February Is American Heart Month

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a public health crisis— affecting more than 356,000 people outside hospitals each year, including over 7,000 youth under age 18—but death can be averted if people nearby act quickly. Today, only one in 10 victims survives, but with immediate CPR and use of an AED, survival rates can triple. If you see an adult or teen suddenly collapse, and the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally, Call 911, Push hard and fast on the chest, and use an AED as soon as it arrives at the scene.

Offices Closed due to Weather

Public Health Solutions offices in Crete and Beatrice are closed today due to weather conditions. For assistance, please call the PHS main line at 402-826-3880. Follow prompts to leave a message or reach the Health Director in case of emergency. Offices will reopen at 8:00am tomorrow 1/23/2019.

West Nile Virus Update

Mosquito Pool in Gage County Tests Positive for West Nile Virus

Nebraska DHHS has reported that a mosquito pool collected in Gage County has tested positive for West Nile Virus. This is the first report of a positive mosquito pool in the PHS district this season.

West Nile Virus (WNV) is most commonly transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV. Fortunately, most people infected with the virus do not have symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever and other symptoms. About 1 in 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness. To date, PHS has confirmed two cases of neuro-invasive WNN in the district and one blood donor has screened positive for the virus.

Late summer is typically when we see increased cases of WNV in our area. Taking steps to prevent mosquito bites remains the best defense against West Nile Virus.

* Use insect repellent containing Deet when you are outdoors

* Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants & socks when outdoors

* Avoid going out at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active

* Eliminate standing water around your homes and in the community

If you have questions regarding West Nile virus or mosquito prevention, please contact Public Health Solutions at 402-826-3880 or email Kate Lange.

Free Training: Stop the Bleed/Bloodborne Pathogens

Please register in advance!

PHS Mosquito Counts

Every year, Public Health Solutions maintains surveillance of mosquito activity in our five-county area. This includes testing mosquitoes for West Nile Virus (WNV) and any associated infections reported at our local hospitals. The most recent report includes the following.

To date (10/02/2018), there have been:

In Nebraska

  • 163 cases of WNV in Nebraska
  • 80 cases non-neuroinvasive
  • 83 neuroinvasive
  • Highest number of cases is in the 51-60 year old age group
  • 8 deaths related WNV infection
  • Deaths
    • Age 61-70: 2 deaths
    • Age 71+: 6 deaths

In the PHS District

Probable WNV Cases in PHS district: 4

Probable Case Locations: Fillmore County: 2, Saline County: 1, Thayer County: 1

Deaths: 0


Click here to learn more about West Nile Virus and how to protect yourself and your family.

Updated 10/02/2018

Nebraska AHEC’s August Update!

As the new host site for the Southeast Nebraska Area Health Education Center (AHEC), Public Health Solutions has been working hard to achieve the program goal of connecting students to health careers, professionals to communities, and communities to better health. Check out the Nebraska (AHEC) August Update newsletter to find out what’s happening across the Nebraska AHEC network!

PHS Working to Lower Blood Lead Levels

PHS Working with Families and Health Care Providers to Lower Blood Lead Levels in Children with Lead Poisoning

In recent months, PHS has received funding from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to educate the public about the harmful effects of lead and to work with families and health care providers to lower blood lead levels in children with lead poisoning. According to public health nurse, Kate Lange, RN, BSN, “Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to life-long good health. There is no known identified safe blood lead level. Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health and increase their risk for damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems.

Health care providers routinely test children for lead poisoning at 12 and 24 months of age. When a child’s blood lead level is 5 ug/dL or higher, actions to both help prevent further exposure to lead and to lower the amount of lead in the blood are started. The new grant funding allows for a community health worker (CHW) to contact parents and provide education on:

* possible sources of lead in the child’s environment,

* the importance of a healthy diet high in calcium, iron, and vitamin c,

* cleaning methods to decrease lead in the home,

* the importance of good hand washing, especially before meals, and

* guidelines for repeat testing

In addition, a public health nurse collaborates with:

* the child’s primary care provider to assure follow-up testing is done on time, and

* the DHHS Lead Poisoning Program to schedule a home inspection for children with blood lead levels of 10 ug/dL or higher.

“We are excited to work with families and to teach the public about the harmful effects of lead”, says Jennifer Banos, CHW with the PHS Lead Program.

To learn more about lead poisoning prevention, contact Jennifer Banos, or Kate Lange, at 402-826-3880 or go to www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/

PHAN Award Nomination

M Jane Ford Witthoff has dedicated over 51 years of her life to the public health cause, working diligently to improve the health and wellness of the communities she has served. She began her career in 1963 as a Laboratory Technician, but quickly moved on in her career into the public health realm. Jane started in 1971 as a Food Stamp Caseworker in Norfolk, Nebraska and proceeded to advance into leadership roles within public health. She served as the Health Director for Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department for 17 years. Under her leadership, the Department achieved state and national prominence for innovative work. For the past ten years, Jane has turned her attention to improving the health of rural Nebraskans. During her tenure at Public Health Solutions, she increased the overall capacity from a department of less than ten staff members to a vibrant, diverse workforce of over 20 public health professionals. Through the course of her career, Jane has held many leadership positions at a local, state, and national level. These positions included serving in various officer positions, ultimately serving as the president for the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO), the Public Health Association of Nebraska (PHAN), and for the Nebraska Association of County Health Officials (NACHO). In 1997, she also became a lifetime member of PHAN. Jane maintains many affiliations and memberships in multiple public health organizations.

