Thursday, July 21, 2022

HABs – Say Algae You Later!

Being a Clinton County native, summer notifications of harmful algal blooms (HABs) at local beaches are nothing new. Certain places in our County provide the perfect recipe for HABs – lots of sunlight; shallow, calm water; and warm temperatures. It is important to pay attention to these alerts or notifications to keep everyone safe and healthy. They can help decide which beaches to choose for a fun day on the water with your favorite humans and dogs.

What are they?

HABs are the rapid growth of cyanobacteria (sometimes referred to as blue-green algae). These blooms create toxins that can be harmful to people and animals. Coming in contact with, drinking (or swallowing), or even inhaling these toxins can make you very sick. Symptoms vary based on which cyanotoxin (a list I cannot pronounce) but can include: stomach pain, headache, muscle weakness, dizziness, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you think you might have symptoms caused by HABs, contact your healthcare provider and let them know you suspect it may be related to cyanobacteria.

Decided you don’t feel like wasting your summer days at home sick with any of the gross symptoms listed above? Me either! Here is what to look for before going in the water.

Figure 1

Don’t go in water that:

  • Smells bad.
  • Looks discolored.
  • Has foam, scum, algal mats, or paint-like streaks on the surface.
  • Has dead fish or other animals washed up   on the shore.

 See figure 1 for examples of blooms. Before you visit a local swimming area, find out if it has a  current blooms, or a history of blooms by clicking here.

You should also NEVER drink, prepare food, cook, or make ice with untreated surface water – whether   it has an active bloom or not. Do not fill pools with water directly from lakes, rivers, or ponds.

Figure 2

Don’t forget about your fur babies.

If they are anything like mine (say hi to Cami in figure 2), getting them to leave the beach is the hardest part of the day. Dogs can be at an increased risk of poisoning by cyanobacteria because of their general behaviors – swimming, drinking the water, and eating dead animals (like fish) found near the shore. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet seems sick after going in or near water. Some signs and symptoms include: excessive salivation, vomiting, fatigue, staggered walking, difficulty breathing, and convulsions.

Pets or kids raced ahead and went in the water before you saw something sketchy? Don’t panic. Rinse them, and yourself, off immediately with tap water from a sink, shower, hose, or outdoor spigot. Don’t let your pets lick their fur until they have been thoroughly rinsed.

If you come across a suspected bloom, it is important that you report it. For us that means visiting the DEC page here. Be sure to take a photo of the suspected bloom, you will attach it to your report.

Some blooms are short lived, dispersing in a few days. Others last longer. Best practice is to check the database before selecting which beach to visit. If you see something you don’t like, stay out and report it. Not sure what you are seeing? When in doubt, stay out!


Molly Flynn
Principal Public Health Educator
Division of Health Planning & Promotion

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Backyard Pests – They’re Starting to Tick Me Off!

With summer looking like it is here to stay I am ready to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. But it seems like every time I try, I find myself swarmed by mosquitoes or picking ticks out of my dog’s fur. I’M BUGGING OUT! Luckily there are some fool-proof tips and tricks to help reduce your chances of getting bitten by both, and to save a little bit of sanity.

Let’s start with ticks. These creepy, crawly pin-heads (no, seriously they are the size of a pin head) spread diseases that make you sick. In our area, our biggest concern is Lyme disease, but we also see a few cases of Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever each year. Cases of Lyme disease have increased 200% in Clinton County over the past 3 years. Grossed out? Me too. But we can take a few easy steps to avoid run-ins or bites from these guys.

Avoid areas they like. This includes grassy, bushy, brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter.

2. Prepare for an encounter. You don’t need to be deep in the woods to get a tick bite; the run-in could happen in your own backyard. Before you head outdoors:

  • Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent.
  • Cover your skin as much as possible (enclosed shoes, long pants and shirts, tall socks).
  • Wear light colors. This makes spotting a tick easier.
  • Treat clothing with permethrin.

