Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 30, 2009

41 Probable Swine Flu Cases Counted in Illinois

Illinois health officials say the number of probable H1N1 or swine flu cases in the state has more than doubled to 41.

The numbers released Thursday night are all located in northern Illinois, including 16 in Chicago and 11 in Cook County.

The others are seven in Kane County, three in Will County, two in DuPage County, and one each in McHenry County and Lake County.

The cases are called "probable'' because they haven't yet been confirmed by federal testing.

The outbreak of the new virus strain is suspected of causing 168 deaths in Mexico. One death has been confirmed in the United States. In most confirmed U.S. cases, the patients are recovering.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 29, 2009

UI Students in Mexico Have the Choice of Staying or Leaving

Seven University of Illinois students have been given the option of coming home or staying in Mexico for the rest of their study-abroad programs.

The assistant director of the U of I's study-abroad office, Erika Ryser, says there isn't much for the students to do since the swine flu outbreak started making headlines last week.

"Their Universities have canceled classes through May 6 -- it's a national move," Ryser said. "So they're all kind of staying put in their housing -- most of them are with host families -- except for those who've made arrangements to come home."

Ryser says the study-abroad office is monitoring health and government websites and working with a network of other university offices to inform their students and determine what to do about summer programs in Mexico. She says two of the seven spring-semester students have opted to return to the United States.

Categories: Education, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 29, 2009

9 Swine Flu Cases “Probable” in Illinois

The head of the Illinois Department of Public Health says the state has logged nine probable cases of swine flu, all in northern Illinois.

Dr. Damon Arnold says five of the probable cases are in Chicago, while two are in Kane County and single cases are being reported in both Lake and DuPage counties. The people diagnosed range in age from 2 to 57.

Arnold says all of the cases so far have been mild and nobody has been hospitalized.

Arnold appeared at a news conference Wednesday called in the wake of Chicago's decision to close an elementary school after one student there was found to have a probable case of swine flu.

Arnold, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Gov. Pat Quinn and other officials all stressed that the state is working hard to prevent further illnesses.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 28, 2009

Christie Clinic Settles with State Over Medicaid Patient Lawsuit

Christie Clinic has joined Carle Clinic in agreeing to increase the number of Medicaid patients it accepts for treatment.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the two Champaign-Urbana medical clinics two years ago - claiming they conspired illegally to stop accepting new Medicaid patients. Carle settled with the state last December. And late yesterday (Monday), the attorney general's office announced Christie had done the same.

Under the settlement, Christie Clinic will increase the number of Medicaid patients it takes in for primary health care to 85-hundred over the next three years. And those patients can't be turned away for existing medical debt for a four-year period prior to the state's lawsuit --- that's when the attorney general says qualified Medicaid patients were turned away. Christie will also make payments to Frances Nelson Health Center and the Champaign Urbana Public Health District to help pay for medical and dental care for low-income patients.

Christie spokeswoman Karen Blatzer denies that happened, and she said the suit was settled to curb costs. "We don't want the perception to be that we are guilty. But we feel that it is more important to provide the health care our community needs, and being involved in this lawsuit was expensive and very distracting," Blatzer said.

Blatzer did not know how much the additional Medicaid patient load would cost Christie. The clinic has agreed to increase its Medicaid patient rolls to 85-hundred by 2012.

Blatzer says the payments to Frances Nelson Health Center and the Champaign Urbana Public Health District equal when Christie has given to them in the past.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 27, 2009

Champaign County Health Professionals Recall Their Pandemic Training

Local health departments are keeping an eye out for the potential of a flu outbreak, but they've been planning for such an occasion for years.

Champaign-Urbana Public Health District director Julie Pryde says even though there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Illinois, there are some common sense measures you should be following, whether or not there's an outbreak. One is to stay home from work or school if you're sick.

"If you have a fever, stay home, contact your doctor or your health care provider," Pryde said. "Don't go around other people when you are sick. That's good public health practice in general, but it's especially important during a time where there is a potential for a pandemic outbreak."

The health district has been promoting a "Stock Two for Flu" campaign for the past few years - it asks shoppers to buy one or two extra food items or other personal needs to keep in stock at home in case a flu pandemic keeps them at home. But she stresses that there's no need to fear or panic over the potential.

School officials are trying to spread the word that cleanliness is also important in keeping influenza at bay - principals in Champaign Unit 4 are being asked to make sure their students are regularly washing their hands.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 27, 2009

Illinois On Watch for Swine Flu Cases

Illinois public health officials say swine flu has yet to show up in the state, but it will eventually.

