Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans 18 to 45 years old. It is being mixed illegally with drugs like counterfeit painkillers, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, so the lethal dose is much smaller. You cannot see, taste, or smell fentanyl, but there is something you can do to protect others. Getting trained to administer Naloxone can help get those that are experiencing an overdose the time they need to get help. Naloxone is an FDA-approved medication that works to reverse an opioid overdose, including a fentanyl overdose. Naloxone works as an opioid antagonist by binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of opioids.
In Genesee County, fentanyl has caused a large number of deaths, and has even been found mixed in with other drugs. Since 2018, there have been 58 fatal opioid overdoses in the county, with 10 additional deaths still pending official causes of death as of November 2022. In 2020, Genesee County experienced 15 fatal opioid overdoses (25.7 per 100,000). With a higher fatal opioid overdose rate than that of New York State in 2020 (21.8 per 100,000), it is especially important for Genesee County residents to know the signs of an overdose so naloxone can be administered.
If someone is having difficulty breathing, is unconscious, choking, or experiencing discoloration of their skin or lips, an overdose may be occurring. Naloxone can be used to reverse both fentanyl and other opioid overdoses, such as heroin, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone. There is no harm in administering naloxone if an overdose is not occurring or opioids are not in the body.
The Naloxone Co-Payment Assistance Program, commonly referred to as N-CAP, can help individuals obtain naloxone. If you have prescription coverage as part of your health insurance plan, N-CAP will cover up to $40 in prescription co-payments. This ensures there are little to no out-of-pocket expenses for those getting naloxone at their local New York State pharmacy, all of which provide naloxone through a standing order that allows you to get this medication without a prescription. To learn more about N-CAP, please visit: www.health.ny.gov/overdose.
Individuals who use any type of illicit substance or misuse prescribed opioids are at risk of experiencing an overdose. Now more than ever, it is important to have naloxone nearby. Encourage your loved ones to be trained, carry naloxone, and tell their friends where they keep it in case they overdose. Reversing an overdose can be done in four steps: call 911, administer naloxone by inserting into the nostril and pressing the plunger, give CPR if trained, and stay until help arrives.
To learn more about fentanyl and naloxone, visit:
Tis the season to bundle up, spend more time indoors, and enjoy family and friends over the holiday season. Unfortunately for some, it is also the time of colds, flu, COVID and RSV. We are already seeing an increase in flu activity across Genesee and Orleans Counties.
Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year. “The flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to reduce the spread of the flu in the community, as well as decrease the risk of severe symptoms,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). For those who are more at risk of serious complications of these respiratory viruses, it is important to talk with your primary care provider about the best way to protect themselves from illness. If you are sick, stay home! Wash your hands and sanitize shared items frequently. Take care of yourself by eating healthful foods, getting good sleep, regular exercise and drinking plenty of water, non-caffeinated or non-alcoholic beverages. If you are a smoker or someone who vapes, that increases your risk of upper respiratory viruses.
If you are at high risk, consider that the more people you are exposed to, the more likely you are to get a virus. During this time of year, it is important to stay connected with family and friends, so be creative in how you do that. If the weather is good, spend time with family outdoors snowshoeing, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
For more information about the flu activity in New York State, visit https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/
November is designated as Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a global effort to reduce stigma for a disease that affects both smokers and non‐smokers and takes more lives annually than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers – combined.
Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, but lung cancer can occur in people that have never smoked. Other risk factors include being exposed to secondhand smoke, having a family history of lung cancer, exposure to asbestos, and exposure to radon gas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an estimated of 21,000 Americans die from radon-related lung cancer every year.
The leading cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers is radon exposure. Radon is a clear, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that is naturally found in the Earth. Radon dissolves in groundwater and forms pockets under homes and buildings. The primary method of radon exposure is through cracks in home foundations, new or old. In fact, one-fifth of all houses in the United States have dangerous levels of radon. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if you smoke and live in a home with high radon levels, your risk for developing lung cancer significantly increases.
Homes with a radon level over 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/l) need to be evaluated by a Certified Radon Mitigator to determine the type of radon reduction system that may need to be installed. “By knowing your home's radon level and reducing it if necessary, you can protect yourself and your family,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health).
Testing for radon is fast and inexpensive and is the only way to determine the radon levels in your home. GO Health encourages residents to test for radon when buying a home, doing a major renovation, every 2 years if there is a mitigation system installed or every 5 years otherwise. When purchasing a new house, make sure the seller completes a radon test kit and has the results available. If you are building a new home, make sure to have radon-resistant construction features installed and tested prior to moving in.
You can purchase a short-term radon test kit from your local hardware store or through a radon-testing laboratory. For more information about radon visit, https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/radiological/radon/radon.htm. For more information about radon or other GO Health programs and services, visit www.GOHealthNY.org.
The United States has passed a grim, heartbreaking milestone: a record number of Americans are dying as a result of a drug overdose.
Between April 2020 and April 2021, drugs – mostly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl – took the lives of more than 100,000 of our sons and daughters, loved ones and neighbors, community members, and friends. During the same twelve-month period, eleven people died in Genesee County from opioid overdoses, and fentanyl was involved in all of these deaths.
This rise in opioid overdoses across the U.S. is largely due to illicit fentanyl contaminating street drugs. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is FDA-approved as a patch or lozenge for the treatment of severe pain. Fentanyl is at least 50 times more potent than heroin. Most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl that is mixed into drugs like counterfeit painkillers and benzodiazepines, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Fentanyl has also been detected in fake pills that look like candy.
