Current Health Issues

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an illness caused by a virus that can spread from person to person. COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild (or no symptoms) to severe illness and death. The vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalization or death from COVID-19. All Minnesotans 6 months and older are now eligible for the vaccines which are free and widely available at locations throughout the community.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 and prevent its spread, visit the county’s COVID-19 page.

Monkeypox

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus (Orthopoxvirus). Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses that causes smallpox and not related to Chickenpox or Herpes.

Avian Influenza H5N2

Avian influenza viruses are spread to people through direct contact with infected birds or their environments. Person-to-person spread is extremely rare. There is no food safety risk associated with this virus; the only risk is for workers at commercial farms or, potentially, owners of small urban flocks.

Private wells tested for dioxane in Gem Lake area

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) have completed additional testing for 1,4-dioxane in private wells in the Gem Lake area. Testing results show that private wells on 13 properties have 1,4-dioxane above the MDH Health Risk Limit (HRL) of 1 part per billion (ppb). These concentrations are just above the HRL and present a low health risk. A map of the current status of 1,4-dioxane well sampling results is on the MPCA webpage: Protecting Gem Lake residents from contaminated drinking water.

Affected residents have been contacted and will receive bottled water. The distribution of the 1,4-dioxane in the private wells makes the source unclear. Additional sampling efforts to identify the source are ongoing.

Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Battle Creek

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has determined through recent testing that exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS, while swimming in Battle Creek and Battle Creek Lake is not a health concern. New MDH testing has also reconfirmed the human health risk as minor and infrequent for people coming into contact with foam containing PFAS.

Elevated levels of Perfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS, were initially found in foam in Ramsey County’s Battle Creek through testing conducted by MDH and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in 2019. MDH and the MPCA determined that PFAS-containing foam on surface water did not pose a risk to human health if skin contact with the foam is minor and infrequent. Surface water concentrations also tested in 2019 were much lower, indicating the water was safe for recreation.

Additional testing and analysis conducted in 2020 by MDH reconfirm their initial findings. MDH has the following recommendation about foam found on Battle Creek waters: 

  • Be aware that foam with PFAS looks like any other foam that occurs naturally in a stream or lake.
  • People and pets should avoid contact with foam on surface waters in this area.
  • Wash skin that has come into contact with PFAS-containing foam with soap and water.

Drinking water for homes in Maplewood and Saint Paul near and along Battle Creek is provided by the Saint Paul Regional Water System, which has not been impacted by PFAS. Individuals with private wells can complete an online well testing form to request free water testing MDH is offering to individuals who live in the East Metro sampling area.

Hepatitis C and Hepatitis A

A deadly consequence of the opioid crisis is increased incidence of blood-borne infections, including hepatitis B, virus and hepatitis C, and HIV. Using contaminated needles is a primary transmission route for both HIV and hepatitis C. With injection drug use on the rise, new populations, including young people, are at risk.

Ramsey County Public Health is working to stop the spread of infectious diseases among people who inject drugs (PWID). Our syringe services program provides access to prevention and treatment services for HIV and other blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

Outbreaks of hepatitis A have been reported among PWIDs; such outbreaks are believed to occur through both percutaneous and fecal-oral routes. There are currently widespread person-to-person outbreaks of hepatitis A affecting PWID across the United States.

Since May 2019, there has been an increase in Hepatitis A diagnoses among people in Minnesota who are living homeless or injecting drugs. Minnesota’s outbreak-associated cases have risk factors that are consistent with other outbreaks nationwide. For up to date case counts go to the Minnesota Department of Health’s Hepatitis A outbreak webpage.

Tuberculosis

Ramsey County has experienced a significant increase in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in recent years. The majority of cases have impacted Hmong American residents, and Public Health works directly with community partners, hospitals and healthcare facilities to prevent future cases through appropriate screening and treatment. 

Our clinic provides screening for persons that have been in contact with active TB disease, as well as treatment and case management of persons with either latent TB infection or active TB disease. This clinic is by referral only: You will be notified if it has been determined that you may have come in contact with someone with active TB and you should be seen in our clinic. 

Measles

There currently is no outbreak of measles in Ramsey County.  

Mercury poisoning linked to skin products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about skin creams, beauty and antiseptic soaps, or lotions that might contain mercury. Skin products containing mercury have been found in Minnesota and at least six other states. They are manufactured in other countries and marketed as skin lighteners and anti-aging treatments that remove age spots, freckles, blemishes and wrinkles.