Keep your family summer safe

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FRANKFORT, KY (SUBMITTED) – Here are three things to consider during the Independence Day holiday, and throughout summer to make sure your family is summer safe.

Don’t Let Foodborne Illness Spoil Your Independence Day

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) wants all Kentuckians to observe a happy and safe Independence Day by following a few simple food preparation and food handling guidelines during outdoor cookouts, picnics and barbecues.

“The key to food protection is simple: Keep hot food hot and keep cold food cold,” said Christine Atkinson, manager of the food safety branch in the Department for Public Health (DPH). “Pregnant women, infants and the elderly need to be especially mindful of food safety because they are more vulnerable to foodborne illness. However, everyone can get sick from contaminated food and needs to remember our simple guidelines for proper food preparation and storage.”

Public health officials stress the importance of proper food handling for outdoor dining events like summer picnics and barbecues. According to DPH, food left out in the sun or in hot cars too long can become a breeding ground for bacteria and may cause foodborne illness when consumed. This is particularly important to remember for holiday parties, when there is an increased likelihood for exposing multiple people to foodborne illness.

DPH investigates foodborne illness outbreaks, such as a current nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul linked to raw tomatoes, each year. In 2006, DPH investigated three separate outbreaks of salmonella; two outbreaks each of E. coli and norovirus (both foodborne) in 2007; and so far this year, three foodborne illness outbreaks.

To avoid exposure to bacteria and prevent foodborne illness, DPH recommends the following these guidelines:

— Wash hands before eating or preparing food, after using the restroom, between handling raw and ready-to-eat items and after handling pets. Wash with hot soapy water and dry with paper towels.

— To sanitize surfaces, use a solution of regular household bleach and warm water. Add about 1 tablespoon of bleach to 2 gallons of water for the right concentration. Sanitize by first washing and rinsing the surface and then immerse, spray or swab with the bleach solution.

— Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods. Use different cutting boards or wash, rinse and sanitize after contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood. Never use the same plate to transport the cooked hamburgers that was used for the raw hamburger patties.

— Handle all cut melons carefully, including cantaloupe and watermelon. Thoroughly clean the outer surface before slicing, and keep work surface and utensils used to prepare the melon clean and sanitized. Refrigerate sliced melon promptly at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

— Be sure to wash all produce thoroughly before use.

— Cook food to the proper internal temperature:

Ground Beef 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds

Poultry and Stuffed Meats 165 degrees F for 15 seconds

Pork Products 150 degrees F for 15 seconds

Reheating Leftovers 165 degrees F for 15 seconds

— Always check the internal temperature of cooked foods with a metal-stemmed thermometer and cook another 15 seconds after the thermometer indicates it has reached the proper temperature.

— Within two hours, cool and maintain leftovers at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower or freeze at zero degrees or lower.

“When in doubt, throw it out,” said William Hacker, M.D., DPH commissioner. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”


Prevent Sunburn: Exposure to UV Rays Can Be Dangerous

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 27, 2008) – Warm temperatures and extra hours of sunlight entice many to spend more time outdoors in the summer, dramatically increasing exposure to harmful rays that can cause skin damage and are linked to skin cancer.

This summer, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services wants all Kentuckians to protect themselves and their loved ones from harmful sun exposure, particularly young children.

“The sun can be extremely damaging to one’s health, resulting in painful burns, sun damage and in some cases, skin cancer,” said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. “It’s extremely important to protect oneself and even more important for parents to properly supervise their children and prevent them from experiencing painful and sometimes life-threatening burns.”

According to DPH, some sunlight - about 15 minutes twice a week - is necessary for people to make and use vitamin D. However, exposure in excess of this can be dangerous.

Records provided by the state Office of Health Policy show that 27 Kentuckians were hospitalized with severe sunburns in 2007, some of whom suffered dangerous second- and third-degree burns. Of those, six patients were children ranging in age from younger than 1 to 12 years old.

