DHH immunization director warns Louisiana residents that worst of flu season is ahead _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Fifth grader LaTayna Williams, left, grimaces for a moment while receives the flu mist up the nose from Kameron Keller, right, nursing student at BR General. EBR schools launched their annual flu vaccination campaign at Claiborne Elementary School with students receiving shots or nasal spray. EBR shoots to immunize 5,000 to 8,000 or more kids each year to create what is known as herd immunity that limits the severity of a flu outbreak.

Mold problems forced the state’s health department to indefinitely close the East Baton Rouge Parish Health Unit on Thursday.

The Department of Health said it is working to find alternative locations for clients to receive the services that have been suspended.

The East Baton Rouge Health Unit has provided various health services and serves as the office of many public health programs, including those related to family planning and STD/HIV prevention and care; regional tuberculosis services; immunizations; children’s special health services; vital records; and sanitarian services.

The building, at the corner of North 12th Street and Florida Boulevard, is owned by the city-parish but staffed by the Department of Health’s Office of Public Health.

The department said it received a report earlier this week detailing the presence of mold throughout the building.

Mold is known to cause adverse health effects to people with compromised immune systems. People who are most at risk for a reaction to mold also include young people, those who are aging and those with chronic lung disease.

Dr. Marilyn Reynaud, the Office of Public Health regional medical director, said she and the agency are working with the city-parish to address problems such as leaky roofs, faulty windows and building cracks that contribute to mold.

“Recent air monitoring has discovered elevated levels of mold throughout the building,” she said. “Exposure to mold can cause allergy-like symptoms such as a runny nose and nasal stuffiness, and eye and skin irritation. For some people, including many who are served by the public health unit, exposure to mold can cause more serious complications.”

Reynaud said the Office of Public Health cannot serve patients and clients in a building with known elevated levels of mold.

“Nor is it acceptable for our staff to work in these conditions,” she added.

Robert Johannessen, a spokesman for the Department of Health, said mold remediation will begin in the building this weekend. Afterward, the department and city-parish will assess the next steps, he said.

Clients of the Health Unit should call (225) 342-6933 for more information.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.