“A small amount of fentanyl, smaller than the tip of a pencil, can kill someone,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “This is a serious issue that impacts our children, our families and our community.”
Because we have an unregulated and criminalized drug supply, there is no way to tell if a street drug someone is using is 100 percent safe. This means that someone may use a product that they believe their body is able to tolerate, but it may actually be much stronger than they expect due to being contaminated with fentanyl, without knowing.
The opioid crisis is not confined to a particular subset of our population. The epidemic affects wealthy and poor, black and white, rural and urban, and every corner of Genesee County.
HEALing Our Communities
The street drug supply has always been unpredictable and inconsistent – this is especially true now. People who use drugs should assume overdose risk no matter what drug they’re using, and practice as much harm reduction as consistently possible. Our community should also practice harm reduction strategies by:
- Knowing the signs of an overdose.
- Carrying naloxone and knowing how to use it.
- Looking out for others in the community and administering naloxone if you suspect an overdose!
By following these harm reduction strategies, together, we can HEAL our communities and reduce preventable overdose deaths.
The Genesee County Health Department, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) and other community partners are excited to join 33 other communities across New York, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Ohio in launching the first communications campaign for the HEALing Communities Study. The first campaign running from Oct. 3 – Dec. 2, 2022 is focused on raising awareness of the dangers of illicit fentanyl, a drug that is present in more than three-quarters of the 2,000+ overdose deaths that occur in New York each year (source: NY State Opioid Annual Report 2021). In addition to sharing facts about the dangers of illicit fentanyl, the HEALing Communities Study campaign teaches ways to protect our loved ones and community members from a fatal fentanyl overdose including:
- Knowing the signs and how to respond to an overdose.
- Getting trained and carrying naloxone (also known as Narcan® or Kloxxado™), an FDA-approved medication that can save someone’s life if they are overdosing on opioids, whether it is a prescription opioid pain medicine, heroin, or a drug contaminated with fentanyl.
“We are eager to continue the work that we have been doing to reduce overdose deaths in Genesee County,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “The HEALing Communities Study will provide additional technical assistance and financial resources to help support and expand the collaborative initiatives that the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming (GOW) Opioid Task Force is implementing.”
About the HEALing Communities Study
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that 2.1 million Americans have opioid use disorder (OUD), yet fewer than 20% of those receive specialty care in a given year. New York State has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the nation. A menu of evidence-based practices (EBPs) exists, including opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution programs, prescription opioid safety, FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), behavioral therapies, and recovery support services. Unfortunately, these EBPs have largely failed to penetrate community settings.
As a result, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched the HEALing Communities Study (HCS) to identify the EBPs that are most effective at the local level in preventing and treating Opioid Use Disorder. The goal of the study is to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths by 40 percent. The first phase of the study, which ended June 30, occurred in Cayuga, Columbia, Greene, Erie, Lewis, Putnam, Suffolk, and Ulster Counties. The second phase of the study will now run through December 2023 in Broome, Chautauqua, Cortland, Genesee, Monroe, Orange, Sullivan, and Yates counties. In support of this work, Genesee County is collaborating with local partners on a newly formed workgroup as part of the existing GOW Opioid Taskforce to launch three communications campaigns:
- Naloxone and Fentanyl Education (10/3/2022-12/2/2022)
- Medication for Opioid Use Disorder Awareness (3/6/2023-5/5/2023)
- MOUD Treatment Retention (8/7/2023-10/6/2023)
If you are interested in joining the HEALing Communities Work Group or other GOW Opioid Task Force Work Groups, please contact Christen Foley at [email protected].
To learn more about the HEALing Communities Study and to help end overdoses in Genesee County, visit:
Lead is a metal that is toxic to our bodies. It has been found in many products including lead-based paint, plumbing, leaded gasoline, toys, ceramics, and more. No amount of lead in our bodies is safe. Young children under 6 years old are most at risk for lead poisoning because their bodies are rapidly developing. A child with lead poisoning can experience learning difficulties, lower IQ, difficulty paying attention, organ damage, and anemia. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
“The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible, but there are ways to decrease lead in our blood,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Eating food high in vitamin C, iron, and calcium can help reduce lead being absorbed from the digestive system into the bloodstream.”
Vitamin C absorbs iron and can remove lead from the body. Lack of iron has been associated with higher blood lead levels; however, eating enough iron-rich foods will help reduce lead absorption. Lastly, calcium helps to build and maintain strong bones. Eating enough calcium will reduce the amount of lead being stored in bones.
You can include many foods with vitamin C, iron or calcium in your diet.
Foods containing vitamin C include fruits and vegetables such as:
- Raw Spinach
Foods containing iron include types of meats, seafood, beans, fruits, and vegetables such as:
- Red kidney beans
- Enriched and fortified breads and cereals
Foods containing calcium include dairy products and some seafood such as:
- Cheese and yogurt
- Dark leafy green vegetables such as collard greens and kale
- Pinto beans and lentils
- Canned salmon and sardines
- Calcium-fortified beverages (juices, almond milk)
For any questions and more information on Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) Lead Program, contact the Genesee County Health Department at (585) 344-2580 ext.5555 or Health.GOlea[email protected]. You can also visit the GO Health website at www.GOHealthNY.org.
