Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Don’t delay, test for radon today

KANE COUNTY—January is National Radon Action Month, and the Kane County Health Department, in conjunction with the Kane County Healthy Places Coalition, recommends that now is a good time to test your home for the presence of radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium and is one of the leading causes of lung cancer in the world, along with smoking and secondhand smoke.

Rocks and soil can contain uranium. Radon gas can enter through cracks in homes/buildings/schools and expose people to the radiation. Because of the geology in the Midwestern United States, homes in Kane County have the potential for higher levels of radon.

The Health Department’s Community Health Improvement Plan targets chronic diseases such as cancer, and the department recommends that all homes in Kane County be tested for radon. Testing kits are available for $15 from the Kane County Health Department and Kane County Development Office. This cost includes the kit, cost of mailing to a certified lab for analysis, and results. Kits are available at these locations:

• Aurora Health Department Office, 1240 N. Highland Ave., Suite 5, Aurora, Monday thru Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

• Kane County Development Office, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva, Monday thru Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Elgin Health Department Office, 1750 Grandstand Place, Suite 2, Elgin, Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to noon

Test kits also are available at most local hardware stores.
More information and resources about radon is available on the Health Department’s website,

Federal government takes action on radon gas to prevent lung cancer in 2013

ILLINOIS—January is Radon Action Month, according to the Surgeon General. Health agencies throughout the United States have joined forces to promote awareness of the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and National Cancer Institute all agree that radon is a national health problem, and encourage radon testing during the January awareness drive.

Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible and odorless gas. One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Millions of Americans are unknowingly exposed to this dangerous gas. In fact, a recent Harvard University study ranks radon as America’s No. 1 in-home hazard. By taking simple steps to test your home for radon and fix it if necessary, this health hazard can be avoid.

Radon gas is not isolated to certain geographical areas or home types. Radon problems have been detected in homes in every county of the U.S. It caused more American fatalities last year than carbon monoxide, fires and handguns combined. If a home hasn’t been tested for radon in the past two years, EPA and the Surgeon General urge you to take action. Contact your state radon office for information on location qualified test kits or qualified radon testers.

The federal commitment made by EPA, the General Services Administration and the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Veterans Affairs will focus efforts on radon reduction and mitigation in homes, especially those of low-income families, many of whom do not have the resources to make the simple fixes necessary to protect their homes and loved ones.

Learn more about the Federal Radon Action Plan at

Pets and the holidays

ILLINOIS—Many people are decorating their homes for the holidays, but pet owners should be aware that some plants used for holiday decorating can be dangerous to cats and dogs. Understanding which plants are toxic and which are not can help bring home the festive spirit and avoid danger for pets.

One of the most popular holiday plants often considered poisonous are poinsettias. But in fact, they are “non-to-mildly” toxic and do not deserve their bad reputation. Pets that ingest poinsettias generally have no clinical signs or mild gastrointestinal discomfort. A mild rash may develop if rubbed on the skin, but they are considered safe to keep in the home.

“Poinsettias are usually referred to as highly toxic, but they really aren’t. Feel free to display them at Christmas,” said Dr. Dorothy Black, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

Christmas trees are also generally safe for pets. However, pine needles can cause damage to eyes, such as a corneal laceration, if pets should run into the tree. Should pets ingest the sap produced by the tree, mild gastrointestinal discomfort may occur, but natural trees are generally non-toxic for cats and dogs.

Mistletoe, on the other hand, can be quite poisonous to pets. If ingested, pets may experience gastrointestinal upset, or show clinical signs of poisoning such as a change in mental function, difficulty breathing or a low heart rate.

“If you see these symptoms in your pet and suspect or know they ingested mistletoe, you should seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible,” Black said. “Mistletoe shouldn’t be used where pets could possibly reach it.”

Another holiday decorative plant, holly, can be dangerous for pets and is considered poisonous. Clinical symptoms may be displayed as vomiting, diarrhea, decreased energy, and general upset stomach. Owners should seek veterinary assistance if they suspect their pets of ingesting holly.

Amaryllis and daffodils are also considered poisonous for pets. If ingested, pets may vomit, appear depressed, or show signs of a painful abdomen and a loss of appetite.

“Some pets who consume amaryllis or daffodils will show symptoms of tremors,” Black said. “This can be a sign of severe toxicity.”

Lilies are particularly toxic to cats. The ingestion of any part of any type of lily can lead to kidney failure. The clinical signs can include vomiting, depression, or loss of appetite. If you suspect your cat of ingesting lilies, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. There is no antidote, and intense supportive care is needed for cats to recover.

“The more toxic the plant, the more careful you should be with displaying them in your home. While Poinsettias and Christmas trees are generally safe for pets, holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, daffodils and lilies should be considered quite toxic,” Black said. “Pets should not be allowed to come in contact with poisonous holiday plants, and if they are displayed in the home. they should be kept out of reach. (The) pet’s behavior should be monitored to make sure they do not show symptoms of poisoning.”

How to safely remove snow from your roof

ILLINOIS—If heavy snow is left on your roof, it can result in costly water damage, or even cause your roof to collapse. Safely remove snow from your roof by using the following guidance from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

Find additional resources to prevent roof damage during severe winter weather at

Snow removal equipment meant for pavement should never be used on the roof since they can damage the roof cover system. Stay grounded. Use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground. You are likely not a tightrope walker, so don’t use a roof rake while on a ladder.

Hire a snow removal contractor if you feel uncomfortable removing snow from your roof. Look for an established, licensed and bonded professional. Be sure to check references, and ask to see the contractor’s certificates of insurance.

Visit for more information about how to make your buildings more resistant to a variety of disasters, large and small.

True Taste, LLC, recalls fish products due to possible health risks

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department is alerting residents that True Taste, LLC of Kenosha, Wis., is recalling vacuum-packaged Hot Smoked Rainbow Trout, Hot Smoked Whitefish, Hot Smoked Herring, Hot Smoked Mackerel, Hot Smoked Salmon Steak, Cold Smoked Mackerel and Cold Smoked Whitefish because they have the potential to be contaminated with clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause life-threatening illness or death. Consumers are warned not to use the product even if it does not look or smell spoiled.

Although no illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this recall, it was distributed in Illinois. The recalled product is vacuum packaged and can be identified with either the True Taste Label or the Lowell Foods Label in Illinois. The recalled product has a white sticker applied to the package with two sets of numbers. The first set of numbers represents the date of processing; the second set of numbers represents the best if used by date. This recall includes all production dates beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, through current.

Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

The potential for contamination was identified following routine sample collection by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Consumers that may still have packages of the recalled smoked fish in their homes should not consume the product and are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

True Taste LLC has voluntarily halted production and is cooperating fully with the involved regulatory authorities. This recall is being conducted with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

More information is available at

Cherry Tomatoes recalled due to possible salmonella contamination

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department recently announced that Capital City Fruit, Inc. of Norwalk, Iowa, is voluntarily recalling cherry tomatoes shipped by Rio Queen Citrus Inc. on Nov. 10. Capital City Fruit, Inc. received notification from Rio Queen Citrus, Inc. following the discovery of a potentially pathogenic organism salmonella by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in random testing of an incoming load of cherry tomatoes. There have been no reported illnesses attributed to the items listed in this recall.

