Current Happenings

Current Happenings

You can find current information on health and disease surveillance activities here.

Avian Flu information and maps
CDC Flood Cleanup and Hygiene Information
Drought and Economic Stress 
Drought and Farm Life Stress
Drought Resources
Flooding Information and Cleanup
Parenting the Nurturing Way Parenting Sessions

Zika Virus information page from IDPH
Enrollment in Quitline Iowa now offers eight weeks of free NRT

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is announcing an expansion of the free nicotine replacement program launched earlier this year for Iowans who enroll in Quitline Iowa. Beginning October 23, any participant who enrolls in the no-cost program could be eligible for twice as much nicotine replacement therapy - eight weeks instead of four weeks.

“We believe this change offers Iowans who need help quitting smoking or using smokeless tobacco a greater incentive to enroll in Quitline Iowa,” said IDPH Director, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. “The longer an individual has access to NRT, the more likely they are to stay tobacco free. It’s hoped that by expanding access to nicotine replacement patches, lozenges or gum, those struggling with withdrawal symptoms will be more likely to succeed in quitting for good.”

Iowans can take advantage of the program by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), or visiting to enroll. The program offers access to a trained Quit Coach® who will help develop a quitting plan and determine which NRT offering is best for each individual.

Services include:

  • Preparing participants for their quit date
  • Helping develop an individualized Quitting Plan
  • Providing tips and support to live in a smoke-free environment
  • Offering advice and information on medications that may help with withdrawal symptoms

Registration specialists and Quit Coaches® are available 24 hours a day.

Two Years Later: The Benefits of the Affordable Care Act for Iowa
For too long, too many hardworking Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to insurance companies and put barriers between patients and their doctors. The Affordable Care Act gives hardworking families in Iowa the security they deserve. The new health care law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit, or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.

All Americans will have the security of knowing that they don’t have to worry about losing coverage if they’re laid off or change jobs. And insurance companies now have to cover your preventive care like mammograms and other cancer screenings. The new law also makes a significant investment in State and community-based efforts that promote public health, prevent disease and protect against public health emergencies.

Health reform is already making a difference for the people of Iowa by:

Providing new coverage options for young adults
Health plans are now required to allow parents to keep their children under age 26 without job-based coverage on their family’s coverage, and, thanks to this provision, 2.5 million young people have gained coverage nationwide. As of June 2011, 18,012 young adults in Iowa gained insurance coverage as a result of the new health care law.

Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors
Thanks to the new health care law, 46,083 people with Medicare in Iowa received a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. In 2011, 42,015 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount resulted in an average savings of $616 per person, and a total savings of $25,876,475 in Iowa. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole.

Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay
In 2011, 388,676 people with Medicare in Iowa received free preventive services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies – or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. And 54 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 611,000 in Iowa.

Providing better value for your premium dollar through the 80/20 Rule
Under the new health care law, insurance companies must provide consumers greater value by spending generally at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements instead of overhead, executive salaries or marketing. If they don’t, they must provide consumers a rebate or reduce premiums. This means that 894,000 Iowa residents with private insurance coverage will receive greater value for their premium dollars.

Removing lifetime limits on health benefits
The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 1,187,000 residents, including 433,000 women and 311,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014.

Creating new coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions
As of the end of 2011, 238 previously uninsured residents of Iowa who were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created under the new health reform law. To learn more about the plan available in Iowa, check here.

Supporting Iowa’s work  on Affordable Insurance Exchanges
Iowa has received $8.7 million in grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of Affordable Insurance Exchanges.

  • $1 million in Planning Grants: This grant provides Iowa the resources needed to conduct the research and planning necessary to build a better health insurance marketplace and determine how its exchange will be operated and governed. Learn how the funds are being used in Iowa here.
  • $7.7 million in Exchange Establishment Grants: These grants are helping States continue their work to implement key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Learn how the funds are being used in Iowa here.

Preventing illness and promoting health
Since 2010, Iowa has received $10.9 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. This new fund was created to support effective policies in Iowa, its communities, and nationwide so that all Americans can lead longer, more productive lives.

Increasing support for community health center
The Affordable Care Act increases the funding available to community health centers in all 50 states, including the 84 existing community health centers in Iowa. Health centers in Iowa have received $25.4 million to create new health center sites in medically underserved areas, enable health centers to increase the number of patients served, expand preventive and primary health care services, and support major construction and renovation projects.

Strengthening partnerships with Iowa
The law gives states support for their work to build the health care workforce, crack down on fraud, and support public health. So far, Iowa has received more than $50.1 million from the Affordable Care Act. Examples of Affordable Care Act grants not outlined above to Iowa include:

Pregnant Women Targeted for H1N1 Vaccine
Iowa Flu Information Hotline: 1-800-447-1985

Three weeks after the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine began arriving in Iowa, the supply continues to be allocated to counties on a staggered basis. Until the vaccine is widely available, vaccination priority groups have been established to target those individuals known to be at highest risk for complications from H1N1.

