Salem health dept. offers flu shots

SALEM – The Salem City Health Department now has flu shots available for the public, but interested area residents must call first to make an appointment at 330-332-1618.

The vaccine includes four strains and costs $30, either through self-pay up front or Medicare or health insurance coverage billed by flu vaccine provider VaxCare.

Last month, city Health Commissioner Richard Setty reported that VaxCare had dumped the city from its program, cutting the health department off from receiving flu vaccine because it was not meeting the 100-shot minimum.

On Wednesday, he told health board members during their meeting that VaxCare had recanted on that and agreed to go ahead and deliver 100 doses if the city set up some clinics. Three clinics were scheduled at city hall for city government workers and their families to receive flu shots. The first clinic Oct. 22 attracted 14 customers, which Setty said was a good start. Another clinic was held Wednesday and the final clinic is set for the afternoon of Nov. 6.

No clinics were announced for the public, but information about calling for an appointment for a flu shot was placed on a sign outside the health department at the KSU City Center on North Lincoln Avenue.

The department administered a total of 46 seasonal flu vaccinations during the 2012-2013 season, with that number including 19 vaccinations administered to employees at city hall in January.

In other business, Setty reported he received notification from the Ohio Department of Health about two confirmed cases of tularemia, with one in Brown County near Cincinnati and one in Union County near Columbus.

Sometimes referred to as rabbit fever according to Wikipedia, tularemia is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as “a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks. Humans can become infected through several routes, including: tick and deer fly bites; skin contact with infected animals; ingestion of contaminated water; laboratory exposure; or inhalation of contaminated dusts or aerosols.

The notice from ODH noted that rabbit hunting season begins Friday in Ohio and Setty said it might be a good idea to remind hunters what to keep in mind, such as wearing gloves when handling rabbits or small game.

“Everyone needs to be aware of what happens when you handle animals,” Mayor John Berlin said.

The ODH notice said Ohio had a total of four cases of tularemia over 10 years from 2003 to 2012 and now in 2013, there are already two confirmed cases. Neither case had known rabbit contact, with the thought that both residents were infected around their home.

The board instructed Setty to put together an informational sheet to place in stores which sell hunting supplies.

In another animal matter, Setty told the board that registered sanitarian Bill Hayward was continuing to work on the pigeon issue at the old Endres Gross building at the corner of State Street and Penn Avenue in downtown Salem. The health department received several complaints about pigeon droppings and pigeons getting inside the vacant apartments inside the upper floors of the building.

Various techniques to control the pigeon population have been discussed, with Hayward working with the building owner for some type of solution.

Board member Judy Sicilia suggested talking with someone from the Columbiana County Courthouse which had problems with pidgeons several years ago.

Setty said he recalled in Youngstown there was a problem and poison pellets were put out and some were shot, but those types of solutions can result in other problems. No shooting is permitted in the city. Berlin said the pigeon problem is symptomatic of vacant properties.

Setty noted that some of the complaints are aimed at the property owner for not rehabbing the building, but he noted the health department can’t order someone to spruce up a building. They have to be concerned with the health issues.

The next health board meeting will be 10 a.m. Nov. 20, which is a week earlier than usual.