Capital City Fruit, Inc. is issuing this voluntary recall linked to the Rio Queen Citrus, Inc.’s recall to minimize any risk to public health. The recalled product was sold in retail stores in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Cherry tomatoes associated with the Rio Queen Citrus, Inc. recall received on Nov. 12, 2012, and used in the packaging of certain lots of Capital Brand Clamshell Cherry tomatoes have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. These cherry tomatoes were shipped to retail stores from Nov. 14 through Nov. 18.

Capital City Fruit, Inc. has notified the retailers who have received the recalled product and directed them to remove it from their store shelves. Consumers who purchased affected products should not consume them and should destroy or discard them.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

For more information about food safety, visit

Thanksgiving poses potential problems for pets

CHICAGO—BluePearl Veterinary Partners urges people to practice caution over the Thanksgiving holiday, as many of the items prepared for humans to feast on may pose serious problems to their furry and feathered friends.

During the holidays, BluePearl sees a significant uptick in pet-related emergencies, many of which are avoidable.

Some of these problems include gastrointestinal irritations with vomiting and diarrhea, pancreatitis from eating foods high in fat, and an increase in animals being struck by vehicles.

By practicing these safety precautions and tips, you may just save your furry friend’s life:
• Make sure to seal garbage bags and place them in a tightly covered container to prevent your pets from getting into something that could injure them.
• Turkey bones, chicken bones and ham bones can splinter and cause the intestinal track to become perforated.
• It is best to keep your pets on their normal diets. Many spices and foods that are safe for humans are not safe for animals. Onions, garlic, chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, the sugar substitute xylitol, and raw or undercooked food can create major problems for pets.
• Foods high in fat content can cause pancreatitis in companion animals.
• As guests and deliveries come and go, make sure pets remain safely inside. Doors that are left unintentionally open can result in your pet being hit by a car.
• Poinsettias are also toxic to pets.
• If traveling with pets, make sure they are comfortable. Get them acclimated when they are young by taking them on trips. If needed, herbal remedies or medications can be provided by your veterinarian to assist with calming a pet.

Take care to enjoy holiday feasts

KANE COUNTY—What would the holidays be without a sumptuous family feast? But as you prepare that large meal, you should take precautions to prevent food borne illness. The Kane County Health Department offers the following food safety tips to help ensure your holiday meals are prepared in a safe manner.

The meal should be planned days in advance, especially if you need to thaw large quantities of frozen food. The safest way to thaw frozen food is in a refrigerator at 41 F or below. Be aware, though, that if you are thawing something large (say a 20-pound turkey) you must allow enough time for it to thaw completely. It takes approximately 24 hours for each 5 pounds of frozen food to thaw in a refrigerator, so a 20-pound turkey will take three to four days to completely thaw. Never thaw your food at room temperature. The outside of the food will be warm while the inside is still frozen, allowing potentially disease-causing bacteria to grow. After thawing, the turkey may be cleaned and trimmed, and the stuffing may be prepared.

It’s a good idea to cook the stuffing separate from the turkey. Stuffing placed inside a turkey during cooking may not reach the required 165 F and could cause an illness.

Poultry and stuffed foods should be cooked so that they reach an internal temperature of at least 165 F; cook meat and fish to at least 145 F; cook pork, ground meats and ground fish to at least 155 F. If you are cooking a beef roast and like it rare, it should be cooked to at least 130 F for 121 minutes. A very important and inexpensive piece of equipment that every kitchen should have is a metal stem thermometer, which is available at any grocery store. How else will you know if your food is cooked to the proper temperature if you don’t use a thermometer? Don’t rely on guessing.

When preparing a holiday feast, or any meal, you should remember to frequently wash your hands during food preparation. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, when switching between working with raw food (such as poultry) and working with ready-to-eat food (such as vegetables or cooked foods), after touching parts of your body, after handling soiled equipment or utensils, and after coughing, sneezing, eating, drinking or smoking. Hands should be washed for about 20 seconds (about the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) with soap and warm water by vigorously rubbing the hands together.

You should also take precautions to avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful microorganisms (germs) from one food to another. Contaminated hands, utensils or equipment can transfer microorganisms. Examples of cross-contamination are handling raw poultry or meats, and then handling some other food with juice from the meat or poultry still on your hands, or cutting raw poultry with a knife, then using that knife to cut vegetables without first washing the knife. That’s why it is important to frequently wash hands, counters and cooking utensils as a meal is prepared.

Once the meal is over, cool down leftovers to 41 F or below within six hours. The best way to do this is to place the leftover food in shallow pans (no thicker than 3 inches) before placing it in the refrigerator or freezer. Also, slice large cuts of meat and de-bone poultry before cooling or freezing. Avoid leaving leftovers out at room temperature once the meal is over.

Food borne illnesses can be serious enough to require hospitalization and may even be fatal. Apply safe food handling principles and practices to every meal you prepare to help avoid illnesses during this holiday season and throughout the year.

More information about food safety is available at

KHS community helps aid Sandy victims

To help Allyson and Girl Scout Troop 466 with “Hats Off for Hurricane Help”
contribute to the Red Cross’ Sandy relief effort by texting “REDCROSS”
to 90999 for a $10 donation or visit

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Kaneland High School Assistant Principal Diane McFarlin considers herself a “Jersey girl” at heart. Her husband is from New Jersey, and she grew up near the eastern seaboard.

It’s these ties to the New Jersey area that inspired McFarlin to take action when Hurricane Sandy struck a large part of New York metropolitan area two weeks ago.

McFarlin asked everyone in the KHS community to donate any warm outerwear (all sizes, including coats, gloves and scarves), childrens clothes (all sizes, emphasis on baby clothes) that they have laying around. She currently has a donation box outside of her office.

“We have a lot of friends and family in New Jersey. We vacation there. We’re ocean folks, and we love the east coast,” McFarlin said. “When the hurricane hit, it affected everyone I knew out there. My friends in the northern part of New Jersey—their community was decimated. They were spared themselves, but they experienced lots and lots of damage to their homes. It was like people didn’t have anything out there.”

All donated goods were sent to McFarlin’s friend Johnna and her husband Larry, who live in Highland, New Jersey, and have been helping members of the community who have lost their home and belongings.

“Homes (there) have been destroyed, gasoline is nonexistant and the community needs help. When Johnna can find the time and the power to text and message folks, she says that she and Larry are trying to help the most needy, but it seems everyone needs something,” McFarlin said. “I told her that I work in a very giving community, and said that I would put the word out to (everyone in the community) to find it in their heart to help.”

Many have found it in their heart to do just that, as McFarlin has already shipped over 20 boxes to New Jersey. Kaneland Secretary Laura McPhee said KHS staff went into “full commando mode” and brought in clothing, blankets and baby supplies. McFarlin then shipped out the items at her own expense.

“Johnna and Larry traveled back and forth to give the items to people in the shelters and those that stayed in their homes,” McPhee said.

McPhee’s daughter Allyson decided she wanted to get involved with the Sandy relief effort, too, and with her mom came up with “Hats Off for Hurricane Help.” And with Diane’s blessing, the McPhees began to reach out to members of their family, as well as Allyson’s friends in Girl Scout Troop 466.

“We have been sending carloads of clothing to Jersey, and just yesterday Diane learned that Fort Monmouth (Military base) will be opened up to house-displaced New Jersey residents, as all shelters and temporary housing are used up,” McPhee said.

Allyson also asked her dad to find out if his boss would help defray the cost of shipping goods out to New Jersey. George Flolo of the The Flolo Corporation in Bensenville, Ill., agreed to send the remaining boxes to Johnna and Larry.

“Without his generous donation of shipping costs, we would be forced to take what little monetary donations that have been received and use it for shipping,” McPhee said. “I have been amazed at everyone’s continued goodwill.”

Allyson and Girl Scout Troop 466 now wants to focus on helping the Red Cross, and will post “Hats Off for Hurricane Help” flyers around Maple Park and Elburn. People interested in contributing to the Red Cross’ Sandy relief effort can text “REDCROSS” to 90999 for a $10 donation or visit

McFarlin called the generosity of the Kaneland community “overwhelming,” and said Johnna would like to thank each and every person who has contributed.

“For me, this gathering of supplies reminds me why I live in this community,” McFarlin said.

Dole Fresh Vegetables recalls salad product

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department is announcing that Dole Fresh Vegetables will voluntarily recall a limited number of cases of Dole American Blend salad in 12-ounce bags, coded A275208A or B, with Use-by date of Oct. 17, and UPC 7143000933, due to a possible health risk from Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall. Consumers who have any remaining product with these product codes should not consume it, but rather discard it.

The product code and use-by date are in the upper right-hand corner of the package; the UPC code is on the back of the package, below the barcode. The salads were distributed in 10 U.S. states (Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin).

This precautionary recall notification is being issued after a sample of Dole American Blend salad yielded a positive result for Listeria monocytogenes in a random test.

No other salads are included in the recall. Retailers and consumers with questions may call the Dole Food Company Consumer Response Center at (800) 356-3111.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause foodborne illness in a person who eats a food item contaminated with it. Symptoms of infection may include fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. The illness primarily impacts pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems. Most healthy adults and children rarely become seriously ill after exposure to Listeria monocytogenes.

November is National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month

CHICAGO—November is National Pet Diabetes Month, and BluePearl Veterinary Partners encourages pet owners to become more aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes.

Diabetes is a relatively common disease in which the body doesn’t use glucose properly. If left untreated, diabetes is life threatening. It is manageable, and if detected early enough, pets with diabetes can live a normal life when treated and medicated properly. In some cases with cats, diabetes can actually be reversed.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes that owners should be aware of include the following:
• Increase in water consumption
• Increase in urination
• Increase in appetite
• Weight loss
• Cataracts may be present if diabetes has been existent for a longer period of time

Certain steps can be taken to prevent diabetes. For example, obesity is a risk factor that can be controlled.

In cats, diabetes is similar to the human version of diabetes and can often be managed with a change of diet recommended and supervised by a veterinarian. In dogs, diabetes must be managed with insulin.

“If you notice any of these symptoms, we highly recommend seeing your family veterinarian as soon as possible,” said Dr. Neil Shaw, chief medical officer of BluePearl.

Zumba classes a hit in Maple Park

Photo: Certified Zumba instructor April Espe leading a class in Maple Park. Photo by Susan O’Neill

Zumba Classes
Wednesdays, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays, 8 to 9 a.m.
Maple Park Civic Center, 302 Willow St.
Schedule may vary, so call (815) 827-3286

by Susan O’Neill
MAPLE PARK—Twice a week, a core group of about 10 Maple Park women get together at the Maple Park Civic Center and dance to a mix of salsa, merengue, as well as other Latin music and current hits.

This, folks, is Zumba class.

Maple Park resident Terry Thorne, who has been a dedicated Zumba participant since April Espe began teaching the class last March, said she joined gyms when she was younger, but it just “never took.”

“I’ve been taking the (Zumba) classes for eight months, and I’ve never been committed to anything this long, except my husband,” Thorne said.

According to Maple Park resident Jamie DeStefano, one of the reasons the women keep coming back is the fact that participants laugh and have fun during the class.

Another reason is the way the class makes them feel.

Thorne, 55, said Zumba keeps her joints loosened up, and that she can bend over and touch the ground—something she was previously unable to do.

“One week off makes a difference,” she said. “I don’t want to stop doing it now.”

Espe, a Sycamore resident, had been teaching dance classes for girls, ages 3 to 12th grade, when she decided to teach their mothers some dance routines. She held the classes for the moms without telling the children. During the next student show, the parents surprised them with their own performance.

Espe saw how much fun the adults had, so when Maple Park resident Beth Miller posted on the village’s Facebook page that she was looking for a Zumba class, Espe put two and two together. She was already a dance teacher operating a school—“Just for Kix,” in DeKalb—so she obtained a certification in January to teach Zumba and started to get the word out about the class.

Espe participated in all kinds of sports while growing up. She did gymnastics for 15 years, ran track and played volleyball. She also has five years of dance experience.

According to Espe, Zumba class is aerobic, but participants really don’t think too much about their workout.

“It’s fun and you’re moving,” Espe said. “You’re dancing yourself into shape.”

Through the village’s Facebook page, flyers and word of mouth, Espe has developed a following in the area. In addition to the classes in Maple Park, she also teaches a Zumba class in DeKalb.

Espe makes sure that the dance steps are simple enough so that people can easily follow them. She also talks beginners through the steps and repeats them often.

“A lot of people are scared off because they think dance skills are required,” Espe said. “As long as you’re moving, that’s what counts.”

She said the class appeals to all ages, and that she even has a few people over the age of 70 in her classes.

DeStefano said she has lost 40 pounds with Weight Watchers, and the class has helped her with her weight loss.

“This gets my day going,” she said.

For more information about Zumba classes in Maple Park, call (815) 827-3286.

4 West Nile cases bring the total in Kane County to 9

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department recently reported four more cases of West Nile Virus, bringing the total so far this season to nine.

The most recent cases are a 67-year-old man and 61-year-old man, both from Elgin; a 50-year-old St. Charles man and a 59-year-old Geneva man. The Health Department will report new cases once a week on Wednesdays until the end of the West Nile season, which ends with the first hard frost of the year.

Other cases this year include a 71-year-old man from Aurora, a 61-year-old Geneva woman, a 70-year-old Aurora man, 16-year-old Batavia girl, and a 64-year-old Elgin man, who died in August.

This summer was hot and dry—the perfect combination for the Culex mosquito, the species that is known to carry the virus. West Nile Virus will likely continue to see activity until the season is over. The Health Department monitors for WNV activity in your area and throughout the county. You can visit to view a map of the trap locations throughout the county, as well as other surveillance activities. Surveillance updates are posted once a week.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

Only about two people out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis, meningitis and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

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.
• Change water in birdbaths 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.

Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Kane County Health Department’s website, west_nile.htm, or the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website, envhealth/wnv.htm. People also can call the IDPH West Nile Virus Hotline at (866) 369-9710, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Kaneland community comes together for teacher

Photo: Kaneland High School teacher Bridget Sweeney, her husband Matt, daughter Lilly and son Jack. Courtesy Photo

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—Kaneland High School teacher Bridget Sweeney had gotten used to dealing with cancer.

Twenty years ago, when she was a high school senior, she was diagnosed with a malignant soft tissue sarcoma in her right arm. At the time, the doctors removed her tumor and she underwent radiation treatments. A year later, the cancer came back and spread to her lungs. Again, she had surgery to remove it.

In September 2011, Sweeney had just given birth to her second child and was set to come back to work around Thanksgiving when the cancer came back for a third time in her arm. Although she has had several recurrences of the cancer and multiple arm and lung surgeries, this time her doctors suggested that she have her arm amputated.

