It’s mosquito season in eastern Massachusetts. The little nuisances are buzzing in our ears and causing those itchy bites. Most mosquito bites are more annoying than dangerous and can be treated with over-the-counter topical steroids, antihistamines and anti-inflammatories. But some bites can result in serious and sometimes deadly illnesses. Mosquitos can carry West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Transmission of these infections to humans is rare, but knowing what to watch for and how to protect yourself and your family is an important part of summer safety.
West Nile Virus
There were five human cases of West Nile Virus reported in Middlesex County last year, and in 2015, the first instance of an infected mosquito was recently detected in western Massachusetts.
Twenty percent of people who are infected with West Nile Virus will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile Virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
Less than one percent of infected people will develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis, that presents with headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends reporting dead birds to local public health officials as this can be a sign that West Nile Virus is circulating in your area.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)
People over age 50 and under age 15 seem to be at highest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEE.
Signs and symptoms in encephalitic patients are fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, turning blue, convulsions and coma.
If you suspect yourself or a loved one to be developing symptoms of West Nile Virus or EEE seek medical attention immediately.
Prevention is the key to keeping mosquitos away
Here are some tips to keep mosquitos away:
- Wear mosquito repellent with DEET when outdoors.
- Wear long sleeves and pants when weather permits.
- Keep screen doors and window screens in good repair.
- Mosquitos are most active from dusk to dawn, so limit your time outdoors once it gets dark.
- Mosquitoes can lay eggs even in small amounts of standing water. Get rid of mosquito-breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels and tires. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Empty children's wading pools and store on their side after use.
--Angelo Pucillo, PA-C, is the assistant chief physician assistant in the emergency department at Hallmark Health System.
This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
For the fourth consecutive year, Hallmark Health System has been recognized as a Most Wired hospital/system, through the 17th annual Health Care’s Most Wired Survey conducted by Hospitals & Health Networks.
Health data security and patient engagement are top priorities for the nation’s hospitals, according to results of the 17th annual HealthCare’s Most Wired™ survey, recently released by the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).
The 2015 Most Wired™ survey and benchmarking study, in partnership with CHIME and sponsored by VMware, is a leading industry barometer measuring information technology (IT) use and adoption among hospitals nationwide. The survey of more than 741 participants, representing more than 2,213 hospitals, examined how organizations are leveraging IT to improve performance for value-based healthcare in the areas of infrastructure, business and administrative management, quality and safety, and clinical integration.
“Hallmark Health is proud to be named to the Most Wired list for the fourth consecutive year,” said Carol Dresser, vice president of information services at Hallmark Health. “Our entire staff - from the information services team to clinicians to support staff - play important roles in using technology to support the efficient delivery of high-quality patient care.”
According to the survey, hospitals are taking more aggressive privacy and security measures to protect and safeguard patient data. Top growth areas in security among this year’s Most Wired organizations include privacy audit systems, provisioning systems, data loss prevention, single sign-on and identity management. The survey also found:
- 96 percent of Most Wired organizations use intrusion detection systems compared to 85 percent of the all respondents. Privacy audit systems (94 percent) and security incident event management (93 percent) are also widely used.
- 79 percent of Most Wired organizations conduct incident response exercises or tabletop tests annually, a high-level estimate of the current potential for success of a cybersecurity incident response plan, compared to 37 percent of all responding hospitals.
- 83 percent of Most Wired organizations report that hospital board oversight of risk management and reduction includes cybersecurity risk.
As hospitals and health systems begin to transition away from volume-based care to more integrated, value-based care delivery, hospitals are utilizing IT to better facilitate information exchange across the care settings. This includes greater alignment between hospitals and physicians. According to the survey, the physician portal is a key factor in strengthening physician-hospital alignment:
- In 84 percent of Most Wired organizations, physicians can view and exchange other facilities’ results in the portal compared with 63 percent of hospitals surveyed.
