Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) continues to monitor illness in our community, and while initial indications from student absence reports from D51, community illness reports, and data from visits to primary care providers give us reason to believe the illness is dwindling, we are still seeing reports of gastrointestinal illness, and a handful of incidents of public vomiting. The levels of illness we are seeing, however, are in line with what we would expect to see this time of year.
These types of illnesses are very common. The rapid spread and large number of people impacted was unique with this outbreak, but viruses like this are around all the time. They typically peak in the winter months when we are all together indoors or other confined spaces. The highly contagious viruses can spread very quickly from person to person as we saw with this outbreak, and the sudden onset of vomiting with this virus made it more widespread than usual.
For your health and the protection of everyone, you should stay home from work or school and keep your kids out of child care if you or they are sick. In addition, MCPH recommends disinfecting high touch surfaces; make sure to do this after you’ve been sick, but sanitizing your surroundings with a cleaner effective against norovirus on a routine basis never hurts, as these types of viruses can live on surfaces for weeks.
Perhaps the most effective way to stop the spread of illness, and to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands. Studies have shown that handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. But whenever possible, wash your hands with soap and water. When you wash:
Wet your hands with clean running water, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
Scrub for 20 seconds. How long is that? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song, twice.
Rinse your hands under running water.
Dry using a clean towel or air dry.
In addition, it is influenza season and flu activity is increasing across the country. There has already been one person hospitalized due to influenza, or the flu, in Mesa County. Statewide, more than 150 hospitalizations have occurred already this season. Unlike the gastrointestinal illness that impacted our community, there is a vaccine available to protect against the flu. MCPH recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine each year. Our clinic, located at 510 29 ½ Road, has vaccine available, walk-ins are welcome for flu shots, no appointment needed.
Mesa County Public Health and D51 ask families to make sure students are illness-free before returning to classrooms to ensure the virus circulating in our community is not reintroduced in our local schools.
After the closure of all schools in D51 prior to the Thanksgiving break due to illness, the district has deep cleaned and is ready to welcome students back to class. This illness outbreak was due to a highly contagious virus acting a lot like norovirus. The illness moved so quickly, there were active reports of vomiting in more than 30 schools when the district made the unprecedented decision to close.
Over the break, a deep clean occurred at all D51 buildings to stop the spread of illness, but the virus remains in our community. Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) has confirmed a norovirus outbreak at a long term care facility and received numerous reports of people getting sick in public places days after the closure of the schools.
MCPH recommends parents know and look for symptoms in their kids. For this illness, symptoms to watch for are:
Mainly vomiting, with a very sudden onset
In addition, viruses like this usually come with a feeling of being worn down or overall tiredness. While we know tiredness can be difficult to measure or quantify in certain age groups, we ask that you don’t send your child to school if you think they may have been exposed to the virus or have any current symptoms. If your child has been sick, do not send them to school until at least 24 hours after their symptoms end. There is an incubation period of anywhere between 12-36 hours after coming into contact with the virus to the time you show symptoms.
Mesa County Public Health will continue to work with D51 to monitor both student and staff illness as well as the overall community impacts from this outbreak.
COLORADO REGULATORS DRAFT BAN ON ADDITIVES IN CANNABIS VAPE PRODUCTS
Since early August a multistate outbreak of lung illness associated with e-cigarette products that, as of October 22, 2019, has sickened 1,479 people and resulted in 33 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local public health agencies, and other health partners have been investigating the cause of this illness.
E-cigarettes, also called vapes, vape pens, electronic nicotine delivery systems, and vaping, work by heating liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs. The liquid can contain many substances including nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinoid (CBD) oils, and other additives.
Regulators with the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), a division of the Colorado Department of Revenue, are finalizing a ban on certain additives in cannabis vape products. In its natural form, THC oil is too thick to be vaporized, the ban would include three ingredients commonly used in products intended for inhalation including:
Polyethylene glycol (PEG);
Vitamin E Acetate; and
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT Oil).
The proposed rule change would also include additional labeling requirements for concentrates or products intended to be inhaled through a vaporizer or metered-dose inhaler, including a requirement that the product has a label that states, “Not approved by the FDA”.
The rules have been proposed, the state licensing authority will ultimately decide if the measure moves forward. If approved, the ban could be in effect as early as January 1, 2020.
What We Know
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the substances being used in the vape products vary:
Most patients have reported using e-cigarette products containing THC, this is the psychoactive element of cannabis.
Many have reported using THC and nicotine.
Some have reported vaping with products only containing nicotine.
In Colorado, there are nine outbreak-associated cases, all in front range communities. Seven of those individuals were hospitalized*.
Colorado has the highest vaping rates in the nation among teens.
A special report from Mesa County Public Health revealed nearly half (48.7%) of high school students in Mesa County say they have tried a nicotine-containing vape product.
What We Don’t Know
The specific chemical exposure(s) causing the lung injuries associated with vaping is still unknown.
No specific e-cigarette or vaping product (pod, refill, device, or cartridge) linked to all cases has been identified.
The long-term health effects of vaping are still unknown, however, we do know that vaping products contain more than just harmless water vapor.
Public Health Recommendations
Use FDA-approved cessation products to quit all tobacco use, including vaping.
Be a trusted adult for a teen or young person in your life–have conversations with them about vaping and the dangers of tobacco and other substance use.
Share cessation resources with youth and adults currently using e-cigarettes.
Do not buy vape products off the street and do not use them in any way not intended by the manufacturer, including modification of any kind.