She opted instead for an aggressive arm surgery in which the doctors removed her soft tissue and replaced it with rods and skin and tissue grafts from her leg.

She had another round of radiation treatments and additional surgeries to rebuild her arm, as well as therapy to strengthen her arm and leg.

“It’s been a watch game for 20 years,” Sweeney said. “You get used to it.”

What she wasn’t used to was the outpouring of love and support from the Kaneland High School community.

English teacher Brooke Simon, a friend of Sweeney’s who lives near her, said multiple people and organizations at the high school came together to help Sweeney and her family through her recovery.

Fellow teacher Jenny O’Hara created a website where people could sign up to cook meals, as well as donate time and money.

While Sweeney was in the hospital, her husband had to pay $20 for parking every time he came to visit her. With the mounting medical and hospital bills, child care for their baby and 5-year-old son Jack, as well as other expenses, the donations came in handy.

When she came home, it was still a long time before her arm would heal and regain its strength. She was unable to hold her three-month-old daughter Lilly, so cooking was definitely out of the question.

Simon would bring the meals to her a couple of times a week on her way home. Often, people would put together an entire meal, complete with a salad and side dishes. Simon would also often bring messages and cards with good wishes from faculty, students and parents. People gave gift cards for groceries, meals out at restaurants, and a gift certificate for Merry Maids to clean her house.

“She was dealing with all of this and trying to be a mom at the same time,” Simon said. “We could empathize. We did anything and everything that we could to help her.”

Graphics teacher Nikki Larson said the website made it easy to coordinate the meals and donations.

“You could see what others were making so you didn’t overlap with them,” she said.

Larson said that Sweeney is such a positive person, everyone wanted to pitch in to help.

“We were happy to provide small moments of some sort of normalcy for them,” Larson said.

Sweeney said that this was the first time that she has shared her battle with cancer so widely.

Not many of the students were initially aware of Sweeney’s situation. That changed when Kaneland baseball coach Brian Aversa asked the seniors on the team if they wanted to raise money to help Sweeney and her family.

Each year, the seniors decide which individual, charity or organization will receive the proceeds of a Senior Night game the team plays with Batavia High School at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva. Aversa said the students were overwhelmingly in favor of donating the money to Sweeney.

The team raised $5,000 for Sweeney during its “Pack the Park” game at the stadium in May.

Sweeney came back to Kaneland at the beginning of this school year. Simon said she is doing very well.

“It’s great to see her teaching again,” she said. “She’s a great teacher. The kids love her.”

Sweeney takes her cancer in stride. She said she knows that for some people, it’s a death sentence.

“For me, it’s a chronic illness,” she said. “It’s a condition that is manageable.”

She said that her cancer is not something that she dwells on. While it has been a long and challenging road, she said she has never allowed cancer to get in the way of her life.

“I have a loving husband, supportive family and two beautiful children,” she said. “I have a wonderful career teaching with a generous community of coworkers and amazing students,” she said.

She is still amazed by all that people have done for her and her family.

“It was a huge outpouring of support that was so unexpected and humbling,” she said. “I have never been in a community that has gone to such lengths to help. What was especially touching is that the students chose to offer their fundraising and giving opportunity to help us out.”

More mosquitoes test positive for West Nile Virus

KANE COUNTY—Three more batches (or pools) of mosquitoes collected recently have tested positive for West Nile Virus. The mosquito batches were collected in Kane County Health Department traps in Aurora, Montgomery and Carpentersville, Ill. This brings the total to five positive batches this year; the second from Carpentersville. These positive mosquito batches usually are the first indicators of West Nile activity.

With this year’s hot, dry weather, these results come as no surprise. First evidence of West Nile typically begins in July or August. And although it has been extraordinarily dry, the few intermittent showers experienced in the area are enough to leave small pools of stagnant water where the Culex mosquito, the species associated with the disease, can breed. Now is a good time to inspect your yard for areas that can collect water and remove it.

The Health Department monitors for WNV activity in your area. You can visit to view a map of the trap locations throughout the county. Also as part of its West Nile program, the Health Department is collecting dead birds to be sent to the state lab for testing. Call (630) 444-3040 to report the presence of freshly-dead birds (such as crows or blue jays) to determine if WNV testing is recommended. The birds must not show any signs of decay or trauma.

In 2011, Kane reported one human case and five cases in 2010. In 2009, an unusually mild summer with cool temperatures, there were no human cases of West Nile Virus reported in Kane County. There were three cases of the virus reported in 2008, 13 in 2007, four in 2006, 17 in 2005, two in 2004, none in 2003 and nine in 2002. You can view more detailed monitoring results from previous years by visiting

West Nile Virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three-to-14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Only about two people out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis, meningitis and death, are possible. People older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

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, according to label instructions, includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. 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.

Change water in birdbaths 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.

Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Kane County Health Department’s website, nile.htm, or the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Web site, envhealth/wnv.htm. People also can call the IDPH West Nile Virus Hotline at 1-866-369-9710, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Public buildings to serve as cooling centers

KANE COUNTY—On the heels of the powerful storms over the weekend that knocked out power to numerous homes, and with the outlook of hot weather for the rest of the week, the Kane County Health Department is urging residents to be especially cautious in dealing with the oppressive heat.

If your home still is without power, a list of cooling centers can be found at The county is urging residents to check on the well-being of their neighbors, especially those who are elderly, have special needs or are otherwise unable to access this information. Also take special care to see that your pets have plenty of water and shade.

The health effects of extreme heat are cumulative, which is why it is important to follow the tips below to ensure you avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke:

• Always wear light-weight clothing that has plenty of ventilation—the fabric should “breathe.” Stay well hydrated; always ensure you consume an abundance of liquids in the summer.

• Exercise or schedule other strenuous activities when the heat and humidity are lowest, usually early morning and late evenings.

• Rest in cool, shady places frequently. If you’re hot, go cool down—get indoors, drink cool liquids, enjoy the air conditioning for a few minutes, or take a cold shower.

• Eat light, heart-healthy foods to replace minerals and nutrients that may be lost. Give your heart a little extra break during the summer months with a healthy diet.

• Watch out for those at greatest risk, such as very young children, the elderly, persons who may have health conditions. Certain medications may put you at greater risk of heat-related illnesses, so be aware of how medications may interact with the heat.

Be on the lookout for these potential risk factors when spending any time outside during periods of extreme heat and humidity:

• Dehydration— ehydration occurs when more water leaves the body that you put back in. Stay well hydrated throughout the day, and drink extra fluids when exercising or simply being outdoors on hot days.

• Heat exhaustion— ymptoms may include headaches, weak pulse, rapid pulse, excessive sweating, dizziness, and in some instances, fainting, clammy skin, chills, cold, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps or very fast or very shallow breathing. If you suspect you have heat exhaustion, take action immediately to cool down. If possible, immerse yourself in cool water.

• Heat stroke—Unlike heat exhaustion, victims of heat stroke have warm skin that is dry to the touch because they’ve sweated out all their extra water, leaving the body’s natural cooling system without a key cool-down mechanism. High fever, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, and a strong, rapid pulse all accompany heat stroke. Victims may become confused and can lose consciousness. Heat stroke is a very serious condition. Cool the victim and seek immediate medical assistance.

More information about the effects of heat on your health is available by visiting the heat page on the Health Department website.

Topinka: Developmentally disabled will be prioritized

SPRINGFIELD—Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Tuesday announced that she has directed her staff to prioritize payments for day programs, child group homes, community living facilities and other programs serving the developmentally disabled.

