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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.


Sep 18
National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD)

​The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that people aged 50 and over accounted for 17% (6,725) of the 39,513 HIV diagnoses in 2015 in the United States. People aged 50 to 54 accounted for 45% (3,010) of the diagnoses among people aged 50 and over. Among people aged 50 and over, Blacks accounted for 43% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2015. Whites accounted for 36%, and Latinos accounted for 17%. Among people aged 50 and older, 49% of new HIV diagnoses in 2015 were among gay and bisexual men, 15% were among heterosexual men, 23% were among heterosexual women, and 12% were among persons who inject drugs. Older adults are often not tested for HIV because they do not feel they are at risk. However, many older people are sexually active, including those living with HIV and may have many of the same HIV risk factors as younger people.

HIV Diagnosis by Age, 2015, United States 

Many widowed and divorced people are dating again. They may be less aware of their risks for HIV than younger people, believing HIV is not an issue for their peer group. In addition, women who no longer worry about becoming pregnant may be less likely to use a condom and to practice safer sex. Older people are also less likely than younger people to discuss their sexual habits or drug use with their healthcare providers. Also, healthcare providers may be less likely to ask their older patients about these issues. If older people start experiencing HIV symptoms, such as weight loss, pneumo­nia, fatigue, confusion, and vision, they may mistake them for those of normal aging. Late diagnoses of HIV translate to delays in treatment and possibly more damage to the immune system. This can lead to poorer prognoses and shorter survival after an HIV diagnosis.

Anyone can get HIV. You are at risk to get HIV if you:

  • Have unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV. The risk can be higher for older women due to age-related vaginal thinning and dryness that can lead to tears in the vaginal area.
    • Talk to your partner about their sexual history and HIV. Before having sex with a new partner, discuss his/her HIV status. You both have a right to know!
    • Protect yourself. Use a latex condom and lubricant when you have sex. Polyurethane and nitrile condoms also protect against HIV and can be used by people with a latex sensitivity.
  • Don't know your HIV status. Many older adults find it awkward to discuss sex with their doctors. However, you should be tested for HIV if:
    • You are having unprotected sex or injecting drugs.
    • You are a man, who has had sex with other men. You should get tested at least once a year!
    • You are a woman, get tested when­ever you have a new sex partner.

It is also important to avoid contact with another per­son's blood, and be sure to never share or reuse needles or 'works." Remember, HIV risk does not diminish with age! Get tested! Protect yourself! To learn more, visit www.bphc.org/HIV.


Aug 31
Health Officials Alert Boston Residents to Increased Risk of West Nile Virus

​The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) today announced the second reported case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in a Boston resident, a male in his 50s. The announcement comes after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health raised the risk level for WNV from moderate to high in Greater Boston communities earlier this week.

 
This is Boston's second confirmed human case of WNV this year, bringing the total number of reported cases in Massachusetts to five this year. In the past two years, there was one reported human case in Boston.

Within the last week, the total number of mosquito pools that tested positive for WNV in Suffolk County have nearly doubled to 15. A second type of mosquito has also been reported. This mosquito type is primarily active during daytime hours unlike the previously reported mosquito type, which was active during dusk and dawn.

WNV is most commonly transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, and poses greater health risks to people over 60 and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants.
 
Residents are strongly urged to take steps to protect themselves, their loved ones and pets, from mosquito bites:

  • Use (and re-apply as needed) EPA-approved insect repellents when outdoors 
  • Wear clothing to reduce skin exposure 
  • Install or repair window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside 

Residents are also advised to take measures to reduce the number of mosquitos in their yard by dumping all standing water weekly to prevent them from breeding, as well as treating larger pools of water with larvicide. Residents may contact the Suffolk County Mosquito Control at (781) 899-5730 to request larvicidal treatment of swimming pools and other large containers of water that cannot be emptied.
 
More information on West Nile Virus is available online in multiple languages at bphc.org/mbi or by phone at (617) 534-5611.


Aug 27
Vacunas: no solamenta para niños


Los niños no son los únicos que necesitan vacunas, ¡los adultos también las necesitan! Incluso los adultos saludables pueden enfermarse gravemente. La inmunización es especialmente importante para los adultos de 60 años en adelante, y para aquellos que tienen un problema médico crónico, como asma, EPOC, diabetes o enfermedad cardíaca.


Las vacunas son importantes durante toda la vida para mantenerse sano. Hable con su proveedor de atención médica para asegurarse de que sus vacunas estén actualizadas.

Para más información sobre las vacunas, visite http://www.bphc.org/idb. #NIAM18


Aug 27
Vaccines Are Not Just for Kids


Vaccines are not just for children. Immunizations are needed throughout life to stay healthy.

All adults should make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date to protect their health and the health of those around them. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill! Immunization is especially important for adults 60 years and older, and for those who have a chronic medical problem such as asthma, COPD, diabetes or heart disease. 


Talk to your health care provider to find out if your vaccines are up to date. #NIAM18

Aug 24
Health Officials Announce First Human Case of West Nile Virus in Boston

​The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) today announced that the first case of West Nile Virus has been confirmed in a Boston resident this year. The patient, in her 50s, was hospitalized and has since been discharged home. Although mosquito pools throughout the City have tested positive for West Nile Virus, it is not known whether this patient acquired the infection in Boston. The investigation is ongoing.


This is Boston's first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus this year, and the third confirmed in Massachusetts. On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health raised the risk level for West Nile Virus from low to moderate throughout the State. In 2017, there were no human cases of West Nile Virus infection diagnosed in Boston residents.

West Nile Virus is most commonly transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, and poses greater health risks to the elderly and those with pre-existing medical problems. Though temperatures are beginning to drop, West Nile Virus remains a threat until at least the first hard frost.

There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for West Nile Virus infection. The most effective way to avoid West Nile Virus is to take measures to prevent mosquito bites. Residents who are participating in evening outdoor events should take precautions to minimize the risk of a mosquito bite.The City of Boston, in partnership with the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Project, has placed larvicide in catch basins in the city, a process designed to reduce the adult mosquito population.


Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Apply insect repellent when outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)], or IR3535 according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
  • Be aware of peak mosquito hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitos. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.
  • Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. Wear long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors to help keep mosquitos away from your skin.

 
Protect Your Animals

  • Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent West Nile Virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.

 
Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs near standing water. Once a week drain or discard items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in bird baths frequently.
  • Install or repair screens. Keep mosquitos outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors. Repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Use air conditioning when available.

 
More information on West Nile Virus is available in multiple languages at www.bphc.org/mbi or at (617) 534-5611.


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