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County officials fear the spread of hepatitis A


Members of the Letcher County Fiscal Court voiced concerns this week about the possible spread of hepatitis A and received information about efforts that are currently underway to combat the spread of the disease.

At the court’s September meeting Monday night, Letcher County Health Department Coordinator Katrina Jones said that while there are 17 reported cases of hepatitis A in the seven-county district that includes Letcher, Knott, Perry, Leslie, Lee, Wolfe, and Owsley counties, there are no reported cases in Letcher County. She stressed that frequent and effective hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of hepatitis A.

Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming said he was very concerned about the disease and that he is particularly worried that it could break out in the Letcher County Jail. He said he fears that if inmates got the disease while they were in jail, they might spread it after they were released. He also said he was concerned about food service workers becoming infected.

“It’s going to happen,” said Fleming. “We need to get ahead of it.”

Jones replied that Scott Lockard, public health director for the district, has obtained a $100,000 grant to be used to vaccinate prisoners as well as other at-risk populations. Fleming said he would like to get Judge/Executive Jim Ward and the health department to work together with businesses that serve food to ensure that food service workers are vaccinated.

Jones said the health department can provide free vaccinations for people with Medicaid or who are underinsured, and but most insurance covers the vaccination at local health care providers. Judge Ward added that most local health facilities and pharmacies offer the vaccination and a lot of the food service businesses have encouraged their workers to get the vaccination. Fleming asked if it was legally required for food service workers to be vaccinated and Jones said it is not. “You see it in the news,” said Fleming.

Judge Ward, who is recovering from an attack of shingles, said he would strongly recommend anyone who is at risk to be vaccinated. Shingles is caused by the varicella virus, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk for shingles and the virus can lay dormant for years before reappearing. It mostly appears in people over 50, but it can reappear in anyone who has had chickenpox. It is not possible to get shingles if a person has never been exposed to the varicella virus or the chickenpox virus. However, the varicella virus can be spread from a person with shingles at the active stage to someone who has never had chickenpox. The infected individual would get chickenpox, rather than shingles. It is spread through contact with the discharge from the blisters formed by the virus.

Regena Triplett-Jones, field representative for U.S. Senator Rand Paul, attended the meeting and told the court she was there to discuss any needs it may have. Fleming told her the biggest concern he has is the extraordinarily high cost of electricity in eastern Kentucky. Fleming said he has been in contact with a number of people who live in the Bluegrass and other parts of Kentucky and rates for power use in eastern Kentucky are almost triple those in other parts of the state. He said the add-ons that are loaded on power bills by American Electric Power and Kentucky Power are the cause, but added that in many cases the high power bills make it very difficult for people on fixed income to purchase food and medicine. One woman in the audience said she had recently moved to Hazard from Lexington and her bill had tripled.

Triplett-Jones told the court she will speak to Senator Paul and make him aware of the problems high power bills are causing for his constituents. Judge Ward said the high rates also affect the ability of eastern Kentucky counties to recruit business and industry.

The court went into executive session concerning a matter of litigation near the end of the meeting and when the members emerged, County Attorney Jamie Hatton recommended they have a survey done to determine the exact boundaries of Uriah Road. The exact boundary is necessary for a lawsuit involving the county road in Quillen vs. Cheyenne Services. The court voted unanimously to approve the survey.

The court also heard the first reading of two ordinances to set speed limits on county roads. The speed limit for Kona Drive will be set at 10 miles per hour and for Doty Creek Road at 15 miles per hour. Fourth District Magistrate Keith Adams said he believes the road in question is Chisholm Road and a mistake was made in identifying it as Doty Creek Road. Judge Ward said he will look into it and it can be corrected before the second reading.

The court also voted unanimously to dedicate Letcher Drive at Letcher in memory of Specialist Five Russell Blair, who served in the U.S. Army. Blair also served as a U.S. Marshal.

Bank balances for county agencies as of August 31

• General Fund: $383,004.45

• Road and Bridge Fund: $1,345,446.27

• Jail Fund: $131,185.39

• LGEA Fund: $814,894.57

• Senior Citizens Fund: $227.65

• Forestry Fund: $20,111.99

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Depreciation Reserve: $20,504.85

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Debt Service: $283,026.31

Total of all funds : $2,998,401.08

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