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Take Precautions And Guard Your Health

ST. CLAIRSVILLE –Drug addiction and influenza season are some of the most prevalent concerns on the minds of officials with the Monroe, Belmont and Harrison county health departments.

Monroe County Health Commissioner Linda Dick said one of the most pressing health concerns in Eastern Ohio is the opioid drug epidemic.

“One of the things we in Monroe County are dealing with, the same as the whole state and the whole country, is the opioid addiction. We know that’s of grave concern, and we are in the process of setting up a town meeting in Woodsfield the last Tuesday in October,” she said, adding that the department is working in conjunction with Barnesville Hospital.

“We’re inviting the sheriff, judges, doctors, pharmacists, mental health.”

She added that people battling addiction and their families are also invited to speak about the struggle, the services available and the difficulties they had in obtaining those services.

Meanwhile, she said the aging population is vulnerable to other health concerns.

“We’ve got a lot of older people. We’re almost a retirement area,” she said.

“There’s a lot of concern with the elderly and falling and living alone by themselves. We’re looking at what we can do to help them.”

She added that the health department is supporting a group of citizens interested in helping each other.

“It’s empowering care. It’s kind of a grassroots thing,” she said.

“We’re meeting and trying to figure out some things that we might be able to do to help people stay in their homes longer.”

Regarding concerns about the Zika virus, she said no instances have occurred in Monroe County that she knows of.

“We have sent a few mosquitoes to the state to be checked out, but so far we haven’t had that many problems,” she said.

She added that flu shots are important for everyone, especially children and the elderly. The shots are available at various drug stores in the area and at the health department.

“We try to encourage the flu shot, the pneumonia shot,” she said, adding that the Women Infants and Children Program can help parents acquire them for young children. “All those are prevention.”

Belmont County Health Educator Jaclyn Yahn said the department is working toward a Community Health Improvement Plan.

“We have stakeholders from across the county meet quarterly,” she said, adding that they have identified the top four priorities for Belmont County. They are: substance abuse, mental health, obesity and infant mortality.

“Those are the issues we’re currently looking at, and over the next few years we’re going to be meeting quarterly to develop strategies to attack those and figure what we can do, whether that’s getting grant money or initiating new programs,” she said.

Yahn added that the flu clinic is open and taking appointments.

“You can call and schedule an appointment for a nurse to come and make a home visit if you’re not able to make it to the health department to get a flu shot,” she said. “There’s typically a large demand around flu time.”

Charlie Fisher, director of environmental health and acting administrator with the Harrison County Health Department, said his area also is concentrating on preparation and prevention.

“We’re trying to make sure people get all the flu shots, whether through us or their local provider,” he said, adding that children and the elderly run a particular risk. “It’s typically the elderly and people that are immunity compromised.”

He added that individuals who work with the public run a particular risk.

“The medical facilities, hospitals, they make sure their staff gets it. Anywhere that you have a large population of employees, it is highly recommended that you get flu shots. That way if somebody comes down with the flu, it’s not an epidemic and you’re not missing half your staff. That’s where it’s really advisable.”

Another concern is ticks and the possible spread of Lyme disease. This is a particular issue for hunters and people who spend time in the outdoors.

“The tick does not die in the winter. It stays active all year round. If you’re out in the woods, even hunting, you have to be concerned about picking up the black-legged tick.”

Fisher also pointed out the danger of raccoons with rabies.

“Rabies is migrating further and further west,” he said. “We’re definitely concerned about rabies in Harrison County. If you see any animal acting odd, please contact an authority and avoid any interaction.”

He also recommended updating rabies vaccines for dogs and cats.

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