Safety issues on the table before board of health

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Health Department dealt with several safety issues Monday.

Board members heard from Rich Lucas, environmental director, and Dean Barath, owner of the food truck Ideal Provisions. Several violations were observed during the Strawberry Festival in mid-June in Martins Ferry. Barath and Lucas said the issues have since been corrected. Lucas said Barath’s license was not revoked.

Board member Irene Louda commented on the importance of inspections and standards.

“Our goal with the health department is not to pick on any business. We want businesses in Belmont County,” she said. “But the business has to be safe. We have to feel that the public is always protected. So it’s not anything that you do personally, it’s what we expect of everybody to function. … You wouldn’t want somebody to get sick. Once they get sick, your business probably would never be able to function again.”

Health Director Tamara Hess reported more people are using the Health Department for physicals, to determine vaccination and immunity status for a variety of diseases, and to arrange vaccinations. Hess said many colleges require students to show proof of immunity.

“Everybody’s going back to school, so we’re getting sports, we’re getting colleges. Anybody that’s starting in the fall, we’re seeing a lot of that increase,” she said. “We’re doing more physicals that we’ve ever done at the health department. Right now we’re doing about 20 a month, but we’re going to add some more days so we’re able to do more physicals, and we do physicals for anyone,” she said.

The cost of a physical through the department is $30.

In answer to a question from Louda, Hess said there are still COVID-19 booster vaccines available. Hess said thankfully COVID-19 cases have declined dramatically.

“COVID has completely dropped off,” she said.

Lucas also reported on a potential rabies case observed in a resident, when a small child was found with a scratch mark in a room with a bat and a cat.

“The bat was between the child and the cat. The parents didn’t know how the person got the scratch, if it was the cat or the bat. It was in the house, and basically the recommendation for that was everyone get vaccinated,” Lucas said. “The cat was already vaccinated, but they got a booster.”

Lucas said rabies cases are fairly rare in the area and there is no particular “season” when rabies is more prevalent.

“It could be any time of the year, but if you would happen to have a bat in the house and aren’t sure you contacted, definitely bring it in. We can test it,” he said. “We’ve had a few (cases) over the years. A lot of time it’s been the bats that are positive. If there’s an actual scratch or a bite, we definitely want to get the animal tested.”

The public is warned to be careful around wild animals and to refrain from feeding them.

“If you do see one that’s injured or sick, we can also call (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Wildlife Services and test it, too,” Lucas said. “If you do get bit or scratched, you definitely have to report that, especially with a wild or a domestic animal.”

In addition, another application was approved for assistance through the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund program — a grant that the health department receives and administers to the public. Lucas said applicants could receive 50 percent of the cost to replace their septic system in Shadyside and tie into the village sewer system.

Lucas said the grant provides $150,000 total and is sought-after by members of the public.

“We utilize it completely every year,” Lucas said. “We’ve got a backlog right now. We’ve probably got about 15 applications right now. We don’t even have enough money for the 15 applications, so we’ll just have to carry them on to the next year. We’ll keep them in order. … We’ll have to wait and make sure we can get the grant for next year, too.”

He said prospective projects must be residential sites and owner-occupied.

The board went into two closed-door sessions, one for employment and one to discuss the compensation of a public employee or official. The board will advertise for a full-time grants fiscal employee to manage and look into grants at a rate of $20-$25 an hour.

For more information, the department can be reached at 740-695-1202. The department is located at 68501 Bannock Road, St. Clairsville.


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