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Author Archive for Heather Hyatt

Local Man Charged in Shooting Death of His Father

Travis Heffner has been charged in the shooting death of his father Kenneth Heffner

Travis Heffner has been charged in the shooting death of his father Kenneth Heffner

On October 20, 2014, at approximately 6:38 p.m., the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call at 77 Paniolo Drive, Sylva, NC regarding a shooting. The caller stated to the 911 operator that he had shot his father. 911 dispatchers kept the caller on the phone, instructed him how to check for breath, and eventually how to conduct CPR. Deputies arrived on scene a short time later and assisted with CPR. West Care EMS arrived shortly thereafter and continued CPR with assistance from the Balsam-Willets Volunteer Fire Department’s first responders. Deputies secured the shooting scene, then obtained and served a search warrant. Deputies were assisted by agents with the NCSBI during the search. As a result of the investigation and after conferring with the District Attorney’s Office, the caller, identified as Travis Lindsey Heffner, was arrested and charged. The deceased is Kenneth Rodney Heffner, father of the suspect. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

Time to Escape a Home Fire? 2 Minutes, Says Red Cross

 In addition to checking the batteries in your smoke detectors, the American Red Cross recommends going over your home escape plan in the event of a fire. Photo credit: S. Carson.

In addition to checking the batteries in your smoke detectors, the American Red Cross recommends going over your home escape plan in the event of a fire. Photo credit: S. Carson.

More than 2,300 people die nationwide and another nearly 13,000 are injured in home fires. This month, the American Red Cross is kicking off a national campaign to reduce deaths and injuries from house fires by as much as 25% over the next five years.

While installing smoke detectors and changing their batteries is an important part of fire safety, the group’s Anne Marie Borrego says your family’s escape plan is just as important, “I would say if there’s one thing that you can do today it’s to go home and really practice that escape plan. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to sit down and talk with your family and actually see how long it’s going to take you to get out of your home.”

A recent Red Cross survey found that people believe they have more time than they do to escape a burning home. Fire experts estimate people have as little as two minutes to escape, while 62% of respondents believe they have at least five minutes.

According to the survey, nearly seven in 10 parents believed their children knew what to do if their house caught on fire, but less than one in five families with children have practiced home fire drills and less than half of them have talked with their children about fire safety.

Borrego says fire safety is a conversation worth having with your kids, “My advice would be to do it in a very matter-of-fact manner. It’s important to talk with them about the need to prepare just in case and to reassure them that mom and dad are doing this just so everyone stays safe.”

The National Fire Protection Association recommends smoke alarms installed inside of every bedroom and on every level of your home.

Moral March to take place on Thursday

A Moral March to the polls is being held in Sylva on Thursday October 23rd–just in time for early voting. Activists and participants will gather at 10:00 am in front of the old Jackson County Courthouse on Main Street and make the 2 mile walk to the Board of Elections office on Skyland Drive.
The Reverend Charles Lee will be leading the procession to the Elections office.

New Book Chronicles History of GSMNP

As one of the largest and wildest national parks in the East and as America’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains has a long history that is both dramatic and highly influential.

“Unlike most western parks, which were carved from vacant, public domain or national forest lands, this national park had to be purchased entirely from private landowners,” said Steve Kemp, interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association, publisher of “Mountains for the Masses: A History of Management Issues in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” a new administrative history of this national park.

The park’s acquired area covers more than half a million acres. While logging companies owned 85 percent of this land, it also encompassed more than 1,000 family farms.

“Making a park and a wilderness from settled, logged-off lands had both political and environmental consequences,” said Kemp. “Throughout this history, the issues of preserving mountain culture, designating wilderness, protecting wildlife and biodiversity – all while managing roads, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities for millions of annual visitors – had to be reckoned with and resolved.”

