COVID-19, February, 2020
COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that’s spreading from China throughout the world: You’ve heard about it; you’re concerned about it. Here are some things you need to know.
1. We’re on it. Your Board of Health is the local end of a chain that starts with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and goes through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Mohawk Area Public Health Coalition (MAPHCO) down to us. At every link in this chain emergency response plans are being updated and supplies and equipment are being marshaled.
In this rapidly evolving situation, an important part of our job is to keep you informed of the risks and the proper precautions you can take. You can also get updates, and more information on the virus itself, on these websites:
2. Understand the risk.
We are committed to offering realistic professional guidance. Yes, as of this writing, in late February, 2020, the risk of infection in our area is low. But we can’t count on its staying low. It’s entirely possible that we’ll see cases of COVID-19 in our community. We’re the lucky ones; we have time to get ready.
3. Things you can do to prepare.
There are basic precautions that everyone can easily take to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 — or flu. Let’s face it, the world is a germy place, and you pick up those germs on your hands and carry them into your body by touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or food.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer. Use those sanitary wipes at the door of the supermarket to clean the shopping cart handle; use a paper towel to open the door of the restroom door when you leave.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Be considerate of others! Cover your cough or sneeze, ideally with a tissue, and throw away the tissue. Then wash your hands. If you really have to use your sleeve instead of a tissue, don’t then put your hands on your wet sleeve.
To learn more about ways you can help yourself, visit cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/personal/index.html
And finally, start thinking about being prepared for any kind of emergency, from an infectious disease outbreak to an ice storm. You can get started by visiting www.ready.gov where you will find tips about how to be ready to ride out an emergency in your own home.
There is more information on personal and family preparedness at cdc.gov/cpr/prepareyourhealth/index.html
If you have questions, please contact the Board of Health at firstname.lastname@example.org (best way) or 413 259 2122.
West Nile Virus advisory, August, 2019
West Nile Virus, a potentially deadly disease carried by mosquitoes, is present in western Massachusetts. There has been a confirmed case in Hadley, and mosquitoes carrying the virus have been identified in Deerfield. Use common sense to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes: avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, keep covered, use an insect repellent containing DEET (or another EPA-registered active ingredient) when you're outside. Use window and door screens and repair them if they're ripped. Check the insulation around room air conditioners and any other openings. Clean up any standing water in your yard: that's where they breed. They especially like dirty water. Think: birdbath, tarp on the woodpile, wheels on a wheelbarrow lying on its side, flowerpots. Mosquito season is far from over. For all the information see https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html
Measles advisory, June, 2019
Measles, which is currently breaking out worldwide, can be quite dangerous and is highly contagious. Only if 90-95% of a population is immune (by vaccination or by having had the disease) can the chain of transmission be broken. Since Shutesbury Elementary School does not have this level of immunity among the pupils, Shutesbury is at risk of seeing measles break out here.
While people born before 1957 are generally presumed immune, immunity of all kinds can wane with age. Seniors may wish to ask their doctors if a measles booster is indicated.
For information about measles please visit these sites:
Information on the well water at Town Hall
At a meeting on March 29, 2017, which was attended by two members of the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Health reviewed the results of water tests of samples taken from the the Town Hall kitchen and wellhouse as well as samples analyzed in 2006 and 1996. The current samples show – surprise! – high sodium; though there is not a limit, the guideline maximum is 20 mg/L. In addition, chloride, sediment, and total dissolved solids exceed DEP drinking water standards. As a result of these exceedances, the faucets in the kitchen and the three restrooms in Town Hall have been posted. A second bottled water source has been provided in the kitchen for easy access to drinking water on the lower level.
In practice, this changes very little. The water was already known to be only marginally drinkable, and the town has been providing bottled water for drinking for many years now. The kitchen, contrary to what some may think, has not been licensed by the Board of Health for the preparation of food from scratch for at least the last twenty-five years, so this does not change the status of the kitchen. (The kitchen may be used by those working or meeting in Town Hall for refrigeration, reheating, and dishwashing.) Posting the water in Town Hall merely formalizes what has been common knowledge for a long time.
That said, the results that we have seen do not suggest that the water is dangerous if drunk occasionally. There is no bacterial contamination that would make a person sick, and no evidence of contamination from septic systems. An extensive scan of volatile organic compounds indicates no cause for concern.
In the opinion of the Board of Health and our agents, the most likely source of the sodium, chloride, sediment, and dissolved solids in the water is road salt infiltrating the well through some deterioration or break in the well casing. We have not seen high levels of these parameters in other wells in the area about which we have information, suggesting that the problem is in our well itself.
The big question is what to do next. The three options are: do nothing and continue to rely on bottled water; attempt to rehabilitate the existing well; and drill a new well. In our opinion, it is not appropriate for the Board of Health to decide among these options. The costs, the benefits, and the risks of each course of action must be considered. We are turning our problem over to a higher power. For the moment, that higher power is the Board of Selectmen, who will consider this question at their meeting of April 4.
In this context, the question of further testing is on hold. The tests that were envisioned were a first-draw lead test, to determine if there are problems with the plumbing, and a test for PCBs, which was to be done at the same time as PCB scans of water from the Fire Station and Highway Department (bundling them saves money). If the Town makes the decision to try to repair the well, these tests will of course be necessary.
Are you a septic system installer or pumper? Click here for information
Please email the Board of Health for application forms.
What you need to get Board of Health approval (coming soon).
How they work, how to get one, how to take care of it
Full text of a regulation governing these heating devices, which was adopted in 2010.
Advice on avoiding tick-borne diseases. This section is temporarily unavailable.
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