Vilas County Public Health - Home

Back to School Tips

The first day of school is right around the corner.  Now is a great time to help your child get back on a healthy and safe plan for school.  Following a few tips below will help your child stay healthy and safe during the school year. 



Make sure your child is up-to-date on all of the vaccines recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Vaccines protect against a number of serious diseases.  Children who are not vaccinated, have a higher chance of getting vaccine preventable diseases as well as spreading them to their classmates and the community.  This includes babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health conditions. 

Talk to your child’s doctor to find out which vaccines are recommended for them before going back to school.  Parents can find out more about the recommended vaccines at           

Healthy Lunches

  • Pack your child's lunch with whole grains, such as whole-grain bread, wraps or pita pockets.
  • Provide lean meats, cheese or hummus to make sandwiches.
  • Provide several fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, snap peas, cucumbers, fresh fruits that are in season.
  • Have your child choose milk in order to get calcium and Vitamin D.
  • Variety is the key!

Getting Enough Sleep

  • A couple of weeks before the first day of school, slowly begin to have your child go to bed earlier. 
  • Preschool-age kids need 11 - 12 hours of sleep.
  • School-age kids need at least 10 hours of sleep.
  • Teens need 9 - 10 hours of sleep.
  • Set rules on when electronic devices need to be turned off.

 Preventing Sickness  

  • Make sure your child is up-to-date on his/her shots.
  • Remind your child to wash their hands after using the restroom, before they eat and wiping their nose.
  • Have them cover their cough and sneezes using their inner arm by their elbow. 

School Bus Safety Tips

  • Get to the bus stop early. Do not run to the bus.
  • Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop before walking toward it.
  • If crossing the street, wait for a signal from the bus driver.  Look both ways to make sure there is no moving traffic from either direction.
  • Always cross in front of the bus so the driver can see you.
  • If the bus has lap and shoulder belts, use them.
  • Once the bus is in motion, remain in your seat.
  • If the window is open, keep your arms and head inside the bus at all times.
  • Do not stand up to get off the bus until it has completely stopped.
  • Only get off the bus at your assigned spot.

 Walking Safety Tips

  • Children should only walk to school alone if they are old enough and ready to make the walk safely. Note: Children may not be ready to walk to school without an adult until they are at least 10 years old.
  • Younger kids cannot be trusted to make smart traffic choices on their own.
  • Plan and practice a safe walking route with your child until she knows it well.
  • Use streets with sidewalks, crosswalks and crossing guards. Avoid as many intersections as possible.
  • Have children walk with a friend or in a group.
  • Talk to your child about what to do if they are approached by a stranger.

Safety Tips for Drivers

  • Drivers should be aware of children walking to school or to the bus stop.
  • When backing out of the driveway, watch for children.
  • On streets without crossing guards, watch out for children trying to cross the street.
  • Be careful on streets without sidewalks or streets with on-street parking. It might be hard to notice a child behind a car.
  • Be alert. Children may dart into the street without looking.
  • Slow down!

Source: Nationwide Children's Hospital & American Public Health Association


Survivors of Suicide Support Group Meets in Rhinelander

Has someone you love taken their own life?  Are you troubled with questions like, “why?”, “what brought this on?”, “why my family?”.  Do you find yourself with no one to talk to about your frustrations and confusion regarding the suicide of your loved one?  Then you are a Survivor of Suicide (SOS) and have a safe place to go to discuss your issues.

The SOS support group was started in July of 2005.  The group is facilitated by Sue Mackowski, a Certified Bereavement Specialist and Consultant.  The group originated as a result of the co-founder’s need for support after the death of her son.  Tina Werres, a Rhinelander native, lost her son Paul to suicide in 2001.  In the months following his death, she struggled with the loss and understood the need for people suffering from the unique backlash of suicide to have a gathering place to meet their needs.  Those needs planted the seeds for the formation of the Survivors of Suicide support group.

The Rhinelander based Survivors of Suicide support group meets once a month, the third Saturday at the Curran Building, 315 S. Oneida Avenue, Rhinelander.  The meetings are from 10am-12 noon.  The SOS support group offers a safe and confidential environment to discuss the unique grieving process experienced by those whose lives have been touched by suicide.  It is a place where survivors tell their stories, share their experiences, and help each other move forward in their grief journey.  The meetings are informal and confidentiality is the primary guideline.  The SOS support group is free and open to the public.

