Friday, March 20, 2020

Seriously, y'all need to wash your hands

By MINDY FACIANE | Public Information Officer, Louisiana Department of Health

Life in Louisiana has changed dramatically over the past few weeks as COVID-19, more commonly called coronavirus, entered our state. Experts are continuing to learn more about this highly contagious virus — how it spreads, how it can be treated and, eventually how to create a vaccine to protect against it.

What we know right now is COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person infected with the disease coughs or exhales. These droplets can land on objects or surfaces, like a cellphone, and can then be transmitted from a surface when a person touches it and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also become infected if they breathe in the droplets from a person who has COVID-19. This is why it’s important to stay at least 6 feet away from an infected person — an act of social distancing.

It’s also an enormously important reason for everyone to be washing their hands properly, thoroughly and frequently. You could be exposed to the virus without even knowing it — and, thereby, unknowingly spreading it as well.

Pandemic aside, good hand washing is something we should practice regularly:
  • Before, during and after preparing food,
  • Before eating food,
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick,
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound,
  • After using the toilet,
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet,
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing,
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste,
  • After handling pet food or pet treats, and
  • After touching garbage.

Washing your hands only takes 20 seconds and helps prevent the spread of germs like the coronavirus from person to person, our communities and our state. It just takes these five simple steps from the CDC:
  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Most of the time you should choose soap and water first when it comes to cleaning your hands, but if soap and water simply aren’t available then you can turn to hand sanitizers. These handy gels can cut down on germs significantly but they don’t get rid of all kinds of germs.

When choosing a hand sanitizer, check the label to make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. (Keep it out of reach of children, because it may cause alcohol poisoning if too much is ingested.) To use, apply to the palm of one hand and rub the gel all over the surfaces of your fingers and hands until dry.

Whether it’s good old soap and water or the standby hand sanitizer, the power to help keep coronavirus at bay is literally in your hands.

Visit the COVID-19 webpages from the Louisiana Department of Health and the CDC for more coronavirus information.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Cell phones as a safety net lifeline: What we learned by delivering text messages to 27,000 Louisianans

By DUSTIN PALMER | Senior Program Manager, Code for America

Eligible people struggle to maintain their case status for critical safety net services, often due to administrative hurdles and poor communication. Code for America piloted text message reminders to support Louisianans, which helped clients avoid costly churn. Text messages are an underrated, efficient solution for human service agencies to meet client expectations and improve case outcomes.  

Read more here.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Louisiana Department of Health gets creative to provide flu vaccinations

The Louisiana Department of Health is always ready to meet the needs of the public in the event of a health emergency, such as pandemic flu, with coordinated plans that can be put into action at short notice. Among them is a plan to provide vaccinations or antiviral drugs to people around the state.

Not only does this help keep the Department ready for a worst-case scenario, but it allows LDH to provide vaccinations to people who may not otherwise have been able to get them.

Last fall, while testing its capabilities, LDH provided 3,480 flu vaccinations to people around the state, a 164% increase from the previous year when 1,313 shots were given. Additionally, LDH was able to expand its reach from 47 sites in 2018 to 26 sites and 22 parish health units in 2019. Those sites included a sports arena, a church and a state office building.

In central Louisiana, LDH went a step further in providing an easy way for people to get their flu shots.

Inspired by a longtime staple of the fast food industry, health officials set up driveways and parking lots to allow for drive-thru clinics. Patients rolled in, rolled up their sleeves for a shot and rolled out, making the process of getting a flu shot fast and convenient. More than 1,600 flu shots were given in the region, with the Rapides Parish Health Unit giving 684 vaccinations alone.

Dr. David Holcombe, regional medical director for central Louisiana, said the demand for vaccinations was so great that he had to drive to Natchitoches to get more vaccines after his team exhausted their own supplies.

Flu vaccines are still encouraged

The most recent reports from both the CDC and the Department of Health still show widespread flu activity in Louisiana. Dr. Frank Welch, immunization medical director for the Office of Public Health, advises that it is never too late to get a flu shot.

“Flu shots are available at any parish health unit at no cost to the patient. Also, local pharmacies, clinics, doctors’ offices and community health centers still have vaccines available,” Dr. Welch said. “With reports of widespread flu activity, a flu vaccine offers you, your family, friends and co-workers the best protection from getting sick from the flu.”

There’s even more incentive to get your flu shot this year: COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus. Flu and coronavirus are similar in that both are highly contagious respiratory illnesses spread by the droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, which are then inhaled by others.

However, the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19. It’s still extremely important to get your shot, though, and here’s why. If you don’t get your flu shot and you get the flu, your weakened immune system leaves your body more likely to become ill with other respiratory illnesses — like COVID-19.

For more information on how to protect you and your family from the flu or where to find a location to receive a flu vaccination near you, visit