- 76 percent use the portal and electronic health record (EHR) to exchange results with other EHRs and health information exchanges compared to 56 percent of those surveyed.
- 81 percent can communicate with patients via email or alerts in contrast to 63 percent of all respondents
Driven beyond the requirements of Meaningful Use Stage 2, this year's Most Wired hospitals are utilizing the benefits of a patient portal to get patients actively involved in their health and healthcare. For instance, 89 percent of Most Wired organizations offer access to the patient portal through a mobile application. Other key findings include:
- 67 percent of Most Wired hospitals offer the ability to incorporate patient-generated data.
- 63 percent offer self-management tools for chronic conditions.
- 60 percent offer patient-specific education in multiple languages.
“We commend and congratulate this year’s Most Wired hospitals and their CIOs for improving care delivery and outcomes in our nation’s hospitals through their creative and revolutionary uses of technology,” said CHIME CEO and President Russell P. Branzell, FCHIME CHCIO. “These Most Wired organizations represent excellence in IT leadership on the frontlines of healthcare transformation.”
“Congratulations to our nation’s Most Wired hospitals for harnessing the potential of information technology to improve quality care and patient safety and lower health care costs,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the AHA. “At the forefront of the field, these hospitals are setting the bar for protection of patient data through discerning security measures.”
HealthCare’s Most Wired™ Survey, conducted between Jan. 15 and March 15, 2015, is published annually by Health & Hospitals Network. Respondents completed 741 surveys, representing more than 39 percent of all U.S. hospitals. Last October, the AHA/Health Forum and CHIME announced the formation of a Most Wired partnership to enhance collaboration between the two organizations in the development and sustainability of the survey, and to collectively help meet the growing demand for useful data on health IT integration.
Detailed results of the survey and study can be found in the July issue of H&HN. For a full list of winners visit www.hhnmag.com.
More than 300 Hallmark Health System supporters recently participated in this year’s Stride for Healthy Communities, raising more than $32,000 for community health programs such as bariatric support programs, cancer care, cardiology and the North Suburban Child and Family Resource Network.
The annual fundraising walk around Wakefield’s Lake Quannapowitt added a 5K road race this year, bringing nearly 150 runners. Top winners included Mike Dimauro of Lawrence, with a winning time of 18:44, and Coreen Lowney of Dracut, who ran the course in 19:08.
“Stride for Healthy Communities has been growing for several years,” said Denise Flynn, chief development officer at Hallmark Health. “By adding the 5K race, we’ve introduced an exciting new element that brings the potential to keep growing.”
More than 40 Hallmark Health employees successfully finished the 5K race as part of a couch-to-5K® program aimed at helping employees start an exercise program and reach new fitness goals. The program was led by seven volunteer coaches, fellow employees with running experience, who conducted training sessions and mentored new runners.
Other participants included many patients, family members, staff and physicians, including a group from Hallmark Health’s Center for Weight Management and Weight Loss Surgery. The center emphasizes an active lifestyle to help keep weight off and several patients celebrated reaching a goal of finishing a 5K walk or run with family members and friends who have helped them through their journey.
Hallmark Health would like to thank the sponsors of the 2015 Stride for Healthy Communities:
Jennifer S. Wu, MD
The Hallmark Health System Medical Staff
Whole Foods Market
Action Ambulance Service, Inc.
Armstrong Ambulance Service, Inc.
Cataldo Ambulance Service, Inc.
New England Coffee
Hallmark Health Imaging
Melrose Cooperative Bank
Melrose Family YMCA & Saugus Family YMCA
Promotional Solutions, Inc.
Republic Building Contractors, Inc.
Right at Home Boston and North
WBZ News Radio 1030
Bariatric Fusion, Inc.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Epoch Senior Healthcare of Melrose
KTS, Inc. Cabling Solutions
Following a particularly difficult New England winter, many people are welcoming the warm weather with open arms. Outdoor activity brings many benefits, but it also brings the potential for attracting unwanted guests – ticks.