Doctor Damon Arnold, the state's public health director, says his agency is closely monitoring the situation....

"The department and its public health partners including local health departments, hospitals and emergency departments are on full alert to watch for possible cases," Arnold said. "We are prepared to act swiftly to assure early detection and warning and to respond in the event of a case or cases are identified to limit its spread within the state."

The swine flu has proven deadly in Mexico... but the cases in the U-S have so far been milder. Arnold says the state has been planning for a pandemic event over the past few years, and says a 2006 training exercise focused on what the state would do if a similar flu outbreak occurred. He says the public should go about normal routines, but those who are feeling ill should stay home.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2009

Gov. Quinn’s Appointment for a State Board Steps Down

A doctor recently appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn to lead a scandal-plagued state board has withdrawn from the job because of a conflict of interest.

Quinn's office announced Tuesday that Dr. Quentin Young withdrew as chairman of the Health Facilities Planning Board because he has a minority interest in a doctor's office that owns property being leased to a health care system. Young says he is stepping down willingly.

Under state law, board members can't have business relationships with health care institutions. Young identified the conflict after his appointment last week.

Quinn had tapped Young to help resurrect the image of the board, which was caught up in the scandal that helped bring down former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2009

Home Bakers Protest Champaign-Urbana Public Health Ban on Selling Their Wares at Farmers Markets

Home bakers who have been selling their goods at the Urbana farmer's market have been speaking out against a health department order that would put them out of business. For years, the city-operated Market On The Square in downtown Urbana has featured local bakers --- including many who bake in their home kitchens, which don't undergo health inspections. But this month, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District announced a ban on the sale of home baked goods at farmers markets and similar venues. The home bakers say the ban came at the last minute, as their preparations for this year's farmer's market are already underway. At Monday night's Urbana City Council meeting, Alderwoman Heather Stevenson said the ban has upset a lot of people.

"I've -- in three days --- heard from about 20 people," said Stevenson. "That's too many to not say anything."

Dan Erwin of Champaign told the city council that he's been selling baked goods made at his home kitchen at the Market in the Square for 20 years. He said the rules had stayed about the same that whole time. "And then all of a sudden, two days before we're supposed to be signing up for this season", said Erwin, "I got this letter saying, in short, you can't do this anymore."

Mayor Laurel Prussing says a memo she received last night from Public Health District Board Chair Carol Elliott seems to say that the home-baked goods are allowed at farmers' markets after all, as long as they don't involve fillings that require refrigeration. But Prussing says she'll check into the matter further. Urbana's Market on the Square opens May 2nd.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2009

An Alternative to Flushing Old Medications

A free prescription-drug dropoff program is taking place this week, a year after the first effort brought in an unexpectedly high number of old drugs.

Carle RX Express locations in Champaign-Urbana, Mahomet and Monticello are collecting old, outdated or unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs all this week.

Greg Puszkiewicz is the director of the pharmacies - he says last year the stores accepted 526 pounds of medications and turned them over to the City of Urbana, which is helping sponsor the dropoff.

"The City of Urbana comes and picks it up and takes it to their facility, then the next day the EPA comes and picks it up and they take it to Texas where it's incinerated," Puszkiewicz said.

Puszkiewicz says last year, the first-ever dropoff happened just as news stories appeared about traces of pharmaceuticals found in drinking water supplies. He says that spurred patients to take action and get rid of their old drugs in a safe way, instead of flushing them down the drain or the toilet - in some cases, participants had been holding onto the medications for more than twenty years.

Categories: Community, Environment, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 17, 2009

A Longtime Health Care Advocate Takes Over a Troubled State Board

Illinois's governor has appointed a longtime advocate of universal health care to a troubled state board. The move comes amid questions about whether the board should even exist.

Quentin Young will chair the state's Health Facilities Planning Board. The board regulates where the facilities can be built or taken away. Critics say the board stifles competition ... but Young says a little planning will lead to a fairer system.

"There's no perfect way, obviously, to have balance between regulation and competition. But this planning agency is an attempt to control the devastating cost of health care," Young said.

The board has been a venue for graft and kickbacks, involving close associates of former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Congressman Mark Kirk suggests abolishing the board, calling it, quote: "an opportunity for total corruption." Kirk is thought to be mulling a run for governor.

Incumbent Pat Quinn says the key is appointing trustworthy people. Quentin Young has been a civil rights activist, Pat Quinn's personal physician.


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