Chapter topics within “Mountains for the Masses” cover important issues such as: wildlife management, the campaign to establish a park, the CCC era, preserving the mountain culture, Cades Cove, wilderness designation, entrance fees, Mission 66, fisheries management, and the legacy of dispossession.

A comprehensive index makes “Mountains for the Masses” an invaluable reference tool for libraries, agencies and citizens with an interest in how their public land is managed and protected.

“Park superintendents understandably eschew labeling parks as ‘crown jewel’ or ‘flagships,’ insisting that each unit in the National Park System deserves to be valued on its own merits,” author Theodore Catton said. “Still, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by any measure one of the superlative national parks in the United States.

“Arno B. Cammerer, a key player in the campaign to establish the park in the 1920s, glimpsed its future greatness and popularity when he predicted that Great Smoky Mountains would become a haven for all ‘those from the congested centers of population, the workers of the machines in the lofts and mills, the clerks at the desks, and the average fellow of the small towns,’ who, with only a few days’ vacation at their disposal, would “get the recreation and inspiration that [their] more fortunate brothers now get out of a visit to the Yellowstone or Yosemite,” Catton continued.

Catton is also the author of “Inhabited Wilderness: Indians, Eskimos and National Parks in Alaska” and “National Park, City Playground: Mount Rainier in the Twentieth Century.” Proceeds from sales of the hardback edition at $40, including dozens of photographs of key park staff sites, support the preservation of this national park.

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA.

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA.

For more information about GSMA or how to order this new volume, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org; or call toll-free 888-898-9102.

Haywood County Student Jailed After Bringing Handgun to School

A 16-year-old Haywood County student is in jail after being charged with bringing a handgun to school.

According to the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, deputies arrested Dakota Levi Rose at Central Haywood High School and charged him with felony possession of a gun on educational property after he was found to have a .22-caliber revolver on him while on school campus. The weapon was not loaded and no ammunition was found on Rose.

The incident occurred around 2 p.m. after another student reported to a teacher that Rose had a gun. Rose was arrested without incident.

Rose has a pending charge for an arrest October 7 for misdemeanor assault and battery involving another student.

Rose was jailed in lieu of $5,000 secured bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for November 5.

Jackson County Sheriff Offers Halloween Safety Tips

Soon our streets will be scattered with little ghosts, goblins and witches trick-or-treating this Halloween. “Halloween should be filled with surprise and enjoyment, and following some common sense practices can keep events safer and more fun,” said Sheriff Jimmy Ashe.

The Sheriff reminds all Jackson County residents to follow these safety tips:
Motorists:
· Watch for children darting out from between parked cars.
· Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs.

· Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.

· At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.

Parents:
· Make sure that an adult or an older responsible youth will be supervising the outing for children under age 12.
· Check the sex offender registry at sexoffender.ncdoj.gov/ when planning your child’s trick-or-treat route. You can view maps that pinpoint registered offenders’ addresses in your neighborhood, and sign up to get email alerts when an offender moves nearby.
· Plan and discuss the route trick-or-treaters intend to follow. Know the names of older children’s companions.
· Make sure older kids trick-or-treat in a group.

· Instruct your children to travel only in familiar areas and along an established route.

· Teach your children to stop only at houses or apartment buildings that are well-lit and never to enter a stranger’s home.

· Establish a return time.

· Tell your youngsters not to eat any treats until they return home.

· Review all appropriate trick-or-treat safety precautions, including pedestrian/traffic safety rules.

· All children need to know their home telephone number and how to call 9-1-1 in case of emergency.

· Pin a slip of paper with the child’s name, address and telephone number inside a pocket in case the youngster gets separated from the group.

Costume Design:
Only fire-retardant materials should be used for costumes.
Costumes should be loose so warm clothes can be worn underneath.
Costumes should not be so long that they are a tripping hazard.
Make sure that shoes fit well to prevent trips and falls.
If children are allowed out after dark, outfits should be made with light colored materials. Strips of retro-reflective tape should be used to make children visible.

