Utah Department of Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  The Salt Lake County Health Department says it’s seen a sharp increase in the number of influenza cases over the past two weeks.  And state officials say a flu shot is still the best way to prevent it. 

Doctor Dagmar Vitek with the Salt Lake County Health Department says 75 people have been hospitalized with influenza over the past two weeks.  Two people have died.  And she says elderly people and others at high risk need to see a doctor right away if they have symptoms of the flu.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

Governor Gary Herbert is still encountering resistance from fellow Republicans on his plan to provide health coverage to the poor. Utah Department of Health officials briefed a committee of state lawmakers Thursday on their negotiations in Washington. The Governor has said he is pleased with the outcome, but some conservative state lawmakers are still not sold on the plan to expand government assistance in Utah.

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Utah ranks 5th in the nation for drug-poisoning deaths, according to data released this week by the Utah Department of Health. Many of those deaths are caused by opioids. But some say that could be changed with better access to treatment.

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More people are using electronic cigarettes in Utah, but the rate of traditional cigarette smoking has remained unchanged.

Here at Salt Lake Vapors, Adam Christensen talks to e-cigarette users every day. Christensen says he stopped smoking two years ago with the help of these devices, which heat up liquid nicotine into vapor to be inhaled. 

courtesy University of Utah Health Care

The US Surgeon General issued a call to action Tuesday to prevent skin cancer.  It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, and Utah has a higher rate of melanoma than any other state.

Health officials say West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitos in Utah. But so far, no human cases have been reported.  The virus has been found in mosquito pools in Box Elder and Uintah counties. Rebecca Ward with the Utah Department of Health says humans who contract the virus may not necessarily develop symptoms, but it can be very serious, particularly for those with compromised immune systems.

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) wants more money from the federal government to help prevent obesity and injury, and is seeking public input on its proposal. The UDOH is asking for 1.5 million dollars for Preventive Health and Health Services. That’s an $850,000 dollar increase over the amount Utah originally applied for this fiscal year. Currently, the block grant funds are primarily used by the state and local health departments for the prevention of obesity and injury.

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Fees for vital records like birth and death certificates in Utah are set to increase on July 1st.  Approval of a House Appropriations Bill during the Legislative session earlier this year allowed the increase. Janice Houston is the State Registrar and the Director of the Utah Department of Health’s Vital Records and Statistics. She says the department is almost totally funded by fees with only some federal funding provided.

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A vaccination known to prevent cervical cancer is still not offered at public health departments in at least five Utah counties. Meanwhile, the state is nearly dead last in the number of girls who get vaccinated. 

Cornell University

A children’s autism treatment program is accepting new applicants. The Utah Department of Health’s Medicaid Autism Waiver program is open for enrollment. There are 35 openings.

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The Utah House unanimously passed a bill Friday that would put harsher penalties on stores that sell electronic cigarettes to minors, but not before passing a substitute bill that drastically changed the sponsor’s original intent.

Andrea Smardon

The Utah Department of Health has completed an analysis of 35 years of cancer data in the area surrounding Stericycle’s North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator. The study shows no increased environmental cancer risk for residents in South Davis County.

The Utah Department of Health released data Wednesday that show a 94 percent increase in the number of reported cases of gonorrhea in the state.  

State health officials say 633 cases have been reported so far this year compared to 327 cases during the same period last year.  Lynn Meinor is manger of the Communicable Disease Program at the Utah Department of Health. She says much of 94 percent increase is due to more women getting the disease.

The Utah Department of Health has launched a new ad campaign for people who want to quit smoking. The effort focuses on people trying to kick the habit one day at a time.

The “Quitting For Real” campaign showcases television commercials that portray former smokers going through every day struggles as they fight the urge to light up again. Adam Bramwell of the Utah Department of Health says that after several failed attempts, many smokers get into the mindset that no matter what they do, they’ll never break their habit.  

Andrea Smardon

A new report shows that last year’s data breach of Utah health records was a costly mistake with far-reaching consequences. An independent analysis by Javelin Strategy & Research predicts that the total amount of fraud perpetrated could approach $406 million in costs. 

Controversy stirs around the Dixie State College name change, the Utah Department of Health once again loses Medicaid patient data, and a 92-year-old World War II veteran finally receives his war medals after waiting more than 60 years.

The Utah Department of Health has hired an outside firm to study the costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid in the state.  The department has been gathering feedback from the public on what should be considered in the study. 

Christina Osburn has a brain tumor and epilepsy.  She’s been on Medicaid for more than 10 years, but she expects to lose that coverage because her income will soon exceed the threshold to qualify.   

The number of whooping cough cases in Utah has reached a level not seen for more than 60 years.  The State Department of Health says there have been 851 cases of pertussis reported so far this year.  The number of people with the bacterial disease already exceeds the total in 2006 when the last notable outbreak occurred.  Health experts don’t know why Utah and the nation are seeing the worst outbreak of the disease in decades.  

The State Department of Health is moving forward on an overhaul of the Medicaid system despite opposition.  Utah’s new managed care contracts are designed to save the state money and are slated to go into effect in January, but some health advocates say the proposed contracts do not ensure quality care for patients.  And the state’s Inspector General says the contracts do not ensure proper oversight of Medicaid funds.  KUER’s Andrea Smardon reports.   

As West Nile virus spreads across the country, Utah health officials are advising residents to use bug repellant this holiday weekend.  So far three cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Utah.  Two were contracted out of state, but one was caught in Box Elder County.   JoDee Baker is an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.  She says West Nile has been detected in a number of mosquito pools around the state.

The Utah Department of Health released new data Wednesday estimating that more than 13 percent of the population went without health insurance last year.  That’s about 3 percentage points higher than the previous year, but health officials say the increase is at least partly due to improved survey methods. 

UDOH spokesperson Tom Hudachko says you can’t make a fair comparison between numbers in 2010 and 2011 because state survey methods were changed significantly.  For example, pollsters are now calling cellphones instead of just land lines. 

Some doctors are criticizing the state’s newly-released plan to help those with asthma.  The plan advises asthmatics to avoid pollution, but the President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment Brian Moench says that’s not enough.