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Genesee County Health Department

May 5, 2020 - 9:37am

The local public health director on Monday said he is a bit wary about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional approach to reopening the economy will affect Genesee County.

“I do have some concerns around the regional approach here as we’re going to be able to move forward and (or) get stuck on pause based on what our entire region (Finger Lakes) does, and if you look at the metrics, it’s going to be driven by data,” said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans Health Departments.

Speaking at the Human Services Committee meeting of the Genesee County Legislature, Pettit said the region is “lining up a little bit more now” with the hospitalization rates that are part of the equation leading toward increased business activity.

“It’s based on 100,000 residents, so look at our Finger Lakes Region,” he said. “I think we’re around 1.3 million, maybe a little less, and we have to meet certain data points.”

On Monday, the governor stated that the Finger Lakes Region meets five of the seven metrics needed to reopen safely: decline in hospitalizations; decline in hospital deaths; new hospitalizations; percentage of hospital beds available; and percentage of ICU beds available.

The region does not meet requirements dealing with the number of residents tested monthly and the number of contract tracers, the governor said.

Pettit acknowledged that the governor's latest press conference provided more clarity in his four-phase approach to reopening by sharing the “different metrics we need to go through in order to progress.”

“We’ve been asking for weeks now exactly what this is going to look like, so it’s starting to shape up a little bit,” he said.

He said the county’s plan is to send information to businesses and other organizations with some guidance so, “hopefully when we get to Phase 1 here and we get to launch on May 15th – which we’re optimistic will happen – all of our essential businesses that will be added in, mainly around construction, manufacturing and some retailers, etc., will be ready to go.”

County Manager Jay Gsell indicated that the Finger Lakes Region is one of the five regions that on May 15th will be able to enter Phase 1.

“If our metrics and our data still continue to look positive, we should be able to look at the phasing of reopening of the Finger Lakes Region, which Genesee County is part of. That’s one small sliver of good news, at least this afternoon around 4:25,” he said.

Pettit was asked about antibody testing in Genesee County, and said that it is not widely available in this region.

“Unfortunately, just like the testing, we seem to be lagging behind,” he said. “We are getting some results in from antibody testing. We have not had anybody as of last Friday that had shown they had antibodies. There are some Genesee County residents that have been tested (for antibodies) at random sites the state has or health care workers.”

He said antibody testing reveals a “level of exposure to the virus … helping us understand how much of our community has been exposed, but it doesn’t really tell us much beyond that about protection and immunity … it’s still too new.”

The Human Services Committee passed a resolution accepting an additional $4,726 in funding from the New York Department of Health to cover increased workload costs in connection with early intervention administration as it pertains to referrals of children showing signs of lead poisoning.

In other developments, the committee voted in favor of four contracts pertaining to the Office for the Aging:

-- Increasing the amount of an agreement with ARC of Genesee Orleans by $40,000 for meal service preparation as demand has risen due to COVID-19. The original amount for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 was $223,927.

Office for the Aging Director Diana Fox said the additional expense is covered by federal stimulus funds and other funding streams that were directed to the agency. She also said that serving congregate meals has given way to home-delivered meals at this time.

-- Extending an agreement with the National Council on Aging Inc., to provide Aging in Mastery Program sessions through the end of the year -- beyond the previously approved May 2020.

The program offers interactive classes for adults 55 and older that promote behaviors that improve health, economic security, self-esteem and social activity.

-- Renewing a RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) grant of $47,500 through March 31, 2021 from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The grant, which was included in the 2020 county budget, enables the agency to utilize the network of local volunteers to assist older citizens in various areas, including coping skills, veterans’ support, environmental stewardship, reducing food insecurity, emergency preparedness and opioid awareness.

-- Renewing a contract with Willcare Inc., to oversee consumer-directed in-home services from June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021 at hourly rates ranging from $20.51 to $23.11 per hour, for a total not to exceed $25,792 for the specified year.

Under this plan, the control of homecare services is shifted from homecare agencies – which in many cases are unable to accommodate all requests -- to the consumer (or representative) for budgeting, care planning, decision-making and arranging for services and staffing.

March 16, 2020 - 6:24pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, covid-19, Genesee County Health Department.

county_officials_1.jpg

Calling the COVID-19 pandemic an “unprecedented and rapidly evolving event,” the public health director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments this afternoon reported that while there are no confirmed cases of the virus in either county, local officials are ramping up efforts to gather testing kits and to set up drive-thru screening sites.

Speaking at a media briefing at the Old County Courthouse in Batavia, Paul A. Pettit (inset photo below, left) said seven people in Genesee County are under a “precautionary” quarantine and three people in Orleans County are under “mandatory” quarantine – steps that are taken to monitor their conditions over a 14-day period and to make sure they do not get symptoms associated with the virus, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“This is an unprecedented event and were responding as it has been evolving,” Pettit said, as he was joined by several other county officials during the 40-minute session. “Our public health staff has been working around the clock … with the goal for our residents to make sound, wise choices. The brainpower in this room is well situated to hand this storm together.”

Pettit said that contrary to rumors, no one in the two counties has come down with the virus – which he said has a fatality rate 10 times that of influenza – but that his department will be notified by hospitals should that occur. He also pointed residents to go to the health department’s website for accurate information.

He admitted that the health department currently has no “swabbing kits” for testing – “we’re working to get some,” he said – but they are available in the community (through primary care providers, for example).

Officials in both Genesee and Orleans have declared states of emergency, which will extend for a minimum of 30 days, Pettit said, and “have moved forward with the closing down of schools.”

He also mentioned Gov. Cuomo’s directive that restaurants, bars, casinos and other social and recreational venues would be required to close after 8 o'clock tonight, advising consumers that restaurants will be offering carry-out and take-out options.

Regarding testing for the virus, Pettit said that county leaders are looking to set up drive-through sites (specific locations have yet to be identified) to screen “the most vulnerable – seniors and those with immune-compromised health issues.”

“If you’re sick, stay home; that’s the best thing you can do,” he said. “Wash your hands frequently and (practice) social distancing. It is best to implement this before we have a case. Spread out and practice social distancing – even if it seems extreme and unnecessary. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can weather this thing together.”

Responding to a question about the difference between COVID-19 and the flu, Pettit said that it hits seniors and “compromised” folks very hard.

“The hardest hitting was in the Wuhan province (China) where 3 to 5 percent was the death rate,” he said. “That makes us nervous on the public health side.”

Pettit also said the virus can stay in the air for three hours and said it was important to wipe down countertops and door knobs as it can linger on surfaces for quite some time.

“We need to flatten the curve,” he said. “We want to push out the number of cases and slow it down” so it doesn’t overwhelm the health care system.

Tim Yaeger, coordinator of the Genesee County Office of Emergency Management Services, said that his agency along with the Orleans County office, will be supporting the health care system as “services need to be maintained.”

“You may see tempered responses,” he said, advising people to use the 9-1-1 system only if it’s a true emergency.

Genesee County Clerk Michael Cianfrini said he is putting measures in place to limit the number of people looking to complete transactions at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Batavia.

“We’re very short-staffed as it is, with only two cashiers and one trainee,” he said, “and we had lines out the doors, which goes against all advice we have said regarding social distancing and it exposes our staff.”

Cianfrini said as of tomorrow, less than 10 people will be allowed in the DMV lobby at one time – the overflow will have to wait outside – and that a sheriff’s deputy will be there to monitor the situation.