Face Design:
Do not use masks as they can obstruct a child’s vision. Use facial make-up instead.
When buying special Halloween makeup, check for packages containing ingredients that are labeled “Made with U.S. Approved Color Additives,” “Laboratory Tested,” “Meets Federal Standards for Cosmetics,” or “Non-Toxic.” Follow manufacturer’s instruction for application.
If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes.

Accessories:
Knives, swords and other accessories should be made from cardboard or flexible materials. Do not allow children to carry sharp objects.
Bags or sacks carried by youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape if children are allowed out after dark.
Carrying flashlights with fresh batteries will help children see better and be seen more clearly.
While Trick-or-Treating:
Do not enter homes or apartments without adult supervision.
Walk; do not run, from house to house. Do not cross yards and lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can present tripping hazards.
Walk on sidewalks, not in the street.
Walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic if there are no sidewalks.

Treats:
Give children an early meal before going out.
Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten.
Wash fruit and slice it into small pieces.
Throw away any candy that is unwrapped or partially wrapped, or has a strange odor, color or texture.

Homeowners/Decorations:
Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
Remove obstacles from lawns, steps and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from curtains, decorations and other combustibles that could catch fire.
Do not leave your house unattended.
“Halloween is a fun time in Jackson County,” Sheriff Ashe concluded, “But let’s make it a safe time as well. The major dangers are not from witches or spirits but rather from falls and pedestrian/car crashes. “

Park Plans Prescribed Burn in Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials are planning prescribed burns in the Canadian Top Knob, Mathews Branch, and Noland Mountain areas adjacent to Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. Weather permitting, burn operations could begin as early as Monday, October 20, and may continue intermittently through mid-November.

The burn units this year are part of the larger Canadian Top multi-year prescribed fire project in which fire managers have been conducting a series of low-intensity, controlled burns to restore the composition and open structure of the oak woodlands that occur on upper slopes and ridges. These fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region.

“The prescribed burns in Cataloochee are critical for the health of oak and pine woodlands. The restoration of this habitat will help to sustain populations of elk and numerous other plants and animals native to Cataloochee Valley,” said National Park Service Fire Ecologist Rob Klein.

This series of burns will reduce the number of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs, increase the regeneration of fire-tolerant oak and yellow pines, and increase the cover and diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. Over time, this increase in herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows. The burn operations will be conducted by park staff and are partially funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“It is exciting when two resource management organizations’ missions are able to be joined in partnership for mutually beneficial results,” said Wildland Fire Unit Leader Shane Paxton.

Roads and trails will remain open to the public throughout the burn operations, although Little Cataloochee Trail may be temporarily closed if fire activity warrants. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area.

Local Gospel Singer Passes Away

norman-wilson-passes-awayNorman Wilson of The Primitive Quartet passed away Wednesday after suffering an apparent massive heart attack while hunting with friends in Graham County. Wilson played mandolin and sang tenor for the band since 1973.

The Primitive Quartet began when two sets of brothers, Reagan and Larry Riddle and Furman and Norman Wilson, carried a guitar and mandolin with them on a fishing trip to Fontana Lake. After the fishing trip, with the encouragement of their parents and pastor, they began to sing together at area churches, calling themselves the Riddle-Wilson Quartet.

The Riddle and Wilson brothers went on the road as full-time musicians in 1978. Now called the Primitive Quartet, in honor of the old-time gospel singing that inspired them.

They have recorded several albums and have toured throughout the United States and abroad. The group was the subject of a BBC documentary in 1984, and Singing News has listed them among the top five nominees for its readers’ Band of the Year award for several years consecutively. All but one of “the Primitives” live in Candler.