The direction from the state Fiscal Officer comes after the Department of Human Services notified service providers of payment delays caused by an insufficient appropriation in the fiscal year 2012 budget. The department noted that payments would not be processed until after July 1, and then be subject to ongoing state payment delays.

“Those serving the developmentally disabled should know that we will make their payments as soon as the information reaches our door,” Topinka said, noting her policy of prioritizing payment for the state’s most vulnerable residents. “People literally rely on these programs for survival, and they will take priority.”

Topinka noted that, while services for the developmentally disabled will be prioritized, her office today has more than 164,000 unpaid bills totaling $4.4 billion to businesses, schools, hospitals and service agencies throughout the state.

Delnor Health and Wellness Center offers hot stone massage

GENEVA—Delnor Health and Wellness Center is offering hot stone massage therapy.

Hot stone massage is a specialty massage in which the therapist uses smooth, heated stones on key points of the body. This type of massage uses traditional massage strokes while incorporating the healing effects of the warm stones.

Hot stone massage may help with:
• Alleviation of stress
• Release of toxins
• Improved circulation
• Calming of the mind and nervous system
• Deep tissue and muscle relaxation
• Treatment of tight muscles due to overexertion

Hot stone massage is available to both members and nonmembers of Delnor Health and Wellness Center. Member pricing is $110 for a 70-minute massage. Non-member pricing is $120 for a 70-minute massage.

Delnor Health and Wellness Center massage therapists are certified and trained in hot stone massage.

For more information about hot stone massage or to schedule an appointment, contact Delnor Health & Wellness Center at (630) 208-3933. TTY for the hearing impaired, (630) 208-4399.

Five tips for safe summer sun

by Kevin Ronneberg, M.D.
Summer has arrived. As the weather heats up, it’s critical for beachgoers and outdoor fun-seekers to be sun-safe. This begins with choosing the right sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Equally important are these five simple tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation, which also will help you mitigate sun damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

First, seek the shade. Simply minimizing exposure to UVA and UVB rays can go a long way toward protecting your skin. Taking a break from direct sun is especially important between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when rays are strongest. And remember, clouds don’t block UV rays.

Infants under 6 months should always be kept out of the sun and protected with clothing, an umbrella or a stroller hood. Children and adults should wear protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.

Second, use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. Regardless of the season, this kind of sun protection should be used on a daily basis. Most people understand the importance of sun safety during the summer months, but many underestimate the need for year-round protection. The temperature may drop, but UV rays remains strong. And the cooler temperatures may actually prevent people from realizing the extent of the damage the sun is doing to their skin.

Next year, new regulations from the Food and Drug Administration will help consumers know they’re getting the right protection by prohibiting manufactures from labeling their sunscreens as “broad spectrum” or making claims about protecting against skin cancer and aging unless they’re SPF 15 or higher. And sunscreens with lower SPF values will have to sport a warning that the product may not offer protection against the harmful effects of exposure to the sun.

Third, apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to the entire body 30 minutes before going outside. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, for full SPF protection, sunscreen must be applied half an hour before sun exposure. If you are average size, you’ll need a full ounce—or about two tablespoons—to adequately cover your skin. Studies show that most people apply less than half that amount, losing the full benefit of the SPF protection.

Reapplication is just as important as putting sunscreen on in the first place, as sunscreens tend to break down with exposure and can be rubbed off or washed off by sweat or water. So sunscreen should be applied every two hours, and immediately after swimming or a set of tennis. During a full day at the beach, one person should expect to use at least a quarter of an 8 ounce bottle of sunscreen.

Fourth, do not let yourself burn. Sunburn is the most immediate and obvious sign of UV damage. When immune cells race to the injured skin site to start healing the damage, they produce the reddening and swelling.

Tanning is the skin’s response to this damage and may permanently affect skin cells. While many believe a “base tan” will prevent damaging burns, that’s not the case. There is no such thing as a healthy or base tan.

Finally, check your skin regularly and ask your doctor for a skin cancer exam annually. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer. Tans and burns can be the first step. Intermittent but intense UV exposure is more closely associated with melanoma, the most deadly variety of skin cancer, than chronic sun exposure. One blistering sunburn in childhood or five in a lifetime doubles the risk of melanoma.

To check yourself for signs of skin damage, inspect your skin from head to toe, looking for spots or sores that heal too slowly, new growths, and any moles or beauty marks that change in color, texture, or size. And once each year, be sure to ask your physician for a skin checkup.

Sunscreens are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. They keep skin looking young and reduce the risk of many skin cancers. They must be used properly, however. These five suggestions will help keep you and your skin safe.

Summer heat means extra pet precautions

As the hot days of summer come upon everyone, BluePearl Veterinary Partners recommends taking certain precautions to ensure your pet doesn’t suffer from heat related injuries.

It is best to keep pets in an air conditioned environment during the heat of the day, and limit strenuous activities such as running and playing. If your pet does become overheated, spray the animal down with room-temperature or cool water, but never ice water. Ice-cold water causes a decrease in blood flow to the skin, and heat can’t escape the body, making heat exhaustion symptoms worse.

Don’t give your pets sports drinks or electrolyte supplements. Dogs cool off by panting and do not sweat like people. Supplements like sports drinks can actually harm animals and make pets sick.

Lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and dark red gums are all signs of heat-related distress. If your pet is panting uncontrollably or collapses, take the animal to your veterinarian or nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately.

Pet owners should also remember to make sure their pets have access to water at all times. Also, never leave your pet locked in a vehicle with the windows closed.

HorsePower riding program helps build skills, confidence

Photo: Carrie Capes (far right) helps four-year-old Emma of Sycamore ride Tonka, a 15-year-old Belgian Cross. Helping are trainers Veronica and Karol. The program began in March. Photo by John DiDonna

by Susan O’Neill
MAPLE PARK—Maple Park resident Carrie Capes said she learned very early on with Max, her 11-year-old son with multiple disabilities, that “a child with a disability really and truly needs a village.”

“I love doing that with others,” she said.

Capes recently began providing therapeutic horseback riding lessons to children and adults with disabilities at the Fox Chase Farms horse stable in Maple Park.

The riding program is known as HorsePower.

Capes had been able to use her degree in recreational therapy while working with Max, teaching him to ride, as well as other skills that translate to his daily life. She calls what she does at the stable with Max a “work/study program” in which she gives him riding lessons twice a week. He also does barn chores, such as cleaning stalls, grooming and feeding the horses, and sweeping the stable aisles.

“He feels useful and needed and a sense of pride here,” she said. “While Max needs a service dog to navigate a trip into the grocery store, he has freedom at the barn and he is successful with his behavior. This is his happy place.”

Capes said Fox Chase Farms owner Jenise Koerner saw her working with Max, and experienced first-hand the power of horses. When Capes left another therapeutic riding job, Koerner called her to see if she would like to do her work at her barn.

“I’m new to this, but I’m a full supporter,” Koerner said.

Capes is currently working with a dozen children and adults with disabilities, using the riding to help teach her students hand-eye coordination, balance and strength, keeping their focus and other skills.

In addition to the skills the students learn, therapeutic riding helps to build their self-esteem, something that people with disabilities often have in short supply.

“It’s very empowering to lead a 1,600 pound animal to do what you want him to do,” Capes said. “It’s a great confidence builder.”

