Officials watching for signs of mutation in swine flu

Published: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 5:46 PM
Updated: Wednesday, August 08, 2012 @ 7:06 AM

As state and federal health officials monitor county fairs for signs of swine flu, they remind residents that it’s safe to visit the livestock barns, as long as they practice common sense. Their advice:

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.

• Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in animal areas, and don’t take food or drink into animal areas.

• Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals.

• If you have animals – including swine – watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.

• Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.

• Avoid contact with swine if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Experts from Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County will be available to answer your questions from noon to 1 p.m. duing an online chat at DaytonDailyNews.com. The Dayton Daily News will continue to bring you the latest updates on the swine flu and how it is affecting area people and county fairs.

H3N2v, the strain of swine flu that has sickened 15 people in Ohio, first emerged last year, when it sickened 12 people.

So far this year, it has been reported in Ohio, Indiana and Hawaii. Everyone infected has been in contact with infected swine at state or county fairs. None has required hospitalization so far this year.

Swine flu rarely infects people.

Symptoms from swine flu are the same as those associated with seasonal flu, and include fever, fatigue, body aches, cough and sore throat. Some people also experience nausea and vomiting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in previous years, they’ve only tracked one or two cases a year of variant swine flu strains infecting people. The viruses rarely mutate to become easily transmitted from person to person.

The Ohio outbreak of swine flu that has sickened 15 people — 14 in Butler County and one in Clark County — is in its early stages but is being closely monitered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because flu viruses mutate rapidly, the CDC is tracking the H3N2 virus and working with county fair officials across the U.S. as well as state health and agriculture officials this summer to track flu-like symptoms in both humans and swine. If the strain mutates, it could change to make people sicker, or it could become a milder infection. It could also change in a way that makes it more contagious.

The 15 people infected in the region had contact with infected swine at the Butler County Fair and the Ohio State Fair.

The same strain has sickened people Hawaii and Indiana this year. Last year, it infected people in Maine, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia.

So far, none of the people who’ve taken ill have required hospitalization, Bresee said.

Concerns about swine flu shouldn’t stop people from enjoying county fairs this summer, said Dr. Joe Bresee, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC’s influenza division.

He said people should remember to wash their hands frequently and cover their coughs and sneezes.

“It is safe to go to the fair,” Bresee said. “We’re not recommending people don’t go to fairs. We’re just recommending that people do commonsense measures to prevent infection.”

Health officials’ best advice is for fair-goers to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer after visiting livestock barns and to avoid contact with sick pigs, he said.

“Long-term, I think it’s probably the fried Twinkies that will get you,” he said.

Officials with the Champaign County Fair, which closes Friday in Urbana, are in daily contact with the CDC and state health officials, said Tom Tullis, vice president of the fair. They’ve also worked with the Ohio Department of Agriculture to make sure there’s plenty of hand sanitizer in all of the livestock barns and signs up reminding fair-goers to wash their hands and avoid eating in the barns.

“One of our staff veterinarians goes through the buildings three times a day, and anything that has a temperature, he’ll ask the committee to take that animal off the grounds,” Tullis said.

Every year, state veterinarians randomly test swine for signs of infection, he said.

Workers with Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County are working with organizers of the Montgomery County Fair to bring them up to speed on the swine flu outbreak, said health department spokesman Bill Wharton. The fair opens Aug. 29 in Dayton.

Flu viruses are usually species-specific; human flu viruses infect people and swine flu viruses infect pigs. Sometimes, though, a swine influenza A virus can infect people. When flu spreads from pigs to people, it’s believed to spread the same way seasonal flu spreads from person to person. An infected pig might cough or sneeze, and a nearby human could breathe in the virus, or come in contact with a surface the or object the virus has touched, then put their hands to their mouths, nose or eyes.

As flu viruses mutate, they may pick up genes from other flu strains. H3N2v contains a gene from the H1N1 flu strain that caused the 2009-2010 flu pandemic.

So far this summer, the H3N2v flu strain is only spreading from infected pigs to people. Last year, there were a few cases in which the same strain spread from person to person. The CDC is monitoring how the strain is spreading both because it’s a new strain and because summer isn’t the typical season for flu in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s too soon to say whether the H3N2v flu will spread from person to person this year, he said.

