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Travelers: Immunize Against Measles Before You Go

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Public health department urges vaccination prior to international trips

Marin County Public Health is reminding residents that those planning for international travel should ensure they have already received the recommended two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Nationwide, measles cases now total 704 in 2019, the highest since 1994.

Nearly all cases have been linked to international travel by unvaccinated people and subsequent spread in unvaccinated populations in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two doses of MMR vaccine for everyone: the first dose at 12-15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 years of age.

Adults travelling internationally should get vaccinated for measles if they did not receive the two doses as children. Vaccination is the best protection against measles. Seek a doctor’s advice about travel immunizations at least 4-6 weeks before traveling. For those travelling internationally with a baby older than 6 months but younger than 12 months, the CDC recommends that the baby receive an early dose of MMR vaccine.

Infants and young children who contract measles are at risk of serious complications. More information about recommended vaccines for travelers is located on the CDC website. “Measles is extremely contagious and very serious. The vaccine is safe and will keep you protected for life,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, Marin County Deputy Public Health Officer. “Our vaccination rates have improved over time, but Marin has pockets of the community that are vulnerable. Even those hesitant to get a vaccine who don’t travel should consider it. Many international travelers visit Marin.”

The Philippines, Israel, India, and the Ukraine are some of the countries most affected by measles this spring, but it is still common in other parts of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, South America, and Africa. When planning a trip, take measures to protect against diseases that are more common in countries on the itinerary.

Measles immunizations are available from health care providers, pharmacies, and health clinics. Locate a place that offers the measles vaccine on Vaccine Finder or view a list of locations on the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services website.

In response to measles cases in the Bay Area, Marin County has implemented strategies to control the spread of this disease, including: identifying people who may have been exposed to measles and ensuring they are immune to measles; strongly advising individuals who are not immune to receive the measles vaccine; consulting with local health care providers regarding suspect measles cases and helping ensure appropriate testing if indicated, and; Notifying the public through postings and local media about specific public locations where measles exposures may have occurred.

Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become sick. A person with measles can spread the disease to others even before they have symptoms. A person can develop measles from seven to 21 days after being exposed to someone who is contagious with measles. Common symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash.

Those unsure of their immunization status or who may have had contact with someone with measles should consult a doctor. People developing symptoms of measles should to call ahead to any medical facility before going there. The facility staff needs to take measures to protect other patients and visitors. For more information about measles can be found on the Marin HHS website.

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Activism

Silicon Valley congressman tackles Black maternal mortalities

The legislative package consists of a dozen bills aiming to prevent maternal mortalities. It would provide funding for further research, increase telehealth services for those in underserved communities and establish grants to help diversify the perinatal workforce, including doulas and midwives. It would also invest in community-based health organizations that work to promote equity and improve maternal health outcomes.

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Kira Johnson is pictured in this file photo. Photo courtesy of Johnson family.

Washington, D.C.—Charles Johnson said he quickly notified hospital staff when his wife’s catheter turned pink with blood. His wife, Kira Johnson, had just given birth to their second son during a scheduled cesarean section at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Staff examined his wife and ordered a CT scan, he said, but hours passed and no one performed the procedure.

“My wife was shivering uncontrollably because she was losing so much blood,” said Johnson, who was speaking during a recent congressional hearing examining the high rate of maternal mortality among Black women. “… I was begging and pleading, please do something, help her.”

But Johnson told legislators his wife didn’t receive proper medical attention for 10 hours—and by then it was too late. Kira, a Black woman, died from massive internal bleeding.

“It was not my wife’s race that was a risk factor; she did everything right,” said Johnson. “It was racism that was the risk factor.”

Black mothers in the U.S. are about three times more likely than white mothers to die from childbirth-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They further experience higher rates of miscarriage and infant loss. Native Americans are also more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

Several medical experts testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week and urged lawmakers to address this growing crisis. Other witnesses, like Johnson and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri), shared their personal experiences.

In an interview with San José Spotlight, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) said all the testimonies were deeply moving.

“I knew about the issue from a statistics perspective and a theoretical perspective, but the hearing brought home to me how much this impacts black women’s lives,” he said. “It’s not even a class issue. It affects people who are members of Congress.”

The congressman, who co-sponsored the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, said its passage is crucial.

The legislative package consists of a dozen bills aiming to prevent maternal mortalities. It would provide funding for further research, increase telehealth services for those in underserved communities and establish grants to help diversify the perinatal workforce, including doulas and midwives. It would also invest in community-based health organizations that work to promote equity and improve maternal health outcomes.

“It’s something that I’m passionate about,” said Khanna, who sits on the committee. “I have been a lead sponsor on the bill and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we get this into law.”

