Allegheny County Department of Health

The Allegheny County Health Department says 15 people have now died from the flu in the Pittsburgh area, but that this season's outbreak seems to be slowing down.

All of the victims were at least 55 and most had other health problems. Fifteen people died last flu season, and more deaths are possible this season.

Still, officials say this is one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory with nearly 4,000 cases reported.

As part of the ongoing Live Well Allegheny Initiative, the county on Friday will encourage employees to take the stairs, rather than the elevators in the workplace.

“It’s a great way to get a little exercise," said Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Department of Health. "It’s very convenient and very efficient, and does have some real benefits.”

The Allegheny County Health Department is urging testing, treatment and vaccination for pertussis as a growing number of cases are being reported.

From Jan. 1 through Nov. 30 this year there were 140 confirmed cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough. That’s compared to the average of 66 reported cases in the same time period over the last ten years.

Syphilis cases in Allegheny County have risen about 75 percent this year compared to 2013, the Allegheny County Health Department said Wednesday.

As of Nov. 10, 98 syphilis cases have been reported in the county, compared to 56 this time last year. After a drop in cases in the late 1990s and early 2000s, syphilis has been on the rise since 2005, locally and nationally.  

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

The Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from a Liberian patient is reported to be in good condition. However, a second person has been diagnosed with the virus. This has heightened concerns about the spread of Ebola in the United States.

Although medical professionals think chances of an outbreak in the area are low, how is the region preparing for the possibility? We’ll pose that question to Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.

The Allegheny County Health Department's effort to update its restaurant grading system is getting a boost from the 2015 budget presented this month to county council.  The $839.2 million budget drafted by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald includes an increase in funding for the department's food inspection effort.

Jim Thompson, deputy director of environmental health, says the Health Department will increase its number of full-time food inspectors from 20 to 22 if council approves the spending plan.

Air Quality Complications and Shenango Coke Plant

Oct 1, 2014
Jon Dawson / Flickr

The Shenango Coke Works on Neville Island has consistently violated local clean air regulations leading some citizens to ask why the Allegheny County Health Department doesn't shut the plant down.

We pose that question and more to Jim Thompson, Air Quality Program Manager for the Allegheny County Health Department. Hear from Bellevue resident Ken Holmes and other local residents who are concerned about air quality in the area.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Students at Duquesne Elementary School in the Mon Valley spent Tuesday running, jumping and playing, all in the name of health.

“It was really exciting to be going through the school, going through the play area, the gym, seeing the Move-a-thon, seeing the kids doing yoga, and relay races and the dancing and the nutrition, having meals with fruits and vegetables,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who joined the kids for a couple of yoga poses during Tuesday’s event.

“I think we are not as unhealthy as we could be, but I think there’s lots of room for improvement,” says Dr. Karen Hacker, Allegheny County Health Department Director. 

On Monday the department begins a series of 13 public meetings over the next seven weeks to discuss health concerns throughout the county.

Flickr user Mike Licht

The Allegheny County Health Department wants you to help set its priorities as it attempts to become the healthiest county in the nation.

That’s according to department director Dr. Karen Hacker, who said the county is now moving into the second phase of its community health assessment process. The first phase was an online comment period, which Hacker said garnered more than 1,000 responses.

Flickr user roy.luck

Three changes to Allegheny County’s regulations on air pollution will be introduced in County Council Tuesday evening.

According to Jim Thompson, deputy director for environmental health at the Allegheny County Health Department, the most significant proposed change would increase the fees paid by “major sources” of air pollution.

“Prior to this year, large sources were paying $57.50/ton of pollutant emitted,” Thompson said. “Starting this year, it will be $85/ton.”

Allegheny County is making it easier to avoid road construction and get vaccinations now that its notification program has expanded to the Public Works and Health departments.

Allegheny Alerts is a program that will call, text, or email people who sign up about the four departments involved. The program began in April with the Parks Department and the Kane Regional Centers.

Rewards Offered in Woodstove Roundup

Jul 7, 2014

Despite the popularity and appeal of summer bonfires, too much wood smoke can cause problems, according to Allegheny County Health Department. The smoke can contain toxins, act as an asthma trigger and prevent neighbors from opening windows to receive cool breezes.

That’s why the ACHD’s Air Quality Program offered rewards for older, uncertified wood furnaces and wood-fired boilers.

On May 17th, 62 woodstoves were collected in North Park, loaded into trucks, and recycled by Tube City IMS.

Flickr user Doug Becker

Julie Burgo was shocked when she was diagnosed with asthma in her 40s. But she had a hunch of what was causing the disorder: her neighbors’ wood burning fireplace.

When she approached her neighbors and told them that their habits were negatively affecting her health and the health of her mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment at the time, she said they retaliated with bigger and more frequent fires.

Qualifying seniors can head off to farmers markets in the Pittsburgh area starting June 17 with $20 worth of checks in hand provided by the Allegheny County Department of Health Services Area Agency on Aging (AAA).