“Unless it is absolutely necessary, don’t come into the office,” he said. “My main concern is the safety and health of my staff.”

Batavia City Manager Martin Moore said the City Clerk’s office will be “closed (for walk-ins) for the foreseeable future” and advised people to use the telephone or go online.

“Most people are very good and are stepping up, but a few have been coughing and hacking,” he said. “So out of caution for the employees, the door will be locked if you try to come in that door.”

He also said the protocol will be modified for those attempting to enter the police station and that Falleti Ice Arena will be closing today, also for the foreseeable future.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said that although Genesee County Park in Bethany and the DeWitt Recreation Area in Batavia will be closed, he and his staff are committed to maintaining the county workforce’s “semblance of continuity going forward.”

Gsell said press updates will take place at 4 p.m. at the Old County Courthouse from Monday through Friday until circumstances warrant otherwise.

For more about the COVID-19 pandemic, call 1-888-364-3065 (NYS hotline). Those experiencing anxiety or mental health issues due to the crisis are advised to call 585-283-5200.

Top photo -- Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron, County Clerk Michael Cianfrini, City Manager Martin Moore, County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, Public Health Director Paul Pettit, Orleans County Emergency Management Director Dale Banker, Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

March 14, 2020 - 1:38pm

“There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Genesee and Orleans counties,” said Paul Pettit, director of Genesee & OrleansCounties Departments of Health.

“While the risk of community transmission is currently low, things are rapidly evolving with this outbreak. In response, our departments are proactively taking actions to safeguard our communities.”

The Health Departments are aware of a second positive case of COVID-19 in Monroe County.

“We continue to encourage social distancing where people avoid gathering in public places, limit contact with others; stay home if you are sick; if you are older and/or are immunocompromised with underlying health conditions stay home,” Pettit said.

COVID-19 may cause symptoms including:

  • Cough

  • Fever

  • Trouble breathing

  • Pneumonia

“It is important to remain calm and focus on trusted, accurate information listed below,” Pettit said. “We understand everyone wants to be updated but want to make sure the information is factual.”

The Health Department will provide updates as appropriate.

For more information about prevention, the state health department has an information call center for questions and answers about travel and symptoms regarding COVID-19. The number is 1-888-364-3065.

Or you can visit the following websites:

February 27, 2020 - 12:38pm

Press release:

As you try to make the most of your dollar, the county Weights & Measures Department is there to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. W&M acts as financial protection for both the buyer and the seller, ensuring fair transactions for all parties involved.

We celebrate these relationships during the first week of March, National Weights & Measures Week.

The Genesee County Weights & Measures Department tests devices used in your day-to-day activities; including devices at gas stations, grocery stores, delis, bakeries, produce stands, and laundromats to name a few.

Last year, 705 devices were tested in Genesee County.

Of those, 85.42 percent initially tested correct. When a device is found incorrect and in the stores favor, the Director orders the device repaired. The business cannot use that device until the correction has been retested and inspected by a W&M inspector.

The Department is also responsible for testing the quality of the fuel sold in the county, this effort is 100 percent reimbursed by New York State. Locally, there were zero octane/cetane failures in 2019.

The Genesee County Health Department is on the forefront when it comes to shared services, in our case, with Orleans County; a joint effort to better serve both communities.

Starting in January 2019, the counties agreed to fully combine the two Weights & Measures departments. This collaboration has created a safer and healthier environment for all residences as well as visitors to the area.

Between the two counties, the agreement has estimated savings of $54,290 in its initial year.

“Rarely does a costs saving result in better and more efficient services for the community, but this arrangement does exactly that," said Ronald P. Mannella, director of Weights & Measures for Genesee – Orleans County Departments of Health (GO Health). "We have figured it out. This department will continue to explore ways of stretching our taxpayer dollars."

Paul A. Pettit, Public Health director, said "This latest integrated approach to working across county lines and sharing services is another great example of how we can enhance benefits for our residents while reducing county costs.”

With support from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Genesee - Orleans and the surrounding counties are cracking down on credit card skimmers and those responsible.

W&M inspectors perform random sweeps of fuel stations looking for these fraudulent devices. Arrests have been made. Know that New York will not tolerate these criminal acts.

If you have suspicious credit card activity, call your bank immediately.

When shopping, look for the official seal. These seals indicate the device has been tested and passed inspection by a Weights & Measures inspector.

If you believe the device is incorrect, simply point your smartphone at the QR Code on the seal and you will be prompted to our department website. Once there, you are quickly able to report a complaint. This office will continue to accept phone calls and emails.

For information about Genesee CountyHealth Department services contact:

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit the website here.
December 20, 2019 - 11:49am

Above, Tammi Bale, who operates the “Just Socks, Ma” Campaign.

Submitted photo and press release:

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent hepatitis C, but early diagnosis of hepatitis C is important as it can prevent serious liver problems. Approximately 3.2 million people in the United States. have chronic hepatitis C, but most do not know that they are infected. This is exactly why testing is so important!

Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person, even in amounts too small to see. People with hepatitis C often have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can be a sign of advanced liver disease (such as cirrhosis or scarring of the liver).

“Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants,” said Deputy Director Brenden Bedard of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. New treatments for hepatitis C are available and more are in development.

"Today, chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) is usually curable with oral medications taken every day for two to six months. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, "The homeless population is disproportionately impacted by HCV infection, with an estimated prevalence of 22 to 53 percent (affected)."

Hepatitis C Testing is recommended if you:

  • Were born from 1945 through 1965;
  • Injected drugs
  • Received donated blood or organs before 1992
  • Have been exposed to blood on the job through a needle stick injury with a sharp object
  • Or have medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease or HIV/AIDS.

To increase awareness about Hepatitis C, the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments are donating socks to Tammi Bale, who operates the “Just Socks, Ma” Campaign, collecting socks to donate to those in need in memory of her son Robert Bale who passed away of a drug overdose in 2016.

“These socks read #NYCuresHepC and is a reminder to get tested and that a cure is available to those who need it," Bedard said. "It’s a small way to give back to the community this holiday season and increase a valuable message."

Referring to deaths caused by overdoses and hepatitis C, Bale said, “Not one more is needed. This is my third year collecting socks and donating them to the homeless in memory of Robert. I wasn’t able to help him because I didn’t know anything was wrong (substance use disorder). He had a good job, was working 50 hours a week and had just gotten a raise.

"No one knew his secret, not even his roommate. It’s good to try to find out what is happening in your child’s life so this doesn’t happen. This campaign makes me happy and hopefully make Robert proud.”

Bale is also giving back by operating a Facebook group named “Angel Mothers Unite” providing uplifting messages to those who need it.

For information about Health Department services contact the Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website.

September 28, 2019 - 10:40am

From the Genesee County Health Department:

Often times, you are poisoned by lead you can’t even see! According to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), children under 6 years old are more likely to be poisoned with lead than any other age group.

Lead is a metal that is harmful to both children and adults when it enters the body.

Most often, children are poisoned from breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors and windowsills, hands and toys.

Only a small amount of lead is needed to harm a child’s growth, behavior and ability to learn.

Most children poisoned by lead do not look or feel sick, so the only way to know for sure is to get tested.

New York State (NYS) law requires that every child must be tested for lead at the age one and again at the age two. Providers should also be assessing a child for risks of lead exposure regularly through age 6.

