Medical / Health

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Drug-Related Deaths on the Rise, say Sheriff, Coroner

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 12:55 PM

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office released a comprehensive report Monday which shows that deaths due to alcohol and other drugs continue to rise. The report, compiled by HCSO public information specialist Samantha Karges and Humboldt County Coroner's Office legal office assistant Brent Ferguson and reviewed by the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, examined all "unattended deaths" in the county over the last three years. Unattended deaths are cases in which the coroner is called in to investigate the cause of death.

The report confirms a grim trend: Deaths due to alcohol and other drugs have steadily increased over the past three years, taking 49 lives in 2017. Chief Deputy Coroner Lt. Ernie Stewart says this upward trend is consistent with what he's seen over his 24-year career with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, adding that while the public is paying more attention right now to the opiate crisis, methamphetamine continues to be the biggest factor in drug-related deaths for Humboldt residents.

"Methamphetamine is still killing more people than opiates," Stewart said in a phone interview. "I believe that methamphetamine has carved out its place in our community and it's just not going away."

A detail from the report - HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • A detail from the report


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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dying and Destitute

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 6:17 PM

Don Brown and Debora Bronson in their apartment. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Don Brown and Debora Bronson in their apartment.
Craig and Lisa Smith are running out of time. They’re dying. He has congestive heart failure and a cancer eating at his kidney. She has a severe respiratory illness and spends her nights plugged into an oxygen concentrator. But that’s not what they’re talking about today, sitting in the bed where they spend most of their lives these days in a cramped but tidy apartment at 833 H St. in Eureka.

A few days before, the city of Eureka had served the couple — and all other tenants of the long deteriorated apartment building owned by Floyd and Betty Squires — with a notice to vacate, telling them the city was condemning the property due to hazardous electrical wiring. Everyone has to be out by 6 a.m. Jan. 22. Because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, tenants were given four business days to relocate their lives. For the Smiths, the eviction notice came three days after they’d paid the month’s rent. The Squireses haven’t returned subsequent phone calls, they say.

Nikki Lang sits on the corner of the bed. She’s a social worker with Resolution Care, the palliative care team set up by Dr. Michael Fratkin a few years back aimed at helping people live out their lives comfortably and on their own terms in the face of serious — often terminal — illness.

Lang tells the couple that the city will be giving them $1,600 in relocation assistance funds — money it will later look to recoup from the Squireses, adding yet another layer to the years-old legal battle between the notorious landlords and the city.

“How is that help?” Lisa Smith, 54, asks to no one in particular, eyes fixed on the bed in front of her. “Who is going to physically carry this stuff out? Where is it all going to go? We’re looking at the ends of our lives and it shouldn’t be like this. We worked for a living, raised families. We’re good people. We should just be left in peace.”


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Friday, December 29, 2017

Crab Health Advisory Lifted

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 2:32 PM

Crab is a go! - C. JUHASZ/CDFW WEBSITE
  • C. Juhasz/CDFW website
  • Crab is a go!
If you have a boat and some pots, you can get to cracking shells without worry. The California Department of Public Health has lifted its advisory for Dungeness crab consumption. Recent tests show domoic acid levels have dropped low enough that eating sport-caught crustaceans, if prepared properly, should be safe. Make sure to boil or steam your crab, discard of the water used in preparation and don't eat any viscera.

Commercial crab season is still on hold until Jan. 15.




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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Deadly Year in Humboldt: 2017 Marks Record for Road Deaths

Posted By on Tue, Dec 26, 2017 at 4:12 PM

ncj-daily-deaths-2017-01.jpg
The holiday weekend passed without a single motor vehicle death, a rarity for our often rainy and treacherous roads (the Arcata California Highway Patrol office did report nine DUI arrests and five total crashes). But Humboldt County still exceeds the national average on two tragic statistics: Motor vehicle deaths and accidental overdoses.

As the Journal went to press on Tuesday, Dec. 26, the coroner’s log for the year included a total of 34 deaths related to motor vehicle accidents. Astute readers will note that this is three more than the Journal estimated on Dec. 14, when we reported that Dwight “Dirty Dave” Davis, a beloved member of the local biker scene, was struck by an allegedly drunk driver while crossing West Harris Street on foot, making him what we thought was the 31st roadway death of the year. There are a few reasons for this discrepancy: The coroner will occasionally record deaths of people we don’t get press releases about, or record deaths for people who don’t die immediately on scene, but pass away later, such as Lee Price, whose vehicle struck a tree on Oct. 15, but only died from his injuries on Nov. 16. Ultimately, with six days left in a very grim year, we totaled 34, three more than the 2012 record of 31.