3. Remove any ticks before they have a chance to bite.

  • Do a tick check on your whole body using a mirror to see the tricky areas. See figure 1 to learn where to look on people and pets.
  • Take a shower as soon as you can. This will wash away any unattached ticks.
  •  Put the clothes you wore in the dryer for at least 10 minutes on high to kill any ticks.

Figure 1
Did all these things and still found a tick? I’ve been there! Don’t panic. Not all ticks are infected and your risk of Lyme disease decreases if you remove it within 24-36 hours. Click here to watch a video on the best way to remove ticks.

If you do find one of these pesky little dudes latched on, keep an eye on the bite site for a few weeks. If you develop a fever, chills, headache, rash, muscle or joint pain, or swollen glands within 30 days of your bite, contact your doctor. Be sure to let them know about your tick bite.

On to the most annoying creatures on the planet – mosquitoes! While they can carry diseases like West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, in Clinton County they tend to be more of a nuisance than a disease spreader. If you seem to have an overabundance in your backyard, chances are you are to blame. How so? Mosquitoes lay their eggs in or near water. Then their babies grow-up in that water before flying away and biting. This entire process only takes about a week! So step one in reducing mosquitoes around your home is eliminating standing water at least weekly.

  • Figure 2
    Empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw away items holding water. Some examples include: tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, and trash containers (see figure 2).
  • Make sure your gutters are draining properly.
  • Tightly cover any water storage containers – like buckets, cisterns and rain barrels. If it doesn’t have a lid, cover is with wire mesh.
  • Repair gaps or cracks in your septic tank. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers if you keep them outdoors.

·    When used as directed, insect repellents are the BEST protection.

  •       Always follow the product label instructions
  •       Reapply as directed.
  •      Do not spray on the skin under clothing.
  •      If using sunscreen AND insect repellent, apply sunscreen first, then the insect repellent.
  •      Store out of reach of children.
  •      Do not allow children to apply it themselves.
  •      Do not use it on children younger than 2 months.
  •      When applying to children, apply it to your hands first. Then rub it onto the child’s skin.

Don’t forget to keep the mosquitoes outside. Repair screens and keep doors closed.

Don’t let ticks and mosquitoes ruin your summer. Prepare for them, take steps to avoid them, and be ready to treat bites in case one or two get through. For more tips on having a safe and healthy summer, check out our Summer Safety Guide. Missed our Spring Safety Guide? No problem!

Molly Flynn

Principal Public Health Educator

Division of Health Planning & Promotion

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Prevent. Test. Treat. – Clap Back at STI’s

As nurses at the Clinton County Health Department (CCHD), one of our roles is to work with local providers to identify, treat, and prevent diseases that are spread from person to person – aka communicable diseases. This includes certain STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis, and Herpes (in certain populations). CCHD is sent positive test results for all Clinton County residents. We then work closely with the testing provider to ensure the following:

  1.           The patient has received adequate treatment. 
  2.       The patient has been offered expedited partner therapy (EPT). 
  3.       The patient has received education and counseling to prevent spreading the infection.

Cases of Chlamydia in Clinton County have almost doubled in the first quarter of 2022 (when compared to the first quarter of 2021) and Gonorrhea cases more than tripled from 2020 to 2021. Many STI’s are curable, most are treatable, and all are preventable. Take control of your sexual health by preventing STI’s, getting tested regularly, and getting treated immediately if you develop an STI.


Knowing how to prevent the spread of STI’s will help you take control of your sexual health. Have open conversations with your sexual partner(s) to ensure you are on the same page.

STI prevention options include:

  • Using condoms or other latex barriers
  • Getting vaccinated (vaccines can prevent many diseases, including some that are sexually transmitted, like HPV and hepatitis)
  • Not having sexual contact (aka abstinence)
  • Reducing your number of sexual partners
  • Mutual monogamy


Knowing your STI status is an important step in stopping the spread. If you have ever been sexually active, getting tested is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and the health of others. You should also get tested with every new partner and have an honest and open talk with them about their sexual history. Many STI’s often have no symptoms, or if symptoms occur they may not appear until several weeks, months, or years after sexual contact. Getting tested may be the only way to be sure you have one.

Where can I get tested locally?


