Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – Sept 3rd, 2004

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

September 3 , 2004

Chlorine-Based Linens Introduced to Combat Hospital-Acquired Infections

A new product line of bed linens using a chlorine-based sanitizing technology has been introduced to help combat the spread of a wide range of bacteria, viruses and other microbes in hospitals. The HaloShield® sheet, a product of Vanson HaloSource, uses a coating technology that binds EPA-registered sanitizers to textiles and other materials to aid the killing of pathogens.

Hospital laundry protocols rely on chlorine-based sanitizers to kill and contain the spread of infection-causing viruses and bacteria in bed linens. However, due to rinsing that removes sanitizers, these practices do not protect against new contamination. According to the company’s press release, HaloShield® coatings are designed to prolong the antimicrobial properties of EPA-registered sanitizers between launderings. The antimicrobial properties are renewed each time a sheet is laundered in a chlorine-based sanitizer, consistent with standard hospital protocol.

For more information about HaloShield®, please go to:
http://www.halosource.com/haloshield_index.shtml

EPA Study Says Sewage Overflows Continue to Pose U.S. Public Health Problem

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued its “Report to Congress on Impacts and Control of Combined Sewer Overflows and Sanitary Sewer Overflows.” The study concludes that further control of sewer overflows are vital to reducing risks to public health and protecting the environment from water pollution.

Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the EPA, states and local water pollution control agencies have carried out numerous initiatives to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). However, according to the report, in 31 states and the District of Columbia, 772 sewer systems annually discharge an estimated 850 billion gallons of untreated wastewater and storm water. CSOs and SSOs contribute to beach closures, shellfish bed closures, contamination of drinking water supplies and other environmental and public health concerns.

For beaches that are regularly monitored (coastal and Great Lakes beaches), EPA estimates that about 3,500 to 5,500 gastrointestinal illnesses per year are caused by CSOs and SSOs. A national estimate of the human health impacts of CSOs and SSOs is not currently available due to insufficient water quality and health effects data for all recreational swimming areas.

The EPA report concludes that several steps are necessary to make further progress, including adequate funding, integrated local and regional watershed protection programs, improved water quality monitoring and reporting, and stronger partnerships between government, industry, and citizens.

For more information about sewage sanitation controls and the full EPA report please go to:
http://www.epa.gov/npdes/csossoreport2004

Billions Face Future Dangers Due to Poor Sanitation

Despite international efforts, the United Nations reports that countries are falling behind on the Millennium Development Goals to increase global access to basic sanitation. According to a joint report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, “Meeting the MDG Drinking-Water And Sanitation Target,” approximately 2.6 billion people currently lack access to basic sanitation and one billion are currently using unsafe drinking water. Poor sanitation, such as decaying and nonexistent sewage and toilet facilities, fuels the spread of epidemic diseases such as cholera and basic illnesses such as diarrhea, which is reported to be responsible for a child’s death every 21 seconds.

The Millennium Development Goals were established at a U.N.-sponsored summit of world leaders in September 2000. In a declaration adopted by 189 countries, the leaders pledged to cut in half the proportion of people who do not have safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Based on progress to date, the WHO/UNICEF report makes two significant predictions:

* The global sanitation target will be missed by half a billion people – most of them in rural Africa and Asia – allowing waste and disease to spread, killing millions of children and leaving millions more on the brink of survival.
* The world is on track to meet the drinking water target. However, this will still leave 800 million people with polluted water supplies.

For more information about the international sanitation standards and UNICEF/WHO full report, please go to: Meeting the MDG Drinking-Water And Sanitation Target Report

Plan Drafted to Combat Global Flu Epidemic

Federal health officials have proposed a coordinated national strategy to prepare for and respond to a potential influenza pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has unveiled its first draft of the “Pandemic Influenza Response and Preparedness Plan”, which provides guidance to national, state and local policy makers and health departments. The proposed strategy draws upon the wealth of experience and knowledge gained in responding to a number of recent public health threats, including SARS and avian influenza.

Influenza pandemics are catastrophic global health events in which the majority of individuals worldwide are at risk for infection and illness. Pandemics strike when an unstable influenza virus shifts to an easily transmitted strain that populations have not previously experienced. Three influenza pandemics occurred during the 20th Century. The most recent occurred in 1968 with the Hong Kong Flu outbreak, which resulted in nearly 34,000 deaths in the United States. In 1918 and 1919, the Spanish Influenza killed approximately 50 million people worldwide.

First called for in 1993, a national preparedness plan is considered critical to improving the effectiveness of a crisis response and decreasing the human health impact of a pandemic. Health officials have long urged the government to take two of the steps now planned, stockpiling anti-flu drugs and finding ways to speed vaccine development.

To view the HHS National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan, please go to:
http://www.hhs.gov/nvpo/pandemicplan

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