Why? Paul Craft, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol’s Arcata station, believes that last year’s very wet weather may have been a contributing factor.

“It’s been an odd year,” Craft told the Journal. “A really bad year throughout the winter. Combined with road closures, and mudslides – this is more of a personal observation – but it changed the dynamics of who was travelling, when and where to. It was just a different type of year.”

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The Ugly Holiday Sweater Fun Run in Photos

Posted By on Tue, Dec 26, 2017 at 8:41 AM

Clearly winning Christmas. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Clearly winning Christmas.
The third Friday of December is now officially National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day – a clothing statement even non-Christians can wear. Our local second annual Ugly Holiday Sweater Fun Run was held Dec. 17 on the Arcata Plaza as a fundraiser for Humboldt Educare and organized by Arcata Main Street.

Given Humboldt Educate was the fundraising recipient, it was no surprise that a large number of youngsters, along with adults of all ages, participated in the 1-mile and 5-kilometer runs. Their ugly sweaters reflected a wide range of cute, naughty or nice and funny home-made creativity as well as selections purchased on the Internet.

Prizes were given out in a mix of categories for the "ugly" apparel. In the 1-mile run, Braden Dyar, 18, was the first male to cross the finish line (8:41) and Ruth Godline-Sullivan was the first female (8:42). Krystal Mendez was the first female to cross the finish line in the 5k (20:14) and Jasper Severn was the first male (18:11).

Whether you need a bit of motivation to lace up your shoes and go work off some of that holiday bounty or are just hungry for a bit of Christmas nostalgia as you pack up the decorations, take a look back at this slideshow from Mark Larson.


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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Update: More Schools Close Down Due to Norovirus Outbreak

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 4:33 PM

COURTESY OF THE CDC
  • Courtesy of the CDC
Update: Add the Fortuna Elementary School District to the growing list, according to a Facebook post. There will be no classes tomorrow at any of the four campuses.

Previously:
Another five schools are closing due to an outbreak of the norovirus with the Rio Dell, Cutten and Fieldbrook districts taking Friday off, according to the county Department of Health and Human Services.

South Bay Union shut down all of its campuses last week and Eureka City Schools followed suit yesterday. All together students at 18 county schools have seen their winter breaks start earlier. Additional schools are contemplating closures, according to the release.

Unfortunately, the circumstances are extremely unpleasant with the norovirus causing nausea, fever, vomiting and other uncomfortable conditions that generally pass on their own after a few days.

The highly contagious virus is notoriously difficult to combat due to its resistance to many disinfectants.

Read the full release from DHHS below:
Due to a further increase in the number of students with symptoms consistent with norovirus, five additional schools have elected to close early for the winter break.

The schools are Eagle Prairie Elementary and Monument Middle School, both in the Rio Dell School District, Ridgewood and Cutten schools in the Cutten School District, and Fieldbrook Elementary School.

The closure of all five schools will take effect Friday morning.

This brings to 18 the number of Humboldt County schools closed due to a norovirus outbreak that first appeared last week. Additional schools are contemplating closure.

There is no cure for the highly contagious virus, which generally passes on its own within a few days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it cannot be treated with antibiotics, because it is a viral, rather than bacterial, infection. Drinking lots of fluids is recommended to replace those lost during the course of illness.

Symptoms include nausea, fever, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Infected people typically show symptoms within 12 to 48 hours of exposure to the virus. Infectiousness is believed to last at least 24 hours after recovery.

Hand washing is the best defense. Wash hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water. Hand sanitizing gels and wipes are ineffective against the virus. Clean contaminated surfaces thoroughly with a strong disinfectant such as bleach.

Rio Dell District Facebook post:
Good afternoon Rio Dell School District Families.
We have seen an extremely rapid rise in the number of students in our schools experiencing symptoms of Norovirus. We have worked closely with the County Department of Public Health to determine the best course of action for our district.

As a result, we are taking the precautionary measure of closing our schools to help stop the spread of the illness. The health and safety of our students is our top priority. This means that school will be closed on Friday, December 22nd. The campus closure will ensure the time needed to deep clean our schools before students return to school. Please feel free to pick up your child early today, however, we will continue to run our program through the end of the day.

