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National Public Health Week is April 4 - 10

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexander Devus, Public Health Technician
  • 55th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
The first full week of April each year, the American Public Health Association brings communities together to recognize the contributions of public health workers and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation. The theme for this year is “Healthiest Nation 2030.” The Offutt AFB Public Health Flight has joined the nation in this campaign and stands ready to prevent disease, disability and premature death of our base population.

Public Health Flight is comprised of two elements; Community Health, and Force Health Management. These Elements cover everything from food safety & sanitation, communicable disease investigations, medical readiness for deployers, preventive health assessments, and the Occupational Health program, to name a few. For 2016, Public Health will focus on preventing hearing loss, sexually transmitted infections, and ZIKA Virus surveillance.

Can You Hear Me Now?
The ability to hear makes it possible to listen, laugh, love, and enjoy many of the small things that shape the quality of one’s life. Given the importance of hearing for one’s career, relationships, and general safety, it’s no wonder that a diagnosis of hearing loss is often met with great concern. Signs of hearing loss vary greatly between people, but are generally described as “difficulty hearing in noisy situations,” “persistent ear ringing,” or “straining to understand conversations.”

Prolonged or repeated exposures to noise levels at or above 85 decibels (dB) are often linked to hearing loss. Offutt employees, occupationally exposed to hazardous noise, are closely monitored through the DoD’s Hearing Conservation Program. Monitoring includes noise measurement/analysis of the shop environment, tools, and equipment, annual hearing tests, medically fitted hearing protection, and continuous education/training. Keep in mind, not all hazardous noise is found in a work environment. Hazardous noise exposure may come from movie theaters (up to 118 dB), personal headphones (up to 120 dB), and children’s toys (up to 150 dB) and can contribute to hearing loss.

To prevent noise induced hearing loss, one should reduce exposures. If not feasible, correct and regular use of hearing protection devices, such as earplugs and ear muffs, are the next best option. To learn more about hearing conservation, visit the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence at http://hearing.health.mil.

Sexually Transmitted Infections
The only true way to prevent the spread of STIs is abstinence. If that’s not practical, one can use other measures to reduce the risk such as: vaccination (Hepatitis B and Human Papilloma Virus), mutual monogamy, and the correct and consistent use of condoms. Regardless of age, sex, rank, or marital status STI’s can affect ANYONE sexually active. Sexual acts can lead to a wide array of infections such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Herpes, or even HIV (to name a few). The sooner one knows his/her STI medical status; the better one can protect one’s health…this also applies to one’s partner. Important to realize, not all medical checkups include STI testing. Vital to one’s overall health is to share sexual health and history with a primary care provider.

To learn more about STI prevention, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/std/

Mosquito Season
There is much media coverage regarding the ZIKA virus, and the 55 Medical Group’s Public Health Flight is here to ensure that the Offutt population has the latest, most accurate information available. Public Health, along with the Base Civil Engineering’s Entomology shop, have a combined effort to purchase, and operate in 2016, special species specific traps designed to catch the type of mosquitos that have the greatest possibility of ZIKA transmission. We need the Offutt population’s help in our campaign; please don’t tamper with or damage our mosquito traps.

To date, the only reported cases of ZIKA virus in the United States have been in travelers returning from countries with ongoing transmission. Whether traveling, or at home, it is especially important to protect yourself against mosquito bites. Utilize insect repellent with DEET; when weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Keep your screen doors in good repair. To learn which countries are currently experiencing ZIKA transmission, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which maintains a map showing which countries have active mosquito-borne transmission of ZIKA virus, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html

Until more is known about the Zika virus, and out of an abundance of caution, the CDC currently advises women who are pregnant to defer travel to areas of ongoing Zika virus transmission. Women who are trying to get pregnant should consult their healthcare provider prior to traveling to ZIKA infected areas or having sexual relations with men who have also recently traveled to these locations. Additional information about Zika virus infection and pregnancy can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/question-answers.html

For more information about National Public Health Week, visit www.nphw.org or call the Offutt AFB Public Health Flight at DSN 271-8009.