Capes recently started to work with 4-year-old Trevin, one of Sycamore resident Kalie Kuhl’s triplets. Trevin has high muscle tone in his legs, which makes walking and other activities, such as climbing up onto a couch or a chair, difficult.

Trevin’s occupational and physical therapists recommended therapeutic riding for him as a way to supplement the therapy they were doing.

“For a full hour, he is straddling the horse, which is pretty effective at stretching out the muscles in his legs,” Kuhl said. “I wouldn’t be able to replicate that at home.”

Kuhl said that, because Trevin is so young, the hardest thing is keeping him engaged in his therapy. However, with all of the external distractions involving the horse and the games Capes plays with Trevin, Kuhl said she has his full attention for a solid hour.

Because Capes uses toys, pom-poms, balls, bubbles and other non-traditional items to keep things interesting, the horses need to be well-trained and desensitized to these props.

The volunteers help with training the horses, as well as walking alongside and in front of the horse during the student’s lesson, to make sure he or she is securely on the horse and paying attention to Capes. They also pitch in with barn chores.

Marmion cadet Kyle Urbanik, a 15-year-old who has been riding horses since he was about 6 years old, is one of HorsePower’s volunteers. In the two months that he has been a side-walker, he said he has already seen the students grow and make improvements.

Many of the children have never been on a horse before, so the first challenge is to help them get over their fears, Urbanik said. One child in particular has a problem with depth perception, which made him very fearful at first. Urbanik thought it would take him months to feel comfortable, but the child was safely trotting by the third week.

“His (physical) therapists said he has made a lot of progress at school, too,” Urbanik said.

Although Urbanik’s initial goal was to obtain the service hours his school required of him, he has become passionate about what he does at Fox Chase Farms.

“I hope to change a lot of kids’ lives,” he said.

Capes said that her highest goal is to provide therapeutic riding to people with disabilities, regardless of their ability to pay.

“Our dream is to have a sliding scale,” she said. “This community is helping to make that happen.”

Capes said that area businesses and residents have been very generous in their support. Paisano’s Pizza in Elburn is helping to raise money for scholarships by giving half of every $10 ticket, redeemable for a one-item pizza, purchased between now and June 15. Their goal is to use the money to help pay for lessons for children whose families can’t afford them, Capes said. There is currently a waiting list for scholarships.

SH&D Trucking has donated $1,000 for a limestone/sand mixture to blanket the arena where the students ride. Christ Community Church has donated more than $600 for materials to build two special mounting blocks to help students get onto the horse safely. About 20 of the church’s members have committed to a work day on Wednesday, June 6, when they will help build the blocks and other tasks.

“Mounting the horse is one of the most difficult things for a person with a disability,” Capes said. “These blocks are a huge blessing. I have felt so supported by the Kaneland community.”

Carrie Capes has launched her new program, HorsePower Therapeutic Riding, at Fox Chase Farm in Maple Park. The program will teach students balance, confidence, coordination and strength. Here she helps Emma give Tonka a treat after their ride on May 14. Photo by John DiDonna

Keep cool with these hot tips

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department reminds residents of important health tips they can follow to ensure their time spent outdoors this summer is safe and comfortable. Here are some tips from the Health Department to stay cool:

• Always wear lightweight clothing that has plenty of ventilation—the fabric should “breathe.” Stay well hydrated; always ensure you consume an abundance of liquids in the summer.

• Exercise or schedule other strenuous activities when the heat and humidity are lowest, usually early morning and late evenings.

• Rest in cool, shady places frequently. If you’re hot, go cool down—get indoors, drink cool liquids, enjoy the air conditioning for a few minutes, or take a cold shower.

• Eat light, heart-healthy foods to replace minerals and nutrients that may be lost. Give your heart a little extra break during the summer months with a healthy diet.

• Watch out for those at greatest risk, such as very young children, the elderly and persons who may have health conditions. Certain medications may put you at greater risk of heat-related illnesses, so be aware of how medications may interact with the heat.

Be on the lookout for these potential risk factors when spending any time outside during periods of extreme heat and humidity:

• Dehydration – Dehydration occurs when more water leaves the body that you put back in. Stay well hydrated throughout the day and drink extra fluids when exercising or simply being outdoors on hot days.

• Heat exhaustion – Symptoms may include headaches, weak pulse, rapid pulse, excessive sweating, dizziness and, in some instances, fainting, clammy skin, chills, cold, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps or very fast or very shallow breathing. If you suspect you have heat exhaustion, take action immediately to cool down. If possible, immerse yourself in cool water.

• Heat stroke – Unlike heat exhaustion, victims of heat stroke have warm skin that is dry to the touch because they’ve sweated out all their extra water, leaving the body’s natural cooling system without a key cool-down mechanism. High fever, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, and a strong, rapid pulse all accompany heat stroke. Victims may become confused and can lose consciousness. Heat stroke is a very serious condition. Cool the victim and seek immediate medical assistance. More information about the effects of heat on your health is available by visiting the heat page on the Kane County Health Department website.

TriCity Family Services presents: ‘A Layperson’s Guide to Mental Illness’

ST CHARLES— In hopes of de-stigmatizing mental illness and create further awareness, TriCity Family Services will present an educational seminar, “A Layperson’s Guide to Mental Illness.”

Attendees will learn what mental illness is, how prevalent it is nationally and locally, the economic impact of untreated mental illness,and what they can do to end the stigma of mental illness in their community.

The program will be presented by Sheri O’Brien, Sr. clinician/consultant, and Miranda Barfuss, development manager, on Tuesday, May 22 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the St. Charles Library, 1 S. 6th Ave., St. Charles. This presentation is being provided free of charge, and all are welcome to attend.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and TriCity Family Services calls on you to help to provide support and acceptance to those facing mental health issues. Mental health disorders affect one in four individuals in a given year and it can occur in any family regardless of income, race, education or environment.

Mental illness is shrouded in a stigma created by myths and false information.For additional information, call TriCity Family Services at (630) 232-1070 or visit

Provena Mercy receives Environmental Excellence award

AURORA—Provena Mercy Medical Center recently received the “Making Medicine Mercury Free” award from Practice Greenhealth, the national membership organization dedicated to providing environmental solutions for the health care industry.

The 2012 award recognizes Provena Mercy for its efforts to reduce mercury and for its commitment to environmental responsibility. The “Making Medicine Mercury Free” honor is bestowed on organizations that implemented proven policies to rid the facility of the harmful chemical mercury, and to prevent it from re-entering the facility.

To receive the award, a hospital must show that it has virtually eliminated mercury from its site and is committed to continue that practice.

Recently, Provena Mercy conducted a hospital-wide survey and, where possible, eliminated products containing mercury, such as thermometers and gauges. The hospital also established an Environmental Purchasing Policy that eliminates the use of products containing mercury.

“We know that the use of mercury in health care jeopardizes public health and the environment,” said Lamar Davis, assistant vice president of facilities at Provena Mercy Medical Center. “We’ve created better alternatives for caring for our patients that do not involve mercury.”

In November 2012, Provena Mercy kicked off its “Think Green” initiative to reduce waste and help the environment.

“Increased recycling efforts not only help the environment, but they also save money, which we are putting back into the community,” Davis said. “Proceeds from recyclables are going into funds to help those in need in the community.”

Proceeds from recycled paper assist Provena Mercy patients who have financial need, while proceeds from plastic, aluminum and glass go to Association for Individual Development.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Davis said.