NYS has both the nation’s greatest number (3.3 million) and the highest percentage (43.1 percent) of housing stock built before 1950. Houses of this age are much more likely to contain lead paint, the leading cause of childhood lead poisoning.

Governor Cuomo’s 2019 budget is responding to this public health threat by lowering the acceptable blood lead level from 15 micrograms per deciliter of blood (µg/dl) to 5 µg/dl.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took that step in 2012 and has since been enacted in several states, including, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont. These states made their decision to move to the lower CDC guidelines based on the evidence that supports early intervention as the primary way to prevent the serious health effects suffered by victims of lead poisoning.

“Effective Oct. 1st, a child whose blood lead level is 5 µg/dl or more will be contacted by their local health department who will help families identify sources of lead and create plans to remove it by conducting home inspections,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health director.

“Lowering the blood lead action level will increase home inspections greatly. The Genesee and Orleans County health departments are prepared for this change and have hired a lead coordinator to be dedicated to this workload for both counties.”

If a child's blood lead level is 5µg/dl or more, the health department nurse will report to Environmental Department. There will be an inspection done at the house by the Environmental Department from the local health department to check for lead exposure, and an educational prevention approach by the nurse from the local health department will be done with the family to decrease the lead level in the child’s bloodstream.

There are many sources of exposure according to the NYSOH. Subscribe to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to learn about consumer products recalled for lead violations.

Sources of Lead

  • Paint (older homes, old toys, furniture, crafts)
  • Air / Dust
  • Soil
  • Water (leaching of lead solder on plumbing)
  • Folk medicines and cosmetics
  • Children’s jewelry and toys
  • Workplace and hobbies
  • Lead-glazed ceramics; china; leaded crystal; and pewter
  • Imported candies or foods
  • Firearms with lead bullets
  • Foreign made mini-blinds
  • Car batteries and radiators

Lead can harm a young child’s growth, ability to learn and may be linked with tooth decay/cavities, hearing loss, behavior problems, even to the point that Early Intervention services are needed.

Early Intervention is the term used to describe services and support that are available to babies and young children and their families with developmental delay and disabilities.

Lead can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy. Although lead poisoning is preventable, it continues to be a major cause of the problem among children.

For more information about lead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Early Intervention Services visit:

For information about Health Department services contact:

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website.
June 14, 2019 - 6:45pm

From the Genesee County Health Department:

ALBANY -- The New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) representing the 58 local health departments in New York State applauds and congratulates Governor Cuomo, the New York State Assembly and Senate for repealing certain provisions relating to non-medical exemptions from vaccination.

They voted in favor of Assembly bill A2371 and Senate bill 2994-A and we are grateful for the leadership of Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz and Senator Brad Hoylman, who sponsored this legislation in their respective houses, and were champions behind its passage.

Governor Cuomo took swift action to sign this bill into law immediately following its passage in both houses, demonstrating a monumental commitment to public health policy and eliminating vaccine preventable disease in New York State.

A number of communities in New York State are now facing the health consequences of non-medical exemptions from vaccinations. These exemptions, while well-intended, brought about a resurgence of preventable communicable diseases, resulting in numerous and ongoing transmission of diseases in our communities.

Decades of scientific research underpin the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. The passage of this bill will strengthen herd immunity thereby protecting those individuals, who for medical reasons, are unable to receive vaccinations.

“As public health professionals, and as policymakers, we routinely weigh the ethical balance of protecting individual rights against protecting our communities at large.” said Daniel J. Stapleton, NYSACHO president and Public Health director in Niagara County.

“Both statute and case law have continually upheld that the weight of this choice must lean towards protecting the community at large when personal choice puts the lives of others at risk.”

NYSACHO applauds New York State, for enacting this important public health policy into law, and in so doing will return us to a time where measles, and other vaccine-preventable diseases, are a footnote from the past and not a risk to our children’s and our futures.

April 1, 2019 - 2:11pm

Public health column from the Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments:

The Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming County Health Departments are encouraging county residents to “Think Health.” Taking time to think about your health and taking positive health steps will lead to healthier outcomes. Learning something new every day is one way to “Think Health”...

The first week of April is National Public Health Week (NPHW), a week set aside showing us how we can choose healthier living.

National Public Health Week started in April of 1995 by the American Public Health Association (APHA) with a focus on Public Health prevention topics. This year's theme is, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: For science. For action. For Health.”

The topics for each day are:

  • Monday, April 1st -- Healthy Communities: People's health, longevity and well-being are connected to their communities. Americans face many issues in their community such as being exposed to air pollution, lead, and even unsafe places to walk. Working with transportation planners to create safe walking and biking paths and organizing clinics for vaccines such as flu shots are all steps that can be taken to benefit people in the community and prevent preventable deaths. By making health a priority in policymaking we can help make a difference in communities.
  •  
  • Tuesday, April 2nd -- Violence Prevention: Violence is a significant public health problem in the United States, whether it is gun-related, rape, domestic abuse, suicide, or even child abuse. As public health professionals, it is part of our job to prevent acts of violence. This can be done through urging policy makers to inforce stricter gun laws, working with local colleges to help victims of sexual violence, and enforcing home visits to prevent child maltreatment. It is important to advocate community-driven solutions that target the source of where the violence is coming from that do not punish the community as a whole.
  •  
  • Wednesday, April 3rd -- Rural Health: Americans who live in rural communities have an increased risk of death from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease. There has also been a higher rate of suicide and opioid overdoses shown in rural communities. To improve rural community’s health it is important that we focus on social determinants that negatively impact health. By offering telemedicine, increasing job training opportunities and helping children achieve success academically; we can help improve the health of those living in rural populations.
  •  
  • Thursday, April 4th -- Technology and Public Health: Technology can be a powerful public health tool. It can be used to help educate and advocate communities, can help practitioners swap their best practices, can be used for GIS mapping, and can even be used as a text line to find out information about certain health topics. It is important that public health funding levels continue to be supported to allow workers to have access to the latest technology.
  •  
  • Friday, April 5th -- Climate Change: Climate change is seen as one of the greatest threats to public health. It can lead to natural disasters, impact food security, water and air quality, and even increase the risk of vector-borne diseases. Climate change is a real issue that has already begun to occur. Supporting policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carpooling, and steering toward renewable, clean energies instead of fossil fuels can help make a difference in climate change and our health.
  •  
  • Saturday and Sunday, April 6th & 7th -- Global Health: America's health and the world's health are fundamentally connected. Consider that during the H1N1 flu pandemic, the virus quickly traveled around the world and a global effort was required to track its movements and eventually contain the disease. Across the world, communities still struggle with preventable and often-neglected diseases.The World Health Organization's (WHO) top 10 threats to global health include: pandemic flu, cholera, violent conflict, malaria, malnutrition and natural disasters.

Public Health covers a wide variety of topic areas. According to the WHO, public health refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole. Its activities aim to provide conditions in which people can be healthy and focus on entire populations, not on individual patients or diseases. It is important to remember that most of public health is prevention!

“As you can see, public health isn’t just about being physically healthy,” said Paul Pettit, Genesee and Orleans County Public Health director, “it includes the health of the whole body and mind, as well ascommunity resiliency, and the safety of the environment we live, work and play in.

"The Health Departments’are moving into the role of Chief Health Strategists, we want to embrace and encourage our communities to work with us to create new and innovative ways to improve health, so please reach out.”

The benefits of prevention are undeniable. For example, public health is credited with adding 25 years to life expectancy of people in the United States.

