Los Angeles County Not At Increased Risk to Radiation Exposure

The damage to nuclear reactors in Japan has understandably lead to concerns about the safety of individuals throughout the world, including here in Los Angeles County. The Department of Public Health, is cautioning residents against ingesting potassium iodide (KI) as a precaution against possible radiation exposure. It is not an effective precautionary measure.

“There is no increased risk of harmful levels of radiation exposure in the United States based on the situation to date at the nuclear power complex in Japan. Residents who ingest potassium iodide out of concern of possible exposure from this situation are doing something which is not only ineffective, but could also cause side effects,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “If a need should arise for residents to start taking potassium iodide to guard against effects of radiation exposure, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department – along with other local, state and federal agencies – will inform the public. We do not anticipate this need.”

However, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health – along with other local, state and federal agencies – is actively monitoring the situation. These agencies utilize a number of redundant monitoring systems capable of detecting any significant elevation in radiation levels. The public is encouraged to check reliable sources for up-to-date information.

All residents are reminded to prepare a basic, emergency kit to prepare for any kind of disaster. While potassium iodide is not a recommended component of such a kit, there are at least 10 Essential Items, as recommended by the Emergency Survival Program in LA County’s Office of Emergency Management, which should be included:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Cash and Important Documents
  • Clothes
  • Flashlight
  • First Aid Kit
  • Prescription Medication
  • Radio
  • Toiletries
  • Tools

For more information on earthquake and disaster readiness, call (866) 999-5228 or the LA County Information Line at 2-1-1. Additional information can be found on the Public Health website.

Fake Health Inspector Targeting LA County Restaurants

Following reports that a man is impersonating a health inspector at restaurants, Supervisor Knabe is urging business owners to verify the identity of health inspectors when in doubt.

“Health inspections are a critical service that the County provides restaurant owners and mobile food vendors, and their patrons,” said Supervisor Knabe. “It is important for the public to be aware of and report any suspicious activity by someone who may be an imposter and threatening the integrity of the County Health Department.”

Three restaurants in Los Angeles County have been targeted by a man claiming to be from the Los Angeles County Health Department who advises restaurant owners to call a telephone number and enter a numeric code.

Los Angeles County Health Inspectors should always present a County-issued photo identification card and present a business card upon request. Inspectors should never accept payment for an inspection or charge money for a County Letter Grade. They will always direct the operator to the local Environmental Health Office, Environmental Health headquarters, or the County Treasurer Tax Collector for payment of any and all fees.

If you come into contact with an imposter, you are encouraged to call your local law enforcement agency or local health department.


County to Explore Public Private Biotechnology Partnerships

Supervisor Don Knabe, in a joint motion with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, today directed the County’s CEO to conduct a feasibility assessment for developing a countywide public/private biotechnology partnership program.

Through the motion, the County will identify potential biotechnology initiatives that would bring together public and private resources and expertise at each of the five County-owned hospital campuses, similar to the LA BioMed program at the County’s Harbor-UCLA facility.  The Board directed the CEO to identify opportunities, partners  and resources, and to develop a schedule for implementation of partnership programs.

LA County’s Harbor-UCLA Medical Center is the home of LA BioMed, one of the country’s leading nonprofit independent biomedical research institutes.  Through its affiliation with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, it has more than 150 researchers conducting studies into improved treatments and cures for cancer, inherited diseases, infectious diseases, illnesses caused by environmental factors and more. It also educates young scientists and provides community services, including immunization and childhood nutrition programs.

“We’ve had tremendous success with the LA BioMed program at Harbor-UCLA and we want to see if we can replicate that at our other County facilities,” said Supervisor Knabe.  “For several decades, LA BioMed has been an example of the power of the public and private sectors working together to both solve issues and spur the economy.  Even during recessionary times, the biomedical industry enjoys steady and rapid growth.  As the country looks at reforming healthcare, now is the right time for Los Angeles County to take the lead in public/private biomedical partnerships.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists biomedical engineering as one of the fastest growing occupations in the US for the decade ending in 2018, estimating growth of 72 percent between 2008 and 2018.  Funding for biomedical research has grown rapidly, including $10.4 million in new funding for the National Institutes of Health under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Increase in Rabid Bats Found in Los Angeles County Prompts Concern

With an unusually high number of rabid bats recorded in Los Angeles County so far this year, the Department of Public Health is reminding all residents to avoid touching any wild animals, especially bats. So far in 2010, 21 rabid bats have been detected countywide, compared to an average of 10 per year.

Dogs and cats with current vaccines that have come into contact with rabid animals may be re-vaccinated and kept in quarantine for 30 days to ensure they have not been infected by rabies. Bats are protected by federal law and are an important part of our ecosystem. In nature, about 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000 bats is infected with rabies. However when a sick bat is found, the risk of that bat having rabies is much higher; approximately 10 percent.

