SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health wants to remind you of some steps you can take to ensure a safe and healthy Fourth of July. This effort is part of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Keep Cool Illinois campaign, established to help keep Illinois families cool and safe this summer.
Picnics and cookouts top the list of summer activities. But remember, special precautions need to be taken when preparing and serving food during warm weather to avoid foodborne illnesses like salmonellosis.
To help prevent foodborne illness:
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling any food and after handling raw poultry, meat or eggs.
• Thoroughly rinse fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Cook foods thoroughly, especially ground beef, poultry and pork. While rare beef is sometimes popular, disease-causing organisms can survive in undercooked meat.
• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Make sure to keep raw meat, fish or poultry cold until it is cooked and make sure it does not come in contact with ready-to-eat food (e.g., cheese, sliced onions, tomatoes or bread). Also, never place cooked meats on the same plate or pan that held raw meats.
Do not leave food un-refrigerated longer than one hour at a time. Some popular cold picnic foods are potentially hazardous and require special care.
• Any homemade food that contains eggs, meat or poultry such as: egg, chicken, tuna and potato salads as well as deviled eggs.
• Luncheon meats, sandwich fillings and other ready-to-eat protein foods.
• Meat, fish or poultry.
• Milk and other dairy products.
Foods served hot, especially creamed or scalloped dishes containing milk, eggs, cornstarch or flour, should be cooked just before picnic time and kept hot and covered until served.
The symptoms of most types of food poisoning include severe cramps, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms typically begin from 30 minutes to three days after eating contaminated food.
Most cases of foodborne illness are mild, and the symptoms disappear in a day or two. If symptoms are severe or last longer than two days, contact a physician.
Whether swimming at a beach or at a pool, do not enter the water alone unless a lifeguard is on duty. Sadly, most deaths from drowning occur within a few feet of safety.
At a swimming pool, take the following precautions:
• If no lifeguard is on duty, do not let children swim unless they are accompanied by a responsible adult who knows lifesaving techniques and first aid.
• Look around the pool area to be certain lifesaving devices, such as a floating ring buoy and shepherd’s crook, are readily available for emergency use.
• Be sure covers are installed on all drains of a swimming pool or in a wading pool. The suction created by the pool’s circulating pumps can be very dangerous unless it is reduced by covers.
• To reduce the risk of eye, ear, nose or throat infection from contaminated water, swim only in pools in which water quality is properly maintained. The water should appear crystal clear, be continuously circulated and be maintained at a level that allows free overflow into the gutter or skimmer. There should not be a strong odor of ammonia or chlorine.
At the beach, take the following precautions:
• Look for water that is reasonably clear and free of floating materials and odors. Avoid swimming at beaches where there are large populations of ducks, geese or gulls. The waste produced by these birds causes high bacteria levels in the water.
• Look for movement in the water; it helps keep the water clean. Do not swim in stagnant or still water.
• Do not swim at any beach right after a heavy rain. Runoff following a heavy rain may result in a high bacteria level.
• When diving at a beach, exercise extreme caution. Beach water is not as clear as water in a pool, so underwater obstructions may not be visible.
• Avoid having beach water in your mouth or nose.
WEST NILE VIRUS PREVENTION
The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include:
• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. Use prevention methods whenever mosquitoes are present.
• When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
• Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
• Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including flowerpots, clogged roof gutters, old tires and any other receptacles. Change water in bird baths weekly. Properly maintain wading pools and stock ornamental ponds with fish. Cover rain barrels with 16 mesh wire screen. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
Following these precautions will help you stay safe and healthy this holiday and throughout the summer.