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February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

The Vilas County Health Department reminds the public that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease found in children. Each year, more than 51 million school hours are lost due to dental related problems. Fortunately, with good oral health care habits, tooth decay can be prevented. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 18% of children age two to four have had some form of tooth decay and nearly one out of six have untreated tooth decay. By age 17, more than 7% of children have lost at least one permanent tooth due to decay. 31% of kindergarten and third grade children have tooth decay that, if it remains untreated, causes pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.  

Here are some things you can do to help your child have good oral health: 

  • Encourage your children to eat regular nutritious meals and avoid frequent between-meal snacking.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste. If your child is less than 7 years old, put only a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush.
  • If your drinking water is not fluoridated, talk to a dentist or healthcare provider about the best way to protect your child’s teeth.
  • Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants. They protect teeth from decay.
  • If you are pregnant, get prenatal care and eat a healthy diet. The diet should include folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord and possibly cleft lip/palate.

Taking care of your children’s teeth, including baby teeth, from the very start is the key to good oral health. A child should visit the dentist when his or her first tooth appears, or by his or her first birthday. Parents and caregivers are very important to serve as role models and teaching their children good oral (dental) health care habits.  This includes proper brushing and flossing techniques, eating nutritious foods and making regular visits to the dentist.

Vilas County Public Health can help keep your child’s teeth healthy by applying fluoride varnish from birth to age 5 in local daycares, Head Starts and school districts.  When permanent molars (back teeth) come in, dental sealants should be applied to protect cavities from starting in the grooves of those teeth.  Please visit our Northwoods Dental Project under Services/Dental to find out about our programs to keep your child’s teeth healthy!

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease that affects the respiratory tract. It is caused by a bacteria that is found in the mouth, nose and throat of an infected person. Pertussis can occur at any age. 

Pertussis begins as a mild upper respiratory infection. At first, signs or symptoms are similar to a common cold, including sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe and progresses to spells of explosive coughing that can interrupt breathing, eating and sleeping.  It is commonly followed by vomiting and exhaustion.  Following the cough, the ill person may make a loud crowing or "whooping" sound as they struggle to inhale air.  These episodes may recur for one to two months, and are more frequent at night.

Vaccinated individuals may have milder symptoms and without the typical "whoop". Pertussis can be very dangerous for infants, who have the highest risk of pertussis-related complications and deaths. Among infants aged less than six months, the most common complication is bacterial pneumonia, followed by neurologic complications such as seizures and encephalopathy.  About half of the infants with lab confirmed pertussis require to be hospitalized.

How soon do symptoms appear?

Symptoms typically appear 7 - 10 days after exposure (being in close contact with someone who has pertussis), but can occur as early as 5 days and as late as 21 days after exposure.

When and for how long is a person able to spread bacteria that cause pertussis?

Pertussis is most contagious (infectious) during the early stage of the illness before the explosive coughing spells begin. The spread of bacteria that causes pertussis may occur up to three weeks or more after the start of the cough.

Individuals with signs of pertussis should stay home and not go into the community except to seek medical care. Ill individuals should work with their healthcare provider as prescribed.

To hear how the "whooping cough" sounds, visit: or 

For more information, visit:


Test Your Home for Radon Gas

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas.  Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States among non-smokers and the second leading cause for smokers. You can’t see, smell, or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home.  The EPA estimates radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, resulting in more deaths per a year than drunk driving, drowning, fires, or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Radon can be found all over the U.S.  Radon comes from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe.  It can get into any type of building- homes, offices, and schools- and build up to high levels.  But you and your family are mostly likely to get your greatest exposure at home.  That’s where you spend most of your time.

You should test for radon.  Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon.  The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.   Testing is inexpensive and easy – it should only take a few minutes of your time. Protect your family and test your home. 

You can fix the problem.  The cost of reducing radon in your home depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problem. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. The cost to fix can vary widely. Consult with your state radon office or get one or more estimates from qualified contractors.

Between January 20th and February 28th test kits are available at the Vilas County Public Health Department or your local town hall for $5.00. Please call 715-479-3656 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. with any questions. Quantities are limited.


Shoo the Flu!

While flu mist also known as the nasal spray is not recommended this flu season due to low effectiveness, the flu vaccine or flu shot will be available. The flu shot did perform well last flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone age six months and older should be vaccinated.

“The best way to prevent the flu is by getting your flu shot” said Laurel Dreger, Public Health Nurse. In Wisconsin flu season hit those 65 years and older the hardest; however there was an increase in the adult population under 65. Seasonal flu is usually spread from October through May in the United States. Flu and problems from flu are serious; please get vaccinated.

Vilas County Public Health Department is now holding flu clinics for adults, at the following sites, dates and times: 2016 Flu Schedule

If you have more questions about influenza or times of clinics, please call Vilas County Public Health Department at 715-479-3656.


Winter Tips

When the weather is extremely cold, and especially if there are high winds, try to stay indoors. Make any trips outside as brief as possible and make sure you are dressed appropriately when you do go outdoors. 

Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven and preferably wind resistant. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Stay dry—wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. For more information, visit: