The Board of Public Utilities will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, at the BPU offices, 540 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, Kansas.
On the agenda for the meeting are a visitors’ time; a report on a Western Fuels appointment for Bill Johnson; a youth program report; the May financial report; board comments and general manager comments.
The BPU Finance Committee will meet at 5:15 p.m. July 2 in the first floor conference room at the BPU offices, 540 Minnesota Ave.
There will be no work session on July 2. The meeting date was moved from the usual Wednesday date to Tuesday.
Water releases from some Kansas reservoirs are stepping up today, according to Corps of Engineers officials.
At a news conference today, corps officials stated that releases are increasing at the reservoirs as water levels are falling on the Missouri and Kansas rivers. In Wyandotte County, the Missouri River is in minor flood stage in the Wolcott area.
The corps is monitoring the water releases closely every day. The water flows into the Missouri and Kansas rivers, which meet in Kansas City, Kansas.
In the Kansas basin, Tuttle Creek is increasing its releases from 12,000 cfs to 16,000 cfs; Milford is increasing from 7,000 to 9,000 cfs; and Perry is increasing from 4,000 cfs to 6,000 cfs, according to corps officials.
Clinton reservoir releases will remain at low flow until the upstream reservoirs decline to 80 percent of their flood control pool occupied level, according to officials.
Tuttle and Perry reservoir levels were down slightly from Thursday, while Milford and Clinton levels were unchanged since Thursday, according to officials.
In the Osage basin, water levels have declined slightly at most reservoirs. Releases from Melvern are unchanged at 2,000 cfs; Hillsdale releases are still at low flow; releases from Pom de Terre were cut from 3,000 cfs yesterday to 1,500 cfs; and Truman is releasing 42,000 cfs, unchanged from yesterday.
Corps officials are monitoring releases from Truman dam based on river levels at St. Thomas, which is influenced by backwater from the Missouri River at Herman, Missouri. When the Missouri River falls, releases from Truman could be increased, according to officials. Stockton and Pom de Terre were impeded by backwater effects from Truman, officials said.
Reservoir levels at Melvern, Stockton and Pom de Terre were down slightly from Thursday, while Hillsdale and Truman levels were unchanged from Thursday, according to corps officials.
District officials said that all the Kansas City district dams were structurally sound and performing as they were designed.
Water releases into the Missouri River were decreased from 75,000 cfs to 70,000 cfs from Gavins Point dam in South Dakota on Thursday, according to corps officials. The forecast is to hold the 70,000 cfs level for three weeks.
A National Weather Service forecaster said that there is a chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms over the entire Missouri River basin for the next seven days, in an on-again, off-again pattern. These chances for rain are to the north of the Kansas City area, in general.
The weather service forecast changed this afternoon to include a 30 percent chance of rain on the Fourth of July in Wyandotte County.
A corps official said there are currently pumping operations continuing at several locations on the Missouri River in the Kansas City corps district.
Corps officials said they are helping to complete plans for closing breaches in Holt County, Missouri. According to the corps, 83 requests for assistance have been received from levees since mid-March, and this figure could rise to at least 90.
The corps is in the process of evaluating damage to levees, according to officials. Levee owners and operators who participate in the corps’ programs are being asked to evaluate damage and to send damage estimates to the Corps of Engineers.
Damage from flooding to levees all along the Missouri River was estimated at $1.1 billion by a corps official, with that figure subject to change as more reports are received.
A corps official today stated that within the Kansas City district served by the Corps of Engineers, the estimate for flood damage to levees is probably around $100 million.
by Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Kansas News Service
Editor’s note: Come back next week to read about vaccine rates in Kansas schools.
Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado.
The national measles outbreak — numbering more than 1,000 cases so far — hasn’t hit Kansas yet, but it has crept awfully close to home.
State health officials think a case in Kansas looks nearly inevitable. And the state’s annual survey of kindergartener vaccination rates suggests some counties do better than others at getting little kids their potentially life-saving shots of MMR vaccine.
But while measles snags all the headlines, doctors, nurses, and public health workers worry not just about that, but about other vaccine-preventable diseases that rarely raise the same alarms for the public.
The best evidence suggests hundreds of thousands of Kansans lack one shot or another — or several. Those inoculations have the potential to save lives from pneumonia, cancer and other threats.
Why so many under-vaccinated people?
The latest map of the 2019 measles outbreak. Kansas is in a shrinking minority of states without cases yet (light blue). (Graphic by CDC)
As best as public health experts can tell, religious objections and the anti-vaccination movement account for just a tiny sliver of the myriad reasons.
More commonly, the obstacles involve busy work lives, rural distances, poverty, spotty vaccine records, health providers with gaps in vaccine stock or limited walk-in hours, and the public’s lack of knowledge about things like adult vaccine schedules.
Vaccine schedule for adults: What shots are recommended and when?
Schedule for children/teens: What shots are recommended and when?
Every age group is affected, from infants to the elderly. Though Kansas theoretically requires shots against illnesses such as measles, whooping cough and polio for school attendance, 15 percent of kindergartners last year weren’t up to date on those.
If this all sounds dismal, some public health experts see cause for optimism.
Changing the mind of someone truly opposed to vaccines can seem daunting, even amid outbreaks of illnesses such as measles. This despite the risks of foregoing shots: hospitalization, brain damage, deafness or even death. A 105-degree fever is common with measles, Mayo Clinic says.
“They cannot be swayed,” pediatrician Barbara Pahud said. “Focus on this ginormous group in the middle …. They’re already on board for some vaccines, so there is hope if you want to see it that way.”
