To the Editor:
 
The Westfield Board of Health met on May 1.
 
The Board discussed the recently announced cut-back of Federal public health investigation services for certain communicable diseases. The State and the County have stated that the Town must absorb these costs, which will increase the strain on the department’s personnel and resources. Ms. Megan Avallone, our Health Officer, will develop a plan to provide these mandatory services. We also reviewed proposed changes to the Sanitary Code concerning retail food establishments which are rated unsatisfactory and the sale of tobacco and nicotine products, which will be discussed further at our June meeting. 
 
Lyme disease is the most common reportable communicable disease in Westfield. Five residents have already been infected this year. Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia bacteria. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of blacklegged Ixodes ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a skin rash. To help prevent Lyme disease, residents should avoid direct contact with ticks. Some simple precautions include the following:
1)     Avoid potential tick-infested areas. Keep your grass cut low. Avoid overgrown grass, brush and leaf piles. Walk in the center of trails.
 
2)     Wear insect repellant of at least 20% DEET on clothes and exposed skin. You can use permethrins on clothes, but not on skin.
3)     After an outing, check your children and yourself for ticks. Remove any ticks found with tweezers.
4)     Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they are outside. Remove any ticks found.
5)     Shower soon after being outdoors, to wash off and more easily find ticks on you.

6)     Get medical advice if you get a fever or rash.
Other appropriate precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/index.html.
 
Increasing numbers of complaints concern rats and other rodents. Although this is expected during the summer and with building construction, we can lessen it. Residents are reminded that they must have tightly-covered hard trash cans and scheduled garbage pick-up service. If you feed a pet outdoors, please bring the food indoors at night. Also, please do not feed stray animals, since the food will promote rodent activity. Bird feeder spillage should be minimized and cleaned up daily.
 
More wildlife has been noticed in town. For the pick-up of stray domestic animals and injured and ill wildlife on public property and streets, please contact the town's program with Animal Control Solutions LLC at 908-310-1452 and http://www.animalcontrolsolutions.org/. To collect dead animals, including deer, on streets and public property or for more information, please call the Westfield Regional Health Department at 908-789-4070 or see the department’s website at http://www.westfieldnj.gov/health.
 
If you care for your cat or dog, you should license your pet and protect it by vaccinating it against rabies, which is present in our county. You can obtain the license application through the Town Clerk office, which can be reached at 908-789-4030. An owner of an unlicensed or unvaccinated dog or cat will be issued a summons. Also, please protect the community through proper leashing and clean-up. 
 
Eight pre-school immunization audits were completed in April. After counseling, seven programs were 100 percent compliant and one, which was 93 percent compliant, will be re-audited in May.
 
The health department sponsors health screenings with Overlook Hospital. Blood pressure and glucose screenings will be held on most Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Overlook Downtown Center, 357 Springfield Avenue in Summit. Bone density screenings are also occasionally done, for a $10 fee. For more information and to register, please contact the Overlook Community Health Department at 1-800-247-9580.
 
Information about all of the health department’s activities, including helpful health-related advice and recommendations, is available on its website http://www.westfieldnj.gov/health. The complete minutes of the May 1 meeting will be posted after review and approval at our June 5 meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building. The public is invited to attend.