CDPH in the News, August 2016

CDPH in the News

Discovery Bay Water Samples Test Positive for Algae Toxin

from East County Today

Samples taken from the waters around the Discovery Bay community have tested positive for microcystin, a potentially harmful toxin produced by certain algal species, according to laboratory results from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lab in Richmond. Contra Costa Health Services’ Environmental Health Division and the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) recommend that people, pets and livestock avoid contact with water around Discovery Bay until further notice. State health officials, including the California Department of Public Health, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, and the State Water Board, have been working with local authorities to ensure that accurate caution and danger messages are available to post where needed in the community.

Big Tobacco aims its guns to kill California tobacco tax

from The Conversation

Public health and medical advocates have been working for nearly two years to increase California’s tobacco tax, one of the nation’s lowest, by US$2.00. The current tax, a mere 87 cents a pack, ranks close to tobacco-growing states like Kentucky. The proposal that will be on the ballot in November as Proposition 56, the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016, allocates most of the revenue to pay for expanded medical services for poor people through Medicaid, known as MediCal in California. More important, it includes crucial funds to reinvigorate California’s aggressive and effective, but fading, tobacco control and research programs. Inflation-adjusted expenditures to fight smoking in California have declined; Prop 56 could restore the loss, says Stanton Glantz, using data from California Department of Public Health and Legislative Analyst.

County-USC patients’ personal information stolen in car break-in

from Los Angeles Times

Files containing personal information on more than 700 patients treated at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center were stolen when an employee’s car was broken into, county health officials said Monday. The break-in occurred in July. The county Department of Health Services released a statement after trying to notify the affected patients by mail. The files stolen from the car contained appointment lists for people who were treated at the County-USC neurosurgery clinic between May 10 and July 26, according to the statement. The documents did not contain Social Security numbers or financial information, but did include patients’ full names, birth dates, telephone numbers and details about their scheduled appointments, including diagnosis information in some cases. Health services also notified the California Department of Public Health and will notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the statement.

Teen birth rates tumble in Sonoma County, but cultural disparities persist

from Sonoma Index-Tribune

Lost in the recent good news about declining birth rates among California teens is a Sonoma County statistic that has some local health experts scratching their heads. In the past 15 years, the county’s overall teen birth rate has been cut in half, declining to 13.9 births for every 1,000 teens. But a wide disparity remains for birth rates for white teens and Latina teens. For white teens, the birth rate is only 4.5 births per 1,000 teens, far lower than the state’s rate of 8.4 births for white teens. In contrast, the birth rate for local Latina teens is 27.7 births per 1,000 teens, very close to the state average of 31.3 births for Latina teens.
The reason for this disparity is difficult to pinpoint. Across the state, teen birth rates also dropped sharply among all racial and ethnic groups between 2000 and 2014. The birth rate dropped from 77.3 to 31.3 births per 1,000 teens among Latina teens; 59.1 to 24.6 births for African-American teens; 22.3 to 8.4 births for white teens; and 15.0 to 3.7 births for Asian teens, according to a study by the California Department of Public Health. But the state found racial disparities have actually increased during that period, with black and Latina teens three to four times more likely to give birth than white teens.

Health officials warn of Shigella infections in Southern California

from Your Central Valley

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and southern California health officials are investigating a cluster of Shigella infections. Shigella is a type of bacteria that causes shigellosis, a diarrheal disease. Health officials say the infections are predominantly affecting men who have sex with other men. As of last Thursday, the health department identified 14 men infected with an uncommon strain of Shigella.

California audit identifies state government waste, misuse

from SFGate

A California state district engineer approved $3.9 million in payments to the firm that employed the worker’s spouse and the state public health department improperly reimbursed an official $75,000 for driving to work, according to an audit released Thursday. The findings are the result of whistleblower tips investigated within the first six months of the year. The report details seven substantiated investigations from several state agencies, and identifies $400,000 in undisclosed gifts and wasted money due to improper travel expenses and mismanagement.
Auditors could not identify a cost to the state by the actions of the district engineer who violated conflict-of-interest law when the engineer, from 2010 through 2015, participated in decisions that financially benefited an engineering firm that employed the engineer’s spouse. They found the engineer approved dozens of claims seeking payment by the engineering firm totaling $3.9 million. Supervisors in the drinking water program knew of the spouse’s employment, but did not think it would affect the engineer’s work, according to the report.
The drinking water program started with the California Department of Public Health but moved to the Water Resources Control Board in July 2014. A spokesman for the water board said his department has always separated financial payments from project decisions, and sought to bring the drinking water program in line when they identified the differences.