St. Mary's Co. Health Dept. News Briefs - Southern Maryland Headline News

St. Mary's Co. Health Dept. News Briefs


Health Department Cautions Residents About Exposure to Bats

The St. Mary's County Health Department has recently received reports of bats living inside the attics and living spaces of local residences. While bats have a beneficial role in the environment, their presence in homes may cause nuisance conditions in the form of odor from guano. Bats may also be infected with rabies. Rabies is a preventable viral disease that can be transmitted by infectious saliva, usually through exposure by a bite from infected mammals.

Bats have small teeth that may leave marks that are not easily visible. In some circumstances, a person may not be aware that an exposure has occurred; especially if a bat is found in a bedroom, a room with a sleeping child, or a room with an individual who has a disability. If safe capture of the bat is possible, the bat may be submitted for rabies testing.

The St. Mary's County Health Department recommends you prevent bats from entering your home. If you find a bat in your home, do not touch it with bare hands. Only let the bat go if you are sure there has been no contact with people or household pets. Contact the St. Mary's County Health Department for assistance with rabies testing of a bat that has been involved in an exposure to people or pets.

To prevent exposure to rabies, please take the following measures:

-- Have your dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, sheep, and cattle vaccinated against rabies.

-- Keep your pet under your control at all times, especially when traveling.

-- Enjoy wildlife from a distance and do not feed wildlife.

-- Avoid sick animals or animals that are acting in an unusual manner.

-- Cover garbage cans securely and do not leave pet food outside.

-- Do not relocate wildlife.

-- Take precautions against exposure to bats, as described above.

-- If you or your pet has been bitten or otherwise exposed to a suspected rabid domestic animal, get the owner's name, address, and phone number and contact the St. Mary's County Health Department immediately.

If you have had contact with a bat or suspect an exposure to a bat has occurred in your home, please call the St. Mary's County Health Department at 301-475-4321. For more information about bats, including how to exclude bats from your home and the removal of bat guano, please visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website at http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/plants_wildlife/bats/batsinhome.asp.

Health Department Offers Free Assistance to Quit Smoking

The St. Mary's County Health Department is offering a series of free smoking cessation classes to St. Mary's County residents who are 18 years and older. Classes are offered one hour per week for eight weeks, along with free medication to assist participants with quitting. These classes provide group support and understanding which are important in the quitting process. Class participants will gain knowledge about their smoking habits, along with behavioral modifications, stress management and quit smoking techniques.

The next smoking cessation class is scheduled to begin Aug. 13 at the Health Department, with other sessions scheduled throughout the fall and winter in the Leonardtown and Lexington Park areas. To register for classes, please call 301-475-4316, or visit http://www.smchd.org to learn more about upcoming classes and locations.

Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) also offers the Maryland Tobacco Quitline, a free, confidential and anonymous resource to help smokers achieve their goal of quitting. The Quitline provides a "Quit Coach", a professional trained to assist with quitting tobacco use by creating a personalized plan for each individual. Quit Coaches are available seven days a week, from 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m., to provide encouragement and offer advice during moments of tobacco cravings.

"Using tobacco and exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to heart problems, different types of cancer, lung disease and death," states Jane Dodds, Tobacco Use Prevention Program Coordinator at the Health Department. "Although quitting may be hard and take multiple tries, the smoking cessation classes and the DHMH Quitline do work and quitting is worth it for you and your family!"

To learn more about the DHMH Quitline, please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit http://www.smokingstopshere.com

Health Department Launches New Website and Social Media Initiative

To better serve the health needs of St. Mary's County, the health department has launched a new website with state of the art features as well as establishing a strategic social media initiative.

"The new website and social media initiative have been launched with the main purpose of protecting and promoting the health of every resident in St. Mary's County," said Health Officer Meenakshi G. Brewster, MD, MPH.

Everything Old is New Again

The website will now offer tailored information, services, and resources for individuals, community, businesses, and health care providers.

The St. Mary's County Health Department (SMCHD) encourages everyone to look over the website and see the many resources the department hopes will assist residents and the community in meeting its health needs.

"There is something for everyone," added Brewster. "No matter where you are in your life, the website now offers valuable information and resources for every stage of life in addition to components that every community member will want to know."

Subscribe for Important Updates 24/7

In addition to the new web sections, the community can now subscribe to several specialized subscription notices.

-- Everyone can subscribe to the home page where the department will be updating with new information, health articles, important notices, and more.

-- News Media - If you are member with the media and want to be sure you are in the know as soon as news worthy and time sensitive information is communicated, then this subscription in the website News Room will help.

-- Health Care Providers - If you are a health care provider wanting to be sure you are made aware of any important health alerts in St. Mary's County then you can now subscribe for instantaneous notices delivered right to your inbox.

Anyone can subscribe to one or all three subscription lists so they are kept up to date with the most important notices and health information affecting St. Mary's County.

SMCHD Launches Social Media Initiative

In addition to providing information that is more up to date, easy to understand, and easy to find, the health department would also like to offer its residents, health care providers, businesses, and community important tips, resources, information about services, and more through its new Facebook and Twitter pages.

"Starting to communicate through social media platforms was not taken lightly," said Brewster. "We wanted to be sure there was a need to be met. After completing some primary research with several groups throughout the community and researching what other health departments were providing, we found that there was a need to utilize these tools so that we can provide our community with the most valuable information in forums that are easily accessible on a regular basis."

To get the most up-to-date information about services, facts, advisories, and more:

-- Like SMCHD's Facebook page at facebook.com/SMCHealthDepartment and

-- Follow SMCHD's Twitter page at http://www.twitter.com/smchd_gov

Furthering SMCHD's Mission

The new website and social media initiative will help the health department to effectively and efficiently:

-- Inform, educate, and empower all residents about health issues

-- Manage effective, open, and culturally sensitive health services

-- Maintain a safe and healthy environment

-- Monitor the county's health status and develop initiatives to address health issues

-- Strengthen community partnerships

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