As part of its mission to understand and bring focus to health equity, Common Ground Health is launching its My Health Story 2022 survey. Residents of Chemung, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties are invited to answer questions about their health by completing the online survey at MyHealthStory2022.org and MiHistoriadeSalud2022.org.
The goal is to provide a vehicle for at least 10,000 respondents to share their health stories, especially under-resourced communities and individuals whose stories are often left out of efforts like these. Survey responses will help deepen understanding of the dynamics that drive health equity, and reveal where program and policy changes could make our communities healthier. The survey will be open throughout the summer.
“Four years ago, Common Ground Health conducted the My Health Story 2018 survey, which led to a host of insights that were published in health equity reports such as Overloaded and The Color of Health,” said Mary Beer, Ontario County public health director. “These learnings also formed the foundations of health improvement plans developed by local health departments.”
“We look forward to hearing the health stories of our community – especially in this critical moment as we emerge from COVID-19,” said Wade Norwood, CEO of Common Ground Health. “Our 2022 survey delves into the key factors that play an outsized role in determining people’s health including housing and transportation and examines the direct impact on health throughout all stages of life. We believe these findings will be key to understanding what services our community needs in the coming years.”
In 2018, nearly 7,000 residents participated in the survey. Key findings included:
- Housing impacts health in many ways. People who are stressed about housing payments are more likely to have health problems.
- Early death rates are as high in some rural communities as they are in poorer urban neighborhoods.
- African Americans struggle with dramatically higher rates of heart disease than other groups.
- Residents with the lowest incomes had three times the feelings of helplessness verses their higher-income peers.
By the time the survey closes, we will have introduced new accessibility and inclusion features to reach even more residents in the community. “For the findings to be meaningful, participation is needed from as many residents as possible,” explained Norwood. “We encourage everyone to share the link with friends, family and colleagues. Everyone’s story can make a difference.”
Participants can complete the survey anonymously. It is available in English at MyHealthStory2022.org, and in Spanish at MiHistoriadeSalud2022.org. An ASL version of the survey will be available soon. A toolkit to share word about the survey is available here.
More than 4,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed with skin cancer a year. United Memorial Medical Center and the Genesee County Parks Department are collaborating once again to put a dent in those numbers, giving park visitors an easy way to protect their skin from damaging UV rays that can lead to skin cancer.
Five sunscreen dispensers have been installed throughout Genesee County Park and Forest in East Bethany for the more than 30,000 visitors who use the park’s trails, Interpretive Nature Center, pavilions, and playgrounds.
“Skin cancer is the country’s most commonly diagnosed cancer and there are options for individuals to reduce their risk,” said Laurie Ferrando, UMMC’s Healthy Living Manager. “By putting these sunscreen dispensers in our local parks, we are making sun protection in outdoor settings more accessible.”
This is the second year of the program. Five dispensers were installed last year in the DeWitt Park Recreation Area.* Thousands of visitors, including children who came to the park for educational programs, used the sunscreen before heading out on the park’s trails or water to kayak, canoe or fish.
“If you forget the sunscreen at home you don’t have to worry about burning your skin,” said Paul Osborn, Genesee County Deputy Highway Superintendent of Facilities, Parks, Recreation and Forestry. “These dispensers are small ways we can help make a big difference in preventing skin cancer.”
The NYS Department of Health says the best way to lower your risk for skin cancer is by avoiding exposure to UV radiation, whether from indoor tanning devices or as it reflects off sand, water and snow. And those UV dangers are year-round, even in cloudy weather.
The dispenser project will now continue in Dewitt Park and expand to Genesee County Park supported with funds from Health Research, Inc., and the New York State Department of Health.
Video produced by The Batavian in 2021 when the sunscreen program was launched.
According to the 2022 County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) Genesee and Orleans Counties rank 38th and 54th respectively in overall Health Outcomes. The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
“As Chief Health Strategists, we use the County Health Rankings to help us identify factors that are important for residents to live long and healthy lives and understand how we compare to other counties in the state. With this knowledge, we work collaboratively with our partners to improve the health of our community,” stated Paul Pettit, Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “The county with the lowest score (best health) gets a rank of #1 for that state and the county with the highest score (worst health) is assigned a rank corresponding to the number of total counties ranked in each state. New York State has 62 counties.”
The rankings are broken into to two main categories, Health Outcomes, which include the length of life and quality of life, and Health Factors which include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
The 2022 County Health Rankings findings are:
- Genesee County ranked 38 in Health Outcomes and 16 in Health Factors in 2022 as compared to 43 out of 62 counties for Health Outcomes in 2021, a decrease in rank as compared to 2022 and 28 in Health Factors a decrease from 2021.
- Orleans County ranked 54 in Health Outcomes and 55 in Health Factors in 2022 as compared to 60 in Health Outcomes in 2021, a decrease in rank as compared to 2022 and 53 in Health Factors an increase in rank from 2021.
“The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” stated Pettit. “The Rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face — whether it’s rising premature death rates or the growing drug overdose epidemic — so they can bring community leaders and residents together to find solutions.”
According to the 2022 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in New York State starting with most healthy are Putnam, followed by Tompkins, Saratoga, Nassau, and New York. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy are Bronx, Sullivan, Cattaraugus, Montgomery, and Chemung.