If you test positive for an STI, you and all of your partners need to start treatment immediately. During treatment you need to refrain from sex for 7 days. It is also important to get tested again in 3 months since unsuccessful treatment the first time is fairly common. Without treatment, these infections can lead to major health problems such as; being unable to get pregnant (infertility), unable to stay pregnant, permanent brain damage, heart disease, and many types of cancer.

A great way to get speedy treatment to your partner(s) is by using EPT (Expedited Partner Therapy). This treatment allows your healthcare provider to treat your partner without ever seeing them. You can deliver the medicine or hand-written prescription directly to your partner. This can be done for most cases of chlamydia, trichomoniasis (“trich”) and gonorrhea. Ask your provider if you can give a medication or prescription to your partner(s) through EPT.

However you choose to be sexually active, do so safely and responsibly.

Communicable Disease Nursing Staff
Division of Health Care Services

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Announcing the Clinton County Food Action Plan!

Key Points

  • Clinton County now has a Food Action Plan that can help align food system stakeholders around a common set of principles and goals.
  • Community members are encouraged to read the new action plan and get involved with efforts to make the local food system healthier, accessible, affordable, and sustainable.

It All Starts with a Plan

How can our community come together to ensure that everyone can access the fresh, delicious, nutritious food they need to thrive and stay healthy?

How can food system stakeholders — from farmers and gardeners that grow the food, to business and institutions that deliver the food — work together to promote sustainability and reduce waste?

And how can our community make food purchasing choices that support and expand the local food economy?

We now have a clear set of answers to questions like these!

The Clinton County Health Department (CCHD) is excited to announce the launch of the Clinton County Food Action Plan (CCFAP).

Developed in partnership with ChangeLab Solutions, a national nonprofit that uses the tools of law and policy to advance health equity, this food action plan establishes goals and priorities for food system partners and stakeholders.

Specifically, it creates a roadmap around which local government agencies, hospitals, community-based organizations, businesses, resident groups, and other food system stakeholders can coordinate their work.

Putting the Plan into Action

The food action plan focuses on four primary goals:

1. Enhancing collaboration and cohesion among existing food system stakeholders,

2. Supporting the local food and agricultural economy,

3. Reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfills and increasing the recovery of unused, edible food for community use, and

4. Increasing access to healthy and affordable foods

The plan outlines actions and strategies that local food system stakeholders can take to collectively strengthen and enhance our food system and sustain improvements in the long term.

Based on extensive research about the existing food system practices, partners, and policies in Clinton County, the plan identifies starting steps and strategies that stakeholders can take to implement suggested actions and strategies.

The plan also recommends potential measurements that stakeholders can use to track and evaluate their progress in following the action plan’s suggestions.

Lastly, the Clinton County plan offers examples from other communities throughout the United States that have pursued similar approaches to revamping their local food system.

Planning for a Healthier Clinton County

With so many different business, public institutions, and community organizations that intersect with the Clinton County food system, there is no one size fits all solution to improving the local food system.

While comprehensive and extensively researched, it is important to note that this plan is a living document. It is intended to be reviewed and revised to adapt to changing environments and community conditions.

The action plan serves as a starting point — to galvanize and unite food system actors around a common set of goals and priorities. The plan will be a driving document to guide and sustain partnership and initiatives into the future.

Our hope is that by coordinating food system stakeholders, and evaluating the food system from beginning to end, we will be able to decrease the prevalence of food insecurity and diet-based diseases, like obesity and diabetes, within the Clinton County community.

We are genuinely excited to see how this plan leads to profound, positive change in Clinton County in the years ahead.

Take Action

  • Read the full length Clinton County Food Action Plan (CCFAP) here.
  • Contact us for additional information.

Patrick Glass

Digital Content Developer

ChangeLab Solutions

Friday, April 1, 2022

What is Public Health?


The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust local and state health departments into the limelight, but when we aren’t in the midst of a public health crisis – what do we do? I’m glad you asked!

