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
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
and click on influenza presentation.

918-453-5000, ext. 6139

About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization. • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.


04/24/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced April 13 the award of 20 contracts for the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury. Originally slated to end in 2014, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 extended this program through October 2017. “We are pleased to extend this valuable program and provide specialized assisted living services to eligible veterans with traumatic brain injury that will enhance their rehabilitation, quality of life and community integration,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA’s interim under secretary for health. “TBI is one of the prevalent wounds of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and VA remains committed to taking care of those Veterans suffering from TBI.” Under the AL-TBI program, veterans meeting the eligibility criteria are placed in private sector TBI residential care facilities specializing in neurobehavioral rehabilitation. The program offers team-based care and assistance in areas such as speech, memory and mobility. Approximately 202 veterans participated in the AL-TBI Pilot Program in 47 facilities located in 22 states. Currently, 101 veterans participate in the pilot as VA continues to accept new eligible patients into the program. In October, VA issued a request for proposal for vendors wishing to participate in the program. In accordance with the RFP, VA has awarded 20 contracts to facilities located in 27 states. The contracts went into effect on April 1, 2015. The program is currently effective through October 2017, in accordance with VACAA. For more information about the TBI program, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For information about VA’s work to implement the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, see <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
04/16/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Gadugi Clinic west of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex will have the mammogram bus available on May 8. “If you have health insurance and would like to schedule an appointment, please call the clinic,” said Joanna McDaniel, manager of Health Operations at Gadugi Health Center. The American Cancer Society recommends that women over the age of 40 have a mammogram yearly, she added. “The Oklahoma Breast Care Center sends their mobile mammogram unit to our clinic 3-4 times a year to perform mammograms on our patients,” McDaniel said. “OBCC provides this service at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. If patients are interested, they should call the clinic at 918-207-4911 to answer a few screening questions.” In addition to May 8, the MMU is scheduled to come Aug. 11 and Dec. 9.
04/11/2015 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the State Department of Health would be directed by Senate Bill 250 to collaborate on development of goals for reducing the incidence of diabetes in Oklahoma. The measure received overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature. The House of Representatives passed the bill, 67-18, on April 2, and the Senate approved it, 39-4, on March 5. The bill was supported by 23 House Democrats, including Reps. Will Fourkiller (Cherokee Nation citizen) of Stilwell, Claudia Griffith of Norman and Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City, all of whom are members of the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Health; Rep. Jeannie McDaniel of Tulsa, a member of the House Committee on Public Health who also co-authored the measure; and House Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City. The goals suggested in SB 250 would include improvements in health care services and prevention services, better procedures to control complications, and statistics, including the financial impact of diabetes and the number of Oklahomans afflicted with the disease. According to the State Health Department, more than 329,000 Oklahomans 18 and older were diagnosed with diabetes in 2012; Oklahoma ranked ninth in the nation in 2012 for the percentage of the adult population diagnosed with diabetes; the percent of the adult population being diagnosed with diabetes has been growing at a faster rate in Oklahoma than in the nation; and nearly one in every four senior citizens (65 years and older) in Oklahoma has been diagnosed with diabetes. Also, Oklahoma’s Native Americans have been diagnosed more frequently, and die from diabetes at the highest rate of any other race or ethnic group in this state. Diagnosis rates include American Indians, 16.4 percent; African Americans, 12.3 percent; Caucasians, 11.6 percent; multiracial individuals, 9.5 percent; and Hispanic, 7.6 percent. During the past decade, hospital admissions for diabetes increased 21 percent, and Oklahoma adults reported the sixth-highest percentage of obesity–a key risk factor for diabetes–in the nation in 2012. The national average was 28.1 percent; Oklahoma’s rate was 32.2 percent.
04/05/2015 08:00 AM
SALINA, Okla. – A Cherokee Nation doctor is being recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of 30 “champions” across the nation for saving lives by lowering the blood pressure of at least 70 percent of his patients. Dr. Brett Gray, a physician at the CN’s A-Mo Health Center in Salina, is a 2014 Million Hearts Hypertension Control Challenge Champion. The Million Hearts initiative was launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011 with the intent to prevent one million heart attacks by 2017. It also identified doctors making sweeping change. The CN employs 166 doctors in its eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital. The tribe held a proclamation signing March 30 on National Doctors’ Day at Hastings to thank all CN doctors for their service to CN citizens. “I feel honored to get the award and be recognized for the kind of medicine that we’re trying to practice as a team, to improve lives not only for patients with hypertension, but other health issues as well,” Gray said. “I’m really honored that my name is on the award, but I also want to make sure that the credit goes where it’s due. This has always been a team effort.” Gray and his team of nurses have a patient success rate of 81.2 percent of controlled hypertension, which is when a patient maintains a healthy blood pressure, lowering the chance for cardiovascular complications. “For years the government has measured the quality of our health facilities’ success, and the Cherokee Nation continues to lead the nation in their quality scores,” said Connie Davis, CN Health Services executive director, said. “This recognition of Dr. Gray, who is a leader here at the tribe among his peers, is very deserving and another example of how the Cherokee Nation reaches its high quality scores.” High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, and keeping levels regulated has been proven to save lives. Gray is credited with more frequent patient follow-ups and trying to keep patients with a routine team of practioners. “My case manager follows up with people and keeps everything together. Our LPN is well liked by the patients, so she’s always encouraging and educating them. Our clerk keeps our hectic schedules in order. And another nurse at the health center will get our patients in sooner to check on their blood pressure and let us know if we need to make any adjustments. This team approach has gotten us to the level we’re at now,” he said. Gray, of Pryor, started at the CN in 2000 after having a practice. In February, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate recognized him as the “Doctor of the Day” during CN Legislative Day. The Million Hearts initiative is led by the CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information or to make an appointment, call the A-Mo Health Center at 918-434-8500.
