Cherokee Nation citizen Stacie Guthrie receives a flu shot from licensed practical nurse Sharon Morton at the Gadugi Health Clinic in Tahlequah, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKE PHOENIX

Influenza hits CN but vaccines still available

Nationwide, during the week that ended on Jan. 12, 4.6 percent of patient visits reported to the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to influenza-like illness. This percentage is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL By Jan. 12, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the flu had reached 48 states and influenza activity remained elevated in the United States. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL To help fight against influenza and inform people about the virus, Dr. Jorge Mera, of Cherokee Nation Health Services, provides a presentation on Jan. 18 in Tahlequah, Okla. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Nationwide, during the week that ended on Jan. 12, 4.6 percent of patient visits reported to the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to influenza-like illness. This percentage is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
02/01/2013 08:01 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With more than 230 people testing positive for influenza within the Cherokee Nation, officials say tribal health clinics have vaccines available and urge people to get one.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. It causes mild to severe illness, and at times, leads to death. Some people, such as older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are higher risks for flu complications.

“The flu is a virus and viruses are very, very smart you might say,” Dr. Roger Montgomery, CN medical director, said. “They change themselves every year and try to morph themselves so they can have a better success of causing illness. And there are also different strains out there, and so the CDC tries to come up with an idea of what strains of virus will cause illness each year and the vaccine has three different kinds of strains of virus in it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, this flu season has produced a high outbreak with more than 3,600 people hospitalized since October, most of them older than 65, and at least 20 children’s deaths.

By Jan. 12, the CDC reported the flu had reached 48 states and activity remained elevated. On average, 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets influenza. This season, it’s hit more than 30 percent.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, flu season began on Sept. 30. Since then there have been more than 500 related hospitalizations and eight related deaths in the state.

There are three types of flu viruses: A, B and C. Types A and B cause the epidemics that have up to 20 percent of the population sniffling, aching, coughing and running fevers. Type C also causes flu, but its symptoms are less severe.

The Type A virus constantly changes and is spread by infected people. Type B flu may cause a less severe reaction, but occasionally it can still be harmful. Type C viruses are milder than type A and B. People generally do not become extremely ill from them and they do not cause epidemics.

The flu usually starts suddenly and may include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and tiredness. Some people have vomiting and diarrhea, though it’s more common in children.

Some complications caused by flu are pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, asthma or diabetes. Children may get sinus problems or ear infections.

“The deaths that you see reported are not really from the virus itself. They’re from the super-imposed illness that occurs after they’ve had influenza that causes them to develop respiratory failure and pneumonia,” Montgomery said.

The flu spreads by droplets released by coughing and sneezing. Occasionally touching something with a virus on it and then touching the mouth or nose may cause infection. People with the flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away.

“That’s why we emphasize if you’re out there going to work, going to public places, touching objects that other people touch don’t take your hand and rub your nose without first washing your hands thoroughly and wash them frequently,” Montgomery said.

People with flu are contagious and can infect others beginning one day before getting symptoms. Adults remain contagious up to seven days after getting sick, and children can remain contagious even longer.

“If you came in contact with the person who had the flu, you’ve contracted the virus,” Dr. Sohail Khan, of CN Health Services, said. “Within two days you will start to develop symptoms, and the important thing to remember is that you can be infectious for the next five to seven days.”

The best way to prevent the flu is vaccination. The vaccination rate for the American Indian/Alaskan Native population is 29 percent, according to Indian Health Services.

“I think as a group, because the prevalent of diabetes is so great, that it’s just recommended broadly that all Native Americans be vaccinated,” Montgomery said.

According to WebMD, the vaccine is highly effective for preventing the flu, though not 100 percent. People can get the flu despite getting vaccinated, although it’s usually less severe and resolves quicker. According to the CDC, vaccines given this year appear to be about 62 percent effective overall. Of people who got the flu, 32 percent were vaccinated.

