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Dec 01
BPHC Recognizes World AIDS Day 2018
​Did you know that an estimated 1,122,900 adults and adolescents were living with HIV in the United States at the end of 2015? Of those, it is estimated that 162,500 (15%) did not know their status before being tested. The younger a person is, the less likely they are to know their status. Among people aged 13-24 with HIV, 51% are estimated to not know their status.

In 2014, among all adults and adolescents with HIV (diagnosed or undiagnosed):
  • 62% received some HIV medical care,
  • 48% were retained in continuous HIV care, and
  • 49% had achieved viral suppression (having a very low level of the virus).
From 1987 (the first year HIV was listed as a cause of death on death certificates) through 2015, 507,351 people have died from HIV disease. 

Thanks to better treatments, HIV is no longer a death sentence. However, stigma is still preventing many people from getting tested for HIV; and in some cases, starting treatment if necessary. 

World AIDS Day Logo 2018It is important on this World AIDS Day for us to unite in the fight against HIV and show support for people living with HIV.  

HIV can spread when someone with HIV has unprotected sex or shares injection drug equipment with someone who does not have HIV.  An infected mother can also spread it to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breast feeding. HIV cannot be spread by hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth kissing with someone with HIV. Mosquitoes, ticks, or other blood-sucking insects cannot spread HIV. 

There are several different methods that have been proven to be effective in reducing HIV transmission. They include:

Viral Suppression –Many people living with HIV who take their HIV medicines daily achieve viral suppression. This means that the amount of HIV in the blood is so low that it cannot be detected by routine labs. If a person has an undetectable viral load as a result of treatment, the chances of spreading the virus through sex is extremely unlikely.

PrEP – People who do not have HIV but have an ongoing high risk for HIV infection can take a daily pill that has been proven to reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV.  People are considered to have a high risk for HIV infection if:
  • they are in a relationship with someone that is living with HIV
  • they have multiple sexual partners and do not consistently use condoms
  • they have unprotected sex
  • they inject drugs and share needles or equipment to inject drugs
  • Men who have sex with men who have anal sex without a condom should also consider PrEP. It is important to take the medicine exactly as prescribed to keep the risk of HIV transmission low. PrEP does NOT protect against other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think PrEP is right for you.

PEP – People who may have been exposed to HIV can reduce their chances of getting HIV through PEP (post exposure prophylaxis).  PEP is medication that must be started within 72 hours of HIV exposure to be most effective.  If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, contact a healthcare provider right away. Like PrEP, PEP does NOT protect against STIs other than HIV.

Condoms – Condoms remain one of the most effective methods for sexually active individuals to protect themselves against HIV. They are also the ONLY contraceptive to protect against other STIs. Using condoms in addition with the methods listed above can provide you with the best protection.
 
Join us in the fight this World AIDS Day to stamp out HIV, learn the facts about HIV and help take a stand against HIV stigma! To learn more about HIV, visit www.bphc.org/HIV or call the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050 for information about HIV testing or for help finding a health care provider specializing in HIV prevention and care.
Nov 20
Thanksgiving Food Safety


As we gather with family and friends to celebrate the holidays, it’s important to follow good food safety practices. Did you know that 1 in 6 Americans get food poisoning every year? Food poisoning (known as foodborne illness) is caused by germs (bacteria or viruses) or toxins (harmful substance produced by germs) spread through food. People get sick when they eat contaminated foods such as meat, shellfish, fish, dairy products, produce or some liquids. Keep you and your family healthy this holiday season! Follow these 4 easy steps to keep germs out of your food.

Clean

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds
    • before and after preparing food
    • after touching raw food
    • before eating
    • after using the restroom, and
    • after changing a diaper or cleaning up a child who has used the restroom
  • Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before cooking, packing, or eating.
  • Wash all surfaces and utensils with warm, soapy water before and after use.

 Separate

  • Keep juices from raw meat, poultry, or fish from coming in contact with other foods cooked or raw that are ready to eat. These juices contain germs!
  • Use separate plates for raw and cooked meat, fish, or poultry.
  • If possible, use one cutting board for meat or poultry and one for ready-to-eat food.

Cook

  • Raw meat, poultry, and eggs need to be cooked thoroughly.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure foods have reached a high enough temperature to kill any harmful germs that might be present.

 

Safe Cooking Temperatures

​Food
​Internal Temperatures
Roast Beef, Steaks​​145° F w/ 3 minute rest*
​Ground Beef
​160° F
Ribs, chops, roast pork, sausage (fresh)​
​145° F w/ 3 minute rest*​
​Ground pork
​160° F
​Chicken, duck, turkey, ground poultry
​165° F
​Fried or poached eggs
until yolk is firm


Chill

  • Refrigerate leftover and unused portions promptly.
  • Food should not be out for more than 2 hours.