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital prepared for Ebola

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital are working closely with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure our hospitals are prepared with the appropriate plans to detect, protect and respond should anyone in our community contract or be exposed to the Ebola virus. While we have not treated any patients with Ebola at our hospitals, and there have been no confirmed cases in North Carolina, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital have taken the following measures to prepare:

· Triage and admission assessments have been revised to include questions regarding travel to high risk areas, as well as recent contact with people from those areas.
· Notices have been placed at entrances asking anyone who has a fever and has traveled outside the country, or who has had exposure to an international traveler to notify staff.
· Dedicated isolation rooms have been designated for patients who may have been exposed to Ebola and protective gear has been provided for our employees.

Staff members at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital are taking additional preparedness steps by participating in a drill exercise focused on the hospitals’ response in the event Ebola becomes present in our community. Staff members are also joining regional training sessions on specific precautionary safety measures related to treatment.

“Ongoing readiness is part of our culture of safety at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital regardless of the issue or potential threat. We are monitoring the Ebola outbreak on a daily basis and are aligned with national, state and local resources in our preparedness planning,” said Steve Heatherly, president and CEO of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital.

“Our staff is trained and prepared to manage outbreaks of viruses and infectious diseases, including Ebola. We want to assure the community that we are taking the appropriate precautionary measures to keep our employees, visitors, and community safe and prevent the spread of this virus,” said Anetra Jones, chief nurse executive for the hospitals.

For more information visit www.cdc.gov or www.ncdhhs.gov or call the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Ebola hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital have served Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham counties with primary and subspecialty care, outpatient facilities and urgent care together since 1997. The hospitals became part of Duke LifePoint Healthcare in 2014.

Farmland Preservation workshops to be held across the state

The N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund will hold six workshops across the state for those interested in protecting local agricultural lands. The ADFP Trust Fund will be collaborating with the state USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service staff to host these workshops.

The Farmland Preservation workshops target non-profit conservation organizations and county agencies. Farmers, landowners and others interested in the preservation of working lands are also encouraged to attend. The workshops are highly recommended for all past, present or potential recipients of federal and/or state grants associated with farmland preservation. The workshops are free and open to the public.
Workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the following dates:

Oct. 28 – Haywood County Center, 589 Raccoon Road, Waynesville;
Oct. 29 – Catawba County Center, 1175 S. Brady Ave., Newton;
Nov. 5 – Guilford County Center, 3309 Burlington Road, Greensboro;
Nov. 6 – Richmond County Center, 123 Caroline St., Rockingham;
Nov. 12 – Sen. Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center, 2900 N.C. Highway 125 South, Williamston;
Nov. 13 – Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center, University of Mount Olive, 652 R.B. Butler Drive, Mount Olive;
For more information and to register, go to www.ncadfp.org/FarmlandPreservationWorkshops.htm.

WCU faculty to discuss Ebola crisis risk and response at Nov. 4 event

A panel of Western Carolina University faculty members, including an environmental health professor who has studied the spread and control of infectious agents such as Ebola for more than two decades, will take part in a discussion about the virus on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Part of WCU’s Global Spotlight Series, the event will be held in the auditorium of the Forsyth Building from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Faculty members Burton Ogle, Jen Schiff, Rebecca Dobbs and Saheed Aderinto will offer environmental health, political, geographic and historical perspectives of Ebola based on their expertise and participate in a question-and-answer session.

Ogle, director of WCU’s environmental health program, will discuss the risk of exposure and transmission of Ebola and prevention strategies. Ogle was consulted 25 years ago when a strain of Ebola was detected in monkeys in Reston, Virginia, and has researched the virus and the connection to infectious disease transmission protection and bioterrorism preparedness.

The primary transmission of Ebola is through direct contact with bodily fluids such as urine and blood and waste material such as feces, and the country’s health care facilities follow protocols that assume people are carriers of infectious disease and thus take action such as wearing protective clothing, masks, eye protection, gloves and other gear to reduce the risk of transmission, Ogle said.

“In the U.S., we have very little chance of contracting the disease,” he said.

