Dr. Larry Polsky, Calvert County Health officerPrince Frederick, MD – Even though one county commissioner was out sick, the board’s Tuesday, May 23 meeting included encouragement on the health front. There were also words of caution from Calvert County Health Officer Dr. Larry Polsky (pictured, left) as he delivered his state-mandated semi-annual update to the commissioners, who convened as the county’s Board of Health.

Polsky reported Calvert County is now rated Maryland’s sixth healthiest county, moving up one spot from the previous year. The data used to determine the jurisdictions’ rankings is compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

One significant health challenge for a rural county such as Calvert is Lyme disease, a malady passed onto humans by ticks. Polsky said there were 90 cases reported in Calvert in 2015. The sooner a tick is removed from an individual the better his or her chances are for avoiding Lyme disease, he stated. The health officer advised the public to wear repellant, check for ticks daily, shower soon after being outdoors and call your doctor if you get a fever or rash.

In answer to a question from Commissioner Pat Nutter about the most effective way to remove a tick, Polsky recommended buying a tick hook, a product he stated is sold at an inexpensive price at pet stores. Polsky urged the public to “buy several” so that everyone in a household had access to one if a tick is discovered.

On a grim note, Polsky advised that Calvert County, the Southern Maryland region and communities throughout the state have experienced significant increases in the total number of drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths. While the health officer indicated the number of drug users is not increasing, “the lethality of what they are using is so much more.” Calvert had six more overdose deaths in 2016 than in 2015, one additional heroin-related death and nine additional fentanyl-related deaths.

“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin,” Polsky stated. He noted the state is desperately trying to address the opiod crisis. Recently, Governor Larry Hogan declared “a state of emergency,” which led to the establishment of the Maryland Opioid Operations Command Center. In answer to a question posed by Commissioner Steve Weems, Polsky indicated Calvert’s D.A.R.E. program will not be altered or eliminated to the governor’s initiative. What has been established by state and local leaders are local opioid intervention teams, an overdose fatality review team and local drug and alcohol abuse council. Under the Calvert Alliance of Alcohol and Substance Abuse there is already a Prescription Drug Abuse Abatement Council.

On other health matters, Polsky reported that the Zika virus is still a global concern. “Almost all infections among U.S. residents occurred during travel,” Polsky stated. In 2016 approximately 1,793 pregnant U.S. women were infected. The physician stated that the Zika virus destroys developing brain cells and damage to the fetal brain is irreversible. Additionally, Men can transmit Zika through sexual contact for months after they are infected by mosquito bites.

Polsky also addressed one of his favorite activities that poses danger if proper precautions are not taken—bicycling. “It’s a great form of exercise—getting from point A to point B,” he stated. Polsky reminded the public that wearing safety-approved helmets when cycling decrease head injuries by 50 percent. In five out of six bicycling fatalities, the rider was not wearing a helmet. Bicyclists are also urged to wear bright, reflective clothing that will give motor vehicle operators a better indication of your presence on the roadway.

For more information on health concerns locally, statewide, nationwide and globally, visit the Calvert County Health Department  web site or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com