Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/April 6, 2016 — The Board of Health for Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) held its regular monthly meeting in Belleville today.
Medical Officer of Health Report
Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Richard Schabas, reported to the Board that the Influenza season has come and gone in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties with very little impact.
With regard to the Zika Virus, Dr. Schabas noted that there has been less publicity recently about this vector-borne virus, however, it remains a concern. The virus is carried by a certain type of mosquito not found in Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to recommend that pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant avoid non-essential travel to countries where the incidence of infection is greater.
Tick Surveillance/Lyme Disease
The Board received a report on HPEPH's tick surveillance program. Public Health Inspector Aptie Sookoo advised that the percentage of blacklegged ticks from Prince Edward County that have been found to be carrying the bacterium that causes Lyme disease has continued to increase. In 2015, 31% of ticks submitted by County residents were carriers. The incidence rate has also risen along the north shore of the Bay of Quinte, but the rate lessens further north.
HPEPH receives ticks that have been taken off a person and sends these to a laboratory for analysis. HPEPH staff also actively collects ticks from their natural habitat (wooded areas) for analysis. The tick drop-off and analysis program for Prince Edward County will be discontinued in 2016 because a critical incidence level has been reached. "At a 20% positive rate and higher, it becomes important to be ready to respond with treatment," said Dr. Schabas. "If someone in Prince Edward County has been bitten by a blacklegged tick and the tick has remained in place for more than 36 hours, it is recommended that he/she receive a single dose of antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease infection."
Food Safety Report
HPEPH is mandated to inspect food premises within its jurisdiction. These premises are classified as "high-risk", "moderate-risk", or "low-risk" according to the type of facility, its management systems, and its history of foodborne illness outbreaks, if any. Public Health Inspectors conduct inspections of these premises once or more per year depending upon the risk level. In 2015, the following inspections were completed:
- 143 high-risk premises (inspected 3 times each)
- 289 moderate-risk premises (inspected 2 times each)
- 723 low-risk/pre-operational premises (inspected once each)
- 42 premises as a result of complaints received
These inspections resulted in one food premise being closed and 12 food premise regulation charges being laid, of which 9 resulted in convictions. Residents of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties can check the inspection status of local food premises by using "Check F.I.R.S.T.", available at www.hpepublichealth.ca – under "At Home" – "Food Safety".
Public Health Inspectors also conducted 33 food handler training sessions in 2015, involving 543 individuals who work in the local food industry. Food handlers must be re-certified every five years.
Reproductive Health Report
The Board received the 2015 Reproductive Health Report for Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. The report summarized information collected during 2014. The report showed that 6% of the 1,491 local births in that year were to mothers who are younger than 20 years of age. Although this rate is higher than the provincial average of 2.3%, it has been declining since 2010. Rates of low birth weight are also higher locally than the provincial average, as are the rates of mothers who are smokers at the time of birth. Socioeconomic factors associated with the rural population of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties are attributed for these rates.
Annual Privacy Report
The Board received a report regarding HPEPH's 2015 privacy program and key initiatives undertaken during the year. Janet Moorhead-Cassidy, Director of Health Promotion at HPEPH, was congratulated on her work as Privacy Officer during the past three years – a "complicated and demanding role". Continued staff training in safeguarding of personal information and personal health information, including how to conduct privacy impact assessments, is planned for 2016.
The Board approved an interim strategic plan. The Board's Governance Committee will undertake a strategic plan process review later this year and will recommend a plan for moving forward with a full strategic planning process before 2017.
LHIN Represented at Meeting
The Board of Health welcomed CEO Paul Huras from the Southeastern Ontario Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to its meeting. Mr. Huras was planning to receive an overview of HPEPH programs and services at a Board orientation session following today's meeting. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care recently announced that the LHINs will have an active role in planning and delivery of public health services effective April, 2017.
About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) operates one of 36 health units across Ontario. HPEPH provides dozens of programs and services, along with reliable health information, to a population of approximately 150,000 people in a 7,000 square km catchment area encompassing 17 municipalities. HPEPH's mission is to enable the people in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties to achieve and maintain optimal health through health protection and promotion, as well as disease and injury prevention. For more information, please visit www.hpepublichealth.ca . You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Richard Schabas, MD, MHSc, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health
Phone: 613-966-5500 or 1-800-267-2803, ext. 200