“Promoting public health in community development, local businesses and through community events will help us move toward being the healthiest counties in New York State,” said Dr. Gregory Collins, commissioner of Wyoming County Public Health.

What can you do throughout the year to encourage better health in your home, neighborhood, work place and county?

For information about this article or health department services contact, Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.

March 24, 2019 - 3:12pm

Public Health Column from the Genesee County Health Department:

Do you know that 80 percent of elevated lead levels in adults come from workplace exposures? Adults who do work in construction, auto repairs, paint, weld steel, or even reconstruct bridges have high chances of being exposed to lead.

Exposure can also occur during renovation or remodeling activities in homes built before 1978 when personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves aren’t used. Adults are typically exposed to lead when it is ingested through food, water, cigarettes, contaminated hands, or by inhaling lead fumes or dust.

People with these jobs also risk bringing home dust with lead on their work clothes, skin or equipment. It’s referred to as “take-home lead” and can expose anyone who comes in contact with it to lead.

Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans counties, said it's important to minimize take-home lead exposure.

“By bringing lead into your home, you are putting your family at risk, especially if you have children," Bedard said. "Lead can severely impact a child’s intellectual development, even in the womb, as well as cause other negative health effects for adults.

If your work involves any of the jobs listed above or if you have a hobby involving any type of renovations or remodeling, it is important that you get tested for lead by your Primary Care Doctor.”

According to the New York State Department of Health, lead levels between 10 and 25 micrograms per deciliter of blood (μg/dL) shows that there has been an exposure to lead and will require further actions for treatment. In 2013, the national prevalence rate of blood leads levels ≥10 μg/dL was 20.4 adults per 100,000 employed.

When lead is exposed to the body, about 90 percent is stored in bones and the rest is distributed to the brain, liver and kidneys. When your body undergoes changes such as aging and pregnancy, lead in the bones can be released into the blood leading to higher blood lead levels and increased likelihood of symptoms.

Lead exposure can be very damaging to your health and even lead to death if exposure is extremely high. Some symptoms include high blood pressure, vision or hearing problems, digestive issues, memory loss, seizures, headaches, pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet, and even feelings of weakness.

Tips to Protect Yourself From Lead:

  • Monitor blood lead levels;
  • Shower after working;
  • Wash your hands before you drink, eat, or smoke;
  • Change clothes before going home;
  • Wash work clothes separately;
  • Wear a fitted respirator with a HEPA filter when working with lead and dust fumes;
  • Participate in your employer's lead screening program.

Lead should be taken seriously and it is important to get tested if you think you may be at risk. For information about lead, click here or contact your local Health Department.

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.
March 19, 2019 - 2:16pm

From the GC Health Department:

According to the 2019 County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) the Genesee and Orleans counties rank 42nd and 52nd, 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," said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

"With this knowledge, we can take steps to improve the health of our residents. 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 length of life and quality of life, and Health Factors, which include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Genesee County ranked 42 out of 62 counties for Health Outcomes and 29 in Health Factors. Orleans County ranked 52 in Health Outcomes and 54 in Health Factors.

“The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” Pettit said. “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 2019 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in New York State (NYS) starting with most healthy are Rockland, followed by Nassau, Westchester, Saratoga, and New York. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy are Bronx, Sullivan, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Niagara.

What’s new for 2019? This year’s Rankings explore severe housing cost burden and health. The 2019 Key Findings Report highlights the link between housing and health that the RWJF and the UWPHI are seeing across the nation. As housing costs have outpaced local incomes, many families not only struggle to acquire and maintain adequate shelter, but also face difficult trade-offs in meeting other basic needs.

Did you know that across counties increases in the share of households that are severely housing-cost burdened are linked to more children in poverty and more people facing food insecurity?

New measures this year that help to illustrate how counties are fairing including Severe Housing-cost Burden, Homeownership, and Life Expectancy. A new ranked measure included this year is Flu Vaccinations. In addition, an updated data source for the ranked measures of Preventable Hospital Stays and Mammography Screening are being used.

“The County Health Rankings show how Genesee and Orleans Counties rank on factors that influence its overall health ranking,” Pettit said.

For example, Genesee County has an improved Clinical Care ranking, scoring 40 this year as compared to 57 out of 62 counties five years ago. This improvement can be attributed to a lower uninsured population (under age 65) than the NYS average, as well as an increasing number of mental health providers available although still far behind the state average.

A similar trend can be found in Orleans County in regards to these two ranked measures. Additional strengths in Genesee County include a lower percentage of
children living in poverty, which is 15 percent as compared to the state average of 20 percent. As well, the high school graduation rate in Genesee County (91 percent) and Orleans County (89 percent) in 2019 is higher than the state average of 82 percent.

The rankings of Social Associations, Severe Housing Problems, and Long Commute-Driving Alone are also fairing well in both counties compared to the NYS averages. Orleans County has also improved in the Physical Environment and Health Factors rankings, by 11 points (21 out of 62) and two points (54 out of 62) compared to 2018.

Even with the above mentioned positive trends, both counties continue to have challenge areas and are still struggling with health factors specifically with adult smoking (Genesee – 20 percent / Orleans – 22 percent), adult obesity (Genesee – 35 percent / Orleans – 36 percent), physical inactivity (Genesee – 29 percent / Orleans – 31 percent), access to exercise opportunities (Genesee – 61 percent / Orleans – 70 percent), driving alone to work (Genesee – 84 percent / Orleans – 80 percent), and access to clinical care for primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers.

Orleans County is also ranked as having a higher percentage of children living in poverty (24 percent) as compared to the state average mentioned earlier.

The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all. Working collaboratively with community partners, Genesee and Orleans counties have a number of initiatives to expand health opportunities for residents, including providing the National Diabetes Prevention Program (Prevent T2), a lifestyle change program to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes; the Get Fit! Program, an eight-week family-friendly physical activity and nutrition focused program; a tri-county Opioid Task Force; decrease smoking/nicotine usage through referrals and increase cancer screenings.

“The Rankings data will be used in conjunction with additional local sources, such as the Community Health Assessment (CHA) Surveys and Community Conversations that are being collected and occurring now, to inform the 2019-2024 Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming (GOW) Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) which will be submitted to the NYS Department of Health this December, Pettit said.

The CHA survey is available online in English and Spanish until March 31, 2019. Paper copies are also available at various locations in each county. The survey is anonymous and only takes about 15 minutes to complete and focuses on the health of the person taking it. If you are younger than 18, be sure to receive permission to take the survey from your parent(s) or guardian(s).

To access the GOW CHA survey visit here for English or here for Spanish.

The GOW 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. Responses from the confidential surveys and conversations will help identify services that are working, need improving, or to be created.

The more members of the public who participate, the larger and stronger the “building block” of these plans will be!

To participate in a community conversation, obtain hard copies of the survey, or have any questions about the County Health Rankings, please contact your local health department.

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.
February 19, 2019 - 4:11pm

Public Health Column for February

The Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming County Health Departments are encouraging county residents to “Choose Health.” By taking small steps in our day-to-day living and making positive health choices, people have the ability to change their future health for the better.

During an average lifespan, the heart beats more than two billion times. The heart is vital to your health and without it blood wouldn’t be able to move through your body. February is American Heart Month, a time to remember how important this muscle is and educate ourselves on how to take better care of it since it is the reason we are alive.

According to the New York State Department of Health, more people die of cardiovascular diseases than all other causes of death combined. In fact, approximately 610,000 people die in the United States every year from heart disease, making the disease accountable for 1 in every 4 deaths.