“The goal of the program is to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to the eligible seniors in our area and to support the farmers,” said Marian Matik, administrative officer for AAA.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is asking for public feedback on its 2014 Air Monitoring Network Review, an annual report listing where and how air pollution is being measured.

The 78-page document, required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, includes the location of monitoring stations, the process used to monitor the air and the pollutants detected at each location.

Health Department to Make Low-income Homes Healthy

May 29, 2014

Every day, an average of 36,000 children in the United States miss school because of an asthma attack, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Unfortunately, many children are exposed to asthma triggers such as mold and dust mites, along with other health hazards, in their homes.

Now, lower income households with children can receive free home health inspections from the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) to detect risks such as asthma triggers, mold spores, and lead paint.

Following the release of national reports on climate change, Allegheny County Health Department officials are examining how best to prepare for the changes they say are imminent over the coming decades.

“It’s going to change the air pollution levels, it’s going to change the pollen levels, it’s going to change insects, it’s going to change water quality,” said Jayme Graham, Air Quality Program manager at ACHD. “What do we need to know about that, and what do we need to start preparing for that?”

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Food and Nutrition Program is aimed at ensuring pregnant women and mothers of young children have access to food staples. The program is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Allegheny County was a pilot site for the national demonstration project in the 1970s.

“Allegheny County Health Department opened the first WIC Clinic in Pennsylvania and issued the first WIC voucher on May 28th, 1974,” said Kathryn South, a public health nutrition administrator with the Allegheny County Health Department’s WIC Office.

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Nearly 1 in 3 school age children in the Pittsburgh region is overweight or obese. Last January Allegheny County launched the Live Well project to improve the health of county residents, particularly students, through health and fitness. It’s one of the leading health initiatives undertaken by Dr. Karen Hacker, Allegheny County’s Health Department Director.

Woodstoves and boilers might have helped keep homes warm over the winter, but they also could have harmed the environment.

That’s why for the second year, the Allegheny County Health Department is collecting old woodstoves and outdoor wood-fired boilers that do not meet the current national emission standards.

For the next year, Allegheny County will be surveying 14- to 19-year-olds in an effort to improve services offered for youth. The phone survey is based on the national “Youth Risk Behavior” survey.

“Which focuses on a whole variety of areas that include everything from drug abuse to physical activity and nutrition to sexual activity to mental health issues,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker. “Many of the questions on the survey were drawn from the national survey.”

Health officials are warning that an extremely dangerous brand of heroin is making the rounds in Pittsburgh and surrounding counties.

Twenty-two people have died in the past week in western Pennsylvania from a suspected overdose of a mix of heroin and the powerful narcotic fentanyl, according to Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner says they’ve found “stamp bags” labeled with the words “Theraflu,” “Bud Ice” and “Income Tax” at the scenes of the overdoses.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Live Well Allegheny is a new initiative aimed at promoting health and wellness throughout Allegheny County.

The effort was launched Tuesday by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, members of the county Board of Health and Health Department Director Karen Hacker.

Fitzgerald said while the Pittsburgh region ranks high on national lists for things such as livability and academia, it could also be a leader in healthy living.

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

As new Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker comes into office, she faces a range of public health concerns. From smoking, obesity and air quality to green infrastructure and fracking issues, Dr. Hacker will be tackling a number of community health matters.

Many worry whether the department has the resources it needs to enforce all the state and county regulations under its purview, but Dr. Hacker says she has already received unique support from the public and from advocacy groups.

The Allegheny County Health Department is celebrating a legislative victory that will allow them to more effectively monitor air and water pollution.

In December, County Council passed a law that requires companies performing hydraulic fracturing within the county to notify the Health Department as each phase of the process begins.

Wind chill temperatures are expected to dip to more than 30 below zero in southwestern Pennsylvania Monday night and Tuesday morning, which means exposed skin could freeze in less than 5 minutes.

Flu 'Widespread' in PA, CDC Says

Dec 30, 2013

Influenza is now considered to be “widespread” in Pennsylvania as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with health officials reporting outbreaks in at least half the regions of the state.

During the last flu season there were 1,415 confirmed cases of influenza in Allegheny County, but the health department adds that for every one laboratory-tested case there are as many as 100 others.

More vulnerable groups of people, such as the elderly and infants, are often affected by life-threatening symptoms brought on by the virus. This Thanksgiving, healthcare organizations in the area are starting a new initiative to help some of the most vulnerable residents.

Elementary and secondary schools in the Pittsburgh region are increasingly interested in integrating gardening into their curricula. At least, that’s what it looks like from where Jake Seltman is sitting.

Seltman is the director of educational programming at Grow Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that provides gardening and farming education to people of all ages.

Seltman said that in the last six months he’s fielded 22 requests from schools and school districts to bring the Edible Schoolyard program to their schools.

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