“I think this virus can do that. The question is whether this virus can do it efficiently or not,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t see much person-to-person spread, and we didn’t see ongoing spread that kept the outbreak going.”

Coroner can’t determine sex of buried Carlisle baby; hearing delayed

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 9:36 AM
Updated: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 2:03 PM


            Brooke Skylar Richardson, right, and her attorney Charles M. Rittgers appear before Judge Rupert E. Ruppert last Friday during her arraignment hearing in Franklin Municipal Court. Richardson, 18, is charged with reckless homicide for the May death of her baby after its remains were found in the backyard of her home. If convicted of the third-degree felony, she faces one to five years in prison. ED RICHTER/STAFF
Brooke Skylar Richardson, right, and her attorney Charles M. Rittgers appear before Judge Rupert E. Ruppert last Friday during her arraignment hearing in Franklin Municipal Court. Richardson, 18, is charged with reckless homicide for the May death of her baby after its remains were found in the backyard of her home. If convicted of the third-degree felony, she faces one to five years in prison. ED RICHTER/STAFF

UPDATE@1 p.m.:

Warren County’s coroner today said investigators have not been able to determine the sex of the baby found buried in the backyard of a Carlisle home.

The baby’s mother, 18-year-old Brooke Skylar Richardson, a cheerleader who graduated this year from Carlisle High School, faces one count of reckless homicide.

Warren County Coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove said today that his office was not able to determine the sex of the infant from the remains, which are two months old. The criminal complaint against Richards alleges she caused the infant’s death on or about May 7.

MORE: Investigators search 3 times in 10 days in Carlisle baby remains case

“We may eventually do DNA testing, but we could not determine that (the sex) from the remains,” Uptegrove said.

The sex of the baby has not been released by deputies or the prosecutor.

Also today, the defense attorney for Richardson did not give a reason for seeking a delay in a court hearing scheduled for next week.

Richardson, of Eagle Ridge Drive, was scheduled to appear in Franklin Municipal Court for a preliminary hearing on the charge of reckless homicide. Attorney Charlie M. Rittgers requested a continuance, which was granted by Judge Rupert Ruppert.

The court document obtained by this news outlet gives not reason for the request. Rittgers did however, give a brief statement via email.

MORE: Professor on baby death: Hard to know how common it is

“We agreed to a continuance because we think it is in the best interest of Skylar,” Rittgers said.

The teen is free on $15,000 bond.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor David Fornshell have released few facts about the case that began 10 days ago with a call from a doctor’s office to Carlisle police about a possible stillborn baby. The remains were unearth and Richardson was charged with reckless homicide.

Fornshell made it clear that the evidence indicates the baby was born alive.

INITIAL REPORT:

A Franklin judge has continued a preliminary hearing for a Carlisle woman accused of reckless homicide for the May death of her baby after its remains were found in the backyard of her home.

MORE: Warren County buried baby case: 5 things we know now

Franklin Municipal Court officials said that Charles M. Rittgers, the attorney for Brooke Skylar Richardson, 18, filed a motion late Tuesday afternoon to continue the preliminary hearing until 5 p.m. Aug. 8. Judge Rupert Ruppert signed the order Tuesday night after court ended.

Three separate searches in 10 days of a Carlisle house where the remains of an infant were found buried are part of continuing investigation against the mother and anyone else involved in the baby’s death, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Tuesday.

Richardson, who is free on a $15,000 bond, had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 1 on the third-degree felony charge.

MORE: Could Ohio cheerleader have used safe haven law to give up baby?

Investigators from the Warren County Coroner’s Office and Warren County Sheriff’s Office first went to the Richardson house on July 14, unearthing remains of a baby. They have been back to the Eagle Ridge Drive property twice since, including going inside the house Monday night, gathering more evidence.

“This is an ongoing investigation. We are investigating what happened and who may have been involved,” Fornshell said, adding if that investigation led other others involved, they would be charged.

MORE: Carlisle baby alive at birth, prosecutor says after teen mom in court

Richardson was a cheerleader and had graduated from Carlisle High School this past spring, according to Carlisle School Superintendent Larry Hook. He declined to comment on Richardson, citing privacy laws.