Ogle anticipates there will be more isolated “travelers cases” similar to the recent situation in which a man who was exposed to Ebola in Liberia and traveled to Texas was diagnosed in the United States with Ebola. He died Oct. 8. Despite dozens of people having contact with the man and continuing to be monitored for symptoms by health authorities, as of Wednesday, Oct. 15, only two people – nurses who treated him directly – have been diagnosed with Ebola. An investigation is under way to discover how they were exposed and how safety could be further enhanced at all health care facilities to prevent such exposure.

Schiff, an assistant professor of political science and public affairs, will discuss which countries and organizations are supporting humanitarian efforts to help stop the spread of Ebola. In addition, she will speak about “why shutting down the borders won’t necessarily solve the problem,” and could do more long-term damage to countries battling the spread of Ebola and efforts to halt the spread of the virus, she said.

Dobbs, an instructor of geography, will talk about spatial patterns of the current Ebola outbreak and past outbreaks, the role of environmental changes such as deforestation and climate change in the current outbreak, and geographic considerations associated with human travel and interaction.

“Both local and global conditions matter in understanding the origin of the outbreak and its potential for broader diffusion,” said Dobbs.

Aderinto, an assistant professor of history with expertise in African history who is a native of Nigeria, will discuss the spread of Ebola in the context of African’s underdevelopment – a process he traces to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“The entrenchment of epidemic diseases, whether Ebola or HIV/AIDS, are obvious manifestations of poor medical facilities, illiteracy, politicization of knowledge, poverty across ethnicity, social class, gender and generation – all of which should be traced to colonialism, neo-colonialism and the corruption of African leaders,” said Aderinto. “Ebola – like HIV/AIDS – hit the poorest countries in Africa really hard because disease and disease control cannot be understood in isolation from the broader crisis of underdevelopment.”

David Dorondo, an associate professor of history with expertise in European military and political history and one of the panel organizers, said Ebola also is important in the discussion of national security, which is increasingly defined in terms broader than traditional military terms.

“Issues such as climate change, epidemic – or even pandemic – disease, water shortages, uncontrolled migration and others are appearing ever more frequently in the calculations of governments and the leadership of their armed forces,” he said.

Today’s armed forces are involved in supporting civilian aid agencies and humanitarian efforts including the fight to stop Ebola, and the reduction of military budgets in recent years could “hamstring some of the most effective ways to get massive aid to faraway places in rapid fashion,” he said.

The Global Spotlight Series is organized by Dorondo, Schiff and Niall Michelsen, associate professor of political science and public affairs.

Info: Michelsen (828) 227-3336.

You’ve ‘Goat’ to be Kidding: Eradicating NC Kudzu

These goats (and a canine friend) are taking a break on a big job. Wells Farm rents them out to help eradicate invasive kudzu on protected lands. Photo courtesy of Pacolet Area Conservancy.

These goats (and a canine friend) are taking a break on a big job. Wells Farm rents them out to help eradicate invasive kudzu on protected lands. Photo courtesy of Pacolet Area Conservancy.

Goats are known for their insatiable appetite and love of climbing, which makes them the perfect candidates for the job of cleaning up kudzu in North Carolina. Land trusts are using goats to clean up land that’s been overtaken by the invasive plant on several conservation properties.

The Pacolet Area Conservancy in Tryon is wrapping up a project using goats, explains stewardship director Pam Torlina, “I have been really amazed. What’s great about the goats going in, they can get into some really steep areas, where if you were to take machinery or something like that in, it could really start depleting the soil.”

Torlina says the goats visit twice a year, and it normally takes three years for them to make the land kudzu-free. Kudzu was brought to the US from Japan in the late 1800s, but prevents vegetation from growing and spreads quickly. Other kudzu eradication projects using goats are taking place in Roan Mountain and Hickory Nut Gorge.