“The County Health Rankings show how Genesee and Orleans Counties rank on factors that influence its overall health ranking,” said Pettit. “For example, Genesee County had a decrease in preventable hospital stays from 4,748 in 2021 to 3,354 in 2022. Genesee County also had a decrease in adults smoking from 23% in 2021 to 19% in 2022. Orleans County had a decrease in the percentage of adults who smoked from 25% in 2021 to 21% in 2022. Additionally, Orleans County had a decrease in the percentage of adult obesity from 37% to 32%.”
Even with the above mentioned positive trends, both counties continue to have challenge areas and are still struggling with health factors specifically with obesity (Genesee – 33% / Orleans – 32%), adult smoking (Genesee – 19% / Orleans – 21%), and local access to clinical care for primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers. Although the numbers for adult smoking did decrease for both counties, we are still above the top U.S Performers at 15% and New York State at 13%.
The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all. Working collaboratively with community partners in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties (GOW), Genesee and Orleans counties are currently working on the GOW 2022-2024 Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan to determine the New York State Prevention Agenda priorities to focus on over the next three years. We analyze the Rankings along with New York State data and community input from the Community Health Assessment survey and Community Conversations with various community groups and county residents. If you have not completed a survey you can access the English survey online here or the Spanish survey online here.
For information on Health Department services contact,
- Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580 ext. 5555 or visit their website at www.GOHealthNY.org. Visit Facebook and Twitter at GOHealthNY for both.
- Orleans County Health Department at: 589-3278 or check out their website at: www.GOHealthNY.org. Visit Facebook and Twitter at GOHealthNY for both.
Tobacco-Free Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming (TF-GOW) and statewide partners are kicking off the regional and statewide launch of Tobacco Free New York State’s 2022 “It’s Not Just” campaign, intended to educate people across New York State about the tobacco industry’s historically inequitable marketing and promotion of menthol-flavored tobacco products. The It’s Not Just campaign speaks from the youth perspective, blending powerful imagery with direct quotes by tobacco executives to highlight the striking contrast between how the industry views youth and how youth see themselves. It is an extension of the campaign launched in May 2021 to urge the public to take action against the hard-hitting menthol-flavored tobacco product marketing that has targeted and harmed Black communities for decades.
“We know that menthol reinforces sustained cigarette smoking among our youth,” said Andrew Hyland, PhD, Chair of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The educational component of the ‘It’s Not Just’ campaign, is the best tool to keep young New Yorkers away from menthol products and healthier for their future.”
The tobacco industry tracks the behaviors and preferences of youth under 21 because it sees “today’s teenager as tomorrow’s potential regular customer.” To mask the harshness of smoke, tobacco companies use flavors, like menthol, in their products to make them more appealing to new users, almost all of whom are under 18. In fact, nearly 81 percent of youth who have ever tried tobacco started with a flavored product, and more than half (54 percent) of youth ages 12-17 years who smoke use menthol cigarettes. However, menthol is not just a flavor. It attracts and addicts youth, making it easier for them to start and harder for them to quit. And, it’s not just an injustice, it poses a serious health threat to today’s youth.
Youth who initiate using menthol cigarettes are more likely to become addicted and become long-term daily smokers. Furthermore, nicotine exposure and addiction can prime the adolescent brain for other addictions, including opioid addiction. When New York State ended the sale of flavored e-cigarettes statewide in May 2020, it was a significant step toward reducing youth tobacco use. However, other flavored tobacco products, such as combustible menthol cigarettes, continue to present an obstacle to decreasing tobacco use among young people and underserved populations.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from smoking-related illness if the current rate of youth smoking continues. Even more shocking, every adult who dies early due to smoking is replaced by two new young smokers.
Individuals can learn more about how to help fight the injustice of menthol flavored tobacco products at the campaign’s website: NotJustMenthol.org.
- Menthol and tobacco marketing
- Tobacco companies have a long history of developing and marketing flavored tobacco products as “starter” products that attract kids.
- Tobacco companies market menthol cigarettes as “smoother” than other cigarettes.
- Documents from the tobacco industry show that the industry studied smokers’ menthol preferences and manipulated menthol levels to appeal to adolescents and young adults.
- Research shows that the tobacco industry attracted new smokers by promoting cigarettes with lower menthol content, which is popular among adolescents and young adults.
- Tobacco companies spend $8.4 billion each year to promote their deadly products, much of which directly reaches and influences kids.
- Menthol usage and addiction
- Menthol cigarettes lead to increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater addiction and decreased success in quitting smoking.
- Menthol cools and numbs the throat, reducing the harshness of cigarette smoke, making menthol cigarettes more appealing to youth.
- Over 7 out of 10 African American youth ages 12-17 years who smoke use menthol cigarettes.
- Health impact
- Menthol cigarettes are not less harmful than other cigarettes, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found that they are likely a greater risk to public health than non-menthol cigarettes.
- Researchers estimate that if a menthol ban had gone into effect in 2011, 320,000 smoking-attributed deaths would have been averted by 2050.
- Menthol cigarette smokers are as likely to experience premature morbidity and mortality as non-menthol cigarette smokers.
Support available for New Yorkers who want to quit
The New York State Smokers' Quitline is a confidential service for all New York State residents who wish to overcome tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. Free offerings include individualized coaching and assistance with quit-planning from highly trained Quit Coaches, text and chat support and free shipping of stop-smoking medications such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum for those 18 and older. Residents of all ages may contact the Quitline for support and educational materials. In addition, the Quitline encourages teens and young adults (ages 13-24) to text “DROPTHEVAPE” to 88709 to join This Is Quitting, a free texting support program for help with quitting vaping. Visit nysmokefree.com anytime for more information or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) seven days a week, beginning at 9 a.m.
