County of Marin Health and Human Services

Public Health Newsletter - May 2024

Public Health Newsletter - May 2024
Marin County Public Health Newsletter - May 2024
In this Issue: Seasonal vs Bird Flu | Rabies Update I Public Health Leadership Hand-Off | COVID-19: FLiRT Variant | Social Isolation | E-Bike Safety | Message from the Deputy Public Health Officer 
A message to physicians and other health care providers from Marin County's Public Health Officers.

Influenza Circulating in Marin is Not H5N1

Marin County Public Health is closely monitoring the national H5N1 bird flu outbreak. In early May, a late season rise in influenza A levels in wastewater raised concerns about the possibility of local H5N1 transmission. Starting May 20th, Marin County began testing wastewater for the presence of H5N1, and none has yet been detected. This suggests ongoing presence of routine seasonal flu H1N1, highlighting the importance of the seasonal flu vaccine. The risk to the public for H5N1 remains low. For more information, including guidance for clinicians, visit the CDC’s H5N1 Bird Flu: Current Situation Summary.

Rabies Risk Low but Present in Marin

Wild bat on mossRabies infection is nearly 100 percent fatal in humans. While no human cases have ever been reported in Marin, about one in ten local bats tested carry the rabies virus. Marin clinicians should be aware that Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) may be recommended for individuals who had contact with a bat, or who experience bites or scratches with other animals, when rabies cannot be ruled out. All Marin County emergency departments offer rabies PEP. Rabies control happens daily with investigations performed by Marin Public Health, animal control by Marin Humane and testing at our regional public health laboratory. Clinicians with questions about rabies PEP should visit Marin Public Health rabies webpage or contact us at 415-473-4163.

Public Health Leadership Hand-Off

Starting in October 2024, Marin County Public Health will be under the leadership of Dr. Lisa Santora, as Dr. Matt Willis retires from County service. On June 4, Marin County Board of Supervisors will announce the transition. Dr. Willis has served as Public Health Officer since 2013, and Dr. Santora joined the team as Deputy Public Health Officer in 2016. Dr. Santora calls on experience as a physician, executive leader, and member of the Marin community to guide public health strategy. The next four months will be focused on Health Officer transition and recruitment of a new Deputy Health Officer.

COVID-19: FLiRT Variant Driving Transmission

In early May, SARS CoV2 levels in wastewater  and COVID-19 hospitalizations rose locally and across the region. This coincides with a shift in circulating variants. KP.2, also called FLiRT, has become dominant nationally. While KP.2 has immune evasive properties that can accelerate spread, it does not seem to carry additional virulence or unique symptoms. 27 percent (3/11) of Marin County cases sampled in April were infected with KP.2. As community transmission rates rise, it’s especially important for older and medically vulnerable residents to remain up to date with COVID-19 vaccination.

Social Isolation

Older woman looking out the windowMarin County has one of the demographically oldest populations in California. An increasing body of evidence indicates that social isolation in older age accelerates disability directly and contributes to preventable mortality. In his 2023 report, "Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy reports that loneliness in older age is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia.  The 2023 Marin County older adult community needs assessment, conducted by Health and Human Services’ Office of Aging and Adult Services, found that one in three older adults in Marin is socially isolated.  Primary care providers play an important role in identifying loneliness among older patients and supporting strategies to increase social connection.

Clinicians and Public Leaders Join Forces for E-Bike Safety

Child on an e-bike at a stop sign Marin County clinicians have led a call for stronger e-bike safety measures, prompting government action. In October 2023, Marin Public Health established a dashboard tracking e-bike injuries in Marin, which showed that youth ages 10-15 years old are at the highest risk for e-bike accidents. This data helped drive Assemblyman Damon Connelly to sponsor state legislation, Assembly Bill 1778, to protect riders under age 16.  In addition, Assemblyman Connelly, Supervisor Mary Sackett, and Dr Matt Willis provided testimony and written commentary (County’s “Legislative Letters” webpage) to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), advocating for stronger federal standards for E-bike safety, especially for youth. This joint action highlights the impact clinicians can have in prompting policies to support health.

Message from the Deputy Public Health Officer

Dr. Matt Willis, Public Health OfficerAs we conclude May Mental Health Month, I encourage all of you who focus every day on caring for others to prioritize your own well-being.  Self-care is vital to preventing burn-out.  Take a moment to focus on your needs, find time to connect with family and friends, and practice gratitude.  The Self Care for Healthcare Workers Modules developed by SAMHSA offer videos, checklists, and toolkits to recognize stress levels and build resilience. Remember, taking care of yourself allows you to better care for others!
In gratitude,

Lisa M. Santora, MD, MPH
Deputy Public Heath Officer

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Marin County Public Health, a division of the Marin County Health & Human Services Department

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