Local health departments, like CCHD, protect and improve the community well-being by preventing disease, illness and injury and by impacting social, economic and environmental factors that are fundamental to public health. Our mission is to improve and protect the health, well-being and environment of the people of Clinton County. To achieve this, our department is split into 5 divisions (or teams):

  1. Administration
  2.  Environmental Health and Safety
  3. Finance and Information Technology
  4. Health Care Services
  5. Health Planning and Promotion

Let’s talk a bit more about what each one does within our community.


Did you know CCHD has been Nationally Accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) since 2015? This means that we continue to meet or exceed standards and measures set by PHAB and have the capacity to continue to evolve, improve and advance. Our administrative team is responsible for maintaining CCHD’s Emergency Preparedness activities, giving us the ability to respond to public health emergency situations within our community. Right now, most of this work revolves around the pandemic, but we have also aided with natural disasters (like floods and winter storms) in recent years. When we aren’t actively working to respond to an emergency, we are preparing and practicing for the next one. Our administrative team also processes and maintains all the department’s contracts, MOU’s, and grant related documents.

Environmental Health & Safety (EHS)

Engineering reviews, individual sewage treatment systems, animal bite investigations, regulated public water systems, and food service inspections all fall within EHS’s wheelhouse. There are more than 850 regulated operations within Clinton County alone. Staff inspect food service establishments to ensure the food you are being served isn’t going to make you sick. Inspectors, as part of the Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act (ATUPA), routinely visit businesses that sell tobacco to ensure they are not selling to anyone under the age of 21. The Healthy Neighborhoods Program helps residents identify and eliminate hazards in their home. They cover five main areas: fire safety, lead, indoor air quality, injury prevention, and asthma. To learn more or request a visit from program staff click here. Got pets? EHS also vaccinates hundreds of animals at our FREE rabies clinics each year.

Finance & Information Technology (FIT)

Wrangling dozens of funding streams and grant budgets is a tall order for our FIT team, but they keep our heads above water. Our Information Technology staff also help us maintain access to a variety of different systems required to manage our day-to-day projects within our each division. They also keep all our patient and program information safe.

Health Care Services (HCS)

Many of HCS’s program aim to prevent adverse health outcomes within our community – think communicable diseases like STI, immunizations, tuberculosis, lead poisoning prevention and, of course, COVID-19. Our immunization program offers all childhood and adult vaccinations including Influenza, Rabies, HPV, Polio, and more. HCS staff also investigate and track all reportable communicable diseases that are found in Clinton County, like Measles, Tuberculosis and COVID-19. HCS is also the home of the Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHAN) and Children’s Development Services programs. Developmental Services is comprised of two programs, Early Intervention (EI) and Preschool Special Education. EI serves infants and toddlers, birth to age three with a confirmed disability or an established developmental delay. Preschool Special Education Services provide services for children ages 3-5 who have a disability that affects learning. Hungry for more information on EI? Last month’s blog dives deeper into the services provided.

Health Planning & Promotion (HPP)

HPP specializes in community health education and engagement. When we aren’t in the midst of a pandemic – you can find our team out in the community meeting with partners and providing education to different groups. Right now much of this work is being done virtually. We work with local businesses, schools, and partners to develop health-related policies like; breastfeeding friendly, complete streets, school wellness, and worksite wellness. We have also recently been working with local farms and community members on food scrap recycling and composting options. Clinton County’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program serves hundreds of families each year and was the first local agency to offer tele-appointments last year! Check out our October blog to learn more about our WIC program.

Now you know more about us. We want to know more about you. CCHD recently launched the 2022 Community Health Assessment. Every few years, we ask our residents what they feel are the most pressing health-related issues in our community. The input gathered helps us shape goals for future community health initiatives. To be a part of this process, residents can take the 2022 Community Health Assessment here.

Want to stay in the know on all things CCHD? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Blogger.


Molly Flynn
Principal Public Health Educator
Division of Health Planning & Promotion

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

What and When Should You be Eating?

 Happy National Nutrition Month ®! A whole month dedicated to learning about nutrition and all the
amazing things food can do for your body. There is so much we could talk about, it’s hard to pick just one topic! After careful consideration, I finally landed on a question dietitians get a lot: What and when should I be eating?