“It can either completely eliminate you from having any symptoms at all or it can, the word we use is, attenuate,” Montgomery said. “It can lessen the severity of the duration of symptoms that you have.”

There are two types of vaccines: the shot and nasal spray. The shot is contains a dead virus that’s given with a needle. The shot given in the muscle is for people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. The shot given below the skin is for 18- to 64-year-olds.

The nasal spray vaccine contains live, weakened viruses. It’s for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant. Neither vaccine causes the flu.

It takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop that protect against infection for the entire year. Flu vaccines will not protect against illnesses caused by other viruses such as the common cold.

If positive for flu, there are antiviral drugs that can be used to treat the illness.

“The main one that most people have heard about is called Tamiflu,” Montgomery said. “It’s most effective if you start it within 48 hours of the onset of your symptoms.”

Annual vaccination is recommended for everyone regardless of past vaccination status or flu infection. Vaccination should begin in September or as soon as the vaccine is available and continue throughout the flu season, which can last as late as May.

To view a CN Health Services flu presentation, visit http://legislative.cherokee.org/StreamingEvents.aspx
and click on influenza presentation.

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org


918-453-5000, ext. 6139

Health

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/17/2017 06:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials – along with representatives from state, federal and local governments – broke ground Feb. 17 on a 469,000-square-foot addition at the W.W. Hastings Hospital campus. According to a CN Communications press release, the facility will be four stories tall and feature 180 exam rooms with access to a MRI machine; 10 new cardiac, lung and kidney specialists; and an ambulatory surgery center. “The facility is the outcome of the largest IHS-joint venture agreement ever between a tribe and the federal government. The Cherokee Nation is paying for the $200 million construction of the health center, while Indian Health Service has agreed to pay an estimated $80 million or more per year for at least 20 years for staffing and operation costs,” the release states. Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said the facility would offer a new level of health care and increase access to services in northeastern Oklahoma. “On behalf of the Cherokee Nation Health Services staff, I thank (Principal) Chief (Bill John) Baker, the Tribal Council and Cherokee Nation Businesses for giving us the opportunity to deliver first-class health care to our patients,” Davis said. The release states the facility will feature five surgical suites and two endoscopy suites inside its ambulatory surgical center. It will also house a specialty clinic and feature 33 dental chairs, six eye exam rooms, three audiology testing booths and diagnostic imaging. There will also be an expansion space for rehabilitation services, behavioral health and a wellness center. Baker said the facility would be the length of two football fields, 2-1/2 times the size of current Hastings facilities. “Folks, it’s going to be a game changer, and with our partnership with IHS with it will come $80-plus million dollars a year each and every year to fund the staff to take better care of the Cherokee people,” he said. “We’ve had so many great days in the Cherokee Nation. I do not know of a greater day than today. This is going to make health care not only the best in Indian Country, but our people quite likely will have the best health care in the state of Oklahoma.” According to the release, when Hastings Hospital was built in 1986, it was built for 100,000 patient visits per year. In 2016, there were nearly 400,000 patients visits with many of them being referred out for specialty services, the release states. Baker also said more than 850 health care jobs would be created from the expansion. In 2013, CN pledged to use $100 million from CNB casino profits to improve the tribe’s health care. According to the release, the funds helped to expand Stilwell and Sallisaw health centers and built new health centers in Ochelata and Jay. Upon the expansion’s completion in 2019, the current hospital will serve as the tribe’s in-patient hospital.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/15/2017 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will host an Affordable Care Act Outreach and Enrollment Fair from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on March 1 in Conference Room 1. “We will be hosting another ACA Outreach and Enrollment Fair here at Claremore,” Sheila Dishno, patient benefit coordinator, said. “Even though members of federally recognized tribes have a special monthly enrollment status, it is important for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and families to learn about their insurance options. Whether it’s purchasing insurance through the Marketplace or qualifying for SoonerCare, knowing that you have quality coverage provides peace of mind.” Dishno said people who attend the fair should bring their Social Security cards, pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about any health insurance they or their families could get from an employer. Also Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma will attend to assist patients with signing up for free-to-low-cost health insurance. The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave. For more information, call 918-342-6240, 918-342-6559 or 918-342-6507.