According to the criminal complaint filed against her in Franklin Municipal Court, “On or about May 7, 2017, one Brooke Richardson … did recklessly cause the death of another, or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.”

PREVIOUS REPORT: Anthropologist examining remains of baby found in Carlisle yard

Investigators initially received a tip from a doctor’s office that a Carlisle teenager may have delivered a stillborn infant. Investigators later found an infant’s remains buried in the backyard at the residence in the 100 block of Eagle Ridge Drive.

Staff Writer Lauren Pack contributed to this report.

VIDEO: McDonald’s hit-and-run crash suspect arrested

Published: Tuesday, July 25, 2017 @ 4:16 PM

Surveillance video has been released of a truck that slammed into several parked vehicles in the parking lot of a local McDonald's.

UPDATE @ 1:17 p.m. (July 26):

Deputies have arrested the man suspected of crashing into seven vehicles in the parking lot of the McDonald’s on Kings Mill Road.

Timothy Tacket, 30, of South Lebanon, was charged with reckless operation, leaving the scene of a crash and driving under suspension, deputies said.

OTHER NEWS: Man shot by deputies, police in Harrison Twp. dies from injuries

Tacket was booked into the Warren County Jail and deputies thanked the public for assisting in identifying him as the suspect.

INITIAL REPORT:

Deputies are looking for the suspect who hit seven vehicles in the parking lot of the McDonald’s on Kings Mill Road in Deerfield Twp. this morning.

Video released by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office shows the black pickup truck driven by a man with a woman in the passenger’s seat strike multiple vehicles in the lot.

OTHER NEWS: Family asks for prayers for boy, 3, following pool incident

The male suspect has a tattoo on the underside of his left forearm and possibly additional tattoos on the upper arm, deputies said. The truck is described as a black Ford F150 with a tan stripe running around the bottom of the vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office.  There also was a white decal on the center of the rear window, deputies said.

Deputies said the truck should have heavy damage to the front and passenger side of the vehicle.

Video catches man abandoning infant in parking lot

All of the vehicles struck were unoccupied and two of the vehicles had major damage.

Anyone with information on the suspect or suspect vehicle can contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 513-701-1800.

Cities can turn red light cameras back on; state threatens to fight back

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 9:11 AM
Updated: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 10:19 AM

Whaley reacts to legal victory

The Ohio Supreme Court said in a 5-2 decision issued Wednesday that the 2015 state law that makes it all but impossible for local governments to use traffic cameras is unconstitutional because it conflicts with cities’ home-rule authority.

The decision impacts Ohio’s 8 million licensed drivers, gives cities the green-light to start using traffic cameras again and delivers a win to municipalities that have seen an erosion of home-rule powers in other court decisions. It also is an invitation for lawmakers opposed to traffic cameras to look for other ways to curtail their use.

The city of Dayton filed the legal challenge against the state of Ohio after legislators passed the law that curtails local authority to use traffic enforcement cameras.

Dayton challenged three elements of the law, which took effect in March 2015:

• that a full-time police officer be posted at each camera in operation;

• that cities conduct a three-year traffic study before deploying a camera;

• that speeders be given “leeway” — 6 miles per hour over in a school zone and 10 mph over elsewhere — before issuing tickets.

DAYTON REACTION

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said residents want traffic cameras in their neighborhoods to make roadways less dangerous for motorists and pedestrians.

“We get asked regularly by neighborhoods to please put cameras in,” Whaley said.

Dayton still has fixed traffic cameras along various roadways and at intersections across the city, but the city no longer has a contract with the company that previously operated the devices.

Related: Return of Dayton’s red light cameras uncertain after Supreme Court arguments

Dayton officials said they will review the Supreme Court’s decision to decide how to proceed, and plans for traffic cameras are expected to change considerably.

The city wants to establish a thoughtful and effective camera program that improves community safety while not taxing law enforcement’s limited resources, Whaley said.

“We’ll go back and will be very forthright with the community about what we’re going to do, just like we’ve been the entire time,” Whaley said. “I’m very pro camera, but this ruling just came down.”

STATE LAWMAKERS MAY CONTINUE FIGHT

Even as city officials look at turning the cameras back on, state lawmakers are vowing to look for ways to shut them down again.