Ron Searcy and his wife own Wells Farm in Transylvania County, and for the last eight years they’ve rented out their goats to places like the Pacolet Area Conservancy. He says it’s turned into a booming business, and they rent about 300 goats every year to locations in five states, “It’s just perfect browse-land for them. Goats like things that are up high anyway, so kudzu being vines and up in trees, and off the ground a good ways, it’s just desirable for goats.”

Torlina says goats have benefits for the land and community that machinery can’t provide.”They’re really low-impact, they add fertilizer as well, and they’re quiet. And in public places, people just love coming to see them and see the impact that they have on the land in a positive way, as far as getting rid of kudzu.”

By eliminating the kudzu, Torlina says land trusts encourage survival of native plants and animals that are otherwise being pushed out by the invasive plant. She adds it’s part of the long-term commitment to take care of land-trust acreage.

October 16th Earthquake Preparedness Day

Governor Pat McCrory has proclaimed October 16 as Earthquake Preparedness Day and is encouraging North Carolina families, business and schools to practice how to protect themselves in an earthquake by using three simple steps: drop, cover and hold.
An estimated 100 million people felt the earthquake in Mineral, Virginia on August 23, 2011 that damaged homes and buildings in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

If you feel shaking, emergency management and earthquake officials recommended that you:

• Drop to the ground

• Take cover under a sturdy desk or table

• Hold on to the desk until the shaking stops.

• If there is no table or desk nearby, crouch in an inside corner of a building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.

• Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, bookshelves, lamps, TVs, cabinets and other objects as much as possible. Such items may fall and cause injuries.

Do not get in a doorway. It is not safe and does not protect you from falling or flying objects.

Do not run outside. Running in an earthquake is dangerous. The ground is moving making it easy to fall or be injured by falling structures, trees, debris or glass. If you are outside during an earthquake, move to a clear area that is away from trees, signs, buildings or downed electrical lines.

McCrory encouraged North Carolinians to join the other Southeastern states and Washington, D.C., in the third Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake exercise, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16 at 10:16 a.m.

Families, businesses and schools can register their participation at www.shakeout.org/southeast. Participants will be notified of events in their area and receive regular information on how to plan their drill and become better prepared for earthquakes and other disasters.

More earthquake preparedness tips can be found online at www.ReadyNC.org. North Carolinians can also download the free ReadyNC mobile app – available for both iPhone and Droid devices – that provides real-time weather and traffic alerts plus readiness tips for a variety of emergencies.

State Health Officials Preparing for Ebola In NC

Aldona Wos leads the Department of Health and Human Services

Aldona Wos leads the Department of Health and Human Services

Secretary Aldona Wos said that the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Division of Public Health has been working closely with its public health partners and health care providers since July to prepare for the possibility that a patient in North Carolina might be diagnosed with Ebola. Over the past few months, extensive guidance has been sent to health care providers and procedures have been put in place to routinely screen and evaluate patients.

“North Carolina’s health care community is ready to identify and respond to a case of Ebola,” said Secretary Aldona Wos, M.D. “If a case were to occur in North Carolina, state and local health officials would rapidly identify everyone who was potentially exposed and take immediate measures to prevent further spread. Our public health professionals have extensive training and experience with this type of investigation and response.”

Public health officials are actively monitoring for cases using a variety of methods, including surveillance of emergency department visits and collaborating with a network of hospital-based Public Health Epidemiologists. DHHS’ State Laboratory of Public Health also has successfully established the capability to rapidly detect Ebola infection using procedures and materials provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Additionally, public health officials and DHHS’ Office of Emergency Medical Services have provided assistance to local EMS agencies with triage and treatment protocols for any potential Ebola patients.

“North Carolina has a strong health care system and a multi-faceted public health infrastructure,” added Dr. Wos. “I am confident in the measures in place and the strength of our system. The keys are for all health care providers to take full travel histories from their patients and for good infection control practices to be strictly applied.”