Overexposure to sunlight can lead to extreme pain and skin injury, particularly for young children. The Cabinet’s summer safety campaign stresses the importance of adults supervising and taking adequate precautions on behalf of children to protect them from serious sunburn.

“This is not only a public health issue, it’s also an issue of our ability and willingness to protect and ensure the safety and welfare of our children,” Hacker said.

In addition to immediate pain, overexposure to sunlight, sun damage and burns can heighten the risk for developing skin cancer. According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry, the incidence rate of invasive skin cancer in Kentucky was nearly 22 out of every 100,000 people from 2001 to 2005. The mortality rate for the same period was 4.39 per 100,000 people.

Some tips for avoiding sunburn or side effects linked to sun exposure are:

− Avoid sunbathing.

− Avoid tanning parlors.

− Wear a hat that shields your face from the sun.

− Limit your sun exposure. The sun is hottest and strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

− Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater.

− Wear sunglasses that are UV rated.

− Choose cosmetics, moisturizing creams and lotions that contain sunscreen.

− Protect your lips with products that have a sun protection factor of 15 or greater.


Prevent Child Drownings this Summer; Practice Water Safety

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 27, 2008) – The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) is working to raise awareness of drowning risks for children and youth, especially as swimming and boating season kicks into high gear.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, drownings among children increase 89 percent in the summer over the annual monthly average.

From 2002 to 2007, 92 children and youth - infants to age 18 - died from drowning in Kentucky. This number includes preliminary, unpublished data for 2006 and incomplete preliminary data for 2007, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH).

The majority of drowning victims (41) were children younger than 4. The rate of drownings dropped off for children ages 4-13 (17), but increased among children 14-18 (34). One-year-old children had the highest incidence of drownings – 15 during the five-year period. No drownings were recorded for the period among 12-year-olds.

Swimming pools account for 60 percent of all drownings in this country, and boating is involved in about one-fifth of all drownings.

"This time of year, Kentuckians flock to local lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds and pools for summer recreation," said Pat Wilson, commissioner of the CHFS Department for Community Based Services. "It’s important for everyone to follow basic water safety rules, and it’s especially important that all children in and around water have responsible, sober adult supervision.”

Drowning is the third leading cause of injury death (after motor vehicle crashes and choking/breathing-related deaths) among children 1-14 years old in Kentucky. Nationally, more than one in four victims of fatal drowning are children 14 and younger. The majority of child drownings in the U.S. occur in the home – in bathtubs, buckets and residential pools. For every child who dies from drowning, another four receive emergency department care for near-drowning injuries.

Among children older than 14, 63 percent of drownings occurred in rivers, lakes and other natural bodies of fresh water.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, the three leading preventive contributing factors to child and youth drowning are lapses in adult supervision, alcohol and inadequate swimming ability.

Reducing the incidence and severity of injuries from unintentional causes is one of the goals of Healthy Kentuckians 2010, a long-term public health policy plan that stresses prevention and equity.

“Drowning is a preventable cause of childhood death,” said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH. “At home, on vacation, at the public pool, it’s the responsibility of adults to supervise children around water and to make sure children aren’t put at risk by unattended drowning hazards, like buckets of water and wading pools.”

By definition, drowning is fatal; however, for each drowning death, it is estimated that at least one to four children suffer a serious near-drowning that can result in permanent disabilities.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these suggestions to reduce the risk of drownings:

— Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone or mowing the lawn) while supervising children.

— Always swim with a buddy. Whenever possible, select swimming sites that have lifeguards.

— Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.

— Learn to swim. Swimming instruction is not recommended as the primary means of drowning prevention for children younger than 4. Constant, careful supervision and barriers such as pool fencing are necessary even when children have completed swimming classes.

— Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as water wings, arm floaties, noodles or innertubes, as a substitute for life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

— Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in someone’s life. CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to improve outcomes in drowning victims.

For more summer safety tips and resources, visit the CHFS Summer Safety Web site at

(Information submitted by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.)

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