Since its inception, our group has served families and individuals from the Northwood’s area.  Our goal is to provide a “safe haven” for those dealing with the death of a loved one due to suicide.  In addition to group discussions, we have a small library of books, pamphlets, and other literature dealing with grief and loss, specifically loss due to suicide that is available to attendees.

We invite all of you who are struggling with the death of a loved one who has taken their life to join us.  Here is a schedule of 2017 meetings: 

  • 8/19/17
  • 9/16/17
  • 10/21/17
  • 11/18/17
  • 12/16/17

If you have any questions regarding the meeting schedule or content, please call Sue Mackowski, 715-275-5399 or Tina Werres, 716-499-3002.  Remember, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”.

Phone Scam

We were informed that Vilas County Public Health Department's phone number is being used in a potential phone scam.  The callers are asking for personal information.  We do not make random phone calls seeking personal information. Please disregard or call us back if you have further questions at 715-479-3656.



Crow Tests Positive for West Nile Virus in Vilas County

Vilas County Public Health Department reports a dead crow found in Vilas County on June 29, has tested positive for West Nile virus.  This is the first bird that tested positive for West Nile virus in Vilas County this year.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected birds. 

Take some simple steps to protect yourself against mosquito bites and limit exposure from mosquitoes.  Also, get rid of breeding grounds for mosquitoes.  The Health Department recommends the following steps:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use insect repellant on clothing as well as exposed skin since mosquitoes may bite through clothing.
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
  • Properly throw away items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.
  • Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
  • Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

The majority of people (80%) who are infected with West Nile virus do not get sick. Those who do become ill usually experience mild symptoms such as:

  • fever,
  • headache and muscle aches,
  • rash, and
  • fatigue (being tired).

Less than 1% of people infected with the virus get seriously ill with symptoms that include:

  • high fever,
  • muscle weakness,
  • stiff neck,
  • disorientation,
  • mental confusion,
  • tremors,
  • confusion,
  • paralysis, and
  • coma.

Older adults and those with weak immune systems have a greater chance to develop a central nervous system illness that can lead to death.

The Department of Health Services has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes, and people.  During 2002, the state documented its first human infections and 52 cases were reported that year. During 2015, 9 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents.West Nile virus infections in people have been reported from June through October; however, most reported becoming ill with West Nile virus in August and September.

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health will continue surveillance for West Nile virus until the end of the mosquito season. To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610. 

For more information on West Nile virus:

Swimmer's Itch

What is swimmer’s itch (also called cercarial dermatitis)?

Is an allergic reaction that looks like a skin rash caused by certain microscopic parasites.  These parasites are released from snails into fresh and salt water (such as lakes, ponds, and oceans). The parasite prefers to live inside specific birds or mammals, such as a duck or snail.  But if the parasite comes into contact with a swimmer, it digs into the skin which causes the allergic reaction and rash. 

How does water become infested with the parasite?

Adult microscopic parasites live in the blood of animals such as ducks, geese, gulls, swans, and certain mammals such as muskrats and raccoons.

  1. The parasites make eggs that are passed in the feces of the birds or mammals.
  2. If the eggs land in or are washed into the water, the eggs hatch, releasing small, free-swimming microscopic larvae.
  3. These larvae swim in the water in search of a certain type of aquatic snail.If the larvae find one of these snails, they infect the snail.  There they multiply and undergo further development.
  4. Infected snails release a different type of microscopic larvae (or cercariae) into the water. This larval form then swims about looking for a suitable host (bird, muskrat) to continue the lifecycle.
  5. Although people are not the right hosts for these microscopic larvae, they will still dig into the swimmer’s skin.  This causes an allergic reaction and rash. Because these larvae cannot develop inside a person, they soon die. 

What are the signs and symptoms of swimmer’s itch?

  • Tingling, burning, or itching of the skin – within minutes to days after swimming.
  • Small reddish pimples – within 12 hours.
  • Small blisters – may develop.

Scratching the areas may result in secondary bacterial infections. Itching may last up to a week or more, but will gradually go away.

Do I need to see my health care provider for treatment?