State Rep. Bill Setiz, R-Cincinnati, the architect of the law declared unconstitutional, said the ruling only applies to home-rule cities and the law is still in place for Ohio’s 1,300 townships and 88 counties as well as villages. When lawmakers return from summer recess in September, Seitz said they’ll consider requiring photo-enforcement tickets go through municipal courts instead of an administrative process.

The state may withhold local government fund money from cities that receive money from traffic cameras, he said. “Since they’re getting money that way, they obviously don’t need our money. I think those two things would have a very salutary effect in taking the profit out of the policing for profit equation and render the decision today a pyrrhic victory for those folks like Dayton and Toledo that think they are above the law.”

Seitz said an outright ban could be put in place through a constitutional amendment — something he said is not being considered at this time.

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said “I think the people of Ohio overwhelmingly oppose red light cameras. The Legislature tends to feel the same way.”

Obhof said he has yet to review the ruling in the Dayton case. He noted that he would consider a ban bill if he believes it has a chance of withstanding a constitutional challenge. “It doesn’t do us any good for us to pass another law that we expect to be struck down. So anything that we would do from here out, as when we worked on it the first time, we’ll take our time, try to be thoughtful about it and come up with a result that maybe the courts will agree with, maybe they won’t, but one that we think going in will withstand scrutiny.”

New restrictions force an officer to be present if drivers are ticketed for speeding or running red lights

Related: Dayton to reboot its traffic camera program

Before the law took effect, Dayton asked the common pleas court to declare elements of the law unconstitutional. The trial court agreed with the city but the Second District Court of Appeals overturned that decision. The city then took it to the supreme court.

THE RULING

The Ohio Constitution, adopted in 1912, gives municipalities “home-rule” powers of self-governance as long as local ordinances don’t conflict with the state’s general laws.

Justice Patrick Fischer, writing the majority opinion, said that the law “infringes on the municipality’s’s legislative authority without serving an overriding state interest and is therefore unconstitutional.”

The Supreme Court ruled that the requirement that an officer be present while cameras are operating contradicts the purpose of deploying cameras to conserve police resources. It also said prescribing a “leeway” improperly dictates to cities how they must enforce speed limits within the city limits and it operates “as a de facto increase in speed limits in the limited areas covered by a traffic camera.”

Justices William O’Neill and Patrick DeWine dissented on the ruling, saying that the law promotes the uniform application of traffic regulations across the state.

In his dissent, DeWine said justices in the majority were over-stepping into legislators’ roles.

Related: Traffic cameras coming back to Dayton at these locations

“But today, the plurality in essence says we know what is in the sate’s interest better than those 132 representatives of the people do. And if we don’t think a law is a good idea, then it must not be a general law, and we can strike it down,” DeWine wrote.

The decision only strikes down the three elements of the law that Dayton challenged. Other provisions remain in effect, including a requirement that camera manufacturers provide maintenance records to local authorities and a prohibition on insurance companies using camera-caught violations to set motorists’ policies and rates.

Dayton began using traffic cameras in 2002, first to enforce red-light traffic violations and later to catch speeders. Accidents decreased where cameras operated. Other cities and villages across the state also used traffic cameras to catch violators.

While Dayton was the lead on the case decided Wednesday, Springfield, Akron, East Cleveland, Toledo and the Ohio Municipal League weighed in with briefs supporting Dayton’s argument. The Municipal League represents 700 cities and villages.

RELATED: Middletown, New Miami: High court ruling won’t change stance on cameras

In oral arguments held in January before the high court, Dayton said that the General Assembly specifically wrote the law to block local jurisdictions from using the cameras. Dayton had more than 36 cameras operating when the law took effect.

The state argued that municipalities could still use cameras to issue citations as long as they followed the law and local ordinances didn’t conflict with the state statute. The state said the law provides a statewide framework on the use of traffic cameras.

DAYTON BRINGING CAMERAS BACK ANYWAY

Meanwhile, Dayton city officials approved a plan to bring back cameras to catch speeding and red light violations. The city plans to use 10 fixed camera systems, six hand-held devices and two portable trailer units. Officers will be present when any of these devices are in operation and documenting traffic violations.