Pregnant women are an important part of this targeted population. All influenza can be dangerous to pregnant women and their babies. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend seasonal and 2009 H1N1 vaccines for pregnant women. “Compared with people in general who get H1N1, pregnant women with H1N1 flu are more likely to be admitted to hospitals, more likely to have serious illness, and more likely to die from H1N1,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk.

Pregnant women should get both the 2009 H1N1 flu shot and the seasonal flu shot. Both these injected vaccines are ‘killed’ vaccines, so you cannot catch the flu from getting these shots. (The other type of flu vaccine – a nasal spray – is not recommended for pregnant women.) Women can receive flu shots at any stage of pregnancy.

If you are pregnant and have flu symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, or fatigue, call your health care provider right away. If H1N1 is suspected, your health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine that treats the flu. Being pregnant should not stop women from using antiviral medicines if their doctor decides that they are needed.

Women who are breastfeeding and are sick with the flu should continue to breastfeed. Babies who are breastfed get sick from infections like the flu less often and less severely than babies who are not breastfed. Postpartum women should also contact their health care provider immediately if they have symptoms of the flu.

For more information on pregnancy and H1N1, visit Additional information about H1N1 influenza can be found at

Why is My Nurse Wearing a Mask?
Masks another tool in battle against disease spread

As the 2009 H1N1 and seasonal influenza seasons progress this fall and winter, you may see more individuals, especially health care workers, wearing protective masks. Does this mean the H1N1 virus is becoming stronger? Should you be wearing a mask? Is it dangerous to go out in public without a mask? These are among the many questions raised by Calhoun County residents.

“Although seeing a health care worker wearing a protective mask can be startling, it should actually provide you with a level of comfort,” said Jane Condon, Public Health Administrator. “It’s a sign your health care provider is protecting themselves from the H1N1 virus, and in turn, protecting their patients.”

Masks help decrease the spread of influenza in your health care provider’s office, and so you may be asked to wear one to if you are coughing or sneezing. “If you’re coughing or sneezing, wearing a mask while you wait to be seen by a health care provider is a thoughtful action you can personally take to stop the spread of disease,” said Condon. If your health care provider wears a mask, it does not mean they are concerned about attending patients. Instead, it is a sign the worker is taking extra steps to stop the spread of the virus to themselves, and the patients they see each day.

“Additionally, we know some employers are asking their workers to be checked by a doctor if they are going to be off work for several days, or before they return to work after illness. Since it is important to keep hospitals, ERs and clinics available to the sickest people, it would be helpful to forgo that practice this flu season,” said Condon. “We are hearing that some offices are already overwhelmed with ill patients.”

A statewide toll-free hotline has been established for public questions about seasonal and H1N1 influenza at 1-800-447-1985 or at Calhoun County Public Health 712-297-8323. More information can also be found at or

H1N1: When Should You See a Doctor?
Public Flu Hotline: 1-800-447-1985

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports the 2009 H1N1 virus continues to spread rapidly throughout Iowa . While most Iowans will recover from the virus without needing to seek medical attention, some individuals, especially children, are at higher risk for H1N1-related complications.

Children who should be considered for early antiviral treatment, and whose parents or caregiver should contact their health care provider as soon as influenza-like symptoms begin, include:

  1. Those younger than 2 years of age in particular, and some children up to 4 years of age.
  2. Children and adolescents with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.
  3. Adolescents who are pregnant (and up to two weeks after giving birth).
  4. Children and adolescents who are on long-term aspirin therapy.

It is important to recognize that even healthy older children can have severe or fatal outcomes after influenza infection. In all children, warning signs indicating the need for urgent medical attention include:

  1. Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  2. Bluish or gray skin color
  3. Not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
  4. Severe or persistent vomiting
  5. Not waking up or not interacting with people and things around them
  6. Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  7. Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough

To date in Iowa , there have been 124 H1N1-related hospitalizations and 5 H1N1-related deaths; the latest fatality, reported this week, was an adult from Mahaska County with medical conditions that increased the risk of complications. For more information about H1N1 influenza, visit Iowans with questions about H1N1 may also call the toll-free Influenza Hotline at 1-800-447-1985.

Chronic Diseases Place Heavy Burden on Iowans
Seven of every 10 Iowans die of chronic diseases

Although among the most common health problems, chronic diseases are also among the most preventable. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes account for 68 percent of all deaths in Iowa. The most recent (2007) IDPH Chronic Disease Report indicates heart diseases account for one of every four Iowa deaths.

“One of the most critical conclusions to draw from this report is the importance of prevention. There are a host of opportunities to prevent chronic disease,” said IDPH Director Tom Newton. “Simple acts like moving more and eating less go a long ways toward the prevention of chronic disease.” According to the report, tobacco use is the leading risk factor for chronic disease in Iowa. Poor nutrition and physical inactivity (combined) are the second leading risk factors, followed by excessive alcohol use.

The report outlines personal behaviors that can reduce the risk of chronic disease, including:

  1. Preventing tobacco use
  2. Achieving and sustaining an ideal body weight
  3. Increasing physical activity
  4. Maintaining good nutritional behaviors
  5. Reduction of alcohol use

The entire report, which is a project of the IDPH Chronic Disease Integration Team, can be found at