Tobacco-Free New York State and Reality Check student groups around the state have worked tirelessly to educate local communities on the tobacco industry’s use of menthol and other flavored tobacco products as a tool to target, attract and addict new smokers. Tobacco-Free New York State, including the Reality Check student youth groups, is part of the NYS Tobacco Control Program.
National Infant Immunization Week is April 24-30, 2022. This is an annual observance highlighting the importance of protecting children two years and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases. In the spirit of National Infant Immunization Week, we encourage parents and caregivers to take time to learn about vaccines.
“Childhood vaccinations are one of the best ways to protect infants and children from vaccine-preventable diseases before the age of two,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). Vaccinations not only play a key role in protecting our children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, mumps and the measles, they also protect our community. They are the most successful and cost-effective public health tool available for preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases as well as preventing death.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some infants and children have missed or delayed routinely recommended vaccinations. “Children who may have missed or skipped vaccinations may be at an increased risk of diseases like whooping cough (pertussis) and the measles, which can be serious,” stated Pettit. “That is why it is important to stay on track with well-child visits and the recommended vaccination schedule. Please check with your healthcare provider to make sure your children are up to date on their routine vaccinations.”
To learn more about vaccinations and to view the latest immunization schedule visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines or speak with your healthcare provider.
For more information on GO Health’s Immunization Clinics, visit GOHealthNY.org. You can also contact your respective health department:
Lead is a heavy metal that is toxic to our bodies and there is no safe level of lead to have in our blood. Lead can be found in homes built before 1978 (before lead in paint was banned), gasoline, water pipes, toys, ceramics, jewelry, pottery, and more.
The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible and can affect a child into adulthood. “Lead poisoning can affect anyone, but it is especially dangerous for infants and small children because their bodies are rapidly developing,” stated Paul Pettit, Director for the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). Childhood lead poisoning can damage the brain and nervous system leading to learning difficulties, lower IQ, difficulty in paying attention, hyperactivity, kidney damage, and, at very high levels, it can be fatal. Lead poisoning can also be dangerous for pregnant women because lead can pass to the baby during pregnancy.
Childhood lead poisoning is a concern throughout the year, but cases of lead poisoning increase during the spring and summer months because children spend more time outdoors, on the porch or in the yard. Homes built before 1978 may have chipping and peeling lead paint on the porch or on siding, which could be more deteriorated than other parts of the house due to the effects of weather. Children playing on the porch can unknowingly pick up lead paint chips and dust on their hands and toys and then place hands or toys into their mouths.
Lead dust can also be found in the soil outside where children are playing. Strong winds can blow lead dust from nearby factories or from the chipped paint off houses and then settle into your yard. Although leaded gasoline was phased out in the 1970s, lead may still be in the soil after it was released into the air from car exhausts and then settled into the ground nearby.
Lastly, many home improvements begin in the spring and summer. Renovations to areas of the home containing lead-based paint can put lead dust into the air, both inside and outside of the area being worked on. Lead dust can also collect on windowsills and in window wells. On warm days when the window is open, lead dust in these areas can blow into the house.
“Lead poisoning in children is completely preventable,” stated Pettit. “You can follow these steps to protect yourself and your family from the effects of lead exposure.”
- Talk to your doctor about a simple blood lead test. New York State requires that health care providers test children for lead at ages 1 and 2 and whenever there is a risk of lead exposure.
- Wash children’s hands before eating and naps or bedtime.
- Wash children’s toys regularly.
- Have children play in a sandbox, rather than on the ground.
- Clean floors with a wet mop and cleaning solution.
- Wet-wipe dusty areas such as windowsills, window wells, countertops, and furniture.
- Keep your home free of chipping or peeling paint and renovate safely.
- Mist surfaces with water before scraping or sanding to prevent creating dust.
- Have your children eat a balanced diet rich with iron, vitamin C and calcium.
For more information on GO Health’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs, visit GOHealthNY.org. You can also contact your respective health department:
Spring is here and that means wild animals will be giving birth to their babies. Sometimes these cute baby animals will stray away from their mothers and wander into backyards, into barns, and onto porches tempting people to catch them and take them in as their own. “Please leave them alone because it can put you and other family members at risk of exposure to a fatal disease such as rabies,” stated Paul Pettit, Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health).
Rabies is a central nervous system disease, which attacks the brain and almost always results in death if rabies exposure is not treated. Rabies is most often spread through bites, scratches, and contact with infected saliva. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rabies is most often seen in bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, but any mammal can be infected with rabies. In addition, pets and livestock can get rabies if they are not vaccinated to protect against infection.
In 2021, GO Health tested 46 animals for rabies, and four tested positive. Additionally, 221 dogs and 54 cats were observed in 10-day confinement between the two counties. A domestic animal is subject to 10-day confinement if they bite a human. The animal’s health and behavior is monitored for 10 days to determine if rabies may be present and if further action is required.
What can you do to protect yourself against rabies?
- Leave all wildlife alone, including any injured animals. If you find an injured animal, do not touch it and contact your local animal control office for help.
- Avoid feeding, approaching, touching, or adopting wild animals and stray domestic animals such as cats and dogs.
- If you see a stray dog or cat, do not pet it. This is especially important if you are traveling out of the United States to a country where rabies in dogs is common.
