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Oct. 30, 2007, midnight
Reports of drug-resistant staph infections at a Coeur d'Alene elementary school prompted parents to keep their children home Monday, even as health officials urged families to learn more – and remain calm. "We deal with this every day in the hospital," said Marty Fallon, director of infection control at Kootenai Medical Center. "Today is no different than any other day."
Oct. 26, 2007, midnight
Funding for AIDS education and testing of men for sexually transmitted diseases has been cut from next year's budget for the Spokane Regional Health District, despite rising rates of HIV and other infections. Women in Pine Lodge, a minimum-security prison, and high-risk teenagers in juvenile detention no longer will receive targeted information about HIV and AIDS, said Susan Sjoberg, a program manager at the health district.
Oct. 25, 2007, midnight
Scary new statistics about drug-resistant bacterial infections have sent shivers through an unlikely section of the community: the high-school locker room. Coaches throughout the Inland Northwest say they're emphasizing new hygiene rules this year aimed at keeping young athletes healthy and safe from potentially dangerous infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
Oct. 24, 2007, midnight
Four programs totaling $350,000 are set to be axed from the Spokane Regional Health District's 2008 budget. But administrator Torney Smith doesn't want to say which ones are at stake until after the agency's board of directors considers the cuts included in the proposed $22.5 million plan. "I don't want to put public information out that could put pressure on the board," Smith said Tuesday. "The budget is not built on a popularity contest."
Oct. 23, 2007, midnight
State agriculture and local health officials are investigating the handling and storage of milk in the Spokane school district after it sickened several students at Rogers High School on Friday. At least four students vomited after drinking milk that had soured, even though the pull date on the carton, Oct. 19, had not passed, a school official said. Milk typically remains fresh up to a week after the pull date if it has been handled properly.
Oct. 19, 2007, midnight
Serious mistakes made by individual hospitals in Spokane and across Washington will no longer be reported to the public following a review of a 2006 law requested by the state hospital association. Hospital-specific errors such as surgery performed on the wrong body part, items left behind after an operation or the development of life-threatening pressure sores were wrongly disclosed for more than a year, state health department officials said this week.
Oct. 17, 2007, midnight
People who use older-model wood stoves, fireplaces and inserts to heat their homes could face several mandatory burning bans this winter as Spokane County seeks to comply with stricter federal air quality standards. Voluntary bans of the past few years could triple from two or three a season to six to 10 mandatory curtailments during the winter months, officials from the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency announced Tuesday.
Oct. 16, 2007, midnight
A year after Idaho led the nation in West Nile virus cases and logged 23 deaths related to the infection, state health officials are basking in a reprieve of the mosquito-borne illness. Likely contributing to the decline were a hot, dry year that limited mosquito breeding, a decreased population of the birds that carry the infection and greater human attention to prevention, health officials said.
Oct. 16, 2007, midnight
Thirteen Washington state residents, including two Spokane boys, have been sickened by salmonella poisoning linked to frozen pot pies now part of a nationwide recall. Health officials said the numbers could increase as more tests are completed for the strain of bacteria linked to at least 172 illnesses in 32 states.
Oct. 9, 2007, midnight
A new nasal screening program in Sacred Heart Medical Center's busiest intensive care unit may already have prevented transmission of a potentially deadly "superbug." One of 24 patients admitted to the unit last week was found to be colonized with MRSA – Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – the increasingly common germ that defies frontline antibiotics.
Oct. 9, 2007, midnight
Under pressure from parents and lawmakers, Washington state health officials have agreed to find money to maintain programs for children with cleft lips and palates, at least until the Legislature comes up with a permanent plan. Exactly how much money and where it will come from remains uncertain, however.
Oct. 6, 2007, midnight
Three weeks after a Spokane needle exchange program for drug users was forced to relocate, one of the biggest questions about the move has been answered. Organizers were worried that clients of the Outreach Center on First Avenue might not find the new site or might not use services if they were offered in an office in the Spokane Regional Health District building at 1101 W. College Ave.
Oct. 4, 2007, midnight
Word that federal safety experts might ban over-the-counter medications sold to treat sniffling babies and coughing toddlers drew praise from Inland Northwest pediatricians this week – but protests from parents who have to care for their ailing tykes. "I have a 3-year-old, and he gets colds all the time," said Jacqualynn Krause, 26, of Spokane Valley, mother of Noah. "I am wondering what we are supposed to do when our kids are up all night coughing or their noses are stuffed up."