For more tips about Food Safety, visit:

www.bphc.org/foodsafety  or

http://www.foodsafety.gov/



Nov 15
Asbestos











Asbestos is a dangerous chemical that has been used to build houses and other buildings. Asbestos can be found in nature but is most common in old homes built before the 1970s. It was used in walls, ceilings, and floors because it is fire-resistant and a good insulator. Asbestos looks like thin, white fibers.

Most of the time, asbestos in your home is safe. Asbestos is unsafe when it is damaged, and it can be bad for your health. Exposure to asbestos can cause:

  • mesothelioma (a type of lung cancer)
  • lung cancer
  • asbestosis
  • pleural disease

Call your doctor if you are concerned that you have been exposed to asbestos. Early symptoms of asbestos exposure include a cough or shortness of breath that worsens over time.

If you think you have asbestos in your home, hire a professional asbestos removal company to remove it. Do not remove asbestos yourself. 

Get your home inspected for asbestos hazards if you are concerned or if you plan to do home repair work yourself. Click here for a full list of licensed asbestos consultants and contractors.

For more information, call BPHC's Environmental & Occupational Health Division at 617-534-5965.


Oct 25
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: MA Lead Law

​One of the most common ways to get lead poisoning is from paint that contains lead. Lead paint was used in most houses that were built before 1978. However, the MA Lead Law protects a child's right to a lead-safe home. It requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards in homes built before 1978 where any children under 6 live. Landlords cannot reject you or evict you because of lead, and homeowners are required to remove or cover lead paint hazards in homes where a child under the age of 6 lives.

As of December 1, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Public Health Council modified the Massachusetts Lead Law to redefine what is considered lead poisoning and how to perform lead inspections and abatement.

What changes should you be aware of?

  • Lead poisoning is now defined as 10 micrograms per dL in the blood or more
  • If a child has a blood lead level of 5-9 micrograms per deciliter, they have a blood lead level "of concern"
  • Parents need to provide proof that their child has been screened for lead poisoning before they can start daycare and pre-K programs

Are you having work done in your home? Because of the changes to the MA Lead law, contractors and renovators should know that:

  • If they want to use chemical strippers, they will need TWO inspections
  • Surfaces considered "accessible mouthable" now include window sills, hand rails, and railing caps only.
  • You no longer have to abate outside corners of walls, window and door casings, chair rails, balusters, and latticework
  • Full abatement is now required for "friction surfaces," which includes things like doors, door jambs, and treads. You cannot encapsulate these surfaces. Instead, the hazard must be removed.
  • The lead level that is considered dangerous decreased from 600 ppm to 90 ppm

Are you doing work in your home by yourself?

  • Make sure you have the right training and certifications. If you do not have the right training or certification, you may unknowingly expose yourself or your loved ones to lead hazards.
  • The Boston Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program offers moderate risk deleading training for anyone interested in removing lead hazards themselves. For more information, call 617-534-5965.

To learn more about lead poisoning or request a lead inspection, call the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 617-534-5965.


Oct 24
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: How to prevent lead poisoning

​Lead is a metal found in nature. It can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. Lead is a poison when it gets into the body, and it can stay in the body for a long time. Babies and young children absorb lead more easily than adults, so it is especially bad for their health.

Lead poisoning is when lead builds up in the body, usually over months or years. It can:

  • Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
  • Slow down growth and development
  • Make it harder for the child to learn
  • Damage hearing and speech
  • Cause behavior problems

The harm done by lead may never go away, so it is important to get your child tested and treated.

Things you can do:

  • Ask your child's doctor for a blood lead level test every year
  • Make sure you child eats a healthy diet that includes foods that contain a lot of calcium, vitamin C, and iron
  • Check regularly to see if any of your child's toys have been recalled. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at http://www.cpsc.gov/. If your child's toy has been recalled, do not let them play with it and throw it away.
  • If you're doing work on your home, make sure you're doing it safely. Only licensed and properly trained contractors can remove lead. Doing it yourself? Be sure to take the Boston Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program's Moderate Risk Deleading course.
  • Find out if your home's water service line is made from lead by checking the Boston Water and Sewer Commission's (BWSC) database or by calling 617-989-7888.
  • Call the Boston Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program to request an inspection. The inspector will be able to tell you whether your home's paint contains lead. Only complete home renovations or painting if you know your home's paint is lead-free. If your home's paint contains lead, the property owner must perform deleading.

To learn more about lead poisoning, request a lead inspection, or find out more about our moderate risk deleading course, call the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 617-534-5965.