“Once the temperatures start to rise in May and June, we need to be aware of ticks and some of the illnesses they can bring,” said Edward Butler, MD, chief academic officer and hospital epidemiologist at Hallmark Health and chairman of the Department of Medicine at Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford. “There are some simple steps that we can all take to protect ourselves and prevent tick-borne diseases.”
Dr. Butler suggested that the number of ticks has grown in recent years caused in part by an increase in animal hosts. “In New England the deer ticks that are known to transmit Lyme disease are more prevalent on mice and deer. In fact, the average white-footed mouse, a backyard companion, may host 50 or more deer ticks (Ixodes) during the summer months.”
“Prevention is the best medicine with tick-borne illnesses,” said Dr. Butler. “It is important to know how to keep ticks off of you and how to get them off quickly.”
To keep ticks from attaching to your skin, follow these tips:
• Wear long pants and long sleeves when walking in the woods or other tick-friendly areas.
• Use a long acting DEET-based repellant on both clothing and skin.
• Bathe or shower within two hours after coming indoors.
• Check your body thoroughly. Use a mirror to check warm, moist locations such as behind the knees, under the arms, between the legs, on the ears, in the belly button and in the hair.
• Be sure to examine pets and gear, such as backpacks.
• If you live close to the woods, use tick tubes in your yard
Lyme disease is the most widely talked about and the most frequently contracted of the tick-borne diseases in New England. It is spread when an infected deer tick bites and attaches itself to the skin. “In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours before it transmits the bacteria that cause Lyme disease,” added Dr. Butler. “During that window there is time to remove the tick safely.”
If you find a tick attached to your skin, use a pair of fine tweezers to grab the tick’s body, and using steady, constant pressure, pull the tick away from the skin. “The bacteria that cause illnesses are located in the tick’s gut,” said Dr. Butler. “So while it is best to remove the entire tick, if some of the head remains attached, you should be okay.”
The typical symptoms of Lyme disease include headache, fever, fatigue, joint pain and the characteristic circular “bulls-eye” skin rash. Most cases are treated successfully with two to three weeks of antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, some extreme cases may need to be treated in the hospital.
“If you have been exposed to a tick and start to experience some of the symptoms, it is always the safest bet to get checked out by a clinician,” added Dr. Butler.
Undeterred by recent blizzards and with a commitment to care, the best home health workers in the state and the most innovative home health agencies were recently honored at the 2015 Home Care Innovations Showcase & Star Awards ceremony hosted by the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts at the Revere Hotel in Boston.
Among those honored was Cara Chevalier, MD, a family medicine physician at Hallmark Health and medical director at Hallmark Health Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, as the 2015 Home Care “Physician of the Year” by the Home Care Alliance, which represents 200 home health and home care agencies and nearly 30,000 workers across Massachusetts.
“This year, especially, home health agencies and their employees deserve recognition for their dedication to ensuring their patients and clients are healthy and safe at home,” said Home Care Alliance Executive Director Patricia Kelleher. “This event is a chance to say ‘thank you’ to all home care agencies and workers across the state and shine a spotlight on all that the home care industry is doing to respond to the elder demographic boom and health system reform in Massachusetts.”
The Physician of the Year award is award is presented each year to a physician or nurse practitioner who has demonstrated active involvement in the home health field and outspoken support for health care delivered in the home.
Dr. Chevalier practices at Hallmark Health Medical Associates Family Health Center located at 178 Savin Street in Malden. She graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and completed her medical internship and residency at Tufts Family Medicine.
“Dr. Chevalier is a strong advocate and believer of keeping patients at home and understands the need for quality medical care at home,” said Diane Farraher-Smith, Hallmark Health System vice president and president of the Hallmark Health Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice. “She readily makes home visits for complex medical and psychosocial needs of the patients and the families and she has built up a significant medical home based practice.”
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