Oct. 1, 2007, midnight
One of the most perplexing questions about multiple sclerosis in Eastern Washington – exactly how common is it here? – could be answered by new research expected early next year. MS patients and experts specializing in the disease are anticipating results of a multi-year study by a team at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Led by associate professor William Lambert, the study is expected to provide the first accounting in decades of actual cases of MS near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and in several Eastern Washington counties, including Spokane County.
Sept. 21, 2007, midnight
The Inland Northwest officials charged with communicating crucial news during a disaster earned good marks from a media expert who advises the nation's largest cities. But the crew made the grade only after a day of advice, instruction and testing, said Cheryl Seigal, an instructor with Media Survival Group, a California-based disaster communications agency.
Sept. 20, 2007, midnight
Editor's note: Due to a production error, part of this story was omitted Wednesday. It runs below in its entirety. Declining admissions, uncertain revenues and a shortage of medical specialists willing to work at Deer Park Hospital could force Providence Health Care to close the medical center, officials said this week.
Sept. 19, 2007, midnight
Declining admissions, uncertain revenues and a shortage of medical specialists willing to work at Deer Park Hospital could force Providence Health Care to close the medical center, officials said this week. A decision about the future of the 51-year-old hospital is not expected until late November, but a year of discussion has pointed toward a new use for the 24-bed acute care facility.
Sept. 18, 2007, midnight
Visitors to Jada Bascom's room at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital know they can't get close to the baby without a trip to the sink. Soap, water and hand sanitizer are required before anyone approaches the 5-month-old girl with the big blue eyes – and a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. A stray germ could lead to a life-threatening infection, Kyle and Issa Bascom, Jada's parents, said Monday.
Sept. 13, 2007, midnight
A nationwide search for a new Spokane County health officer has not yet begun, but it will – soon – an official said. Advertisements in medical, government and other industry journals and on Web sites are expected to begin running by Oct. 1, said Torney Smith, the Spokane Regional Health District's administrator. That could put a new medical director in place by January, more than a year after Dr. Kim Thorburn was fired from the agency charged with overseeing the region's public health.
Sept. 13, 2007, midnight
Morbidly obese young adults ages 18 to 20 will be eligible for state-paid surgery for weight loss starting next year, under new rules approved by a Washington health care committee. However, the group responsible for determining Medicaid and other coverage denied the procedure for use in children and younger adolescents, citing safety concerns and worries about whether they could consent to life-altering surgery.
Sept. 11, 2007, midnight
Women who get vaginal infections – almost everyone, at least once, according to federal figures – could be suffering because of a blanket approach to diagnosis and treatment that may perpetuate problems ranging from annoying to deadly, according to new research at the University of Idaho. Larry Forney, a UI biology professor and father of two grown daughters, said he's angry at scientists and doctors who have assumed that women are all the same when it comes to the bacterial composition of their most intimate areas. Not true, according to Forney's findings published in a recent issue of the ISME Journal, a publication of the International Society for Microbial Ecology. His research used genetic analysis to show that there are distinct differences in normal vaginal microbial make-up. Researchers speculate that failure to identify and accommodate those differences may allow doctors to overlook women prone to ailments ranging from common yeast infections to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. "If men got yeast infections," Forney said. "There wouldn't be any."
Sept. 10, 2007, midnight
Eastern Washington residents will get to weigh in on how much medical marijuana constitutes a two-month supply during a public meeting planned Tuesday in Spokane. The meeting is the second of four statewide sessions convened by the Department of Health, which was ordered by state lawmakers to define the amount allowed by Washington's nearly decade-old medical marijuana law.
Sept. 5, 2007, midnight
When a 2003 ultrasound revealed that Kari Almeida's baby would be born with a cleft lip and palate, the Spokane mother was devastated. She worried that she'd done something wrong, that she wouldn't know how to find care for her son, that he'd never fit in with other kids.
Sept. 2, 2007, midnight
Sharon Leavitt's four children are fully immunized – and the Spokane mother has the papers to prove it. When she showed up last week at a free clinic sponsored by CHAS, the Community Health Association of Spokane, Leavitt, 35, was among a minority of parents who could document that their children are protected against disease.
Aug. 31, 2007, midnight
A North Idaho woman is among at least nine people in the Northwest sickened by an outbreak of E. coli infection linked to ground beef. State and federal health officials are urging consumers to search their refrigerators and freezers for packages of the potentially tainted beef. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a health alert Thursday for 41,305 pounds of ground beef produced by Interstate Meats of Clackamas, Ore., and sold under the brand name "Northwest Finest."