In 2015, Genesee County had 201 deaths from cardiovascular disease, Orleans County had 144 deaths, and Wyoming County had 120 deaths.

The most common cardiovascular disease is coronary heart disease (CHD), killing an average of 370,000 people every year. This disease occurs when the small blood vessels that carry oxygen and blood to our hearts get very narrow. Coronary heart disease is usually caused by a condition called atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty material and a substance called plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries.

Plaque is a waxy substance that forms in the artery wall made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances. The buildup forces the arteries to become narrow, slowing down or completely stopping the blood flow to the heart. Narrowing of the arteries can lead to chest pains (stable angina), shortness of breath, or even heart attack.

Heart disease has a close relationship to lifestyle choices. This is why it is so important that you make healthy decisions, participate in physical activity, and eat healthy.

The New York State Department of Health recommends people of all ages engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes on all or most days of the week. If you do not exercise at all, start slow and discuss with your doctor steps you should take to get active and help improve your heart health.

This may include going to the gym, getting involved in a sport, or even walking the mall with a friend. You can even break the exercise up and do 10 minutes three times a day building up to 30 minutes a day, if 30 minutes all at once seems to be too overwhelming. By repeating these small changes daily, they are likely to turn into a habit and your heart will thank you for it in the long run.

It is also important when focusing on heart health to pay close attention to nutrition. Poor nutrition can lead to many health problems, including high blood cholesterol levels, obesity and diabetes.

Consuming food high in saturated fat (whole milk, butter, and red meats), trans fats (foods with hydrogenated oils like boxed cookies, crackers, and doughnuts) or sodium (found in many processed foods) can increase your risk of getting heart disease.

To improve you’re eating habits and lower risks of heart disease you can eat more fruits and vegetables, limit processed foods, eat foods high in fiber, reduce your sodium intake and limit trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol.

When choosing to eat meats avoid red meats and go for lean meat instead, these would include meats such as lean ground turkey, fish, and skinless chicken.

“Staying on track when it comes to eating healthy can be a difficult thing to do but is extremely necessary to stay healthy and preventcardiovascular disease,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health director for Genesee and Orleans counties.

Although poor nutrition and lack of exercise are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, the single largest risk factor is smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack as nonsmokers are, and are between two and four times more likely to die suddenly from heart disease. This is due to the nicotine in cigarettes raising blood pressure and the carbon monoxide limiting the amount of oxygen that can be carried by your blood.

Although you may not smoke, exposure to smoke in the home and workplace has also been shown to increase risk from the second hand smoke. Talk with family members about quitting smoking or discuss designated smoke areas to reduce second hand smoke.

The New York State Smoker’s Quitline is a great resource for free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and support services. Call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866- 697-8487) or visit www.nysmokefree.com.

There are also other factors that increase your risk for heart disease. Unfortunately some of those factors may be out of your control. One factor happens to be gender. For example, men in their 40s have a higher risk of heart disease than women. However, as women get older, their risk increases so that it is almost equal to a man’s risk.

Secondly, genetics can play a role in developing heart disease. If someone in your family has had heart disease, especially before age 50, your own risk increases as you age. It is especially important that precautions are taken and healthy habits are made in order to decrease risk of developing heart disease.

So how do I know if I am having a heart attack? Well, here are some signs:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and then comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or just pain;
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach;

  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort;

  • Breaking into a cold sweat;

  • Nausea;

  • Lightheadedness;

  • Palpitations (feeling like your heart is pounding or beating fast)

    (Source

It is important to understand that men and women often have different signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience the less known symptoms of the jaw and back pain, nausea and vomiting.

Unfortunately, many people are unsure of what is happening to their body and wait to seek help, instead of going in right away to find out what is wrong.

It is important to learn the signs, but also remember that even if you are not sure if it is a heart attack, to tell a doctor about your symptoms. Just one call to the doctors, explaining your symptoms could save your life. Minutes matter!

If you think you are having a heart attack, do not wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1.

For additional information, contact your local health department.

Contact the Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.

February 6, 2019 - 3:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in Genesee County Health Department, news.

Public Service Announcement

ALBANY -- Yesterday New York’s county health officials, including those from Genesee County, urged Legislative leaders to issue a “call to action” to counter elements of the Governor’s 2019-2020 Executive Budget proposal that significantly underfund local health departments.

The local health department will be critical partners in implementing new health policies, including legalized recreational marijuana, “Tobacco 21” and an expanded child lead poisoning prevention plan.

The public health officials’ concerns were shared in formal testimony by the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO), presented at the joint Legislative hearing on the health sections of the Executive’s 2019- 2020 budget proposal.

While lauding policy elements of the Governor’s budget plan, including the expanded lead exposure prevention plan and raising the legal tobacco use age to 21, NYSACHO President Paul Pettit told members of the Legislature that the proposal cuts millions from public health, under what is known as Article 6 funding, while significantly increasing the obligations of local health departments.

January 25, 2019 - 5:20pm

Press release:

The Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming 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 to four years.

The information will 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, which is the blueprint for state and local action to improve the health of New Yorkers.

To fully assess the health status of our communities we are asking for your input because your health counts! These organizations are asking the public to participate by taking a survey and sharing their viewpoints during community conversations.

An online survey is available, as well as paper copies at various locations in each county. You can access the survey here.

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 assessing current capacity, resources, and services,” said Paul Pettit, director for Genesee and Orleans County health departments.

“This will also help identify community health needs and current gaps, ultimately helping 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.

Responses from the confidential surveys and conversations will help identify services that are working, need improving, or to be created. The more members of the public who participate, the larger and stronger the “building block” of these plans will be.

To participate in a community conversation, obtain hardcopies of the survey, flyers that promote completing the survey online, or have any questions please contact your local health department:

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.
December 27, 2018 - 1:03pm

From the Genesee and Orleans health departments:

With the year closing out, both the Genesee County and Orleans County health departments would like to wish you and yours a healthy and Happy New Year!

The collaboration between the two counties has provided several opportunities to meet our joint mission to work collaboratively ensuring conditions that promote optimal health for individuals and the communities we serve.

In 2018, we have had a successful joint Point of Distribution (POD) exercise to test our Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program. Staff have had the opportunity to work across the county borders to assist in department functions during times of limited staff.

We have added the Weights & Measures program in both counties to provide a consumer connection with vendors of food, fuel and other providers to test and verify the accuracy of weighing and measuring devices.

Our children’s programs work diligently to provide education, case management, support and referrals to help the children of our counties succeed and enjoy a good quality of life.

The Community Health Services of both departments work hard to limit the spread of communicable diseases by providing immunizations, lead poisoning prevention direction, as well as provide guidance for pregnant moms and families with new babies.

The nursing staff has provided migrant health outreach to assist the farm workers in both counties along with investigating disease / foodborne illness outbreaks.

The Environmental Team provides quality inspections to assure we are safe from foodborne illness, have working septic systems, and help keep our pets safe from rabies.

The Public Health Education Team has welcomed Marlowe Thompson to work in both counties assisting with the upcoming Community Health Assessment (CHA), Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), and the Public Health Accreditation Board process. The team along with one of our nurses is able to provide Narcan training to local businesses and organizations to help battle the opioid crisis.