Most cases of swimmer’s itch do not need medical attention. If you have a rash, you may try the following for relief:

      • Use corticosteroid cream.  
      • Apply cool compresses to the rash.    
      • Bathe in Epsom salts or baking soda.  
      • Soak in colloidal oatmeal baths.  
      • Apply baking soda paste to the rash (made by stirring water into baking soda until it reaches a paste-like consistency).  
      • Use an anti-itch lotion.

Try very hard not to scratch.  Scratching may cause the rash to become infected. If itching is severe, your health care provider may suggest prescription-strength lotions or creams to lessen your symptoms.

Can swimmer’s itch be spread from person-to-person?

You cannot get swimmer’s itch from another person.

Who is at risk for swimmer’s itch?  

      • Anyone who swims or wades in water where there is swimmers itch.  Larvae are more likely to be in shallow water by the shoreline.  
      • Children, who tend to swim, wade, and play in the shallow water.  They are also less likely to towel dry themselves when leaving the water.

What can be done to prevent swimmer’s itch?  

      • Do not swim in areas where swimmer’s itch is a known problem or where signs have been posted.           
      • Do not swim near or wade in marshy areas where snails are commonly found.  
      • Towel dry or shower right after leaving the water.  
      • Do not attract birds (e.g., by feeding them) to areas where people are swimming.

Tips to Avoid Child Heatstroke

Always Look Before You Lock  

      • Always check the back seats of your vehicle before your lock it and walk away.  
      • Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child's car seat when it's empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.  
      • If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely. 

Keep in Mind a Child's Sensitivity to Heat  

      • In 10 minutes, a car's temperature can rise over 20 degrees.  
      • Even at an outside temperature of 60 degrees, the temperature inside your car can reach 110 degrees.  
      • A child dies when his/her body temperature reaches 107 degrees. 

Understand the Potential Consequences of Kids in Hot Cars   

      • Severe injury or death.  
      • Being arrested and jailed.  
      • A lifetime of regret.  

For more information, visit Parents Central website 

Cooling Facilities in Vilas and Oneida Counties

The National Weather Service says the combination of heat and high humidity this week and into the upcoming weekend may result in hazardous health conditions.

Oneida County and Vilas County Emergency Management Offices and Public Health Departments have identified the following facilities that are open for business 24-hours a day/7 days a week in the event citizens need to cool down from the heat and humidity.

Eagle River Area:

  • Trig’s Store (925 East Wall Street) Mezzanine Area, 715-479-6411
  • Eagle River Memorial Hospital (201 Hospital Road) Main Entrance, 715-479-7411

Rhinelander Area:

  • Trig’s Riverwalk Centre Mall (232 S. Courtney Street)  Seating in Mall Area, 715-369-1470,
  • Wal-Mart Supercenter (2121 Lincoln Street), 715-362-8550

Minocqua/Woodruff Area:

  • Trig’s Mall (9750 HWY 70 West) Seating in Mall Area, 715-356-9456
  • Wal-Mart Supercenter (8760 Northridge Way), 715-356-1609

Please contact the utility company you are serviced by, to report a power outage or a downed power line:

  • Wisconsin Public Service: 1-800-450-7240
  • Price Electric Cooperative: 1-800-884-0881
  • Xcel Energy: 1-800-895-4999
  • WE Energies: 1-800-242-9137

Remember These Tips:

  • Never leave children, disabled persons, or pets in a parked car-even briefly: Temperatures in a car can become life threatening within minutes. Temperature inside a car, even with windows cracked, can rise 20-30 degrees above outside temperature in 10 to 20 minutes. Air conditioning is no guarantee to be safe.
  • Stay Cool: Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible and avoid direct sunlight.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water and do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Pets should have their water refilled often and given more water than usual.
  • Stay Informed: Watch your local weather forecasts so you can plan activities safely when it is hot outside. Watch for any extreme heat alerts.
  • Do not stop taking medications unless your doctor says you should: Take extra care to stay cool and ask your doctor or pharmacist for any special heat advice. Consult with Veterinarians if your pet is on medication as well.
  • Taking a cool shower or bath will cool you down: A shower or bath will actually work faster than an air conditioner. Apply cool-wet rags to neck, head and limbs to cool down the body quickly and, apply cool-wet rags to your pets head, neck, chest and belly to help cool them down.
  • Monitor weather and heat conditions before planning outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.