Because of her vast work experience in advocating for underserved populations, Jane has maintained a compassionate heart and continues to advocate strongly for those without a voice. In the words of Mark Schoenrock, Public Health Solutions Board Member, “Jane has made such a positive difference in the lives of so many, whether it is young children [needing] immunizations, school children [needing] dental prevention and treatment services, communities getting [access to] health care, or elderly getting vital health services, or anywhere in between, Jane has been there for so many years to ensure these services are provided. She has been a tireless advocate for public health and has been instrumental in getting the needed resources to provide the services that public health requires.” The public will continue to benefit from Jane’s hard work through the many public health professionals that she has trained and mentored throughout the years. This is exemplified through the statements made by fellow Health Director Gina Uhing of Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department, “I became a Director five years ago. Jane soon became one of the people that I looked to for guidance on a regular basis. She has a real talent in generating novel ideas, explaining those ideas, and more importantly, she displays the drive and courage to implement the idea and to tirelessly work to recruit supporters and partners to make the project stronger.”

Those fortunate enough to know and have worked with Jane, can attest to her strong will and determination. Jane never compromises on her beliefs and does not hesitate to challenge the status quo in order to improve upon the system. Regardless of the political climate and risk to her career, Jane continues to display the drive and courage to speak out on difficult issues, and give her opinions and thoughts. This is evidenced in a story from Rex Archer, Director of Health, Kansas City Health Department, “When I became health officer I vividly remember attending an American Public Health Association meeting where Jane was presenting in her red blazer. She literally lit a fire under me…Jane stands in a small, select group of Public health officials with the skill of mobilizing their community to support Public Health.”

Few individuals leave such a tremendous impact, that they will forever be remembered as icons of public health in Nebraska. Jane’s devotion to public health has earned her this remarkable status. As a pioneer in Nebraska’s public health system, Jane has forged a path that will guide the success of public health now and for years to come. On behalf of the entire Public Health Solutions staff and Board of Health, we thank Jane for her remarkable and unselfish lifetime commitment to public health. We consider her not simply a colleague, but a mentor and friend. We will honor her legacy by continuing the important work to which she has devoted her entire life. We hope that PHAN will join us in honoring Jane with this prestigious award.

Health Alerts Continue at Bluestem Lake

High E. coli levels found at Branched Oak, Maple Creek Recreation Area Lake, Windmill Lake No. 5

Health alerts for harmful algal bloom continue at Bluestem Lake in Lancaster County. The following lakes were found to have high E. coli levels: Branched Oak in Lancaster County, Maple Creek Recreation Area in Colfax County, Windmill Lake No. 5 in Buffalo County.

The public is advised that swimming and activities which could cause accidental ingestion of water are not permitted when a health alert for toxic blue-green algae is posted.  The designated swimming beaches are closed. While recreational boating and fishing are permitted, the public should avoid activities that could cause accidental ingestion of water as well as full immersion in water.  The risks to humans come from external exposure (prolonged contact with skin) and from swallowing the water.  Symptoms from external exposure are skin rashes, lesions, and blisters.  Symptoms from ingestion can include headaches, nausea, muscular pains, central abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.

High E. coli levels in a lake may be indicative of sewage contamination. However, affected lakes are not posted for no swimming because it has not been declared unsafe.  Rather, this notice is issued so the public is aware that the higher E. coli levels may increase the risk of illness when swimming in the affected water.

If you experience health symptoms, notify your physician. You can also contact the Nebraska Regional Poison Center at 800-222-1222 for more information. Testing results for all lakes can be found on the NDEQ website.

Algae and Bacteria Health Alert

Bacteria and Harmful Algal Bloom Results for the Week of August 21, 2017


Harmful Algal Blooms

Bluestem was below 20 ppb but will remain on Health Alert for at least one more week.

Swan Creek Lake (5A) and Willow Creek Reservoir have been removed from the Health Alert list.

A lake that exceeds 20 ppb of microcystin is placed on “Health Alert”. That lake will remain under  “Health Alert” Status until such time that it has tested below 20 ppb for two continuous weeks. If a lake is under a Health Alert, signs will be posted recommending people avoid full body contact activities such as swimming, wading, skiing, jet skiing, etc.

Non-contact activities such as boating, fishing, and camping are OK.


 Lakes that tested high for E. coli bacteria this week are listed below. E. coli  bacteria levels measured above 235 colonies/100 ml of sample are considered a higher risk for illness when swimming.  Considering the more rapid changes in bacteria conditions, signs are not posted with these higher levels although we want people to be aware and use their own judgment on their use.

Lake Name County Last Updated E.coli Bacteria
Branched Oak Lake
Lancaster 8/24/17 308
  Fremont Lake No. 10 (SRA) Dodge 8/24/17 1203
  Maple Creek Recreation Area Lake Colfax 8/24/17 388
  Pawnee Lake East Beach Lancaster 8/24/17 579
  Pawnee Lake West Beach Lancaster 8/24/17 268
  Wirth Brothers Lake (Site 27) Johnson 8/24/17 1203