Health building a busy place |

Health building a busy place

They get calls about everything and that includes what people get most embarrassed about — sex and sexually transmitted diseases.

If someone had unprotected sex the night before, they might call for an emergency morning-after pill. If someone suspects they have a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia, a common bacterial infection, they might come in for a test.

But sexually transmitted diseases and birth control only account for about 30 percent of the business that walks through the door of the South Lake Tahoe office of El Dorado County Public Health. Tucked inside the large building across from the police station on Johnson Boulevard, public health’s 12-member staff hears and sees it all.

If a bird dies suspiciously in a back yard they hear about it. If someone finds a motel room too gross to stay in they get a call. If a man is bitten in the face by a dog, he may show up in their office bleeding.

“We’re the resource for anything, anytime anyone calls,” said Diane Carter, medical service coordinator. “We can generally figure out what they need … and we determine where to send them to.”

Public health does more than route telephone calls. It tests for HIV, pregnancy, communicable diseases, screens for breast cancer, examines babies and women, and immunizes children for school. It checks car seats, sells bike helmets, issues birth and death certificates, provides breast feeding support and provides free birth control such as foam and condoms.

In July, public health treated 450 patients. About 20 percent of those people were walk-ins and got help without making an appointment. Around this time of year, though, appointments are recommended especially if a parent is looking to get immunization shots for his or her child.

“People typically wait until the last minute,” said Allyson Tabor, supervising public health nurse. “We encourage them not to. School won’t let you in if you do.”

It’s key that parents bring their child’s immunization records with them when they come in for shots. If they don’t have them staff will try to track them down but that can be a time-consuming process.

“Otherwise we have no way of knowing what they need,” Tabor said. “We don’t want to restart a child because parents failed to keep the records.”

El Dorado Public Health has set aside this Tuesday and Sept. 2 exclusively for immunizations. Office hours are 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call (530) 573-3155.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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