Individuals should take the following steps to reduce their rabies risk:

  • Make sure pets are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.
  • If you are bitten by a wild animal, contact your doctor immediately to determine if you need rabies post-exposure treatment.
  • Do not try to touch any wild animal, especially bats.
  • If a bat is found on the ground around your home or in a public place, place a box or container over it and call your local animal control agency.
  • If a bat is found in your home and may have had access to pets or areas where people were sleeping, do not release if outside. If possible, put a box or container over it and call your local animal control agency.
  • If your pet has been found with a bat or other wild animals, report the exposure to the Department of public Health Veterinary Public Health and Rabies Control Program by calling 213-989-7060.

For more information, visit Public Health’s Website.

County Residents Encouraged to Receive Flu Shot Vaccination

Beginning today through January 18, 2011, the Department of Public Health will host 147 flu outreach clinics and an additional eleven distribution events  at larger venues around the County. The flu vaccine will also be available throughout the flu season at Department of Public Health clinics. Los Angeles County residents are encouraged to contact their regular healthcare provider to arrange for flu vaccine.

Who should get flu vaccines?

Flu vaccine is recommended to all persons 6 months of age and over, including healthy adults. It is especially important to get a flu vaccine if you are:

  • 6 months through 18 years of age
  • 50 years and older
  • Pregnant or just had a baby
  • Morbidly obese
  • Living in a nursing home or long-term care home
  • Living with a weakened immune system or chronic medical condition (diabetes, heart or lung disease)
  • Living with or caring for someone who is more likely to have flu complications
  • A healthcare provider.

What is the cost to get flu vaccines?

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is offering flu vaccines at no charge to people who don’t have health insurance or whose healthcare provider does not offer flu vaccines. If you have health insurance, please contact your regular health care provider or insurance provider.

Where to go and get a flu vaccine?

Click here for a schedule of flu outreach clinics in the Fourth District

Beat The Heat, Visit a Cooling Center

If you are planning to visit one of these Cooling Centers, it is advisable that you call in advance to make sure there is still seating available.  If a Cooling Center is not operational, check the attached list for another Cooling Center nearest you or call “211”.  You may want to check with your local library when looking for a place to cool down.  They have great resources and plenty to read while you escape the heat.

If you plan to be outdoors, please take precautions to protect yourself from the sun and heat.

  • Put on plenty of sun block and wear a wide brimmed hat or carry an umbrella.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Drink water often, don’t wait until you are thirsty.
  • Avoid unnecessary exertion.
  • If you experience dizziness, fatigue, faintness, headaches, muscle cramps and increased thirst you need to relax in a cooler, shaded place and drink water or a sports drink.
  • More severe symptoms (such as disorientation, pale and clammy skin, a rapid and weak pulse, and/or fast and shallow breathing) may indicate heat exhaustion or impending heat stroke.  Seek immediate medical attention.
  • If you are traveling on vacation or running errands around town, NEVER leave a senior, child or pet in a closed car or any vehicle since temperatures can quickly rise to life-threatening levels.
  • If you know seniors who live alone or people whose immune and/or respiratory systems are not working properly, check on them regularly to make sure they are staying cool.
  • Offer assistance to “shut-ins” in your neighborhood.  Check on them frequently during hot weather.

For a listing of Los Angeles City Cooling Centers go to or call “311”.

Vaccination Recommendations For Pertussis Expanded

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health today reported the third death due to pertussis countywide so far this year. The announcement comes as the California Department of Public Health has expanded its vaccination recommendations amid rising numbers of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, cases throughout the state.

In addition to the usual series of childhood pertussis vaccinations, the California Department of Public Health now recommends an adolescent-adult pertussis booster vaccine (Tdap) for:
• anyone 7 years and older who is not fully immunized, including those who are more than 64 years old,
• women of childbearing age, before, during, or immediately after pregnancy

“This expanded set of recommendations is an appropriate response to the epidemic in Los Angeles County and statewide,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “Vaccination is our best defense against pertussis. This is a disease that is especially dangerous for infants under six months of age, who are not old enough to have received the number of vaccine doses needed to be protected against whooping cough.”

This year, 289 possible cases have been reported in LA County, of which 184 are laboratory confirmed, probable, or suspected. For all of 2009, the corresponding number of cases was 156.
It has claimed three lives, all of whom were infants, in LA County. In an average year, LA County has 0 – 1 deaths attributable to pertussis.

“Infants are most likely to be infected by parents, grandparents, older siblings, day care workers, and other caregivers who have whooping cough but often don’t know that this disease is the reason for their symptoms,” said Dr. Fielding. “People suffering from a cough illness who have contact with infants should seek medical care immediately. Anyone who lives with or has frequent contact with an infant should ensure that their vaccinations are up-to-date.”

