health meeting Tuesday. “I don’t mean to be, but it’s been coming for about two to three years.”

Johnson was referring to a Medscape article he received from the state epidemiologist.

“The article was called “Epidemics of Epidemics” and it talks about outbreaks over the past two to three years,” explained Johnson. “It tells us that one reason we know it seems horrible is because some of these diseases, like Lyme disease, are horribly under reported, it is more prevalent than we thought it was.

“Also, we have more diseases because travel is much more common now than it used to be. People are traveling to different places more and that causes it to spread as well,” said Johnson.

According to Johnson, the disease outbreak isn’t the only issue that public health is having.

“We are staring to notice that shots given to children are starting to wane as they grow up, so booster shots are needed,” said Johnson. “Also, some families are refusing the vaccines that are given to kids.”

Another issue is that diseases that were thought to be almost eradicated, like polio, are coming back as well.

“We thought that polio was about 99 percent eradicated,” said Johnson. “Now all of a sudden more countries are coming back with it now. China is one of them and it cost them $26 million to fix the problem. What happens when an outbreak happens to a country who can’t afford the $26 million to fix it?”

Johnson mentioned the Norovirus as a major issue as well, stating that it has about 21 million cases annually and causes about 800 deaths.

“It’s a pretty small percentage,” said Johnson. “But then you think about cruise ships that have had outbreaks, or like that school in Virginia that had to shut down because 230 students and staff got sick. The school had to be thoroughly cleaned. It’s a very contagious disease and it spreads quickly.”

Other outbreaks that Johnson mentioned were listeria, which caused peanut butter and cheese spreads to be recalled; cyclospora, which is where garden foods in Iowa were infected and it was traced back to cilantro in Mexico; and the coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which at one point was thought to be not a big deal, but now public health officials are realizing it is.

“We thought the coronavirus was a typical cold,” explained Johnson. “But it’s pretty serious and has a high mortality rate. It’s not just the common cold and we need to do something about it.”

Next, Johnson discussed the Iowa cancer report with the board.

“We have received the 2014 cancer projections and the 2014 projected cancer deaths. It gives us the top 10 cancers for men and women,” said Johnson.

Board chair Rose Lauer questioned Johnson on why prostate cancer was so high. Johnson explained that it wasn’t necessarily higher than last year or previous years.

“It’s (prostate cancer) pretty prevalent and it doesn’t get the media attention it should,” explained Johnson. “It’s pretty deadly and a significant problem. The problem just hasn’t garnered as much media attention as others have.”

Other high cancers for men are lung, colon and rectum, bladder and skin melanoma, along with others. For women, it is breast, lung, colon and rectum and uterus, among others. For more information, visit

In other board news, Johnson discussed issues with the Care for Yourself program that the hospital utilizes so women can get annual mammograms and pelvic exams.

“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has kicked in and has caused our numbers to drop in this program,” said Johnson. “The Care for Yourself program helps women without insurance to get these services done. With the ACA in effect though, more women are getting insurance, which isn’t a problem, but it does make our numbers drop.”

According to Johnson, 40 spots needed to be filled by the end of January. It was a goal they had in place. They met the goal and they wanted to have capacity filled, which was 80 people.

“It will be unlikely we get the 80 people,” said Johnson. “Almost daily we are getting calls from women saying they have insurance now. It’s great, but it’s a different world for us. It’s changes the program. I have been talking with the state and it’s not just us, it’s everywhere. We actually have more enrolled than most, but we aren’t going to have anywhere near what we need.”

Johnson said he was going to talk with state coordinators and get a feel for what they think will happen to the program.

“The company that does the insurance for the program is also facing issues,” said Johnson. “They asked if the numbers were going to go up for claims, because if they didn’t then they would have to lay people off. But, then I think of it in another way. Do we keep a program that encourages people to not get insurance? It’s a law that you have to have insurance, so should we support a program like this?”

Johnson informed the board that they completed a tabletop disaster drill last week.

“Everyone survived and it went well,” said Johnson. “It was a really good group and all the key players were identified. We did a scenario with a chemical spill at one of the factories in town. The city police, sheriff’s department, Iowa State Patrol, fire department, public health, prison and the hospital all participated. The prison brought an interesting perspective.

“They don’t evacuate at the prison. Some are escorted to the new cafeteria and others to the basement. They will ride it out right there, and I thought that was interesting,” said Johnson.

According to Johnson, there have been many benefits with the prison joining in on the drills.

“They are a big part of this community and they bring so much to it,” expressed Johnson. “They have about a 1,000 people in one spot right there. We have to keep them in mind. It’s a unique population to say the least.”

In final board business, the board approved the Iowa Health Information Network (IHIN) agreement, which allows medical information to be easily shared between providers.

“It’s a computerized system ran by the state that provides secure, encrypted information exchange between entities,” said Johnson. “It will help providers (all of them) to know what medications people are taking and so forth. It will be their medical history. It will cost $500 to sign up for public health.”

The Board of Health will meet again in regular session on Tuesday, April 22 at 12:30 p.m., the location will be announced at a later date.

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