This also means that we will be postponing the winter festival at this time. We recognize the importance of this event to the community and the students. When we know a date we will let everyone know.

School will resume as normal on January 8th.

Kevin Trone
Superintendent
Rio Dell School District

Fortuna Middle School Facebook post:
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: FESD is closing all schools December 22, 2017 per Public Health. Please share. If you attend FMS, Ambrosini, Toddy, or SFES do NOT come to school tomorrow.

Have a safe break and we will see you January 8, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

UPDATE: Norovirus hits ECS Prompting School Closures

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 2:26 PM

The norovirus is shutting down ECS campuses. - FILE
  • File
  • The norovirus is shutting down ECS campuses.
Eureka City Schools is confirming that all of the district’s campuses will be closed on the Thursday and Friday before winter break to try to stem an outbreak of the norovirus that closed down South Bay Union School District's three campuses last week.

ECS prepped parents for the possibility yesterday by announcing that absenteeism was above average and administrators were working with the county Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate the situation.

“This was a difficult decision to make; however, we believe it is in the best interest of our students, staff and families. We look forward to the return of our students on Monday, January 8,” Superintendent Fred Van Vleck said in a district release.


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Saturday, December 16, 2017

St. Joseph Nurses Decry Operating Room Staffing, Hospital Pledges 'Comprehensive Plan'

Posted By on Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 1:48 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
The California Nurses Association issued a statement this morning indicating that nurses in St. Joseph Hospital’s operating room worked their Friday shifts while formally objecting to what they deem “unsafe staffing” conditions that included a nurse working a 15-hour shift.

According to the association, nurses worked Friday in the operating room under an “assignment Despite Objection,” a formal legal objection that protests unsafe staffing and transfers personal liability from the nurses to the hospital.

“Nurses do not file an ADO form lightly — they do so because they can not abandon their patients but want to ensure that the hospital understand the severity of the situation,” says the statement.

Specifically, the association brings up the 15-hour shift — asking if you would want a nurse heading into his or her 15th hour on duty tending to your surgery — and the fact that St. Joseph allegedly delegated the duties of the operating room’s Charge Nurse — who is typically responsible for coordinating patient care — to “non-nursing personnel.”

In a statement released after the Journal requested a response from St. Joseph, David Southerland, the hospital’s interim chief executive, doesn’t dispute the association’s claims but says the hospital has developed a comprehensive plan with the nursing staff to ensure operating rooms are appropriately staffed.

“Ensuing patient safety and delivering extraordinary care is fundamental to our hospital’s mission and values,” Southerland says. “This is a top priority. In keeping with our commitment to a culture of integrity, active compliance and the delivery of the highest standard of patient care, we have developed a comprehensive plan with nurse leadership in our surgical services department to ensure appropriate levels of staffing in our operating rooms.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Update: South Bay District Closes Schools as Norovirus Outbreak Hits

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 3:01 PM

COURTESY OF THE CDC
  • Courtesy of the CDC
Humboldt County health officials are warning parents about an apparent norovirus outbreak that struck more than 130 students in the South Bay Union School District, along with several staff members this week.

The district announced today that it is closing its three campuses beginning Monday and running through Winter Break.

“This precautionary measure will prevent additional student and staff exposure to norovirus," Superintendent Gary Storts said in a release. "The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority. Campus closures will ensure the time needed to deep clean both campuses before students return to school on January 8, 2018, and resume our efforts to read, lead, and succeed.”

The highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and other miserable conditions can be difficult to contain due to its resistance to most disinfectants. A similar outbreak in counties to our south earlier this year hit upwards of 4,000 people, eventually spreading from Woodland to West Sacramento and Davis, despite several school closures and extensive decontamination efforts, according to a Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services news release.

The public health laboratory has confirmed that the virus is in play locally with additional tests being conducted today.

Health officials are recommending the usual round of preventative measures to help stop the spread, including staying home when ill, frequent hand washing and cleaning potentially infected surfaces with strong disinfectants, such as bleach.

“We are working quickly to help our local schools prevent further illness, particularly as we near the holiday break,” Public Health Director Michele Stephens said in the release. 

Read the full DHHS releases below:
More than 130 students from the South Bay Union School District are sick from what Public Health officials believe to be a norovirus outbreak centered at Pine Hill School and affecting nearby South Bay and South Bay Charter schools.