So far this year, Provena Mercy has recycled 834 pounds of bottles, cans and plastics; and 3,327 pounds of paper. That’s more than the weight of an elephant or small car.

May is Asthma Awareness Month

CHICAGO—An estimated 25 million Americans—including seven million children—suffer from asthma, a chronic respiratory disease for which attacks can range from mild to life-threatening. The prevalence has been increasing over the last two decades, and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is encouraging effective management to reduce environmental triggers of the disease during Asthma Awareness Month in May.

“Asthma attacks account for nearly 2 million emergency room visits nationwide each year,” said IDPH Acting Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “It is extremely important that we continue to raise awareness about common triggers so that the disease can be effectively controlled, and environmental factors, to the greatest extent possible, can be reduced.”

The annual economic cost of asthma, including direct medical costs from hospital stays and indirect costs such as lost school and work days, amounts to more than $56 billion annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). African-Americans and Latinos are also disproportionately impacted by the disease. Approximately 3 million Latinos are affected by asthma, with the highest rate being among Puerto Ricans—113 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites, and 50 percent higher than non-Hispanic blacks, according to the CDC.

About 14 percent of Illinoisans suffer from asthma, and over the last 20 years, Illinois has had one of the nation’s highest asthma mortality rates. Asthma is triggered by indoor and outdoor allergens, irritants including secondhand smoke, dust mites, mold, gas-cooking stoves, wood smoke, cockroaches and other pests, and many household cleaning supplies.

In 1999 the Illinois Asthma Program was established to develop strategic goals and long-range planning in the effort to reduce asthma in Illinois. In 2009, the third Illinois Asthma Strategic Plan was released with long-range goals and solutions to reduce the burden of asthma for people with asthma and their caretakers.

In August 2010, the legislature passed Public Act 96-1460, making it simpler for students to carry and self-administer rescue inhalers at school. Students now need only a note from a parent or guardian and a copy of their prescription to keep their inhalers with them. Previously, they were also required to get written permission from a physician—a logistical hurdle that prevented many children from having ready access to their medication.

The Illinois Asthma Partnership consists of state and federal agencies, local asthma coalitions, national non-profits, hospitals, universities, and individuals from a diverse background of professions to address statewide goals. Statewide goals include implementing interventions to identify triggers and increase asthma awareness in the workplace and in schools, and promoting the use of asthma action plans and the adoption of asthma friendly policies and practices.

Steps toward preventing and/or reducing the occurrence of asthma attacks include:
• Talk to a doctor—Learn what triggers asthma attacks, identify triggers in the home and medications to take.
• Develop an “Asthma Action Plan”—Identify triggers, keep track of the severity of symptoms and keep medical resources handy.
• Asthma-proof your home—Manage and eliminate triggers (mold, dust mites, secondhand smoke; keep food sealed and kitchen area free of clutter to minimize pests, maintain low humidity in the home).
• Quit smoking—When a person inhales tobacco smoke, irritating substances settle in the moist lining of the airways. These substances can cause an attack in a person who has asthma. Call 866-Quit Yes for free tobacco cessation information.

To read the entire Illinois Asthma Strategic Plan, and for additional resources regarding the management of environmental triggers for asthma, visit chronic/asthma.htm.

‘I on Diabetes’

ST. CHARLES—The University of Illinois Extension at 535 South Randall Road in St. Charles, will offer “I on Diabetes,” a series of four, three-hour sessions designed for anyone interested in preventing or managing diabetes.

This program provides information on treatment goals and self-monitoring, and managing carbohydrates, sodium and cholesterol. Additionally, it will cover meal planning, reading food labels, using artificial sweeteners and low-fat products, seasoning with herbs and spices. In each session participants receive recipes, watch cooking demonstrations and taste foods to meet their special needs.

The goal of “I on Diabetes” is to improve diabetic care and overall wellbeing. The program is meant to complement the recommendations of your health care provider and to help you and/or your loved ones manage diabetes.

Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator, Laura Barr will help participants increase their knowledge of healthy food choices using research-based resources.

Health education is needed to understand the food relationship to blood sugar or serum glucose after being diagnosed with diabetes. So, we present relevant topics and cooking demonstrations. Plus, provide recipes and food tasting at each class.

The programs will be presented on consecutive Fridays, (June 1, 8, 15 & 22) from 9:30- 12:30. The cost is $40 for the whole series. Pre-registration and payment for the series are due by May 25. Extension programs reflect a research base without any product endorsement or sales motivation. Registration is available at:

Boot Camp for women promotes health and helps Lazarus House

CAMPTON HILLS— Jackie Kold Fitness and Yoga is holding a Get Smokin’ Hot Boot Camp, June 9-27. The camp will be held from 9-10 a.m daily in a ladies-only setting and each class purchased individually

Camp will be held outside at the studio at 5N201 Shady Oaks Court in Campton Hills and will include nearby parks and trails.

“Because this camp is geared to women, it will address their specific fitness needs,” saidJackie Kold, studio owner and personal trainer/ yoga instructor who runs the camp. “Camp size is limited to 12 female participants to offer the highest quality of instruction.”

All enrollees are asked to bring a dry goods donation for Lazarus House. A donations list is available on the studio website at and also on the Lazarus House website at encourage donations, the studio is offering a drawing for a free boot camp day. Each time a dry goods donation is brought in, an entry into the drawing is made.

In addition to more traditional boot camp exercises, these sessions will include power yoga with bands and free weights to provide full range of motion exercises. Kold will utilize techniques she has developed over the years and specifically designed to help her son, Garrett prepare for the Air Force Special Forces. Garrett, now in the Air Force, will help lead the camp on select days while he is on leave this June.

“My workouts also have a strong ‘guts and butts’ component because these are key areas where women want to lose weight and tone up. For flexibility and strength, we warm up and cool down with yoga,” Kold said.

In addition to personal training, Kold also offers yoga classes for women at studio, including power yoga classes, which strengthens her students using free weights during yoga poses.

Daily Camp Cost is $20 if you register by May 25, and $22 to register after that date while space lasts. For more information, visit or call Jackie at the Studio at (630) 584-2254.

Homes for Endangered and Lost Pets

ST. CHARLES—Spring is here, and with it comes kittens. Homes for Endangered and Lost Pets (H.E.L.P.) is seeking volunteers to care for orphaned kittens in their homes. H.E.L.P. provides supplies, veterinary care, and training. These young kittens usually require bottle feeding, which must be done at regular intervals. Depending on their age, this could require feeding overnight. This is a challenging, rewarding opportunity.

Volunteers must be adults and must be able to keep the kittens in a separate room of their home. If you would like to volunteer, or for more information about H.E.L.P.’s bottle feeding program, please call Lisa at (630) 879-7130.

H.E.L.P. is a volunteer based not-for-profit organization in the St. Charles area. H.E.L.P. strives to provide medical care and a safe, happy, and comfortable living environment for as many cats and dogs possible while maintaining a high standard of care for these animals and making a best effort to ensure these animals are adopted into quality adoptive homes. More information is available on the H.E.L.P. website,

Reducing the stigma

Photo: Board member Rosalie Link (left to right), Development Manager Miranda Barfuss, Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg, Board President Jim Di Ciaula, former Board President Diane Gibson and Executive Director Jim Otepka. Courtesy Photo

TriCity Family Services promotes mental health awareness
by Susan O’Neill
GENEVA—May is the month designated for Mental Health Awareness, but TriCity Family Services (TCFS) works all year long to raise awareness and the importance of mental health.