Ebola is only contagious after the onset of symptoms. The incubation period before symptoms may appear is 2-21 days, with 8-10 days being the most common. Ebola is spread through unprotected contact with blood or body fluids from someone who is infected. Anyone who becomes ill within 21 days after traveling to an affected area in West Africa should contact a healthcare provider right away and limit their contact with others until they have been evaluated.

In addition to the current Ebola virus preparedness response, DHHS’ Division of Public Health tracks and responds to cases and outbreaks due to other infections, including food-borne, vector-borne and respiratory diseases.

Keeping the Trick Out of Halloween Treats for Food Allergy Sufferers

gr-42236-1-1A bag of Halloween candy isn’t all treats for the one in thirteen U-S kids who suffer from food allergies, which is why one group is working to make this year’s holiday a little less tricky.

Angela Fuller founded Food Allergy Families of the Triad after her child was born with food allergies. She says she really appreciates people who distribute inexpensive items that aren’t going to exclude her child as they trick-or-treat, “Whenever people do offer food-free treats like little spider rings or bouncy balls, those are the things that our kids can enjoy and they get just as much enjoyment out of those things as kids do out of a Snickers bar.”

This year Fuller and other families will be looking for houses with a special pumpkin. The group Food Allergy Research and Education is encouraging houses who participate to paint a pumpkin teal, the color of food allergy awareness, and put it on the porch or doorstep, along with a sign indicating the house is allergy-safe. A free printable sign and more information is online at FoodAllergy.org.

Veronica LaFemina with the group “Food Allergy Research and Education” adds that food allergies can leave many children feeling left out, and she hopes the Teal Pumpkin Project will help create a more inclusive holiday, “It’s empowering for families managing food allergies to know that their neighbors and communities really want to make sure that their children are feeling involved and safe, and able to participate in the same way their friends can.”

Fuller says with candy being such a traditional part of Halloween, her group and others are working hard to realize there are other options that can be found at a comparable cost, “It’s really just getting our generation and previous generations to get on board and recognize that it wasn’t like this when we were kids but this is where we are now. ”

Because of cross-contamination risks for allergy sufferers and other safety concerns for all kids, experts remind parents to carefully inspect Halloween treats, and to set a “No Eating While Trick-or-Treating” policy.

No Guns at NC State Fair Rules Judge

NC_State_Fair-520x300If you’re planning to go to the state fair in Raleigh, leave your guns at home. A judge ruled Monday that concealed handguns will not be allowed at the North Carolina State Fair, a decision that disappointed gun-rights advocates who asked for the ban to be overturned.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said he believed “it would be unwise and imprudent to allow firearms into the State Fair.”
An attorney for the state argued that people just want to go to the fair, eat a fried Twinkie and enjoy the rides. The attorney warned that people often lose items while on rides.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as it has in previous years, said it plans to put up signs warning against lawful conceal carry at the 11-day event and will ask anyone with a weapon going through metal detectors at fair gates to leave it in their vehicle.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says he made the decision based on what he says is a vague 2013 law prohibiting people from carrying guns at events where admission is charged.

Gun-rights group Grass Roots North Carolina says there is nothing in the law that requires Troxler to prohibit guns. The group said it believes the commissioner is choosing to keep permit-holders from protecting their families.

Fair officials said they heard from dozens of people who said they wouldn’t attend the fair if concealed weapons were allowed. Troxler says the policy has nothing to do with being against guns or the Second Amendment but that it is about concerns of accidental discharge.

NC Drivers Beware of Deer

The arrival of the fall season not only means dropping temperatures and leaves, but also an increase in the chances of a collision with a deer across North Carolina. Between 2011 and 2013, nearly half of the more than 61,000 animal-related crashes took place in October through December. About 90 percent of those involved deer.

A N.C. Department of Transportation study shows that in 2013, there were 20,308 animal-related crashes, a slight increase over the 2012 figure, but still well below the numbers reported in 2010 and 2011.

