Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – July 3rd, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

July 3, 2003

50 States On Watch for West Nile Virus

Currently, no confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during 2003, but all 50 states are warning of an outbreak. As of June 25, 2003, 26 states have reported West Nile Virus in birds, horses or mosquitoes. The CDC’s “Fight the Bite!” program urges people to avoid mosquito bites, mosquito-proof their homes and help their community. Specifically, the CDC recommends:

* Applying insect repellent containing DEET
* Wearing long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors
* Being aware of peak mosquito hours – evening and early morning
* Draining standing water
* Installing or repairing screens in your home
* Reporting dead birds to local authorities
* Organizing neighborhood clean up days to keep areas free of standing water

In 2002, 44 states reported nearly 4,000 cases and 284 deaths from human West Nile Virus infection. The virus first struck the northern hemisphere in Queens, NY four years ago.

For more information, please visit:

Beijing’s SARS Travel Warning Lifted

The World Health Organization (WHO) lifted its travel warning against Beijing on June 24, after the city reached 20 days since isolating its last confirmed case of SARS – twice the incubation period of the disease. Beijing was simultaneously removed from a WHO list of places with recent local transmissions of the disease. The capital of China was the last place in the world still under a WHO advisory urging travelers to avoid nonessential travel due to SARS. Toronto and Taiwan remain on a WHO list of places with recent local transmissions of the disease, but travel advisories against the two places have been lifted. International travelers exiting Toronto and Taiwan are still subject to screening before departure. The SARS crisis, which peaked in March and April, killed more than 800 people and infected more than 8,400.

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FDA Approves First Nasal Mist Vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first flu vaccine designed to be sprayed into the nose. Expected to be available before the start of this year’s flu season, the vaccine, called FluMist, is approved for use for people between 5 and 49. Clinical trials showed that the vaccine was approximately 87 percent effective among children included in the trial. Doctors hope FluMist will increase the number of healthy people who seek flu immunization and free up the supply of the injected vaccine for people who need it the most – children under 2 years old and those over 65 years old. Unlike the flu vaccine, which contains a dead virus, FluMist contains a live virus and should not be given to people with weakened immune systems. FluMist is expected to cost $46 per dose, more than three times as much as a flu shot. Every year there are approximately 114,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths caused by the flu.

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EPA Releases First “Draft Report on the Environment”

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its “Draft Report on the Environment,” an effort by the agency to present a national picture of U.S. environmental quality and human health. Commissioned in November 2001, the report uses scientific data gathered from more than 30 federal agencies, departments, states, tribes and non-governmental organizations to answer questions that the EPA and its collaborators have identified as indicators of the nation’s environmental quality. Findings in the report include:

* Drinking water: “Our drinking water is purer. In 2002, 94 percent of Americans were served by drinking water systems that meet [EPA] health-based standards – an increase of 15 percent in the last decade.”
* Public health: The health of the American public is generally good and improving. People are living longer than ever before. Infant mortality has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded in the United States.

The report also highlights existing problems and recommends needed improvements. For example, the report found that more than 133 million Americans live in areas that at times have unhealthful air. The report also noted the need for additional data to answer questions about the links between some environmental pollutants and health effects.

To read the report in its entirety, please visit:

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