11/24/08 — Child fatalities lower, heath officials report

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Child fatalities lower, heath officials report

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 24, 2008 1:53 PM

Infant deaths in Wayne County have dropped over the past five years, while the Health Department is keeping pace on treating infectious diseases, officials told the Board of Health Wednesday.

Health Director James Roosen released the latest report on community child fatality prevention, while Josa Raynor-Vaughn, communicable diseases program manager, shared statistical data from her department, particularly in the areas of tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.

Roosen said that since 1990, Wayne County has experienced a decline in the number of child deaths.

"We have had actually a 29 percent decrease since 1991, when child fatality teams were first introduced," he said.

The teams, set up around the state to study trends and work on introducing preventive measures, have been helpful, Roosen said, citing the introduction of legislation in several areas.

"We have seen laws that govern car seats, ATV laws, bicycle helmet laws as the result of looking at these deaths," he said, also noting the statewide graduated driver license regulations for teen drivers.

Over the last five-year period, 2003-07, Roosen said there were 127 child deaths from birth to age 17.

"For the period of 1992-96, we had 152 kids die. For 2003-07, that was reduced by about 18 percent," he said.

About half of the deaths reported were infant deaths -- premature births, birth defects, some cases of sudden infant death syndrome. In recent years, though, there has been a steep decline in those, he said -- 22 in 2005 and 12 in the 2006-07 period.

Suicides among teenagers also are a concern, with two reported during 2007 after none in the previous two years, Roosen said.

"We're trying to work in that area," he said. "It's a pretty sensitive area."

Efforts are being made to address it as well as create more awareness and an open dialogue among health educators and the school system, Roosen said.

Ms. Raynor-Vaughn's overview of communicable diseases covered the period of July 2007 to June 30, 2008, during which time four cases of active tuberculosis were reported and six new cases of HIV were diagnosed.

"We had 10 who were prior (HIV) positive and 34 new HIV cases last year," she said. "We're ranked 19th among the 100 counties in North Carolina."

Since 1983, she continued, Wayne County has reported 313 cases of AIDS, 20 of them during 2007. In that category, she explained, Wayne County is ranked 19th in the state.

"Hertford County is number one for AIDS and Wilson County is number two," she said.

STDs -- sexually transmitted diseases -- are managed through a clinic that takes walk-ins during the morning and appointments during the afternoon.

For the past year, Ms. Raynor-Vaughn reported that 2,392 clients have been seen, with 22 cases of syphilis treated, 82 cases gonorrhea and 342 for chlamydia.

As for tuberculosis, she said health officials are currently following two cases. For the past calendar year, she added, 135 area residents had positive skin tests and were started on preventive medication, while seven others were suspected of having TB, but tests ruled it out.

Data in this and other areas served by the Health Department is vital to addressing needs in the community, Roosen told the board.

"Reporting of cases of infectious disease is vital in controlling and preventing the spread of communicable disease," Ms. Raynor-Vaughn said. "The reports are used to assure that appropriate medical therapy has been given."