Over the past three years, animal-related crashes claimed 18 lives, injured more than 3,400 drivers and passengers, and caused more than $149 million in damages.

Counties in the far western section of the state, where there are considerably fewer drivers and road mileage, once again reported the lowest number of crashes. Swain County had the fewest number of animal-related crashes with 5, falling just below Graham (9) and Jackson (11) counties.

Serena Author to Appear At WCU for reading; book signing

Western Carolina University’s Office of First Year Experience will host “An Evening with Ron Rash” on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Coulter Building recital hall at 7 p.m.

Rash, an award-winning writer and WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, will read from his novel “Serena,” answer questions about the book and sign copies at the event, which is free and open to the public. Serena has now been made into a motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper which has a February 2015 release date in the US.

Deadline to Register to Vote is Today

Friday is the deadline to register to vote in North Carolina, in order to vote in the November midterm. Late Wednesday the U-S Supreme Court stayed an appeals court order that restored same-day registration and reinstated out-of-precinct provisional voting.

That means voters must register by today in their current home precinct in order to be sure their vote will count – explains Allison Riggs with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, “The deadline to register to vote is October 10th. They can go to their local county board of elections and register in person or they can mail in their registration application.”

If submitting my mail, your application only needs to be postmarked with today’s date. The new voting provisions that came as a result of North Carolina’s new voting laws were challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The case will now be heard in summer 2015 by a federal judge in North Carolina, but it will not be in time for this year’s midterm election. Supporters of the state’s new voting law argue that some portions of the law could prevent voter fraud.

According to the State Board of Elections, more than 21,000 North Carolina voters used same-day registration in the last midterm election. Riggs and others are concerned about the number of people who may have difficulty voting in this election, and hopes the new law makes citizens all the more determined to make their vote count, “It’s complicated because the Legislature acted to keep people from voting and the response to that should be anger and participation, not apathy.”

Riggs says depending on how it impacts turnout, the court’s action could have an impact on the outcome of next month’s election, and even the majority of the U-S Senate. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan has a 2-point lead over her Republican challenger Thom Tillis, according to a recent USA Today poll.

WCU social work program receives $1.1 million federal grant

Western Carolina University’s social work program is the recipient of a federal grant of more than $1.1 million to expand the number of social workers qualified to practice in the areas of substance abuse prevention and behavioral health in Cherokee and other underserved areas of Western North Carolina.

The grant, totaling $1,177,354 and to be awarded to WCU over a three-year period, is from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Working in collaboration with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and the Center for Native Health, the university will receive $321,764 in the initiative’s first year, $420,902 in its second year and $424,688 in the third year.

The grant will provide up to $10,000 in individual stipends to students in WCU’s master’s degree program in social work who plan to serve the behavioral health needs of the people of WNC. It is designed to produce social workers with the skills to prevent and intervene in the high-risk behaviors of youth by using a family-focused health care model that is sensitive to the culture and needs of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and other youth populations across the rural Southern Appalachians, said Pat Morse, head of the social work department and director of WCU’s graduate program in social work.

“It is a pleasure and honor to collaborate with the Center for Native Health, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the behavioral health services agencies across Western North Carolina on this important project,” said Morse.

Douglas Keskula, dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, said the grant will fund an innovative project that will contribute to promoting, supporting and sustaining a much-needed behavioral health workforce in Cherokee and across the mountain region.

“This will be an exciting project for the university and for the region we serve,” Keskula said. “This initiative will provide critical behavioral health services to a medically underserved region while providing an exceptional educational experience for our students. This is a tremendous opportunity for collaboration between WCU, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and regional providers with the shared goal of building and training the behavioral health workforce of the future.”

The funding marks the 13th grant awarded by federal or regional agencies for research conducted by faculty in WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences to date since the 2012 fiscal year, with nearly $6 million in grants for projects ranging from improving diversity in the region’s nursing workforce to health care assessment for older adults.