Enterics (Digestive Tract Illnesses)

What are bacterial enteric diseases?  These are digestive tract illnesses that can be caused by bacteria when someone consumes contaminated food and water, or has unsanitary contact with feces often by means of caring for someone in diapers. Many bacterial enteric diseases are caused by Campylobacter, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Shigella, Vibrio, Salmonella, Yersinia, and Listeria bacterial species. Many of these infections are often referred to as “food poisoning”. Many of the foods associated with these diseases include meat, poultry, shellfish, dairy products, raw or lightly cooked sprouts, and unwashed leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. When infected with one of these bacteria, you may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal pain and cramps, bloating, fever, body aches, and loss of appetite. Most infections will resolve on their own without the need for antibiotics. However, infections in young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems can be more severe and require medical attention as they are at high risk for fatality.

Who addresses these problems in Umatilla County and how do they do it?  The Umatilla County Environmental Health (EH) team performs several duties that help protect Umatilla County residents from these enteric diseases. The EH team performs all restaurant, school cafeteria, hotel/motel, and food vendor/food truck health inspections. They do this to ensure that food is being handled, cooked, and stored properly to decrease the likelihood that someone will contract a foodborne illness. Our EH team also performs inspections of public pools to ensure that they are meeting strict sanitary standards to decrease risks for waterborne illnesses. They also manage septic system permits and site evaluations, as well as have programs that will help pay for domestic well water testing. The UCo Health Communicable Disease (CD) contact tracing team reaches out to those who have tested positive or are part of known outbreaks to decrease the risk that an individual will transmit the illness to anyone else, as well as gather information to determine how they may have acquired the illness. This allows us to contact people who may be unknowingly spreading the illness or allows us to trace back potentially contaminated food items or water systems. The CD Disease Prevention Specialists provide education to healthcare providers about bacterial testing, reporting, and treatment, as well as provide education to community members about how to reduce their risk of getting sick. UCo Health performs all of these tasks because we care about the health and well being of all of our residents and tourists.

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What are parasitic enteric diseases?  These are digestive tract illnesses that can be caused by microscopic parasites called protozoans or by parasitic worms. Protozoan enteric infections are typically caused by parasitic amoebas, Cryptosporidium, Cyclosporidium, and Giardia. Parasitic worms on our radar include tapeworms and Trichinella roundworms. Symptoms of a parasitic enteric disease include abdominal cramping and pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fatigue, weight loss, and occasional fever. Parasitic worm symptoms can additionally include salt cravings, muscle soreness, and pain/swelling around the eyes or worm infections might not have any symptoms at all. Parasitic enteric diseases can be acquired by consuming contaminated foods like undercooked meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables. Infections can also be acquired from swallowing contaminated pool, lake, and river water. Some protozoan infections resolve on their own, while others do require medical intervention. Almost all parasitic worm infections require medical treatment. Infections in young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems can be more severe, leaving them at high risk for fatality.

Who addresses these problems in Umatilla County and how do they do it?  The Umatilla County Environmental Health (EH) team performs several duties that help protect Umatilla County residents from these enteric diseases. The EH team performs all restaurant, school cafeteria, hotel/motel, and food vendor/food truck health inspections. They do this to ensure that food is being handled, cooked, and stored properly to decrease the likelihood that someone will contract a foodborne illness. Our EH team also performs inspections of public pools to ensure that they are meeting strict sanitary standards to decrease risks for waterborne illnesses. They also manage septic system permits and site evaluations, as well as have programs that will help pay for domestic well water testing. The UCo Health Communicable Disease (CD) contact tracing team reaches out to those who have tested positive or are part of known outbreaks to decrease the risk that an individual will transmit the illness to anyone else, as well as gather information to determine how they may have acquired the illness. This allows us to contact people who may be unknowingly spreading the illness or allows us to trace back potentially contaminated food items or water systems. The CD Disease Prevention Specialists provide education to healthcare providers about bacterial testing, reporting, and treatment, as well as provide education to community members about how to reduce their risk of getting sick. UCo Health performs all of these tasks because we care about the health and well being of all of our residents and tourists.

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What are viral enteric diseases?  These are digestive tract illnesses that can be caused by viruses and are mostly spread via the fecal-oral route, meaning oral contact with contaminated fecal particles is most often how these diseases are transmitted. Caring for someone who is ill, oral-anal sex, or using drugs with others are ways these viruses can be transmitted. Some of these diseases can also be considered foodborne illnesses since consuming undercooked meat and some vegetables are a way these viruses can be transmitted. Viral enteric diseases handled by UCo Health include Hepatitis A and E, Norovirus, and Rotavirus. For most of these infections, symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. For the hepatitis viruses, dark urine, “clay-colored” stool, joint pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) are common symptoms as well. Rotavirus is common in unvaccinated children 3 years and younger. Norovirus is common in infants, young children, and the elderly. Hepatitis A is most common in unvaccinated children and adolescents. Hepatitis E is not common in the United States, but if you travel internationally, you may be at higher risk. Untreated hepatitis infections can put you at risk for long-term health issues like mild to severe liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Vaccines are currently available at UCo Health for rotavirus and hepatitis A. Rotavirus vaccines are recommended for infants around 15 weeks and 12 to 23 months for hepatitis A vaccines. Call 541-278-5432 to schedule a vaccine appointment.

