October 16 - October 22, 2014

State Health Officials: Maryland is Prepared to Respond to Ebola

 

By Ashley S. Westerman
Capital News Service

BALTIMORE -- Maryland is prepared to deal with the possibility of an Ebola infection, said Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein at a Thursday press conference, following the news earlier this week that a man in Texas is the first confirmed case of the deadly disease in the United States.

“The people in Maryland should know there is a lot of preparation going on,” Sharfstein said. “We have a health care system that is fully able to identify and respond to a whole range of potential issues, including Ebola virus.”

While Maryland has not yet had a diagnosed case of Ebola, health officials say it’s “certainly possible.”

Dr. Anthony Harris, a University of Maryland professor of epidemiology and public health, said there is a “reasonable possibility” that in the next year a hospital in Maryland will have a patient who has traveled from West Africa and has Ebola.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Harris said. “But I think the big difference though is that we are fully prepared to deal with that patient from the minute that they set foot in the door.”

Earlier this week, a man in Dallas, who traveled from Liberia and entered the country through Dulles International Airport, was confirmed as the first Ebola case ever in the U.S. The man is being treated in a Dallas area hospital.

Since Ebola is only spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is infected, Sharfstein said, “the general population is not at risk for Ebola at this point.” If you’re not someone who has traveled recently from West Africa, there is really nothing to worry about, he said.

Additionally, health officials said people who were on flights at Dulles at the same time as the now-confirmed Ebola patient are really not at any risk based on current evidence.

Sharfstein, along with a host of other health officials at the press conference, said preparing for Ebola is similar to preparing for other infectious diseases, and assured the public that disease surveillance and rapid testing standards and protocols are in place.

Officials are working to get out guidance to health care providers across the state on what to look for when it comes to Ebola and what to do if they think someone might have the disease, said Dr. Lisa Maragakis, director of the Department of Epidemiology and Infection Control at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Additionally, labs are required to report all suspected cases of Ebola, and the state lab in Baltimore actually has the ability to test for the Ebola virus, making Maryland only one of 13 states with this capability, officials said.

Officials also assured there are procedures in place among hospitals, health care providers and emergency response agencies for safe removal and isolation of a patient if a case is ever confirmed. For instance, D.H.M.H. and local health departments have a 24-7 system that can investigate a possible Ebola case and deploy, among other things, protocols and treatment recommendations, said Dr. Richard Alcorta, acting co-executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.

Officials said they have even taken the additional step of having inter-disciplinary meetings over the last several months with hospitals and healthcare providers to get their input on the Ebola situation, and to keep them abreast on the screening protocols and procedures.

Finally, officials said, they are working in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other states on how to respond if there is an outbreak.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 3,000 people since it began six months ago, according to the World Health Organization. The epidemic began in Guinea, but has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The W.H.O has also reported that Senegal has had a travel-associated case of the Ebola virus.


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PG Food Equity Forum Focuses on Affordable Healthy Food

  

By Press Officer
PGC Food Equity Council

HYATTSVILLE, MD (September 18, 2014) - High levels of chronic disease and obesity, especially in low-income communities, hamper the quality of life in Prince George's County.  Dozens of food and public health experts participated in a first-ever "Food Equity Forum," hosted by Prince George's Food Equity Council (FEC), to discuss strategies to improve the health of county residents and increase access to healthy food for all socio-economic groups.

"Many of our residents have limited access to healthy food options and Prince George's County residents have the second highest rate of overweight and obesity in Maryland.  We need to address these threats to our communities' health together. The Food Equity Council is working collaboratively to propose innovative solutions to increase access to healthy, affordable, locally and sustainably produced, and culturally appropriate foods. The Forum was an important step forward in creating meaningful dialogue about ways to improve our food system," said Dannielle Glaros, M. P.P, chief of staff, County Council Member Eric Olson.

"What's exciting is that stakeholders from all sectors of the food system were present.  That's what we need to make the systems-level change necessary to improve public health and communities' access to healthy foods," said Margaret Morgan-Hubbard, CEO and Founder of ECO City Farm and Co-Chair of FEC.

The 22-member Prince George's County Food Equity Council was formed in response to the Institute for Public Health Innovation's (IPHI) work to reduce chronic disease rates via complementary policy, environmental, programmatic, and infrastructure activities in Prince George's County. As part of a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, IPHI identified and implemented seven different strategies to improve safety and increase access to recreational opportunities, increase access to and affordability of healthy foods for low-income families and improve delivery of clinical preventive services through the use of community health workers. Among these was starting FEC, which seeks to increase the number of people with access to affordable and healthy food options, while bridging the vast, but fragmented, cross-sector food system in many communities.