Oct 23
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: What is lead poisoning?

​Lead is a metal found in nature. It can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. Lead is a poison when it gets into the body, and it can stay in the body for a long time. Babies and young children absorb lead more easily than adults, so it is especially bad for their health.

Lead poisoning is when lead builds up in the body, usually over months or years. It can:

  • Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
  • Slow down growth and development
  • Make it harder for the child to learn
  • Damage hearing and speech
  • Cause behavior problems

The harm done by lead may never go away, so it is important to get your child tested and treated.

The only way to know whether your child has been exposed to lead is through a blood test that measures how much lead is present in your child's blood. This is called a blood lead level. If your child is 6 years old or younger, ask your child's doctor for a blood test. You should have your child tested each year until the age of 6.

  • If your child's blood lead level is between 5-9 μg/dL: A blood lead level in this range is at a level of concern. It is not safe for a child to have a blood lead level of 5 or more. Your child should get a blood test again within two months after their first test. Your child's doctor may prescribe multivitamins and iron. Your child's doctor may also suggest your child eat a diet that includes foods that contain a lot of calcium, vitamin C, and leafy greens (iron), and to limit how many fatty foods your child eats.
  • If your child's level is >10 μg/dL: A child with a blood lead level greater than 10 has lead poisoning.

If your child has been diagnosed with lead poisoning:

  • You are required to have a lead inspection for your home. An inspector from the Boston Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (BCLPPP) will check your home for lead. If there is lead in your home, it must be fixed.
  • Your child will also require medical care. He or she may have to stay in the hospital. Your doctor may prescribe your child with chelation therapy. Chelation therapy is a medicine that helps eliminate lead from the blood.
  • Some children may have trouble speaking, hearing, or paying attention. Ask your doctor about learning problems your child may have. You may need a special education plan for your child.

To learn more about lead poisoning or request a lead inspection, call the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 617-534-5965.


Oct 22
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: What is lead?

​Lead is a metal found in nature. It can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. Lead is a poison when it gets into the body, and it can stay in the body for a long time. Babies and young children absorb lead more easily than adults, so it is especially bad for their health.

Lead poisoning is when lead builds up in the body, usually over months or years. It can:

  • Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
  • Slow down growth and development
  • Make it harder for the child to learn
  • Damage hearing and speech
  • Cause behavior problems

The harm done by lead may never go away, so it is important to get your child tested and treated.

Most lead poisoning comes from lead paint, which is commonly found in both the inside and outside of homes built before 1978. Dust from lead paint comes from:

  • old paint peeling and cracking
  • opening and closing old windows
  • home repairs and renovations

Children can breathe in lead dust or can be exposed to lead when putting their hands or toys into their mouths. Children can also get lead poisoning from the water they drink. Corrosion of pipes, service lines, solder, and fixtures made of lead can cause lead to leach into water. Some toys, toy jewelry, and home remedies may also contain lead, though this is less common today than in the past.

To find out whether your house has lead paint, call the Boston Public Health Commission's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (617-534-5965) to request an inspection. The inspector will be able to tell you whether your home's paint contains lead.

Another way children get lead poisoning is from drinking tap water that has lead in it. To find out if your home's tap water contains lead, get your water tested by a lab that is MassDEP certified. Visit the MassDEP Certified Lab webpage for a list of labs and helpful links. You can also find out if your home's service line is made from lead by checking the Boston Water and Sewer Commission's (BWSC) database or by calling 617-989-7888.

To learn more about lead poisoning, request a lead inspection, or receive other services (case management, home visits, connection to services), call the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 617-534-5965.


Oct 15
National Latino AIDS Awareness Day 2018


HIV continues to be a serious threat to the health of Latinos. In 2016, Latinos made up 26% of the 40,324 new HIV diagnoses in the United States and 6 dependent areas; despite only making up 18% of the total US population. New HIV diagnoses among Latinas decreased 14% from 2011 to 2015 and remained stable among Latinos overall. Although these trends show progress for some Latinos, new HIV diagnoses increased 13% among Latino gay and bisexual men during the same period.

There are many factors that may contribute to these high numbers. Latinos may not seek testing, counseling or treatment (if infected) because of stigma. Furthermore, if people do not know their HIV status, they will continue to spread the infection to others. Some Latinos who know they are infected may not seek treatment because they fear how people will treat them. Cultural norms and homophobia also create a barrier for some people to access HIV prevention services. In addition, undocumented Latinos may be less likely to use HIV prevention services because of concerns about being arrested and deported.

