To the Editor:
The Westfield Board of Health met on Aug. 5, 2019.
Three businesses in town were recently issued summonses for selling electronic cigarettes to underage individuals. Two of them did not have licenses to sell e-cigarettes. Two businesses were fined, one $350 and the other $250 plus court costs. The third business was recently sold. Its previous owner, who is responsible, failed to appear in court, so the court issued a failure to appear notice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that over one-fifth of high school students nationwide used e-cigarettes in 2018, a 78% increase in just one year. Also troubling, one in 20 middle school students currently use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes have high concentrations of nicotine to which children can become addicted and nicotine adversely affects their developing brains. We all can address this epidemic to protect our children.
Parents should learn more about e-cigarettes and their risks so they can better counsel their children. Get the Surgeon General’s tip sheet for parents at https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/. Set a good example by being tobacco-free. And if you use tobacco products, it’s never too late to quit. Finally, there are tools to help your child learn the facts and quit tobacco products at Teen.smokefree.gov.
The Board discussed its role too in implementing the Surgeon General’s recommendations. We currently regulate e-cigarettes but began the process to improve our regulations. Our goal is to eliminate young peoples’ access in town. A new approach will be introduced at our next meeting, in October, that emulates the stricter regulation currently in force in the Town of Morristown.
There was an increase in reports of rats in neighborhoods. The Westfield Regional Health Department investigated nine complaints concerning rats in June and July. All were successfully addressed with the cooperation of the homeowners and extermination companies, except one. Reportedly, one resident stated that she did not want to kill rats, but she preferred to trap them and release them into the town’s parks. This resident was issued a summons and in court, was fined $1,000 plus court costs.
The fine was held in abeyance so the resident can arrange for appropriate extermination services. If the resident refuses, the fine will be imposed. However, the Health Department, by itself, cannot force this resident to eliminate rats from her property.
The Health Department is also investigating an outbreak of cyclospora diarrheal disease, linked to basil from Siga Logistics de RL de CV of Morelos, Mexico https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/outbreaks/2019/weekly/index.html. About 69 New Jersey residents are ill from this, including about 15 being investigated by our health department. Residents should not buy, eat, or serve any fresh basil from Siga Logistics de RL de CV or any uncooked items like pesto or salad that may include fresh basil from Mexico. Guidance for residents to protect themselves from many food-borne diseases, which tend to increase during the summer, can be found at https://www.westfieldnj.gov/health.
In addition, three Westfield residents were reported with confirmed Lyme disease in June and July. Lyme disease is spread by ticks and residents should avoid direct contact with them to help prevent Lyme disease. Some simple precautions include the following:
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Use appropriate insect repellants.
- After an outing, check your children and yourself for ticks and remove any ticks found.
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they are outside, and remove any ticks found.
- Clear tall grasses and brush from your yard to make it less tick friendly.
- More information can be found at https://www.westfieldnj.gov/health.
Diabetes screening and education is available from the Overlook Medical Center Community Health Department. For more information and to register, please contact Overlook at 1-800-247-9580.
Information about all of the Health Department’s activities is available on its website https://www.westfieldnj.gov/health. The complete minutes of the August 5 meeting will be posted after review and approval at our October 7 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