People at Higher Risk of Heat-Related Illness Include

  • Infants and young children.
  • People 65 years of age and older.
  • People who are overweight.
  • People with chronic medical conditions.
  • Pets exposed to extreme heat and humidity even in the shade, are at risk for heat stroke.

Where You Are Most At Risk

  • Homes with little or no air conditioning.
  • Cars.

Many victims of heat-related deaths are socially isolated, maintaining little contact with family and friends. This is why it is important to check on family, friends, neighbors, pets and livestock during extreme heat.

Tips for Food Safety in a Power Outage:


 It's Tick Season!

The weather is becoming warmer and the deer ticks are beginning to become more active. Ticks live in wooded, brushy areas that provide food and cover for small animals and deer. Ticks are unable to jump or fly and usually attach to a host at ground level.

Common Tick Diseases

Some people can develop two or more of these diseases at the same time.

Lyme Disease

Symptoms include a bulls-eye rash, fever, headache, chills, muscle pain and joint pain. The bulls-eye rash, one of the earliest symptoms, typically appears between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite. Not everyone with Lyme disease develops the rash.

Human Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis

Symptoms include a sudden onset of a high fever (102 degrees or more), chills, severe headache and muscle aches. These symptoms appear between 1 and 3 weeks after an infectious tick bite. However, not all people have symptoms.

Although people of all ages can get anaplasmosis, it is most severe in the elderly.  If left untreated, it can result in organ failure and death.


Symptoms include high fever, muscle aches, beign tired, headache and loss of appetite. Symptoms usually appear between 1 and 6 weeks after a deer tick bite, but may take longer in some individuals. Most people infected with the babesiosis parasite will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. People who are immune compromised may develop severe illness. Babesiosis can be fatal.

Powassan (POWV) Virus

Steps to Protect Yourself from Tick Diseases

  1. Know when you’re in tick habitat—brushy, wooded areas—where you will need to take precautions.
  2. Use a good tick repellent, such as a product containing permethrin or DEET, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Wear clothes that will help to shield you from ticks. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are best. Tuck your pants into the top of your socks or boots to create a “tick barrier.”
  4. Check frequently for ticks and remove them promptly.  This is an important step in preventing disease.
  5. Remove the tick slowly and gently using a pair of tweezers. Folk remedies like Vaseline, nail polish remover, or matches are not safe or effective methods of tick removal.

If you develop signs or symptoms of a tick-related illness after spending time in areas where deer ticks are found, you should seek medical attention right away.

Not all deer ticks carry the organisms that cause Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, or babesiosis. If an infected deer tick bites you, it needs to be attached at least 12-24 hours to transmit the human anaplasmosis bacteria and 24-48 hours to transmit the Lyme disease bacteria. Not every person who is infected with these organisms will develop symptoms.

Useful Resources:


Blastomycosis is caused by a fungus that may cause disease in people and animals, particularly dogs.  The fungus grows in nature and is typically found in:

  • Acidic, sandy soils;
  • Decaying wood and other vegetation; and
  • By waterways with changing water levels. 

It produces microscopic spores under certain conditions of temperature and humidity, typically in the spring and fall of the year.  These spores become airborne when the soil or debris becomes disturbed.  Blastomycosis develops when you breathe in the disturbed spores.  Symptoms, however, do not typiclaly occur until 1 - 3 months later.  Blastomycosis is not known to spread from person to person.

Although anyone can be infected with Blastomycosis, the risk of getting this infection is low.  Your chance of getting Blastomycosis may be higher if you are in construction, farm, log, hunt, or camp in areas with moist soils containing rotting leaves and wood.

As there are currently no effective ways to prevent Blastomycosis, it is important to know the symptoms of the disease:

  • Fever and dry cough which may progress to weight loss, chest pain and a persistent cough with thick sputum. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle aches,
  • Night sweats,
  • Coughing up blood,
  • Shortness of breath and
  • Chest tightness.

Blastomycosis symptoms look like pneumonia and other lung conditions, but it can affect other parts of the body, including skin and bone.  People with health conditions, such as a weakened immune system, asthma or other chronic lung conditions, smoking or diabetes, and the elderly may have severe illnesses. And some people may not have any symptoms. 

Contact your health care provider if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.