- If you find any animal that is acting strangely, you should contact your local animal control office for help.
- Be sure that your pets (dogs, cats, and ferrets) are up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. Even indoor pets should be vaccinated and it is also recommended that livestock animals are vaccinated.
- Public Health Law, Article 21, Title 4 requires New York State (NYS) residents to keep their pets (cats, dogs, and ferrets) up-to-date on their rabies vaccination.
- Keep family pets indoors at night and do not let them roam alone.
Anyone who has been bitten by any animal or may have been exposed to rabies needs to take immediate action. Make sure to thoroughly clean any wounds or bites with soap and water, and then call your health care provider for further instructions. If you can do so safely, capture the animal (being careful not to damage the head/brain) and call your local health department to report the incident. Capturing the animal is vital in order for it to be tested for rabies. Testing will confirm if the animal is infected with the virus or not, making sure that only those who need treatment get it.
A doctor in consultation with the health department will determine who needs to be vaccinated with rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (RPEP). The cost to treat an individual varies considerably based on weight, number of doses, and insurance. In 2021, treatment costs ranged from $2,000.00-$9,000.00. GO Health will work with the patient’s insurance company, but what is not covered by insurance is ultimately the responsibility of the taxpayers. In 2021, Genesee County treated 14 people and Orleans County treated 13 people.
“We encourage residents to do their part to prevent rabies in the community by vaccinating their pets and practicing caution around wild and stray animals,” stated Pettit. “Please visit one of the upcoming FREE drive-thru anti-rabies immunization clinics for dogs, cats and ferrets.”
- Genesee County Clinics at the Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 East Main Street, Batavia, NY)
- Thursday, May 19th, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Thursday, August 11th, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Thursday, September 15th, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Thursday, October 13th, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
- Orleans County Clinics at the Orleans County Fairgrounds (12690 Rt. 31, Albion, NY)
- Saturday, April 23rd, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Saturday, June 4th, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Saturday, August 13th, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Saturday, October 15th, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
For more information on Health Department services, visit GOHealthNY.org or call 589-3278 for Orleans County or 585-344-2580 ext. 5555 for Genesee County.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today joined his colleagues for a press conference in which Sen. George Borrello (SD-57), Assemblyman Chris Tague (R,C,I-Schoharie), and Assemblyman Michael Lawler (R,C,I,SAM-Pearl River) announced their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Department of Health regulation establishing isolation and quarantine procedures for those suspected of having a communicable disease. Hawley and those who’ve brought the lawsuit forward assert its implementation through the regulatory process violates the separation of powers.
Regulation 10 NYCRR 2.13 would empower the Department of Health to forcibly isolate and quarantine individuals exposed to communicable diseases, potentially in locations that aren’t their homes. Adopted on Feb. 22, 2022, the New York State Department of Health’s Public Health and Health Planning Council is set to renew the rule on an emergency basis today. Steps have also been taken by the council to make the regulation permanent.
“The role of the Legislature is to protect the public from dangerous policies like this, which would never survive scrutinous debate in the Assembly,” said Hawley. “When a bill containing most of the same measures this rule does was put before the Assembly in years past (A.416, Perry), it had only a single sponsor, so it seems to me the governor is truly trying to subvert our constitutionally-sanctioned legislative process to put this proposal into law. By subverting the Legislature, the governor has silenced the voices of the people they represent, who almost certainly would not wish to grant their government this overreaching authority.”
April 4-10, 2022 is National Public Health Week (NPHW) and this year’s theme is “Public Health is Where You Are”. “National Public Health Week is a great opportunity to raise awareness about what public health is,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “This week is used to help educate and highlight the issues that are important to improving the health of individuals, our community and our nation.”
This year, there are daily themes for National Public Health Week and although these are complex issues, there are still small things that you can do to help the health of individuals and our community.
- Monday, April 4th – Racism: A Public Health Crisis
- Racial inequities in health care, income, housing, education and many other factors have become more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. These inequities impact the health and well-being of community residents. We encourage you to start conversations about health equity and have an open dialogue about how biases and inequities contribute to health disparities in our community.
- Tuesday, April 5th – Public Health Workforce: Essential to our Future
- The public health workforce is essential to our future! Thank a Public Health Professional for all the work that they have done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but also what they will continue to do in the future to help the health of our community.
- Wednesday, April 6th – Community: Collaboration and Resilience
- Come together as a community to improve housing, education, food, transportation and the environment. Share your voice and opinions about the health of your community by completing the Community Health Assessment survey. You can access the survey by visiting the following links:
- You can also make an impact by joining a community garden, donating food to a local food pantry, or volunteering at a local food distribution event.
- Thursday, April 7th – World Health Day: Health is a Human Right
- Celebrate World Health Day by protecting our planet and our health. Even doing small things such as walking or cycling to work, buying your groceries from local producers, recycling and buying less plastic can make a difference.
- Friday, April 8th – Accessibility: Closing the Health Equity Gap
- While there are public health resources available where we live, some barriers can make it hard for people to access and use these resources. These barriers could be physical, mental, financial, or cultural. Advocate for your neighbors and engage your local leaders to support health equity in our community.
- Saturday, April 9th – Climate Change: Taking Action for Equity
- Understanding and addressing climate change is critical to protecting human health and the environment. By working together, we can lessen the impacts of climate change by making choices that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Small things such as using water efficiently, buying used items, reusing or repurposing items, and reducing your food waste can all make a difference.