The Forum featured an expert panel and breakout sessions that engaged stakeholders from a variety of sectors of the county's food system-including farmers, University of Maryland extension representatives, food access focused non-profits, grocery stores, elected officials, government agencies, renewable energy companies, and healthcare executives.

Central to the forum discussions were innovations in local food system work and opportunities for systems-level change through policy-based approaches.  Healthy mobile food vending, untraditional agricultural ventures, strategies to increase community level access to affordable foods, and promising practices to expand nutrition education programming were popular topics among participants.   Stakeholders acknowledged the need for collaboration to address the county's "food deserts and swamps" and their implications on residents' health.  According to John Hopkins' Center for a Livable Future, 43 percent of county residents live in "food deserts," or low-income census tracts where residents are more than .5 miles (urban) or 10 miles (rural) from the nearest supermarket. The average for the state of Maryland is only 27 percent, according to the Prince George's County Food Systems Profile. Readily available are "food swamps" through a densely populated network of fast food chain restaurants, which make up 71 percent of the county's restaurants.

Speakers presenting findings and leading discussions included: Sydney Daigle, Food Equity Council coordinator; Margaret Morgan Hubbard, CEO, ECO City Farms and Food Equity Council co-chair; Pamela Hess, Executive Director, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture; Nicete Moodie, Nutrition Outreach Coordinator, Share Our Strength; Denise Ann Benoit-Moctezuma, Program Supervisor, Prince George's Expanded Food & Nutrition Program, University of Maryland Extension; Pete Charlerie, Farmer and Wwner, SunSplash Farm; Shelby Watson Hampton, Farmer, Robin Hill Farm & Vineyards; Christie Balch, Executive Director, Crossroads Community Food Network; Susan Thweatt, Program Chief, Prince George's County Health Department; Michael J. Wilson, Executive Director, Maryland Hunger Solutions; Allison Lilly, Sustainability and Wellness Coordinator, University of Maryland Dining Services; and Evelyn Kelly, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Public Health Innovation.


 

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Join WSSC on National Drug Take-Back Day

  

By Press Officer
WSSC

Laurel – September 25, 2014: This Saturday, turn in your prescription and over-the-counter drugs at WSSC’s headquarters, 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, MD, as part of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) 9th Annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., individuals can drop off their medications at our secure collection site and contribute to preserving our local water sources.

WSSC supports the safe disposal of drugs. Too many people pour expired or unused prescription drugs down the drain or flush them down the toilet, unaware of the potential risks they could pose to drinking water and the environment.

The presence of such drugs in WSSC’s drinking water sources is not currently a concern, but the safe disposal of drugs has nationwide benefit, and is crucial to protecting the quality of drinking water sources. State and federal environmental and health regulatory agencies continuously study the potential environmental and health consequences of drugs in drinking water.

In cities and towns, which have sewer systems connected to a wastewater treatment plant, prescription and over-the-counter drugs poured down the sink or flushed can eventually pass into rivers and lakes. For septic tanks, drugs flushed down the toilet can leach into the ground and seep into groundwater.

If you are unable to turn in your expired or unused drugs this Saturday, follow these steps for easy, responsible disposal (also applicable for liquid medications).

o Take unused, un-needed or expired prescription drugs out of their original prescription bottles;

o Crush medication and put it in a container such as an empty can or sealable bag;

o Mix with coffee grounds, dirt or kitty litter;

o Discard with regular trash.

The Take-Back Initiative is an opportunity to protect families from potential misuse and abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as protect the nation’s drinking water. In the eight previous Take-Back events, the DEA and its state, local and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed more than 4.1 million pounds (2,123 tons) of medication from circulation.

For additional collection sites in Prince George’s County and to locate sites in Montgomery County, visit http://ow.ly/BSTGj or contact the call center at 1-800-882-9539.

 

State Health Officials: Maryland is Prepared to Respond to Ebola.

 

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Prince George’s County Council to Host Town Hall Meeting Addressing the Future of Economic Development in PG County

  

By Melanie Balakit
Capital News Service

The Prince George’s County Council will host “Economic Development – Preparing for the Economic Opportunities over the Next 10 Years,” a town hall meeting focusing on opportunities for economic development in Prince George’s County, Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. The Town Hall Meeting, the third in a series of offsite, evening, community meetings sponsored by the County Council, will be held at Oxon Hill High School, 6701 Leyte Drive in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Prince George’s County Council Chairman Mel Franklin (D) – District 9, recognizes the importance of community engagement as the County prepares for economic development opportunities over the next decade.