Well, first things first, there is no one thing everyone should be eating. Sadly, there is no magic meal that will stop colds and there isn’t a super-drink that will make you smarter. The key is to eat the widest variety of foods possible so you can make sure you are getting all of the important vitamins and minerals every day. If you do that, you’re on the right track to staying healthy. Aim for the rainbow is what we like to say! Adding more color to your plate means you’re getting more nutrients. A great way to change things up (and maybe explore other cultures) is to find new recipes.

The most important thing to know when learning “what to eat” is that every food group is VERY important. Protein helps our muscles and nerves work, carbs are the main source of fuel for our body and our brain, and fats help move hormones in the body. Cutting out certain food groups (for example, when dieting) will stop your body from running properly. There are no “good” versus “bad” foods. When eating properly, all foods can fit!

When making a meal, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends making half of your plate a mix of fruits and vegetables (trying new things with fruits and veggies can be fun!), a fourth of your plate protein, and the last fourth grains. Protein can come from meat or fish, beans, nuts or meat alternatives like tofu or tempeh. Grains are often called carbohydrates or “carbs.” At least half of your grains each day should be whole which means they contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Also, the USDA says adults should have 3 servings of dairy per day. However, there are other ways to get calcium if there is an allergy or intolerance to dairy.

As far as the when to eat the answer is simple: whenever your body is telling you it’s hungry. In order for your body to always have enough energy, it’s best to eat roughly 5-6 smaller meals per day instead of 2-3 larger meals. This means never going more than 3-4 hours between eating. There are two main reasons for this. First, eating more often will mean your body always has enough fuel to perform at its best. Second, your body isn’t able to handle too much food at one time. Eating an over-sized meal to make up for not eating all day is not helpful because the extra calories your body can’t use will either go to waste or go into unwanted storage.

All in all, National Nutrition Month 2022 ® encourages you to balance your plate, try new foods, and to find a Registered Dietitian if you ever have questions about nutrition. Eating doesn’t have to be hard, just listen to the needs of your body and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier YOU J

Emily Hutchins, RD, CDN, CLC

WIC Public Health Nutritionist

Division of Health Planning and Promotion 

Friday, February 18, 2022

What's hiding in your basement?

Radon is a cancer causing radioactive gas. It doesn’t have any odor or taste.  It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. Radon can be found in any building including your home, workplace, daycare, and school. It gets in through cracks, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside walls, gaps between floors, and other holes in the foundation and becomes trapped inside. Your greatest risk of radon exposure is your home because that is where you spend the most time. Any home could have the presence of radon including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. Radon tends to be a little more prevalent in western New York (because of the type of rock in that region), however here in Clinton County we are still at moderate risk.

The good news is you can find out if you have radon by testing for it. Radon is colorless and odorless
like carbon monoxide. Testing is the only way to tell if you have radon present in your home. By testing for radon, you will know if you have a build up from over time which can
Radon Test Kit
cause lung cancer. 

So why do we care now? Radon builds up in our buildings and homes as we close things up for the winter to keep the heat in. While we’re keeping the heat in we’re also keeping the radon in. Add in less ventilation and you’ve got a recipe for radon. Keeping our windows and cellars sealed tight from November through March makes it prime time to do radon testing. 

Even if you have tested for radon in the past, you should test for radon every five years. Tests take only a few minutes to set up and complete. If you do not want test yourself, The Healthy Neighborhoods Program in Clinton County can help by setting up radon tests for Clinton County residents free of charge.

How can I get a free radon test kit? Contact the Clinton County Healthy Neighborhoods Program at 518-565-4870 to schedule a home visit. Radon is just one area of indoor air quality and home safety that the Healthy Neighborhoods Program addresses. Free radon test kits and other home safety products are available based upon your household’s needs. For more information about this free service, check out our website


Maryann Barto

Public Health Educator

Healthy Neighborhoods Program

Environmental Health & Safety Division

HABs – Say Algae You Later!

Being a Clinton County native, summer notifications of harmful algal blooms (HABs) at local beaches are nothing new. Certain places in our ...