Columns

Combating the Zika outbreak

 The good news is that summer finally appears to be upon us which means heading to the lake, warming up the grills, and getting out the lawnmowers.  Unfortunately, the warmer weather also brings out mosquito’s, which can carry with it the threat of the Zika Virus.  Zika is spreading rapidly across the Western Hemisphere and within the United States. Here in the House of Representatives, we’re absolutely committed to combating Zika and preventing it from becoming a public health crisis.  While many simply want a blank check to the Obama administration, we’ve instead focused on making common sense, targeted investments to combat this threat. Thus far, the administration has reprogrammed $589 million, and the House acted to pass an additional $622 million to fight the virus.  Additionally, the House passed the Adding Zika to the FDA Priority Review Voucher Program Act, which is now law. This law will prioritize research and development of vaccines and potential treatments related to Zika. The House also passed H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act, which removes burdensome regulatory barriers to killing mosquitoes carrying the virus.  We will continue to work together to prepare for potential outbreaks. Our number one priority remains keeping the American people safe.  To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov.

Six for Six

 The primary responsibility of the Michigan Legislature is to annually produce a balanced budget and oversee the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Last week the Legislature produced its sixth straight balanced budget–four months ahead of time.  That hasn’t always been the case. In 2007 and 2009, Michigan had government shutdowns, legislators sleeping on the floor of the Capitol, and $75 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities. The savings account was drained down to $2 million from $1.2 billion earlier in the decade. We were the only state in the nation to lose population from 2000-2010, and 800,000 jobs were gone.  In 2010, many of us ran to reverse that trend. Today, the State has over 460,000 new jobs, eliminated more than $22 billion of debt, and has rebuilt the rainy day fund to $615 million. We have had our challenges along the way, but the budget for the coming year includes record amounts for schools and transportation–while holding overall spending to a one percent increase, half the rate of inflation. That was done by doing what you do at the kitchen table. It’s called funding your priorities and sticking to the plan.  I have been quoted as saying that this year’s budget is kind of like me-it’s not real pretty but it’s sturdy. It does not include a bunch of new fancy programs with a bunch of election year promises. It fixes roads, funds schools, protects the safety net for those who need it, and helps local communities. I know it’s a good budget because some people think it’s too much, and some people think it’s not enough.   That usually means, it’s just right.  As always, if you have concerns or questions about state government; call us toll free at 888-565-0079 or by e-mail at alpscholka@house.mi.gov. Make it a great day in Michigan.

For your health & safety

Swimming Pool Safety

 The Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) wants to remind residents of safe and healthy swimming practices, including ways to prevent illness and injury, whether swimming in a public or private pool.  Nick Margaritis, Supervising Sanitarian for Environmental Health at the Health Department says, “we each play a role in preventing injuries, such as those from mishandling pool chemicals, or illnesses caused by germs in the places we swim.” Exposure to bacteria or chemicals in pools can cause harm or illness; however, both of these can be prevented through a few simple precautions.  While chlorine and other pool disinfectants kill most germs within minutes, some germs can live in pool water for days. Contaminants from the human body, like urine, feces, and sweat mix with chlorine and form chemicals that can make our eyes red and itchy as well as trigger asthma attacks. Most commonly, the germs present in water we swim in can cause diarrhea, especially if the water is swallowed. It’s very important to keep these germs from contaminants, like urine and feces, out of the water we all swim in. To prevent recreational water illness, you should avoid swallowing pool water or getting water in your mouth, wash hands thoroughly after changing diapers, using the restroom, and before eating or handling food. Never swim if you have diarrhea – you can spread germs in the water and make others sick. Take children on bathroom breaks every 30-60 minutes and only change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area – not poolside where germs can rinse into the water.  Margaritis reminds residents, “staying safe and healthy while enjoying the water is easy. Preventing recreational water illness and injury is a matter of common sense.” Everyone can help create healthy swimming experiences this summer. By following these basic steps, Berrien County residents and visitors can prevent injury and death due to many waterborne infections and outbreaks and enjoy all that the water offers.  For more information, visit the Berrien County Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bchdmi.

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