“We are bringing the world to Prince George’s County and this must include an approach to economic development that delivers world-class development opportunities and economic viability to our communities.  The Council remains committed to working with residents to examine the issues that impact us as a County, and economic development is an issue that impacts every resident. I encourage our citizens to join us for an informative discussion on how we can move Prince George’s County forward in this area.”

The Economic Development Town Hall will feature presentations from Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure, Victor Hoskins; Prince George’s County Office of Central Services Director, Roland Jones; Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO, Gwen McCall; and FSC First President and CEO, Shelly Gross-Wade.  Additional presenters include Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable President and CEO, M.H. Jim Estepp; Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, David Harrington; and Prince George’s Community College Vice President for Workforce Development and Continuing Education, Joseph Martinelli.  A host of other County officials and agency representatives will also be available to provide information and resources.

Residents will have an opportunity to provide testimony before the County Council.

This event is free and open to the public. Live streaming will be available at http://townhall.mypgc.us

WHAT:

Prince George’s County Council Town Hall Meeting

“Economic Development – “Preparing for the Economic Opportunities over the Next 10 Years”

WHO:

Prince George’s County Council Members

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure, Victor Hoskins

Assistant Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure, David Iannucci

Assistant Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure, Brad Frome

Prince George’s County Office of Central Services Director, Roland Jones

Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO,

Gwen McCall

FSC First President and CEO, Shelly Gross-Wade

Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable President and CEO, M.H. Jim Estepp

Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, David Harrington

Prince George’s Community College Vice President for Workforce Development,

Joseph Martinelli

WHEN:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

WHERE:

Oxon Hill High School

6701 Leyte Drive

Oxon Hill, Maryland 20745

 

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Legislation Increasing Minimum Wage in PG County Takes Effect

   

By PRESS OFFICER
PG County Government

Prince George’s County Council Bill 94-2013, legislation increasing the minimum wage in Prince George’s County, went into effect on October 1, 2014. Under the legislation, the County’s minimum wage will incrementally increase from $7.25 per hour to $8.40 per hour on October 1, 2014, to $9.55 per hour on October 1, 2015, $10.75 per hour on October 1, 2016, and $11.50 per hour on October 1, 2017.

Part of an unprecedented collaboration with Montgomery County and the District of Columbia to establish a “regional minimum wage,” Council Bill 94-2013 was successfully adopted by the Council on Tuesday, November 26, 2013.

Council Chairman Mel Franklin (D) – District 9, says today marks the beginning of a minimum wage increase that brings disadvantaged workers one step closer to improving the quality of their lives.

“The Prince George’s County Council is committed to improving the quality of life of every resident and today marks a significant step in that direction. The previous minimum wage of $7.25 had not been raised since 2009 and something needed to be done to secure a living wage for our residents.  I want to thank my Council colleague and former Chair Andrea Harrison for leading the charge on this important issue, and working diligently with our counterparts in Montgomery County and the District of Columbia to establish a ‘regional minimum wage’ that places Prince George’s County on a level playing field with our neighboring jurisdictions. We are bringing the world to Prince George’s County and through this effort we are improving the quality of life for our residents and building a better local economy.”

Council Member Andrea C. Harrison (D) – District 5, sponsor of the legislation, says Prince George’s County is now on its way to a fair and equitable minimum wage.

“This is a great day in Prince George’s County because our residents deserve fair compensation for their labor. Working families should have the opportunity to make ends meet and improve their quality of life."

The County minimum wage requirements do not apply to an employee who is exempt from the minimum wage requirements of the Maryland Wage and Hour Law or the Fair Labor Standards Act, or individuals under the age of 19 years employed no more than twenty hours in a week. The computation of tipped wages for the minimum wage required under this Section shall be the same as the manner of computation of tipped wages in Section 3-419, Labor and Employment Article, Annotated Code of Maryland (the Maryland Wage and Hour Law).

The Maryland General Assembly also raised the State minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018.  However, employers in the County must follow the new County law, and minimum wage rate structure.

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) will enforce the County’s minimum wage law. For more information,

or to file a complaint alleging a violation of the County

minimum wage, contact DLLR at 410.767.2357 or at ess@dllr.state.md.us


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