04/01/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - When the federal government proposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the main goal of the act was to give a boost to the American economy and to offer financial assistance in areas which are often hit by economic hardship, like education and infrastructure. Organizations and government bodies across the country applied for different grants, contracts and loans. Cherokee County was no exception. Cherokee County’s total recovery funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was over $90 million, according to data released by ProPublica. The U.S. Department of Education sent the most money into Cherokee County with over $23 million. While the government website dedicated to ARRA states more money in the county went to infrastructure than any other category, many Department of Education grants went to schools to “modernization, renovation or repair of public school facilities.” Many of these grants are considered State Fiscal Stabilization Fund grants, and they come in a wide range of amounts. The Briggs Public School district was awarded one of these grants for $798. Briggs also received another grant within this same fund for $11,847 as part of an allocation of over $105 million. The primary recipient of the allocation was the Executive Office of the State of Oklahoma, which still received over $55 million dollars – but the rest went to school districts across the state including schools in Grove, Jenks, Tulsa, Okmulgee and Elk City. Tahlequah Public Schools received two different grants from this allotment. Local schools, as well as Cherokee Nation, received money for preschool and Head Start programs. Cherokee Nation officials did not comment on any childcare grants the tribe received, but did provide information on the highway planning and infrastructure grants. “The federal stimulus grants helped the Cherokee Nation pave and repair 33 miles of roadway that improved the safety of our citizens and communities as a whole, as well as improved two bridges, one in disrepair in Mayes County and one in Sequoyah County,” a prepared statement said. Cherokee Nation received 36 ARRA grants and contracts, records show. Northeastern Oklahoma Community Health Centers, like many of the businesses and organizations that received funds in Cherokee County, was awarded four grants, but did not accept two of them that related to the Department of Agriculture. NeoHealth Chief Information Officer Mike McGavock said one of the grants, which was for over $500,000, was used to purchase equipment for their offices and EKG machines for their clinics. “It’s been great to have newer technology to treat our patients,” said McGavock. NeoHealth had to send patients with cardio issues to a local hospital before the system had its own EKG machine – which meant patients had to pay for another appointment at a different facility. The new office equipment was part of what was, at the time, a new federal regulation to have an Electronic Health Record System. “It’s basically the paperless medical charting,” said McGavock. Before this, files could be damaged or lost; but now, as long as they are backed up correctly, patient data will not be lost even during extreme weather conditions that might occur. Another grant, which was for just under $200,000, was to hire more providers to open another clinic. The grant paid for that employee for two years. It was the only new job position created due to NeoHealth’s grants.
03/26/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Four of Cherokee Nation’s health centers, W.W. Hastings Hospital and the tribe’s entire Health Services have been deemed “Certified Healthy” by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The Vinita Health Center, Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw and Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell were recently selected among 1,700 winners of the Certified Healthy Oklahoma award for 2014. The designation for maintaining a healthy campus for employees is administered by the state, Oklahoma Academy, state chamber and Oklahoma Turning Point Council. “I believe it is important as a health department to set the example of making healthy choices,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “If we can create a work environment that not only encourages but supports these important changes in our lifestyle, then we have made a real impact on ensuring healthy generations to come.” Employees take advantage of fitness rooms, daily exercise and diet and nutrition classes offered at each of the sites. The tribe’s Early Childhood Unit was also recognized as “Certified Healthy” for providing a healthy nutrition policy for staff and Head Start children. The awards are given annually in six categories: businesses, restaurants, schools, campuses, early care and education and congregation. “All of us are aware of the high costs associated with unhealthy habits, and because our employees work in the health care setting, it’s vital that the workplace be conducive to living a healthy lifestyle,” Brian Hail, W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO, said. “Having this recognition from the Oklahoma State Department of Health demonstrates our commitment to our employees’ well-being and our dedication to the vision of healthy communities for this and future generations.” The CN maintains an onsite health center to treat sick employees, the Gadugi Clinic, and employees and CN citizens have free access to the Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah, which offers a gym, weights and weekly boot camp, yoga and Zumba classes. “The Certified Healthy Oklahoma Program is a free statewide recognition program showcasing organizations and communities that are committed to making the healthy choice the easy choice,” Julie Dearing, manager of the Certified Healthy Oklahoma Program, said. “Oklahoma truly has a vision of creating healthier places to live, work, learn, play and pray. We are challenging all Oklahomans to eat better, move more and be tobacco-free, as well as implement policies to create healthy environments throughout our state.” For more information on Health Services, call 918-453-5657.