To the Editor:
The Westfield Board of Health met on May 6, 2019.
Concerning the epidemic of measles in the State, the Board will continue to vigorously promote vaccinations to prevent this deadly disease. Since vaccinations are so effective, people forget what it was really like when measles caused an average of 6,000 deaths, 1,000 cases of encephalitis and 48,000 hospitalizations each year. We strongly support a proposed State law to require measles vaccinations for school entry, except for documented medical contraindications, and encourage our elected representatives to join us.
Concerning the epidemic of vaping among adolescents and children, the Board agreed to develop regulations to license the addictive nicotine liquid pods, in addition to the delivery devices, to further control their sale in town. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-fifth of high school students and 5% of middle school students currently use addictive e-cigarettes and over two-thirds use flavored varieties. We will further discuss whether to ban the flavored nicotine pods.
Rabies is a continuing presence in Union County. It occurs most often in wildlife, particularly raccoons, bats, skunks, groundhogs and foxes. However, cats account for most of the rabies among domestic animals. Therefore, you must license your dogs and cats and protect them with vaccinations against rabies. 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.
In March, there were two reports of animal bites in town. Please protect the community through proper leashing. Also, please clean up after your pet since we all share our streets.
Twelve pre-school immunization audits were completed in March and April. Altogether, records for 1,417 children were reviewed. Initial compliance rates ranged between 68% and 100% for 3 programs. Nine programs were counseled. Seven of the eight reaudited in April were 100% compliant and one was 99%. One program will be reaudited in May. The Board appreciates the cooperation of the parents, preschools and school nurses to best protect all our children, including those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical contraindications.
In addition, with the support of the Mayor and Town Council, we will increase our efforts to educate residents concerning health issues. We plan to better share facts to prevent communicable diseases, such as measles and influenza, chronic diseases, addictions, such as vaping and opiates, and injuries, especially among pedestrians. Current cancer screening programs are available through the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Program at 908-241-5222.
Information about all of the Westfield Regional Health Department’s activities is available on its website https://www.westfieldnj.gov/health. The complete minutes of the May 6 meeting will be posted after review and approval at our June 3 meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building. The public is invited to attend.
Lawrence D. Budnick, MD, MPH
President, Westfield Board of Health