As vaping becomes more of a national public health concern, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department plans to rollout education initiatives to make children and parents aware of the risks.
Dr. Sherri Young, health officer and executive director for KCHD, said at Thursday’s board meeting that she plans to bring up the “epidemic” at a meeting with state health officer Cathy Slemp on Friday.
“Our piece right now is more educational, and as we look forward, we’ll look at regulation,” Young said.
As of Thursday, seven deaths nationally have been linked to vaping-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. None have occurred in West Virginia, and of the 530 illnesses recognized by the CDC, none have been confirmed in the state.
Right now, Young said her mission is to ensure the county health department’s message is in line with the state offices.
“We disseminate information; it’s kind of a trickle-down effect,” Young said. “[The CDC] puts out information — they just did today, actually — and then we figure out what to do with it, first at the state [level], then with us.”
Also Thursday, Young said that, through KCHD’s partnership with Covenant House and Health Right, 978 people have been tested for HIV In the last few months. Of those tests, only two were confirmed positive.
Right now, Young said, the priority is ensuring those numbers don’t rise and that KCHD stays in front of the issue.
“We want to be as preemptive as we can here, and that means making every effort we can to connect with and test at-risk communities,” Young said.
KCHD received a $53,000 grant from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation this week that will allow it to expand HIV testing into communities outside of Charleston, starting with St. Albans and Sissonville.
The health department has been collaborating with community members in other parts of Kanawha County in an attempt to expand testing even further, so they can get a full picture of what HIV looks like here.
“We don’t want those numbers to rise, but the most important thing we must do is to identify who needs treatment, and connect them with it,” Young said.
KCHD’s next board meeting will be Nov. 21.