Illinois Public Media News
Restrictions on the sale of baked goods at Urbana's Market at the Square have prompted an area lawmaker to find ways of relaxing or modifying a state law.
Danville Republican Bill Black wants to start up a task force to find out what prompted a 10-year old measure that requires those cookies and pies to be prepared in commercial kitchens. It was recently enforced in Urbana for the first time, driving away some vendors. But Black contends the enforcement of the measure is 'spotty' at best:
"The opening day of the farmer's market in Danville there were home-baked goods," says Black. "I asked somebody if this was done in a commercial kitchen. And he said 'yeah, my kitchen.' So just thirty miles apart there was some confusion."
But Kolby Riggle, Director of Environmental Health with Vermilion County's Health Department, contends the law has always been enforced there. Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde says she doesn't have an opinion as to whether the measure is necessary, but says it will continue to be enforced locally. Black suggests that changes to the law could be as simple as placing a label on a baked good - advising that it was homemade. His task force would consist of legislators, local public health professionals, officials with the Department of Agriculture, and members of the public who sell at farmer's markets. Black hopes to begin meetings by fall, with hopes of completing a report by the end of the year.
Probable cases of swine flu in Illinois have continued their slow spread out of their original beachhead in the Chicago area.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said the state had a total of 96 probable cases and three confirmed cases as of Sunday.
DeKalb County reported its first probable case Sunday in a Northern Illinois University student. Probable cases have also been reported in Winnebago and Sangamon counties.
The Kinnikinnick School District in the Roscoe area decided Sunday to close its four schools for at least seven days after a probable case of the virus was reported. It was the first district in Winnebago County to close schools.
In Boone County, the Belvidere School District announced Friday it was closing its 12 schools after a probable case was reported.
The Illinois Department of Public Health says the state now has three confirmed cases of H1N1 (swine) flu and 51 probable cases of the new virus.
Illinois health officials call a case "confirmed'' when additional testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs up the state's results. Kendall County has joined the list of northern Illinois counties with probable cases. The state says Kendall has one case. No cases have been reported yet in downstate Illinois, but Indiana health officials say three cases have been found there.
Illinois has tested more than 500 specimens from patients with flu symptoms and continue to receive more samples from doctors every day.
Health officials in Illinois say the state has enough flu drugs to treat more than one million people. And Illinois can raise that to a recommended level of stockpiled flu drugs within 12 hours with a request to the federal government.
An Associated Press survey finds that more than half the states have yet to stockpile the number of flu-treatment drugs recommended.
Chicago has its own stockpile of the drugs and earlier this week received an allotment from the federal emergency stockpile. Those drugs were delivered to 40 hospitals.
A Chicago Department of Public Health spokesman says the city won't discuss specific numbers "for security purposes.'' Chamapign-Urbana Public Health District administrator Julie Pryde says supplies of medication and protective equipment are being transported to a storage area in the county that she would not name.
The government recommends that each state have enough antiviral medicine on hand to treat 25 percent of its population.
(additional information from AM 580 News)
The confusion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina four years ago included serious problems evacuating and caring for society's most vulnerable people.
Hospitals and nursing homes were thrown into chaos, and in some cases patients died for reasons that could have been avoided. The Illinois College of Emergency Physicians held a seminar Friday in Urbana to address the problem of moving people in health care facilities, psychiatric hospitals or group homes. Doctor Moses Lee, the medical director for the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team, said "I think many people have seen from Katrina all the difficulties of transporting patients out of a hospital and stabilizing them and figuring out how to place them. So there have been a lot of requests from our audiences over the years that they want to learn more about this dilemma and this challenge. There are not a lot of answers out there, but there are a lot of great people thinking about it."
Lee says many Illinois responders went to Louisiana to help care for Katrina patients in 2005 - but he says Illinois has also seen the potential for such emergencies with special needs populations, such as during last spring's Mississippi River flooding.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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