Prevent Type 2 Diabetes Workshops will be starting up in early 2019 in both counties in partnership with our hospitals. Our support team is always working to make sure the department is run within budget, keep our forms straight and provide guidance with insurance reimbursement.

In 2019, we are looking to shift from organizational thinking to community-focused thinking by taking the role of Community Chief Health Strategists. Our departments have always worked collaboratively with other agencies within our borders and are looking to focus community resources on improving specific health outcomes as we develop our tri-county CHA/CHIP and in partnership with the local hospital systems, Community Services Plan.

We will be looking to community members to assist in this process by participating in community conversations and taking a community health assessment survey.

Both departments look forward to having a joint website where you can access forms and information from both county health departments. We continue to provide timely posts on our GO Health NY Facebook and Twitter pages along with increasing interviews on our GO Health NY YouTube site.

“It is our pleasure to serve the residents and visitors of Genesee and Orleans counties,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans county health departments. “On behalf of the staff in both counties thank you for the opportunity to serve you and we look forward to a great 2019!”

For information about Health Department services contact:

  • Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.
  • Orleans County Health Department at 589-3278, or check out this website here.
December 10, 2018 - 12:21pm

Public health column from the Genesee County Health Department:

Did you know that exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year are related to radon.

Many people are unaware that radon may be a problem in their homes because it is a radioactive gas that you cannot smell, taste or see. The good news is that lung cancer related to radon exposure can be prevented by testing your home.

So where does radon come from? Radon gas forms naturally in the ground from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water that circulates into the air we breathe. When radon is formed under homes and buildings, it can easily enter through cracks in the foundation, walls, joints, dirt floors, opening of sump pump, in well-water supply, and from gaps around suspended floors and pipes.

When radon enters a home, the toxic gas can get trapped inside. Breathing indoor air with high radon levels can be damaging to your health.

Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, explains the dangers relationship betweensmoking, radon, and lung cancer.

“Radon and tobacco smoke from cigarettes (including but not limited to cigars and pipes) can damage your lungs," Pettit said. "When they’re combined, smoking and radon are more dangerous than either one on its own. Smokers who live in a home with high radon levels have a risk of lung cancer that is 10 times higher than nonsmokers who live in homes with high radon levels.”

Testing your home is the only way to know if you and your family are exposed to radon. A short-term test kit is the quickest and easiest way to test your home. The EPA recommends testing the lowest level of your home where people spend time.

If you use part of your basement for living space, like a playroom, office, or den, test there. If you only use your basement for storage, test the first floor. Avoid testing in places that are damp like the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room.

The EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter) or higher.

In Genesee County, the average basement screening level is 7.46 pCi/L, and the average first-floor screening level is 4.32 pCi/L.

Due to the high levels of radon, the Genesee County Health Department offers free short-term radon test kits to residents in Genesee County. The department also provides educational in-services and materials about radon, testing and mitigation at no charge.

If your home has an elevated level of radon, you should contact a certified radon mitigator to install a radon reduction system in your home. It is important to note that these systems should only be installed by a certified radon mitigator.

A radon reduction system can be a low cost and effective way to reduce the level of radon in your home. If you are purchasing a new house, make sure the seller completes a radon test 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.

For more information on radon, please visit here.

For more details about the program or to receive any of these services call the department at 585-344-2580, ext. 5555, ot visit here.

December 5, 2018 - 4:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in flu, news, Genesee County Health Department.

Press release:

The Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming County health departments are challenging county residents to choose "Healthy Behaviors" during National Influenza Vaccination Week from Dec. 2-8th. 'Tis the season of influenza (flu), where keeping hands clean and covering up coughs/sneezes are friendly ways of not spreading the flu to others.

We are encouraging everyone who can, big and small, to get the flu shot this year as a good way to be safe from the flu. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that a flu vaccination has many benefits, which can prevent you from getting sick with the flu.

CDC also states that during the 2017-2018 flu season the flu vaccine prevented: 49 million flu illnesses, 79,000 deaths, and 960,000 flu-related hospitalizations. For anyone over 6 months old, please get the flu shot as a healthy and safe gift to yourself and your family this holiday season.

Being vaccinated will help to protect babies (less than 6 months old) and individuals with medical conditions who cannot receive the flu vaccine.

It takes about two weeks after getting the flu vaccine for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so making plans now is a wise choice.

Per the CDC, children aged 6 months to 8 years old require two doses of flu vaccine (administered ≥ four weeks apart) if they have never been vaccinated against flu before, their vaccination history is unknown, or they haven’t received two doses before July 1, 2016.

“Influenza activity is increasing each week throughout New York State, laboratory cases so firths season have been confirmed in Genesee and Wyoming Counties,” said Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services for Genesee and Orleans.

Tips to Stay Healthy During Flu Season:

  • Wash your hands throughout the day with soap and water, or sanitizer when you’re not by a sink;
  • Cover up coughs and sneezes with your arm or tissue. Be sure to wash your hands afterward;

  • Limit handshaking and hugs during the flu season;

  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched items, including but not limited to, phones, computers, other electronic items, countertops/surfaces, door knobs, and toys.

To learn more about the flu visit the New York State Department of Health website here.

For information about Health Department services contact the Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.

October 30, 2018 - 5:51pm

From the Genesee County Health Department:

Lead in gasoline and paint has been banned in the United States since the 1970s, yet lead exposure and poisoning is still a problem in too many households.

Did you know that today, exposure and poisoning from this toxic metal still affects millions of people? While lead is harmful for everyone, it is even more dangerous to children and can cause lifelong and life-threatening health problems.

In an effort to combat this ongoing problem, the last week in October is recognized as National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, wants to remind our communitythat knowledge is power.

“Lead poisoning can be prevented," Pettit said. "The key is to keep children from coming in contact with lead. Take time this week to learn about ways to reduce your child’s exposure to lead in their environment and preventits serious health effects.”

Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing in lead dust. The most common sources of lead can be found in the soil, chipping paint, household dust, contaminated drinking water from old plumbing, lead-glazed pottery, some metal jewelry, and at some jobsites -- typically construction, manufacturing and mining.

“Although the use of lead was banned from products such as paint since 1978, many homes in our communities stillhave remnants of old lead paint in them,” said Sarah Balduf, Environmental Health director of Genesee and Orleans Counties. “Old, chipping paint, particularly around window sills, door frames, banisters, and porches, can causea serious problem, especially in young children who tend to spend most of their time crawling or playing on the floor.”

Local data shows the majority of the homes in our communities were built before 1978, indicating lead may still be present even under fresh layers of paint. According to the 2016 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates there are approximately 25,657 total housing structures in Genesee County; 76.3 percent were built in 1979 or earlier with 39.6 percent built in 1939 or earlier. In Orleans County there are approximately 18,509 total housing structures; 76.2 percent were built in 1979 or earlier with 45.1percent built in 1939 or earlier. In Wyoming County there are approximately 18,072 total housing structures; 76.0 percent were built in 1979 or earlier with 43.6 percent built in 1939 or earlier.

The chipping paint that Balduf described can produce a dust that is easily ingested by young children who often put their hands in their mouths. This is just one example of how lead can enter their bodies and harm their health by disrupting their growth and development, increasing behavioral problems, and lowering the child’s IQ. Many organs in the body are affected by lead, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, brain, spleen, muscles and heart.

There are typically no signs or symptoms to help you know if your child has lead poisoning. A person with lead poisoning usually does not look or feel sick. The best way to find out if your child has lead poisoning is by testing. The most common test is a quick blood test. It measures how much lead is in the bloodstream.