It may not always be easy to talk about HIV but talking openly about HIV will help to protect the health of every member of the community. Learn the facts about HIV! Help increase HIV awareness to decrease the stigma and shame that are too often associated with this infection!

 

Protect yourself from HIV!

  • Always use a latex, nitrile or polyurethane condom or barrier (dental dam) when having sex (vaginal, oral, or anal)
    • Condoms made from "natural" materials may protect against pregnancy but NOT HIV or other STIs.
  • Limit your number of sex partners.
  • Talk with your partner about their status and getting tested.
  • Talk with your health care provider about safer sex practices and getting tested.
  • Understand that having sex while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol can increase the likelihood of unprotected sex.
  • Do not share needles or "works" if you are injecting drugs.

 

 Get tested, protect yourself!

  • Anyone who has had sex (anal, oral or vaginal) should be tested for HIV at least once.
  • People that should be tested more often (at least once a year) include: 
    • People who do not use condoms every time they have sex
    • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
    • People with multiple sex partners
    • People with sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
    • People who inject drugs
  • You should also be tested for HIV if you have been sexually assaulted or if you are a woman who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

 

Talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested! There are also several free and confidential testing centers in Boston. To find a testing center near you, call the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050 or visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/search_results.


Sep 28
World Rabies Day

​Today is World Rabies Day! Rabies is a deadly, but preventable virus that causes more than 59,000 deaths each year worldwide. It is most often transmitted through the bite of an animal that has the virus. Rabies can be found all around the world. More than 90% of all animal rabies cases reported each year in the United States occur in wild animals. The animals most commonly infected with rabies include raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes. Canine rabies which is responsible for rabies spreading from dog-to-dog has been eliminated in the United States.

Protect yourself and others from rabies:

Take pets to a veterinarian for their rabies vaccine

  • Make sure that your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccine. Cats, dogs and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies by a veterinarian regularly.

 Keep away from wildlife and unfamiliar animals.

  • One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from rabies is to avoid contact from wild animals.
  • Avoid stray dogs and cats that are unfamiliar to you and your family. These animals may have contact with wild animals and spread rabies to humans.
  • If you see an animal acting strangely in Boston, report it to Boston Animal Control at 617-635-5348.
  • Never pick up or touch dead animals, the rabies virus may still be in their tissues and saliva. If you see a dead animal in Boston, report it to Boston Animal Control at 617-635-5348.

 Keep your pets indoors and supervised.

  • Watch your pets when they are outdoors and keep them from interacting with wildlife or stray animals.
  • Do not feed or put water out for your pets outside. Keep garbage covered. These items will attract wild animals to your yard.
  • Teach children to never touch or handle wild or stray animals.

 

 Visit our Rabies factsheet for more information. 


Sep 24
Health Officials Investigating Outbreak of Hepatitis A Cases in Boston

​The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) today announced an increase in reported hepatitis Acases locally acquired in Boston since April 2018. The announcement comes as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced 65 total cases reported statewide, 30 of which were reported in Boston.

 
The majority of cases have occurred in persons who are experiencing homelessness and/or people with substance use disorder. The current increase of cases in Boston is not linked to infected persons who have traveled outside of Boston or contaminated food or water.
 
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease. BPHC recommends that at-risk populations get vaccinated as well as anyone who may come in direct contact with at-risk populations. Persons who are not vaccinated against hepatitis A and have been exposed to hepatitis A are encouraged to get an immune globulin shot to prevent infection.
 
Hepatitis A, a highly contagious disease, is commonly transmitted person-to-person through unknowing contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by stool from an infected person. Anyone can get hepatitis A. Traditionally, certain people are at higher-risk of contracting hepatitis A, including:

  • persons experiencing homelessness, 
  • persons who use substances (injection and non-injection), 
  • men having sex with men, and 
  • people who travel to countries where there is a hepatitis A outbreak. 

 
Among older children and adults, infection is typically symptomatic with abrupt onset of fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and a yellowing of the eyes. Hepatitis A can range from a mild illness usually lasting less than 2 months, to severe illness lasting several months. Although rare, hepatitis A can cause death in some people. 
 
Intensive efforts are underway to prevent the spread of hepatitis A in Boston. BPHC is working with clinical and community partners to actively offer vaccinations and guidance for improving sanitation.
 
"Vaccination and good hygiene, especially washing hands with soap & warm water, are the most effective ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis A. We are working with partners to directly reach at-risk populations and provide vaccinations, to reduce the spread of hepatitis A," said Dr. Jenifer Jaeger, Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau, BPHC.
 
Boston residents who have questions or concerns about hepatitis A are encouraged to contact their health care provider or the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050. For more information, please visit bphc.org.


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Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: info@bphc.org