According to one recent study, when the source of the infant’s infection could be identified, 41 percent of infants infected with pertussis contracted the disease from a sibling, 38 percent from their mother, and 17 percent from their father. As such, anyone who has frequent contact with an infant is urged to make sure that their vaccinations are up-to-date. In addition, anyone with a cough-illness of any kind should avoid contact with infants.

Pertussis is spread by the coughing of an infected individual. Typical symptoms in young children include intense coughing accompanied by a whooping sound, and post-cough vomiting. However, some infants infected with pertussis may not show typical symptoms, but can still suffer life-threatening complications, which can include pneumonia and seizures. Among older children and adults, the primary symptom may be a cough that often lasts for several weeks or longer. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have pertussis, contact your doctor right away.

Children should receive three primary vaccinations containing the pertussis vaccine and two boosters by age four to six, followed by a Tdap booster (which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) during their preteen years. Any teen or adult who has not received a Tdap booster yet should do so, particularly if they are in contact with an infant. Los Angeles County residents are encouraged to contact their regular healthcare provider to arrange for recommended vaccinations.

Everyone should also practice standard hygiene habits in order to help prevent the spread of any illness. These healthy habits include washing your hands often with soap and water, staying home from work or school when sick, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and covering coughs and sneezes appropriately with a tissue.

Those who do not have a regular healthcare provider or insurance coverage for vaccines may dial 2-1-1 or click here for referrals to providers and community sites offering immunizations free or at a reduced-charge.

Mumps Cases On The Rise In Los Angeles County

Amid an increasing number of mumps cases reported in Los Angeles County, the Department of Public Health today urged residents to be alert for any sign of the disease in their community and to take steps to protect themselves.

At least nine cases of mumps have already been reported in Los Angeles County this year, six of which have been confirmed, said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. By comparison, seven cases were confirmed countywide in all of 2009, seven in 2008, and five in 2007.

Four of the confirmed cases have occurred in the past two months and may be related to the multi-state mumps outbreak affecting the Hasidic Jewish population that was first seen in this country on the East Coast. Specifically, cases have been detected in congregate settings such as schools, colleges, and community centers.

Mumps is a vaccine-preventable viral illness that is transmitted by coughing and sneezing. Symptoms begin from 12 to 25 days after exposure, and include swelling of salivary glands, fever and inflammation of the testes in teenage and adult males. Up to 20 percent of infected individuals may be asymptomatic, however. Symptoms tend to decrease after one week and usually go away after 10 days, but in some cases the illness can cause severe symptoms that include inflammation of the testicles, meningitis and encephalitis.

The best protection against the mumps is to make sure that you receive the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination, said Dr. Fielding. If you develop mumps symptoms, avoid congregate settings where you could spread the disease to others, and contact your doctor immediately.

Unimmunized children under age 19 who do not have health insurance or a regular source of health care can receive low-cost or free mumps vaccine through a Public Health center (during vaccine clinic hours), or through their local community health center.

For information on Public Health vaccine clinics, locate a health center near you by using the Public Health website or by calling the LA County Information line at 2-1-1. Contact the health center to make a vaccine appointment.

Tuberculosis Is Not A Thing Of The Past, But A Current Threat

As nations around the globe observed World TB Day this week, the Los Angeles County Health Officer reminds residents that despite the popular misconception that tuberculosis (TB) is a thing of the past; TB impacts millions of lives worldwide every year. Drug-resistant forms of disease are an ongoing concern for Los Angeles County.

Though efforts to manage, treat and eliminate tuberculosis have met with remarkable success in Los Angeles County, we are not immune to more serious forms of this disease, said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. There were 116 local cases of drug-resistant TB between 1998 and 2008, which reminds us that TB is an ongoing threat. Through rapid diagnostic methods, timely reporting of cases to Public Health and appropriate care for all individuals, we can work toward one day eradicating this disease.

The number of cases of all forms of TB in the County has plummeted from a peak of 2,100 in 1992 to 706 cases in 2009. Worldwide, more than 9 million cases are still reported annually, and more than 1.5 million people die of tuberculosis each year. Cases of TB in the County appear to be largely contracted abroad, with the vast majority occurring in foreign-born individuals. Though the prevalence of the disease in the U.S. has declined over the past century, Los Angeles County – as a major hub of international travel, commerce and immigration – cannot expect to be unaffected by an illness that so strongly affects the U.S.’s neighbors.

If not treated properly, TB can be fatal. It is particularly dangerous for medically vulnerable individuals. Patients who are immuno-compromised, such as those who are HIV-infected, and those who have other medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, are among the most likely to develop significant complications.

For further information about TB, please visit any of the following websites: Stop TB Partnership (, and the Los Angeles County TB Control Program (