According to the New York State Department of Health, it is required that children are tested for lead at age 1 and again at age 2. Children will continue to be monitored for lead at well-child visits until they reach age 6. Pediatricians will explain what the child’s blood level means and if their levels are within a healthy range.

Pregnant women should also be tested as they can pass lead to their unborn baby. High levels of lead during pregnancy can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. Other pregnancy problems may include low birth weight, poor growth, and premature delivery.

Lead testing rates in Genesee County from 2016 reveal that 56.8 percent of children were being tested for lead at age one and 54.2 percent of children were being tested for lead at age 2. Lead testing rates in Orleans County from 2017 reveal that 57.9 percent of children were being tested for lead at age one and 51.9 percent of children were being tested for lead at age 2. Lead testing rates in Wyoming County from 2017 reveal that 63.12 percent of children were being tested for lead at age one and 62.79 percent of children were being tested for lead at age 2.

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week increases awareness for a year round problem. Educating yourself about the dangers of lead poisoning and ways to lessen lead exposure will benefit the health and well-being of your family. Take action today by reviewing these simple steps to reduce lead exposure in your home.

  • Keep a clean and dust free home.
  • Use a damp cloth and a damp mop to reduce the spread of dust.
  • Teach good handwashing habits.

  • Consume a diet with foods that are rich in nutrients such as calcium, iron, and vitamin C.

  • Good nutrition and regular meals can help prevent lead poisoning since there are many good nutrients being absorbed in the body. An empty stomach has the ability to absorb more lead and store it in the bones. Supporting strong bones and a healthy body will help minimize the amount of lead absorbed in the body.
  • Be mindful to not bring lead home on clothes from jobsites or working on hobbies.

  • Let cold water run for 1 minute before drinking it, especially if it has not been used for a few hours.

  • Fix and repair peeling paint safely. Contact your local health department for more information on how to do so.

  • Take time to talk with your doctor or health department staff to learn more about your risk of lead poisoning or visit the New York State Health Department website at: https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/

For information about Health Department services contact:

Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.

October 4, 2018 - 12:36pm

The following is a Health Guidance*  statement issued by the GC Department of Health about West Nile virus in Genesee (and Orleans) County:

Mosquitoes are usually considered a nuisance pest, but occasionally they can transmit viruses to people and some animals. In New York State, mosquitoes have been found to transmit Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE, "triple E") and West Nile virus (WNV).

Such viruses can cause serious illness and even death. While your chances of being infected with a disease through a mosquito bite are very small, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk of being bitten. This year WNV has been detected in both Genesee and Orleans counties.

Specifically, per the NYS Department of Health Statewide Mosquito-Borne Disease Activity Report, last month -- in September -- an equine (horse or related animal), bird and human case tested positive in Genesee County and an equine case in Orleans County.

West Nile Virus Disease is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. The infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and other animals, such as horses.

Vaccine is available to reduce the risk of horses contracting the virus. Unfortunately there is no vaccine for humans, taking the proper preventative actions to avoid getting bit are our best options.

In New York State, cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which begins in the summer and continues throughout fall. Most mosquitoes are active between dusk and dawn when the air is calm.

Sarah Balduf, Environmental Health Director of Genesee and Orleans counties states that not all mosquitoes are able to transmit the virus.

“While there are about 70 different species of mosquitoes in the State, only certain species have been associated with WNV,” Balduf said.

WNV is spread ONLY through a mosquito bite.

It is NOT spread through coughing, sneezing, touching live animals, or handling live or dead infected birds. But it is strongly advised to avoid bare-handed contact when handling any dead animal. If you are disposing of a dead bird, use gloves or double plastic bags to place the carcass (body) in a garbage can.

Symptoms of WNV vary from person to person. Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans counties, explains that only a small percentage of people infected with the disease will show symptoms.

“Most people infected, 70-80 percent, with WNV do not develop any symptoms," Bedard said.

It is estimated that 20 percent of the people who become infected will develop less severe symptoms including headache and body aches, nausea, fever, and occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands.

Symptoms of severe infections include (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, seizures, paralysis, coma, and in some cases death.”

Symptoms of WNV usually appear within three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Health care providers diagnose WNV based on the patient's clinical symptoms and laboratory diagnosis by testing blood or spinal fluids, which will show if the virus or antibodies against the virus are present in the person.

Although there is no specific treatment for WNV, health care providers will usually attempt to relieve the symptoms of the illness. In severe cases, patients may need to be hospitalized and closely monitored.

When infected adult mosquitoes are spreading a virus to people, acting quickly can stop further spread and prevent more people from getting sick. By using multiple mosquito control methods at the same time, people and communities can help stop the spread of disease.

The New York State Department of Health recommends the following:

  • Cover your skin as completely as possible. Wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods or       when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Use mosquito repellent, which should always be applied according to label directions. Do not let children apply mosquito repellent on himself or herself, and do not apply to the hands of small children.
  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (the label may say citriodiol or p-menthane 3,8 -diol). Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3 years of age. Products containing permethrin kill insects that come in contact with treated clothing, and are for use on clothing only, not skin.
  • Use as little repellent as you need, and avoid unnecessary repeat applications. Do not overspray. Apply repellent outdoors.
  • Do not apply near eyes, nose or mouth and use sparingly around ears. • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
  • Cover baby carriers with mosquito netting when outside.
  • Close doors and make sure open windows have screens on them.
  • Limit use of perfumes and scents that would attract mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in or near water, and their offspring "grow up" in water before emerging as adults that fly and bite. Therefore, mosquitoes can be controlled by controlling water.

Many types of mosquitoes, including those that can transmit disease, lay their eggs in even small amounts of standing water around the home such as flowerpots, birdbaths and discarded tires. To reduce the mosquito population in and around your home, reduce or eliminate all standing water by following these steps:

  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.

  • Remove all discarded tires on your property. Check with your local landfill or public works authorities to find out how to dispose of them properly.

  • Remove all fallen leaves.

  • Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.

  • Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall. Make sure roof gutters drain properly.

  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use. Make sure outside toys and play areas are clear of standing water.

  • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week. Clean plants and debris from the edge of ponds.

  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Drain water from pool covers. Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.

For more information on the West Nile Virus, please click here.

For more information on Mosquitoes and Diseases, click here.

The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) is now using five types of classifications to provide important information to medical and public health professionals, and to other interested persons:

  • Health Alerts convey information of the highest level of importance which warrants immediate action or attention from New York health providers, emergency responders, public health agencies, and/or the public.
  • Health Advisories provide important information for a specific incident or situation, including that impacting neighboring states; may not require immediate action.
  • * Health Guidances contain comprehensive information pertaining to a particular disease or condition, and include recommendations, guidelines, etc. endorsed by GCHD.
  • Health Updates provide new or updated information on an incident or situation; can also provide information to update a previously sent Health Alert, Health Advisory, or Health Guidance; unlikely to require immediate action.
  • Health Promotions provide information on a upcoming event, observance, or topic area.
September 25, 2018 - 12:04pm

Public Health Column from the Genesee County Health Department:

Do you have small children or grandchildren? Are you pregnant and getting your older home ready for your new baby? Do you live in a house or send your children to a day care center built before 1978? Do you know the last time your child was tested for lead poisoning?

If you don’t know the answer to the last question, talk with your primary care provider or contact your local Health Department and ask about testing.