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/13/2017 02:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – Applications for two grants under the First Nations Development Institute’s Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative are due by 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Feb. 17. First Nations will award up to 12 grants of up to $35,000 each to support projects that aim to strengthen local food-system control; increase access to local, healthy and traditional foods; and decrease food insecurity and food deserts, all with an emphasis on serving Native American children and families. For this grant opportunity, examples of allowable activities include, but are not limited to: • Community Garden Development, • Food Sovereignty Initiatives, • Food System Planning, • Supply Chain Improvements, • Grower-Based Education Programs, and • Intergenerational Programs with a Focus on Food. ?First Nations will also award up to 10 grants of up to $15,000 each to Native communities looking to conduct food sovereignty assessments in order to gain a better knowledge and understanding about the historical, current and future state of their local food systems. Under this grant opportunity, examples of allowable activities include, but are not limited to: • Food Sovereignty Assessment Planning, • Conducting Food Sovereignty Assessments, • Data Analysis of Food Sovereignty Assessment Surveys, and • Community Meetings Related to a Food Sovereignty Assessment. ?The request for proposals for grants can be accessed at <a href="http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/2017NAFSI" target="_blank">http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/2017NAFSI</a>. The request for proposals for the food sovereignty assessment grants can be accessed at <a href="http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/2017FSA" target="_blank">http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/2017FSA</a>. Organizations are invited to apply for one or both of these opportunities. Entities eligible to apply include U.S.-based, Native American-controlled, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, tribes and tribal departments, tribal organizations or Native American community-based groups with eligible fiscal sponsors committed to increasing healthy food access in rural and reservation-based Native communities and improving the health and well-being of Native American children and families. ??
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/06/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital is among a few hospitals in the country nationally recognized for using electronic medical records and other technology to advance health services for patients. The CN received notification earlier in January that it is now certified as a Stage 6 hospital from the Chicago-based Health Information & Management System Society. The nonprofit reports just 30 percent of the more than 5,400 hospitals in the United States have reached Stage 6 qualifications. There are 19 hospitals in Oklahoma certified as Stage 6, and the CN and Muscogee (Creek) Nation are the only tribes with the certification in the state. “Implementing electronic health records was a huge endeavor for the Cherokee Nation and not an easy task, but we are seeing the tremendous benefits, including better quality of patient documentation, which increases the level of care of our Cherokee Nation citizens,” Donnie Parrish, CN Health Services Health IT division chief information officer, said. “As the Cherokee Nation applies for grants and accreditations, the technology component is a key part of obtaining those awards, and so we’re extremely grateful to now be certified by HIMSS for our technology advances.” Health Services began working to upgrade its technology a few years ago. In 2015, the CN implemented electronic health records for patients. Prior, half of the tribe’s patient health records were paper and half electronic and many patients had multiple charts at multiple CN health centers. That made it difficult to access all of a patient’s files quickly or even to share information between health professionals. Hastings’ medical providers recently started using mobile technology carts with laptops to diagnose patients from their rooms, which directly upload to electronic health records. W.W. Hastings Hospital also has an online pharmacy refill and patient portal for patients to access their information. “HIMSS Analytics congratulates Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital for making significant progress towards achieving advanced health IT adoption,” said Global Vice President of HIMSS Analytics John H. Daniels. “Stage 6 represents a level of sophistication that can lead to innovative health care transformation.” Advantages for being a Stage 6 hospital, according to HIMSS, include better recruitment over competitors, documented health improvements and being positioned to give quality data results to stakeholders, grantees or other medical facilities. “Using this type of technology has a direct impact on improving patient access and quality of care in the Cherokee Nation,” Connie Davis, Health Services executive director, said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/24/2017 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – As part of President Obama’s Generation Indigenous initiative to remove barriers to success for Native American youth, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education