RENO — It might sound like common sense that good hygiene, properly washing hands and getting appropriate immunizations are all ways to help prevent communicable diseases. However, 1 million Americans die every year from illnesses that could have been prevented.
As part of National Public Health Week through April 8, the Washoe County Health District and the American Public Health Association (APHA) offer some tips on preventing communicable diseases.
According to Washoe County Health District Public Information Officer Phil Ulibarri, national statistics show that each year, roughly 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
“Many people don’t know that most food poisoning is caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites, rather than toxic substances in the food,” Ulibarri said. “Proper hand washing, food preparation and storage would prevent that.” He added that raw foods are the most common source of foodborne illnesses because they are not sterile. When food is cooked and left out for more than two hours at room temperature, bacteria can multiply quickly. Health officials also point out that some people are at greater risk for bacterial infections because of their age or an unhealthy immune system. Young children, pregnant women and older adults are at the greatest risk.
Hand-washing can also help prevent transmission of colds, flu and other infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA. But, health officials stress that vaccination is the only medical intervention that has ever completely eliminated an illness in humans.
“Vaccines and immunizations are the most foolproof method of preventing communicable disease,” Ulibarri said. “Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that cases and deaths from the most vaccine-preventable diseases targeted since 1980, such as chickenpox, have declined by 80 percent or more because of widespread
immunization. That’s why the CDC recommends vaccinations from birth through adulthood to provide a lifetime of protection against many diseases and infections, such as influenza, pneumococcal disease, human papillomavirus and hepatitis A and B.”
The Washoe County Health District provides information, training and clinical services to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Most services are available five days
a week, however immunizations are administered by appointment only.
For more information, visit www.washoecounty.us/health or www.GetHealthyWashoe.com.