One hundred and thirty-two students of 489 enrolled in the three-school district are out today. One hundred and one students were absent Thursday, while 88 missed school on Wednesday.

An unknown number of staff members are also sick. The Public Health Laboratory in Eureka has confirmed the presence of the highly contagious virus, which causes nausea, fever, vomiting, stomach pain and explosive watery diarrhea. Additional laboratory testing will be conducted today. Officials have already documented cases of transmission from students to parents and other family members, so the number of current cases is likely higher.

Infected people typically show symptoms within 12 to 48 hours of exposure to the virus. Contagion is believed to last at least 24 hours after recovery. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus causes an acute inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

People catch the virus by accidentally ingesting stool or vomit from an infected person. This typically happens by consuming contaminated food or liquids, touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then putting your fingers in your mouth, or sharing food or utensils with someone who is infected. Parents, staff and children are strongly encouraged to go home from school or work if they have any sign of illness, and to remain there at least 24 hours after all symptoms have subsided. There is no cure for norovirus, which generally passes on its own within a few days.

The CDC notes that it cannot be treated with antibiotics, because it is a viral, rather than bacterial, infection. Drinking lots of fluids is recommended to replace those lost during the course of illness. Hand washing is the best defense. Wash hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water. Hand sanitizing gels and wipes are ineffective against the virus. Clean contaminated surfaces thoroughly with a strong disinfectant such as bleach. Even then the virus is often extremely difficult to contain. It can survive on surfaces for weeks, and few disinfectants are effective against it.

An outbreak in Yolo County earlier this year sickened an estimated 4,000 people, and despite exhaustive decontamination efforts resulted in the closure of several schools. The illness spread from Woodland to schools in West Sacramento, Winters, Esparto and Davis, including U.C. Davis.

Public Health officials are working side by side with the staff and superintendent of Pine Hill and South Bay schools, who have pledged their full support in combatting the spread of illness. Department of Health & Humans Services’ Public Health Director Michele Stephens said, “We are working quickly to help our local schools prevent further illness, particularly as we near the holiday break.”

After further discussion between district and Public Health officials, South Bay Union School District will close its three schools, all currently impacted by a norovirus outbreak. The closure will run from Dec. 18 through 22, with the winter break beginning immediately after that.

This decision was bolstered Friday afternoon by an additional pair of positive tests for norovirus related to the outbreak.

Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Donald Baird declared a local outbreak within the district, which encompasses Pine Hill, South Bay and South Bay Charter schools. More than 130 students have been sickened by the highly contagious virus, which includes symptoms of nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea.

South Bay Union School District Superintendent Gary Storts announced the closure to staff and parents this afternoon, stating, “This precautionary measure will prevent additional student and staff exposure to norovirus. The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority. Campus closures will ensure the time needed to deep clean both campuses before students return to school on January 8, 2018, and resume our efforts to read, lead, and succeed.”


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bass Announces $4.8 Million Federal Grant, Ramped Up Needle Disposal Efforts at Packed Opioid Town Hall

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 9:33 AM

More than 250 people attended the opioid town hall meeting last night put together by state Sen. Mike McGuire and Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass. - ANDREW GEORGE BUTLER
  • Andrew George Butler
  • More than 250 people attended the opioid town hall meeting last night put together by state Sen. Mike McGuire and Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass.
Speaking before a Sequoia Conference Center packed with more than 250 people for Tuesday night’s opioid town hall meeting hosted by state Sen. Mike McGuire, Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass announced the county has received a $4.8 million federal grant to create a new local opioid help center.

The meeting saw presentations from a handful of local and state officials on the opioid epidemic and a host of questions from the public, most of them centering around the safe disposal of hypodermic syringes locally.

Bass said the center will focus on opioid education as well as finding treatment for its clients. The center will be one of two dozen new “Hub and Spoke” clinics in California. The clinics’ model is an adaptation from Vermont’s system, which has drawn national praised for its opioid addiction work. Bass said she expects to see Humboldt’s hub start to come to fruition in a couple months.

Bass also addressed the topic of needle disposal, which — judging by the questions from audience members — is clearly of public concern. Bass said in the next couple months a number of kiosks will be installed around Eureka purely for the safe disposal of needles. “This is something we have to embrace as a community issue in order to make a change,” she said.

Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson said the “needle tsunami” sweeping across the city could see some relief in the coming months. He said his department has been working with local health service entities to tighten up the flow of needles into the city. Watson didn’t disclose what specific steps the department has taken.


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