on Jan. 19 announced that they joined with federal partners to launch the Culture and Meth Don’t Mix program, a methamphetamine prevention initiative for Native youth. The program is the result of collaboration under the Gen-I initiative between the White House Council on Native American Affairs, the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, BIE and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It aims to be a culturally appropriate approach for meth prevention among Native American youth through community and interagency involvement. The program also reflects the Interior’s intent to uphold the United States’ trust responsibility to federally recognized tribes. “Through the Generation Indigenous initiative, the Obama Administration has sought to utilize federal resources across the board to address the issues that can prevent Native youth from fulfilling their potential,” Deputy Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts said. “The Culture and Meth Don’t Mix program’s goal is to strengthen meth prevention in tribal communities through the combined efforts of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, BIE schools, and SAMHSA. I want to thank SAMHSA for working with us to help tribes with protecting their children and youth, and tribal leaders for participating in this important effort.” The program was rolled out with Indian Affairs, BIA and BIE officials and leaders from seven tribes: The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Montana, and the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Pleasant Point and Indian Township communities in Maine. The program also includes a speaker series to be held in selected BIE schools that will discuss the implications and health issues involved with methamphetamine use. Speakers will include BIA law enforcement officials who will explain the legal implications of meth use, a SAMHSA-recommended health professional to describe how meth affects personal health and a representative from the tribal community to address meth’s impact on it culture and people. The BIE implements federal Indian education programs and funds 183 elementary and secondary day and boarding schools (of which two-thirds are tribally operated) located on 64 reservations in 23 states and peripheral dormitories serving over 40,000 students. The BIE also operates two post-secondary schools, and administers grants for 28 tribally controlled colleges and universities and two tribal technical colleges and provides higher education scholarships to Native youth. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.bie.edu" target="_blank">www.bie.edu</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/17/2017 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The Indian Health Service on Jan. 9 published a report outlining a policy and implementation plan to expand the use of community health aides in American Indian and Alaska Native health programs across the country. Community health aides are paraprofessional health care workers who can perform a range of duties in health programs to improve access to quality care for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Under the new policy, facilities operated by the federal government and tribally operated facilities could see expanded opportunities for using these aides, a group that could include dental health aide therapists and workers in substance use and suicide prevention, health education, communicable disease control, maternal and child health, environmental health and other fields. “Increased access to health care is a top priority for IHS, and community health aides expand much-needed health services for American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” said Mary L. Smith, IHS principal deputy director. “I thank all of our tribal partners for sharing their feedback, and I look forward to their continued participation and partnership as we work together to develop a robust implementation plan. Community health aides are already providing quality health care in some parts of Indian Country, and with the expansion of this program, Native American communities across the nation will have access to these valuable health workers.” In June, IHS invited comments from tribal leaders on a draft policy statement to begin a process of expanding the use of community health aides at IHS facilities across the country. January’s announcement includes a report summarizing the comments received during consultation meetings and other comments sent to the IHS. As described in the report, IHS will establish a national workgroup that includes tribal leaders and outside experts to advise IHS on the development of a policy and implementation plan for the Community Health Aide Program. IHS will then seek input through the formal tribal consultation process, and finalize the policy. IHS already runs an evaluation system mandated by statute to monitor current IHS community health aides to assure that quality health care is being provided to patients. The Report on the Tribal Consultation for the IHS Policy Statement on Creating a National IHS Community Health Aide Program and Dear Tribal Leader Letter announcing the report are available at <a href="http://www.ihs.gov" target="_blank">www.ihs.gov</a>. In August, through the Community Health Aide Program Certification Board it manages, IHS certified the latest group of community health aides in Alaska, totaling 171 behavioral health, dental health and other aides and practitioners. Many community health aides come from the local communities and immediate surrounding areas.