 

Who addresses these problems in Umatilla County and how do they do it?  The Umatilla County Communicable Disease (CD) performs several duties to address these illnesses. The CD contact tracing team reaches out to those who have tested positive or are part of known outbreaks to decrease the risk that an individual will transmit the illness to anyone else, as well as gather information to determine how they may have acquired the illness. This allows us to contact people who may be spreading the illness without knowing they have it or allows us to trace back potentially contaminated food items or water systems. The CD Disease Prevention Specialists provide education to healthcare providers about viral testing, reporting, and treatment, as well as provide education to community members about how to reduce their risk of getting sick. Our clinic nurses also work very hard to ensure that those who need testing and vaccination for numerous diseases stays widely available to our community members.

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Other Health Issues

What are environmental chemicals that can cause harm? Currently, exposure to chemicals like lead, cadmium, and some pesticides can cause long-term health problems, even if someone is exposed to a small amount. Children tend to be most affected by these chemicals because of their small body size. Lead poisoning can be acquired through many avenues like playing with certain plastic or painted toys, exposure to lead paint on the inside and outside of buildings, and contact with lead-containing soil. Cadmium toxicity often results from occupational hazards, especially for those who work in mining and smelting, metal working, working with sewage, and use of certain fertilizers. It can also be acquired by contact with cadmium containing soil and smoking cigarettes. Pesticide poisoning can be acquired by using or mixing pesticide without wearing protective gear, drift from aerial applications, touching or inhaling pesticide that remains in the air after application, and accidental ingestion (often children). All of these chemical poisonings can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain/cramps, and diarrhea. Lead exposure is also associated with developmental delay (slowed growth) and learning disabilities in children, irritability, miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature birth. Long-term effects from cadmium toxicity include decreased lung function, iron-deficiency anemia, cardiac issues, kidney and liver dysfunction, and softening of certain bones. Pesticide poisoning is associated with numerous types of cancers, seizures, birth defects, respiratory diseases like asthma, and learning disabilities in children.

Who addresses these problems in Umatilla County and how do they do it? The Umatilla County Communicable Disease contact tracing team reaches out to those who have these chemicals show up in blood tests and gather information to determine how they may have acquired the toxicity in the chance a certain product needs to be recalled. The UCo Environmental Health team works closely with the Oregon Health Authority to conduct home inspections of those who have developed chemical poisonings to ensure that the harmful component is removed or fixed.

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What are fungal diseases? These are illnesses that can be caused typically by dimorphic fungi. Dimorphic means that the fungi can live in both a mold and a yeast form. Typically, when the fungus is in the environment, it grows in the mold form, but once inside of a host, it switches to the infectious yeast form. The fungal diseases handled by UCo Health include Coccidioidomycosis and Cryptococcosis. We also keep our eye on multi-drug resistant Candida infections that are part of outbreaks. Certain fungal infections are more common in certain areas of the country than in others. Coccidioides fungi are mostly found in the Southwestern United States and Mexico, although areas of Southeastern Washington and Northeastern Oregon have had this fungus isolated from the environment. Coccidioides cannot be spread from person to person. It is only acquired from breathing in spores typically airborne during dry, windy conditions. Cryptococcus tends to be more rare, but Oregon and Washington have seen an increase in cases over the past decade. This also cannot be spread from person to person. Most cases appear to be acquired by human interaction with infected bird feces. Most of these fungal infections either start on the skin or in the lungs. They typically remain in these localized areas in people with healthy immune systems, but antifungal medicines are usually required to fully get rid of infection. Those who are elderly or immunocompromised (have autoimmune disorders, undergoing cancer treatment, take immune system suppressing medicine, etc.) are more likely to have infections spread to other areas of the body. Severe diseases can arise once infection spreads like meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord) or blood infections, both of which can be life threatening if not medically treated.

Who addresses these problems in Umatilla County and how do they do it? The Umatilla County Communicable Disease (CD) performs several duties to address these illnesses. The CD contact tracing team reaches out to those who have tested positive or are part of known outbreaks to gather information to determine how they may have acquired the illness. The CD Disease Prevention Specialists provide education to healthcare providers about fungal testing, reporting, and treatment, as well as provide education to community members about how to reduce their risk of getting sick.

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