- Sunday, April 10th – Mental Wellness: Redefining the Meaning of Health
- Each year, one in five American will experience mental illness. To improve your mental health, eat a well-balanced diet, engage in physical activity such as walking or hiking, participate in activities you enjoy and connect with others. Seeking help from a mental health professional is a sign of strength, not a weakness. If you are struggling with depression, contact a mental health provider or call Care + Crisis Helpline at 585-283-5200, or text 741741.
GO Health hopes that you will help celebrate National Public Health Week by participating in some of the ideas described above to help make our community healthier, stronger and safer. By working together, we can build a healthier community and help everyone in Genesee and Orleans Counties live a healthier life.
The Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming (GOW) County Health Departments and Hospitals are currently working with community partners to gather information from residents and those who work in these counties to help with public health planning for the next three years. The information will help inform and guide documents called the Community Health Assessment (CHA), Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), and Community Services Plan (CSP). This initiative is part of the New York State Prevention Agenda, the state’s health improvement plan, which is a blueprint for state and local action to improve the health and well-being of New Yorkers.
The 2019-2024 NYS Prevention Agenda Priority Areas are to Prevent Chronic Diseases; Promote a Healthy and Safe Environment; Promote Healthy Women, Infants and Children; Promote Well-Being and Prevent Mental and Substance Use Disorders; and Prevent Communicable Disease. In the 2019-2022 GOW Community Health Improvement Plan, the community survey and community conversations helped inform some of the public health initiatives that the local health departments and hospitals focused on, which were:
- Promote Well-Being and Prevent Mental and Substance Use Disorders
- Prevent opioid overdose deaths
- Prevent Chronic Disease
- Promote tobacco use cessation
- Increase cancer screening rates
- In the community setting, improve self-management skills for individuals with chronic diseases, including asthma, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, prediabetes and obesity.
Now, we are looking for community input to help inform the next Community Health Improvement Plan and to fully assess the health status of our communities. We are asking the public to participate by taking a survey and sharing their viewpoints during community conversations. An online survey is available and paper copies will be available at various locations throughout each county. You can access the survey by visiting the following link:
- English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GOWCHA2022English
- Spanish: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GOWCHA2022Spanish
The survey is anonymous, only takes about 15 minutes to complete and focuses on the health of the person taking it. If you are under the age of 18 years old, be sure to receive permission to take the survey from your parent(s) or guardian(s).
“As chief health strategists, the health departments are working toward identifying major community health challenges, gaps in services, and other factors that may contribute to a less than optimal health status for our community residents,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “The input from our residents will help identify community health needs, which will ultimately help us to develop our Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) for the next few years.”
The health departments are also seeking to schedule Community Conversations with willing groups to learn what they feel are the greatest health concerns or issues in their community and thoughts on how they can be improved.
“This process offers an opportunity for our community members to have a voice about the barriers and issues they face when trying to be healthy,” stated Laura Paolucci Wyoming County Health Department Public Health Administrator. “The more members of the community who participate, the more inclusive and stronger these plans will be.”
To participate in a community conversation, obtain hardcopies of the survey, obtain flyers that promote completing the survey online, or have any questions, please contact your local health department:
- Genesee County Health Department at: 585-344-2580 ext.5555, visit their website at www.GOHealthNY.Org or visit Facebook at: Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments.
- Orleans County Health Department at: 585-589-3278, visit their website at www.GOHealthNY.Org or visit Facebook at: Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments.
- Wyoming County Health Department at: 585-786-8890, visit their website at https://www.wyomingco.net/203/Health-Department, or visit Facebook at: Wyoming County Health Department.
Of the myriad weight loss apps, programs, diets and routines out there, many people still fail to achieve long-lasting success, and Nancy Fallon, certified coach and manager of the Ideal Me Weight Loss Clinic in Batavia, believes there can be another outcome, she says.
“The Ideal Me protocol is a science-based program designed to help you lose weight by resetting your body to lose fat,” Fallon said during an interview with The Batavian. “It’s a three-phase approach to losing weight, and, most importantly, learning how to keep it off. We’re excited about it. When you lose those initial pounds, it gives you the motivation to keep going.”
Ideal Me Weight Loss is part of Guler Cardiology and Wellness at 34 Swan St., Batavia. It’s a branch of the Ideal Protein of America company, which focuses on fat-burning through an initially low-carb, higher protein food program.
Unlike many of those other programs, Fallon said this one provides one-on-one counseling and the education necessary to keep clients on track with a life-changing transformation. The three phases start with the actual weight loss; that is achieved by getting the body into ketosis with a quality protein meal plan of three “Ideal Me Protein” products, plus vegetables and proteins such as chicken, beef, or fish. That initial phase includes a review of the client’s health history, weight loss goals, and food preferences. For example, there are gluten-free and vegetarian options for those clients who need them.
Phase II is to stabilize that weight loss by re-introducing carbs — low glycemic carbs — to the meal plan and drop to two Ideal Me Protein foods per day; and the third phase is to sustain the weight loss by making healthier food choices, writing in a food journal and maintaining a weekly check-in with a certified coach, she said.
The program is overseen by a medical physician, Dr. Ahmet Guler. There is “a huge epidemic” of people being overweight and obese throughout this country, he said, and that leads to many different illnesses.
“Heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, atrial fibrillation, and the list goes on,” Guler said. “So with all that in mind, what our goal here, or our vision here, is, basically, how can we get our communities healthy.”
The answer was discovered with the Ideal Protein of America program as a way to improve the local population’s diet and ultimately reach a healthier weight, he said. The program decreases highly saturated fats and carbohydrates and increases proteins and low-carb fruits and vegetables, supplemented with protein-based snacks and desserts. In turn, by doing that, those symptoms of hypertension, diabetes and/or high cholesterol might also improve, Dr. Guler said.
His philosophy is that people who are overweight also often move less as a result, which leads to other problems. So by attacking the cause — the weight — the issues of painful hips and knees, heart disease, and other ills have a better chance of improving, he said.
“So if we could help you lose that weight in a healthy way, in a scientifically proven way, then basically, you may have a chance, a second chance, at life in terms of motivating yourself to start moving,” he said. “And as you move, it might motivate you to do more exercise. And if you do more exercise or cardio exercise, then your overall health just may improve. So that's basically the gist of it.”
The Ideal Me program is a one-year package deal that includes a variety of 70 Ideal Protein foods of salty, savory, chewy, crispy, and/or sweet tastes; plus vitamin and mineral supplements, and one-on-one sessions with the coach. Does it mean never eating fast food again? Not necessarily. However, the coach and program material will teach you how to make healthier choices for overall better health, he said.
Fallon experienced first-hand how the program worked, and has gone from client to cheerleader and coach for its effectiveness.
“I did the program four years ago, and I lost 35 pounds. My bloodwork was better than it ever has been in years,” adding what made the difference for her. “I could still have those little treats I liked, the chocolate products I was able to have.”
She also believes that the program strays from others by offering individualized plans, accountability and motivation depending on clients’ needs. Seminars on the program are being offered every two weeks at the wellness center. Prospective clients will be able to sample products and hear more about the program, she said.
Top photo: Dr. Ahmet Guler and Nancy Fallon celebrate the addition of the Ideal Me Weight Loss Clinic at Guler Cardiology and Wellness at 34 Swan St., Batavia. The clinic (and one in Warsaw) is the "only one in this area" between Buffalo and Rochester, Guler said. Photo by Howard Owens.
The Town of LeRoy has received 110 COVID test kits. Each kit contains two tests. The town will distribute them for free on Wednesday Jan. 26 at the Town Hall starting at 10:00 a.m., on a first come first serve basis. Each household may have two test kits. You must be a resident of Genesee County in order to receive the kits. Please bring ID that shows your residency.
Genesee County has received 2,580 free COVID-19 test kits from New York State to distribute to Genesee County residents. Starting the week of January 24, 2022, test kits will be available at town, village, and city municipal buildings during their regular business hours, while supplies last. Residents should contact their local municipality for details of when the municipal building is open and the availability of test kits. A maximum of 2 kits (4 tests) per family will be distributed and attendees will be required to show proof of Genesee County residency in order to receive kits. The following locations will have a limited supply of COVID-19 test kits:
- Town of Alabama
- Town of Alexander
- Town of Batavia
- Town of Bergen
- Town of Bethany
- Town of Byron
- Town of Darien
- Town of Elba
- Town of LeRoy
- Town of Oakfield
- Town of Pavilion
- Town of Pembroke
- Town of Stafford
- Village of Alexander
- Village of Bergen
- Village of Corfu
- Village of Elba
- Village of LeRoy
- Village of Oakfield
- Batavia City Hall, Clerks Office
“Residents should use at-home COVID-19 tests after a possible exposure to someone with COVID-19 or when they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Testing is one mitigation strategy that can help reduce the community spread of COVID-19.” For Free PCR and rapid testing, you can go to the NYS COVID-19 Testing site located at GCC Albion Campus Center at 456 West Avenue, Albion. Walk-ins and registration allowed Monday- Saturday. To register: https://appointments.bioreference.com/nystatecovidtesting.
To report a Positive At-home Test:
Individuals can visit the GO Health website COVID-19 Testing page under Emerging Issues (GOHealthNY.org) and choose the appropriate Home Test button for their respective county. Individuals should complete the at-home tests according to the directions provided. When the test is completed, individuals should take a picture with the individual’s name, the date and the time they took the test legibly written in permanent marker within 15 minutes of reading the test. Towards the end of the online form, the individual will be required to upload the picture on the website and attest to the authenticity and truth of the form. If there are any missing sections that
are required, the form is invalid. At this time, individuals do not need to report negative at-home test results. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is to self-isolate immediately. You may not be contacted regarding your contacts, so it is important to notify your close contacts (those who you spent 15 minutes or more in a 24 hour period 2 days prior to symptoms or 2 days prior to a positive test result). It is important to continue with self-isolation from household members as much as you are able. Isolate for 5 days and if you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication, your symptoms are getting better, and you can tolerate a tight-fitting mask you can return to work/school but you are still required to wear a tight-fitting mask for 5 more days. If you must share space, make sure all in contact with you are wearing masks covering their nose and mouth and frequently shared items/surfaces are sanitized often. To access isolation orders and isolation release paperwork visit our website at GOHealthNY.org (COVID-19 Isolation & Quarantine Documents & Information) and complete and print out or print and hand write the forms from the county you reside in and provide to your employer or school.
Residents can sign up for an upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinic to receive their first dose, booster shot, or pediatric dose at the GO Health website at https://bit.ly/GOHealthCOVID.