That “ginormous” middle group of under- or unvaccinated people greatly outnumbers those who reject all vaccines based on religion or other beliefs. Researchers peg the latter group at just 1 to 3 percent of the population, said Pahud, a specialist in infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and an associate professor at the University of Kansas and University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Read about the known side effects of specific vaccines here. No evidence links vaccines to autism, a myth that got its start with a debunked academic article. Read Autism Speaks’ FAQ page on what does and doesn’t cause autism here.
Numbers speak loudly
Health is a numbers game. You can’t be certain pneumonia won’t get you, but you can reduce your risk with two vaccines against bacterial pneumonia recommended for adults ages 65 and older. Bacterial pneumonia hospitalizes hundreds of thousands of Americans a year and kills tens of thousands.
Likewise, researchers estimate inoculation against the cancer-causing HPV virus would wipe out 80 percent of the tens of thousands of cancer cases it causes across the country each year. (The vast majority of people pick up HPV at some point in their lives, though most clear it out of their bodies naturally without necessarily ever knowing.)
“Just imagine: Almost everybody knows a woman who’s had an abnormal pap smear,” said Edward Ellerbeck, chair of preventive medicine and public health at KU’s School of Medicine. “And imagine now, ‘Oh, I don’t have to worry about abnormal pap smears.’”
The HPV vaccine eliminates the number one cause of those worrying results.
Kansas News Service, from CDC
Yet surveys and other sources that the federal government uses to gauge vaccine rates suggest just half of Kansas teens get even the first dose of the two-to-three dose HPV vaccine. The same problematically low rates apply to the state’s elderlyand the recommended pneumonia immunizations.
Minors without insurance, with poor-quality insurance or on Medicaid qualify for free vaccines against 16 diseases, including HPV and measles. Read more.
That frustrates groups trying to rein in the havoc these diseases wreak on our health, happiness and pocketbooks. Compared to other measures we should take to safeguard ourselves — exercise more, eat healthier, quit smoking — a shot in the arm is an easy lift.
“If there was a vaccine against breast cancer or lung cancer or prostate cancer, we’d probably run out of vaccine,” said Dan Leong, of the American Cancer Society in Kansas.
It’s tempting to conclude Kansans simply don’t want the HPV vaccine for cultural reasons. That theory seems less convincing when the best data available, though imperfect, suggest many more teens get the shots in other states. That includes nearby states with similar populations and cultural attitudes.
It’s difficult to single out what hurdles stand between Kansans and vaccines — HPV or otherwise. Public health experts see a patchwork of barriers large and small, some of which are counterintuitive.
Last month, the Immunize Kansas Coalition launched a video campaign targeting not just parents but fellow doctors. Why? Because some physicians don’t talk to parents about the HPV vaccine. For that matter, says Wichita pediatrician Gretchen Homan, some don’t talk to patients about other vaccines, either.
Sometimes doctors assume parents will say no. Other times, they may not have the vaccines on hand.
“They don’t even pull up a vaccine record on the kids that they see,” said Homan, a professor at the KU School of Medicine in Wichita. “Because they’re not stocking those vaccines, they don’t even check the status and don’t have the conversation.”
That can leave families mistakenly thinking they’re up to date on all their shots, or that inoculation isn’t important. She encourages doctors and nurses to check vaccine records no matter what, and tell patients about locations that stock what they need.
Families, meanwhile, should feel free to ask.
“Say, ‘Hey, I’ve heard there are three vaccines due at this age,’” she said, “‘and I want to know about all of them.’”
Getting a handle on the problem is tough in part because of gaping holes in what we know about who does and doesn’t get vaccines.
“Our struggle right now is really being able to know what the true vaccination rate is in any county,” said Phil Griffin, who heads immunization programs at the Kansas State Department of Health and Environment.
State and federal vaccination estimates both have their limits. Kansas calculates rates among kindergartners annually with cooperation from a solid sampling of schools that provide more precise data than some of what the Centers for Disease Control publishes.
The CDC rate calculations, though, cover a wider range of shots and age groups.
But state health officials will gradually get a better picture of immunization rates across the state in coming years. Lawmakers tightened rules for electronic vaccine records starting next year.
That same change will fill in some of the gaps for health providers who often don’t know which shots a new-to-them patient has yet to get. Doctors and pharmacists will gain more consistent access to vaccine histories, as long as the shots occurred in-state.
Kansas lawmakers passed a law to give health providers more consistent access to electronic vaccine records when patients move within the state.
Griffin hopes that will boost vaccine rates. Think of a person dropping by a local pharmacy for a flu shot, for example. He or she could easily find out whether they need a pneumonia shot, too. And if so, get it then and there.
A few other efforts going on to boost vaccine rates in Kansas:
• Starting this fall, Kansas plans to phase in two more vaccine requirements (hepatitis A and meningococcal ACWY) for school attendance. Inoculation rates for both would likely increase, though the hep A rates were already fairly strong because they’re required for day care in Kansas. On Thursday, parents opposed to vaccinations protested the state’s plans at a public hearing.
• The state recently hired an epidemiologist to dig into vaccine rates across the state, is chasing grants to support the effort, and working closely with individual health providers on a regular basis to improve their practices.
• Lawmakers also recently expanded vaccine access by letting pharmacists give more shots. That may particularly benefit teenagers who no longer visit their pediatricians as often, but who still lack a number of vaccines.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @Celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.
See more at https://www.kcur.org/post/vaccine-opposition-isnt-why-many-thousands-kansans-miss-out-shots