Opponents call traffic cameras automated speed traps used by local jurisdictions to rake money into government coffers. Proponents say the cameras push motorists to change dangerous driving habits.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2008 and 2014 that cities have the authority to enforce traffic laws using cameras as long as it doesn’t alter substantial traffic laws.

After the ruling was issued Wednesday, Ohio Muncipal League Director Kent Scarrett said “I don’t think this conversation is over.”

TIMELINE OF THE CASE

July 14, 2017: Dayton traffic cameras: What’s really going on?

July 12, 2017: Traffic cameras are coming back to Dayton in these locations

April 20, 2017: Dayton plans to bring back traffic cameras

March 5, 2017: Return of traffic cameras uncertain after arguments in case before Supreme Court

Jan. 10, 2017: 5 things to know about Dayton’s traffic camera case

Jan. 3, 2017: Supreme Court announces it will hear Dayton’s red light camera case

May 17, 2016: Dayton wants to restart traffic camera program

Aug. 7, 2015: Court sides with state in Dayton traffic camera case

March 4, 2015: Cities fear rise in traffic accidents as camera use ends

Apostelos’ sister, niece get probation in Ponzi scheme case

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 1:52 PM


            Rebekah Fairchild and Rebekah Riddell both received probation for their roles in William Apostelos’ Ponzi scheme that bilked hundreds of investors out of at least $32 million. FILE PHOTO
Rebekah Fairchild and Rebekah Riddell both received probation for their roles in William Apostelos’ Ponzi scheme that bilked hundreds of investors out of at least $32 million. FILE PHOTO

William Apostelos’ sister and niece — who said they were in fear of him and his wife — both received three years’ probation for their minor roles in the Ponzi scheme for which Apostelos received a 15-year sentence.

Rebekah “Reba” Fairchild, 54, and her daughter, Rebekah “Becky” Riddell, 31, had both earlier pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in Dayton’s U.S. District Court. They faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

RELATED: Apostelos sentenced to 15 years in prison

They had agreed to testify for the prosecution if Apostelos had gone to trial because his clients lost more than $32 million. Both worked for Apostelos’ various Springboro investment businesses.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rose said that Fairchild — who earned $17 per hour — and Riddell — who made $8.10 per hour — did not benefit from the scheme and that it was “stupid” to conspire in any capacity when they realized there was illegal activity.

RELATED: Apostelos pleads guilty to Ponzi scheme

For her guilty plea of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, Riddell also was ordered to pay $15,072 in restitution. For her guilty plea of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, Fairchild also was ordered to pay $23,840 in restitution.

“This was stupid,” Rose told Riddell. “As soon as you got a flag, you should have run for the hills.”

RELATED: Seizures in Ponzi case include race horses, cash, jewelry and artwork

Both said they were remorseful.

“I’m very sorry to the victims,” Riddell said, adding that she knows sorry doesn’t cover it. “I will never be in this position again.”

Defense attorneys’ sentencing memoranda described the mother and daughter’s difficult familial situation.

RELATED: Two plead guilty in Ponzi conspiracy

“She was berated and browbeaten by Connie Apostelos on a daily basis,” wrote Fairchild’s attorney, Michael Booher. “She continued to work there until the operation was raided in October 2014.”

Connie Apostelos — who investigators said had a $35,000 per month horse racing business and a $400 per month Victoria’s Secret bill — is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 2. She will be the last person to be sentenced in the scheme after her husband, her husband’s attorney Steven Scudder and her sister-in-law and niece.

RELATED: Centerville attorney sentenced for his role in $70 million Ponzi scheme

Riddell described how William Apostelos dodged phone calls and gave the staff things to tell irritated clients. Ridell said that despite talking to her attorney, who suggested she go to law enforcement, she did not do so: “I was scared.”

Riddell’s attorney, Adam Krumholtz, said his client was “was subservient to the whims of her uncle and aunt” and that she is “living with regret and remorse every day of her life.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow Mark Gokavi on Twitter or Facebook

Federal prosecutors also recommended probation for both defendants.

“She stands in stark contrast to her uncle,” assistant U.S. attorney Brent Tabacchi said of Riddell, who immediately cooperated with federal agents. “She helped connect the dots for the later part of the Ponzi scheme.

“She didn’t personally profit from the scheme. She was just an employee down there.”