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Novel Coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19

COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, originated in Wuhan, China.  This outbreak continues to be closely monitored by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WI State - Division of Public Health (DPH). 

Background:

COVID-19 is a virus strain that began spreading in people in December 2019.

Health experts are concerned because little is known about this new virus, and it can cause severe illness and pneumonia in some people.

  • COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
  • COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
  • This virus was first spread from animals to humans in China, then evolved to spread from human to human.

What is known:

There has been 1 person ill with COVID-19 in Wisconsin but for the general public, the chances of getting COVID-19 is low. Learn the facts here: DHS COVID-19 Fact Sheet

Influenza and other respiratory viruses are common in Wisconsin at this time of the year. Remember to take steps to stay healthy.  See "How Can I Protect Myself?" below.

How is COVID-19 Spread?

The main way COVID-19 is spread to others is when ill person coughs or sneezes. This is similar to how influenza (flu) is spread. The virus is found in droplets from the throat and nose. When someone coughs or sneezes, other people near them can breathe in those droplets. The virus can also spread when someone touches an object with the virus on it. If that person touches their mouth, face, or eyes the virus can make them sick.

Symptoms or Signs:

People who have confirmed COVID-19 illnesses have a range of symptoms, from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely sick and dying. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after contact with someone who has COVID-19. If you have been in China within the past two weeks and develop symptoms, call your doctor.

How can I help protect myself?

The best way to prevent from getting sick is to avoid being around people who are or may be ill.  There are also ways to prevent from becoming ill and to prevent the spread of illness; they are: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.

Is it safe to travel to Wuhan, China or other countries where COVID-19 cases have occurred?

CDC has issued at a Level 3 Travel Health Notice recommending people avoid all nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan. CDC has also issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice for the rest of China: Practice Usual Precautions.

For the latest information, visit CDC’s web page 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China.

Test Your Home for Radon Gas

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas.  Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States among non-smokers and the second leading cause for smokers. You can’t see, smell, or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home.  The EPA estimates radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, resulting in more deaths per a year than drunk driving, drowning, fires, or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Radon can be found all over the U.S.  Radon comes from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe.  It can get into any type of building- homes, offices, and schools- and build up to high levels.  But you and your family are mostly likely to get your greatest exposure at home.  That’s where you spend most of your time.

You should test for radon.  Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon.  The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.   Testing is inexpensive and easy – it should only take a few minutes of your time. Protect your family and test your home. 

You can fix the problem.  The cost of reducing radon in your home depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problem. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. The cost to fix can vary widely. Consult with your state radon office or get one or more estimates from qualified contractors.

Test kits are available at the Vilas County Public Health Department for $15.00. Please call 715-479-3656 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. with any questions. Quantities are limited.  

Winter Weather is Here!

Some cold weather dangers are easier to see than others.  Sometimes, you might not even think it's very cold, but a cold-related illness or injury can still harm you.  So when you are outside this winter, be prepared and be aware.

Hypothermia

One of the biggest dangers from working in the cold can be the hardest to recognize. Hypothermia happens when your body temperature drops below 95° F. Mild hypothermia can make you feel confused. Being too cold can also cloud your judgment. Early symptoms (or signs) of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering,
  • Feeling tired,
  • Loss of coordination, and
  • Confusion.

As your body loses more heat, the shivering will stop, your skin may turn blue, the pupils of your eye will dilate, your pulse and breathing will slow, and you will lose consciousness.

Frostbite

Many parts of the body are prone to frostbite, including your fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Frostbite happens when a part of the body freezes, damaging the tissue. If the tissue can't be saved, the body part may need to be removed to prevent even worse health problems. Warning signs of frostbite include:

  • Numbness or tingling,
  • Stinging, or pain on or near the affected body part.

If the temperature and or the wind shield are at dangerous levels, do not go outside if you do not have to. Avoid hyperthermia and frostbite by being aware of the weather and wear the right clothing for the weather, such as:

  • Several layers of loose clothing,
  • Warm gloves and hats
  • Waterproof and Insulated shoes.

The colder it is, the faster hypothermia and frostbite can set in and so you shouldn't stay in the cold any longer than you needed.

Here is more information: Cold Weather Stress Fact Sheet

Other tips to help you prepare for the winter months, such as winterizing your home, car safety and emergencies, can be found here:  Be Prepared to Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter 

 

It's That Time of the Year!

Flu and Pneumonia Vaccines

This year the cost for the seasonal flu shots will be just $25.00. We bill Medicare Part B, Medicaid and some Medicare replacements. Please call the Health Department at 715-479-3656 for flu shot availability.  

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.

Please take the following precautions to protect your health: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

1) Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

2)  Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can spread this way.

3)  Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

4)  Stay home if you are sick until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100°F or 37.8°C) or signs of a fever (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

5)  Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

Pneumonia shots are available for individuals 65 years of age and older. There are some restrictions.  Please feel free to contact the Vilas County Public Health Department at 715-479-3656 with any questions regarding the flu shot clinics.

 

Indoor Mold

The Key to Mold is Moisture Control

Tiny mold spores are all around us, both indoors and outdoors. Mold spores travel easily through the air and begin to grow indoors when moisture is present. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores from the indoors, so the best way to control mold growth is to control indoor moisture. When indoor conditions are just right, mold spores can grow and become a problem. By taking important steps, you can prevent and control mold growth inside your home.

Mold spores need 3 things to grow:

  1. Moisture
  2. A nutrient source (i.e., wood, paper, or other materials)
  3. The right temperature

Of these three conditions, the most important to control is moisture. Indoor mold growth is really a sign that moisture is present. If indoor moisture is controlled, mold will not grow.

Fixing the Mold Problem

Since moisture is essential for mold growth, do all you can to quickly identify and fix any source causing too much indoor moisture. Common household problems that lead to indoor moisture issues include:

  • Roof leaks.
  • Leaking pipes or plumbing fixtures.
  • Condensation due to high indoor humidity.
  • Indoor flooding.

After all moisture and water problems have been fixed, clean the moldy area and keep the area dry.

If you cannot identify the moisture source, or if you are dealing with a large mold and water problem, consider a professional home inspection. Visit our Wisconsin Mold Contractor's page for a listing of indoor air consultants and mold remediation contractors.

Preventing Mold Growth

Important actions can be taken to prevent indoor mold from becoming a problem:

  • Keep indoor spaces well ventilated and dry. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers can help.
  • Keep indoor humidity levels below 50%.
  • Clean bathrooms often and keep surfaces dry. Run the bathroom ventilation fan during and after showers.
  • Promptly fix water leaks.
  • Clean up and dry your home fully and quickly (within 24-48 hours) after any flooding event.

Testing for Mold

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services does not recommend testing for mold because:

  • Federal standards or limits for airborne mold concentrations or mold spores do not exist.
  • Mold spores are everywhere around us, indoors and outdoors.
  • Mold testing can be expensive.

If you see or smell mold, it is present. In any situation, your approach should be to find the moisture source, fix it, and clean what you can.

Fact Sheets:

For more information, visit: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mold/index.htm

Tips for Food Safety in a Power Outage:

https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/2015/05/power-outage.html