More than 200 organizations have endorsed the bill, including the NAACP, Johnson & Johnson and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Dr. Tamika Auguste, who submitted a written testimony to the committee on behalf of the ACOG, told legislators many health disparities are linked to systemic inequities in income, housing or education. But she explained that wasn’t the full story.

“Although some inequities diminish after taking these factors into account, many remain because of factors at the patient, health care system and practitioner level,” she wrote. “Racism and implicit bias on the part of health care professionals contributes to racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes.”

When it comes to maternal health, the U.S. lags behind other similarly developed nations. The CDC found approximately 700 women die each year as a result ofpregnancy or delivery.

Although the national maternal mortality rate has risen in recent decades, California has worked to reverse that trend. The state saw maternal mortality decline by 55% between 2006 to 2013, according to the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative.

Rev. Jeff Moore, the president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, said a push to improve maternal health care is long overdue. The death rate of Black women during pregnancy is striking, he said, and far more work needs to be done to protect mothers and babies.

“We need to have more black and brown doctors, more doctors who look like them and specialize in this type of treatment,” he said. “More of an effort needs to be made to teach and train black physicians to be in these communities.”

Czarina Bowers would also love to see more diversity among the doulas and midwives in the South Bay area. Bowers, the co-founder of Silicon Valley Doulas, is a certified doula and lactation counselor.

“That would be fantastic for the diverse community that we live in,” she said.

Bowers added she has seen racial biases “in action” while working as a doula.

“We have had clients who told providers they were in pain and they were not believed,” she said. “As a doula, I had to step in and say, ‘Hey, there’s something wrong here and this needs attention.’”

Although it’s important to examine data while working to find solutions, Johnson reminded legislators last week that there are people and families behind those numbers.

“There is no statistic that can quantify what it is like to tell an 18-month old that his mommy is never coming home,” he said.

Kira, who died in 2016, was an entrepreneur who ran marathons and spoke five languages. Her husband said she had a sunny personality and was thrilled to learn she was expecting a second child. Johnson said their kids would grow up without a mother because his wife gave birth in a country that didn’t value her.

“We must and we can do better,” he said.

Contact Katie King at KatieKingSJS@gmail.com or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.

 

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Community

Greenlining Institute and RePower LA Coalition Applaud Gov. Newsom’s Relief Plans

Unpaid Utility Bills Threatened Hundreds of Thousands with Shut-Offs


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Gov. Gavin Newsom/Wikimedia

With utility shut-offs for hundreds of thousands of California families struggling with COVID-19-related economic hardships, The Greenlining Institute praised Gov.  Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Monday. The California Comeback plan outlines the administration’s commitment to relieving families burdened by mounting water and energy bills.

“With millions of Californians either unemployed or with greatly reduced incomes due to the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of households face having their electricity, gas or water shut off June 30 without bold state action,” said Carmelita Miller, Greenlining’s senior director of Climate Equity. “This proposal, along with vitally needed help for renters, will help keep struggling families afloat as our economy revives. We’re glad the governor listened to LAANE, Greenlining and other advocates who pushed for this help, and it’s critical that the legislature move quickly to adopt these proposals in its final budget.”

The RePower LA Coalition, anchored by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and SCOPE, has been working with leaders on the ground in Los Angeles on issues of energy justice.    

Utility debt has long been a concern for low-income ratepayers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities. As of November 2020, residential customers of LADWP had over $469 million in arrearages for water, power, and sewage bills. 

This is impacting over 500,000 customers in Los Angeles, the majority of them being low-income ratepayers. Similar scenarios have been playing out up and down California with more than 800,000 households at risk of service disconnection statewide.

“LAANE and our coalition partners have been uplifting the issue of utility debt since the beginning of the pandemic. Low-income communities and communities of color are most impacted by utility debt,” said Agustin Cabrera, the director of RePower LA, “We heard from our partners on the ground that utility debt was a growing concern for many low-income Angelenos, and that’s why we started our campaign. We realize that there are limitations on publicly-owned utilities, like LADWP; additional resources are especially important. We are eager to work with the State Legislature and the governor to move this proposal quickly.”

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Bay Area

Healthy Alternatives, Familiar Items at Black-Owned Grocery Store in Downtown Oakland

14 Street Market is open seven days a week, from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.  It’s your neighbor market with groceries, snacks, drinks and more.

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Photo Credit: Auintard Henderson

Owner Oscar Edwards stands in front of his “14 Street Market” located at 416 14th St. in Oakland, which opened on March 6.  Edwards says he “. . . built his grocery store to give access to his community and provide healthy alternatives and still have things they know as well.”  He adds that “Black press for him is the voice that helps to bring my ideas and expressions full circle to the people.”

14 Street Market is open seven days a week, from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.  It’s your neighbor market with groceries, snacks, drinks and more.  

Follow them on IG:  https://instagram.com/fourteenthstreetmarket  Photo credit:  Auintard Henderson.

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