Lead is a metal that can harm children and adults when it gets into their bodies. Lead can be found in dust, air, water, soil, and in some products used in and around the home. Most homes built before 1978 have old lead paint, often under newer paint.

If paint peels, cracks, or is worn down, the chips and dust from the old lead paint can spread onto floors, windowsills and all around your home. Lead dust can then get onto children's hands and toys, and into their mouths.

Generally there are no signs or symptoms to help you know if your child has lead poisoning. A person with lead poisoning usually does not look or feel sick. The best way to find out if your child has lead poisoning is by testing.

The most common test is a quick blood test. It measures how much lead is in the bloodstream. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, delayed development, and academic achievement.

New York State requires doctors to test all children with a blood lead test at age 1 year and again at age 2 years. At every well-child visit up to age 6, health care providers must ask parents about any contact their child might have had with lead.

If there's been a chance of contact, providers are required to test for lead again. Parents can ask their child's doctor or nurse if their child should get a lead test, and what the lead test results mean.

“Children under the age of 6 years old are at risk because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands and/or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths,” said Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans Counties.

In addition to children, pregnant women should be tested for lead as well.

“Expectant mothers who live in an older home and are exposed to lead dust can inhale the particles and pass it on to their baby," Bedard said. "Your doctor should discuss proper prenatal care to reduce your exposure to lead during your pregnancy and how to prevent lead exposure to your baby once he/she is born.”

The good news is that you can protect your family from lead poisoning. Talk to your healthcare provider about potential lead sources in your house or anywhere your kids spend long periods of time, such as a daycare or a relative’s house.

Here are some ways to reduce or eliminate your exposure to lead/ lead dust:

Fix peeling lead paint and make home repairs safely.

  • Keep children away from peeling or chipped paint.

  • Before making repairs in a home built before 1978, call your local health department to learn how to work safely and keep dust levels down.

  • Children and pregnant women should stay away from repairs that disturb old paint, such as sanding and scraping. They should stay away until the    area is cleaned using wet cleaning methods and a HEPA vacuum (not dry sweeping).

Wash dust off hands, toys, bottles, windows and floors.

  • Wash your child's hands and face after play, before meals, and before bed.

  • Wash toys, stuffed animals, pacifiers and bottles with soap and water often.

  • Mop floors often, and use damp paper towels to clean window wells and sills.

Be careful not to bring lead home on clothes, toys, or jewelry.

Keep lead out of your food and tap water.

Serve foods that have calcium, iron, and vitamin C.

​Lead is in some children's jewelry, toys, keys, and old furniture. Sign up for children's product recall alerts at www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.

Some jobs and hobbies can involve contact with lead. These include: painting, plumbing, construction, car repair, or working with firearms, stained glass or pottery.

To lower lead dust, change work clothes before going home; take shoes off at your door; wash work or hobby clothes separately; wash face, hands and uncovered skin before going home.

  • Let tap water run for one minute before using it, if it hasn't been run for a few hours. Town and well water could have lead from old plumbing.

  • Only use cold tap water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula. Boiling your water does not get rid of lead.

  • Use lead-free dishes. Don't serve or store food in pewter, crystal, or cracked pottery.

These foods help keep lead from being stored in your child's body:

  • Foods with calcium: milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, and green, leafy vegetables.

  • Foods with iron: beans, lean meat, fortified cereal and peanut butter.

  • Foods with vitamin C: oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, tomatoes, green peppers.

For information about Health Department services contact: Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.

June 13, 2018 - 2:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in rabies, Genesee County Health Department.

Press release from the GC Health Department:

Springtime is a perfect time to remind everyone about how dangerous rabies can be and what you can do to prevent exposure to you, your family and your pets.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that can be fatal once symptoms (signs) show up. Rabies is a central nervous system disease, which attacks the brain and causes death. Rabies can be spread through bites, scratches, and saliva.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that each year, the majority of rabies cases occur in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Though those are the most commonly reported animals with rabies, all mammals; including humans can be infected.

Therefore, it is recommended that pet owners and livestock owners get their animals vaccinated for rabies. In New York State, cats are the most often diagnosed domestic animals.

Sarah Balduf, Environmental Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, reported that so far in 2018 there have been a total of 19 animals submitted for rabies testing between the two counties and three have tested positive for the fatal disease, complete details below.

In addition to these animals, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has submitted one deer from Genesee County, which tested negative.

Genesee County -- Animals Tested for Rabies as of June 12:

Total Tested / Total Positive

  • Bat: 2 tested / 1 tested position 
  • Cat: 3 tested / 1 tested positive
  • Dog: 3 tested / 0 tested positive
  • Horse: 1 tested / 0 tested positive
  • Raccoon: 1 tested / 1 tested positive

One of the first signs of rabies in animals includes a change in the animal’s behavior.

Balduf said “Animals may become unusually aggressive, or may develop an unwarranted sense of fear or it may lose its fear of another animal. In wild animals, symptoms are as follows; affectionate or friendly, or it may attack anything in its path, due to excitable or irritable behavior. Other symptoms include staggering, convulsions, choking, foaming at the mouth and paralysis.”

Though rabies may take up to three months to fully develop, there are some early signs to look out for in humans.

These signs include fever, headache, sore throat, and unexplained tiredness. If an animal bite or scratch is not reported right after it happens, the disease can develop. The signs after development include, pain and tingling at the bite site, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), strong tightening of the muscles in the throat and paralysis starting at the infection site.

To protect yourself from rabies, people are encouraged to avoid feeding touching or adopting wild animals and stray domestic animals such as dogs and cats.

People are also encouraged to keep their pets (dogs, cats and ferrets), and livestock animals up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. Keeping a close eye on children who are playing outdoors and telling them the dangers of playing with wild or stray animals (alive or dead) is also highly recommended.

It is very important to make sure you are not attracting wildlife to your home. You can do this by making sure that your garbage cans are not accessible by wild life and you don’t leave pet food out unattended.

Anyone who has been bitten by any animal or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies, needs to "Capture and Call." If you can do so safely, being careful to not damage the head/brain, capture the animal and call your local health department or a doctor 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, ensuring that only those who need treatment get it. In addition, make sure you clean any wounds immediately with soap and water.

(*If a bat is found in a room where there are unattended children, someone sleeping or someone who cannot speak for him/herself or your family pet, do not let the bat out of the house. To learn how to capture a bat safely, view a short video at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/ communicable/zoonoses/rabies/.)

A doctor or health department will determine if they need to be vaccinated with rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (RPEP). A person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated against rabies should get four doses of rabies vaccine — one dose right away, and additional doses on the third, seventh and 14th days.

People who have weakened immune systems may require a fifth dose of vaccine, as determined by their doctor.

The dosage and cost for an individual to be treated with RPEP depends on the individual’s weight. The cost to treat an individual for rabies is estimated to be about $3,750. Local health departments will work with the patient’s insurance company but what cannot be covered by insurance is paid out by the county, and ultimately you, the taxpayer.

Another reason it is important to love your own animals and leave the rest alone. So far in 2018, 20 individuals have been treated for RPEP in Genesee County and four people have been treated for RPEP in Orleans County. These numbers could be lower if animals were safely captured and submitted for testing.

To protect your pets from rabies, please visit our upcoming anti-rabies clinic in Genesee County:

  • Genesee County: 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 16: Genesee County Fair Grounds, 5031 E. Main Street Road, Batavia.

For information about Health Department services contact the Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website at www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/health/index.html 

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