“None of us is really immune from dealing with mental health crises in our lives,” TCFS Executive Director Jim Otepka said.

According to a National Institute of Mental Health statistic, one-in-four American adults 18 and over lives with a diagnosable, treatable mental health condition. They can go on to live full and productive lives; however, many people never seek or receive help due to stigma, lack of information, cost or lack of health care coverage.

Otepka said that TCFS has an important role to play in raising the awareness and reducing the stigma of mental illness. The agency offers community-centered educational programs, and agency staff conduct presentations for civic groups and organizations of all types, from mothers’ groups and Parent Teacher Organizations to church ministerial groups, as well as round tables for schools’ student services personnel.

Typical topics for the round tables include bullying, school avoidance and refusal, as well as risk factors for suicide and suicide prevention.

“Schools are 40 percent of our referrals,” Otepka said.

Counselors at TCFS offer help to students with attention disorders, depression, anxiety, incidents of self-mutilation, and for victims of bullying.

TCFS is a private, not-for-profit agency that provides mental health services to people and organizations in central Kane County, particularly those individuals and families who are uninsured or underinsured. The service area includes the cities of Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles, as well as Campton, Virgil, Blackberry and Kaneville townships. The agency offers sliding scale fees, and scholarships are available for group programs.

Approximately 90 percent of all counseling clients pay less than the full fee, nearly two-thirds of all child and adolescent clients it serves use Medicaid, and more than half of all counseling clients have reported incomes of $30,000 or less.

When TCFS was founded in 1967, teens were at the core of its services. Through the 2012 Teens Won’t Wait Project, the agency is currently working to better meet the needs of teens in the community through obtaining additional funding.

Group programs for teens include a Wilderness Challenge Program, an eight-day therapeutic adventure that provides a positive peer group experience for at-risk teens; a Young Women’s Retreat, a weekend of building self-esteem and peer support; Mindful Emotions, an eight-week class that helps teen girls strengthen their communication skills and develop healthy coping strategies; and Smart Choices, an anger management class for teens to learn new ways to handle anger that includes working with their families to help change the family dynamics.

The agency offers prevention and early intervention programs, as well as counseling, workshops and other services to promote good mental health and effective family functioning.

“Our area of specialization is working with families,” Otepka said.

He explained that gaining an understanding of the problem within the context of the family allows family members to be part of the treatment.

In addition to divorce support workshops for children, anger management for children and adults, groups for single moms and for grandparents raising grandchildren, TCFS also offers family enrichment groups, designed to build stronger ties between parents and their children and among siblings.

Offered in schools and school settings, the family enrichment groups include families sharing a meal, a discussion with the adults about parenting while the children participate in art or other forms of therapy, ending with an activity that includes both parents and children.

Simply setting aside the time to interact as a family has significant benefits, said Denis Ferguson, director of the Behavioral Health Program.

Ferguson said TCFS staff includes six full and part-time therapists for adults and six for family services.

“We also see a fair amount of couples,” he said. “That’s a key area for us.”

Ferguson explained that the philosophy TCFS staff ascribe to is that the body and the mind are interconnected, and their approach is holistic. They participate in outreach activities, such as a Children’s Wellness Fair in St. Charles and offer classes on mental health issues as part of the Batavia High School health curriculum.

The agency has recently initiated a pilot program with the Visiting Nurses Association Health Care in Aurora, in its pediatric clinics. Staff consult with doctors regarding children with physical complaints, but without a medical reason. In the first three months of the program, they have received 40 referrals for issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorders (ADHD), bi-polar disorders, anxiety and depression.

Their goal is to determine if they can help people improve their general health with behavioral health programs.

“There is no health without mental health,” Ferguson said.

New rule for school: Whooping cough shot for 6th-, 9th-graders

KANE COUNTY—Beginning this fall, for school year 2012-13, the state of Illinois is requiring that all students entering sixth and ninth grades provide proof of a dose of the whooping cough (Tdap) vaccination in addition to the school physicals required at these grades.

Numerous outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) have occurred recently among school children in Illinois, and the numbers seem to be on the rise. While Kane’s numbers are not quite as high as some of those in neighboring counties, there have been 37 cases so far this year, compared to 54 last year.

“As we approach the end of the school year, I want to encourage parents of next year’s sixth- and ninth-graders to schedule those physicals and shots,” said Kane County Health Department Executive Director Paul Kuehnert. “You will be taking steps to keep them healthy and at the same time meet the school requirements.”

Because pertussis is so highly contagious, the infection often spreads rapidly through school environments. It is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing and may cause illness that persists for weeks to months. Pertussis does not typically cause severe illness in healthy students, but can prolong absences from school and extracurricular activities.

In addition, pertussis can be transmitted from healthy students to infants and individuals with chronic illnesses, for whom pertussis can be life threatening. Vaccinations are available from your personal physician, from one of the Federally Qualified Health Centers and from some pharmacies.

More information on the new requirement is available by visiting, by contacting your school or calling the Health Department’s Bee Wize Immunization Program at 866-BeeWize (1-866-233-9493).

“We are encouraging parents not to wait until the last minute to get the vaccination for their sixth and ninth graders,” Kuehnert said. “Now is an ideal time to make an appointment and avoid the rush.”

Protection against pertussis begins to decrease over time. This puts pre-teens, teenagers and adults at risk for the illness. To address this increase in pertussis disease among older students, proof of one dose of a booster vaccination called Tdap (for protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) is being required by the state for all students in grades six and nine. However, all students in grades six through 12 should have a record of a dose of Tdap, as it is likely to be required in the future.

Some other immunizations that also are recommended for this age group include the meningococcal vaccine, a second chickenpox shot (if they never had chickenpox disease), and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series. During flu season, it is also recommended that everyone older than 6 months receive a seasonal flu vaccine.

National Medication Take-Back Day at the SG Police Department

SUGAR GROVE—This program is part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The DEA works with area agencies twice a year in April and October. This one-day drop-off program will take place Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Sugar Grove Police Department, 10 S. Municipal Drive, Sugar Grove.

Last October, Americans turned in 377,080 pounds—188.5 tons—of prescription drugs at over 5,300 sites operated by the DEA and nearly 4,000 state and local law enforcement partners. In its three previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners took in almost a million pounds—nearly 500 tons—of pills.

This initiative addresses a public safety and health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. Additionally, flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

Bring your medications for disposal to Sugar Grove Police Department, located at 10 S. Municipal Drive, Sugar Grove. The service is free and anonymous; no questions asked. The following is a list of acceptable and not acceptable items.

Acceptable items: non-controlled DEA drugs, medication samples, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, medicated ointments/lotions, vitamins, and medications for pets

Non-acceptable items: thermometers, narcotics/DEA controlled drugs, IV bags, sharps/needles (see below for disposal), bloody or infectious waste and empty containers

Medication Collection

1. Leave items in their original containers. Pill bottles, blister packs, ointment tubes and leak-proof liquid containers are all acceptable.
2. Remove or black out any personal information on the label to protect your privacy.

Year-round medication
drop-off locations:

• Naperville Fire Station No. 4
Route 59 and Brookdale Road, Naperville
9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays & Sundays
(except on holidays)

• Fox Metro Water Reclamation District
682 Route 31, Oswego, Ill.
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday thru Friday
(except on holidays)