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

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08/26/2014 08:54 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials celebrated the opening of Redbird Smith Health Center’s main building on Aug. 13 after it underwent a remodel the past two years because of mold found inside. Clinical Director Jerry Caughman said the remodel means a lot to him because he grew up in Sallisaw and is a CN citizen. “I’m not only an employee here, I’m from Sallisaw. Both sides of my family, they’re from Sallisaw and we have been 100-plus years,” he said. “So these people that come to this clinic, they’re not only patients of mine, but they’re my friends and family. And so this means more than anyone can ever know.” The building was closed in 2012, and its patient services were moved to different parts of the health center after the mold was discovered. The building was gutted, said CN Communications officials, with the use of Indian Health Services funds. The building cost $4.4 million to remodel and will house dental, administration, a fitness area and public health nursing. Connie Davis, CN Health Services executive director, said the tribe’s administration, Tribal Council and Health Services have made the expansion of health services a priority. “The Redbird Smith renovation and expansion will not only serve more patients, but also offer programs such as mammography and physical therapy that patients normally would have to be referred to Tahlequah or other health centers to get,” she said. “I’m very proud of this expansion, and it’s just the first of many more to come for our overall health centers.” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fulbright said the new services the facility will offer is something she and patients have waited a long time for. “I’ve been on the council seven years and one of things I really, really wanted when I got on the council was a dialysis center. It took four years, but we accomplished that and helped so many people,” she said. “We’ve got top notch care for our people. When they come here they can rest assured they’re getting some of the finest.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said “citizens deserve world-class care” and the expansions and remodels represent that. “This will ensure we offer treatment as effectively and efficiently as possible when patients come for health care services. This is the most important long-term investment we can make as a tribal government,” he said. “More importantly, this expansion allows our health center to accommodate more people day in and day out.” A new annex is also being constructed behind the main building. When finished, the center will go from 33,000 square feet to more than 60,000 square feet. Its cost totals about $11 million, making the entire construction at Redbird Smith more than $15 million. The health center opened in 1992, according to CN Communications. In 2013, it served more than 100,000 patients. After renovations, that number is expected to rise.
08/26/2014 08:36 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Former Miss Cherokee Julie Thornton will passed her crown to the new Miss Cherokee on Aug. 23. Thornton has served as Miss Cherokee for nearly a year, visiting different areas of the United States. However, in April, she was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, a type of cancer that attacks muscle and bones. “It’s a type of cancer that causes tumors that are connected to your lymph nodes and your bones,” Thornton said. “It looks like a knot on your skin and usually they turn black and they raise up.” But having cancer hasn’t slowed her. She said despite the diagnosis she’s remained busy with classes at Northeastern State University and is maintaining her grades, earning all A’s. Thornton said both sides of her family has endured cancer, so she has always been careful and watchful about her body. “My grandfather just recently passed away of stomach cancer, and a few years ago my other grandpa died of lung cancer,” she said. “So my family has always taught me to watch my body, and if something is wrong, you know, go to the doctor and make sure it’s all checked out.” She said this spring she noticed a small knot on her thigh and visited the doctor to determine what it was. “They said that ‘it’s just the keloids, just watch it.’ If it got bigger or anything and if it did then to come back,” Thornton said. Keloids are a formation of a type of scar. The scar overgrows tissue at the site of a healed skin injury. It tends to affect more people of a darker pigmentation. She said she’s had keloids since a young age and that she watched the area closely. After the knot changed she returned to the doctor. “Well it got bigger and it got to the size of a half dollar size and it turned black and it raised up,” she added. “So I went to the doctor and they performed a biopsy and they removed the tumor and (I’ve) been going through treatment ever since.” Her treatment has consisted of chemotherapy injections as well as radiation in the form of pills. Depending on the month, she said she takes one chemo injection every two weeks. “So like, sometimes I’ll go like once a month in a big dose or I’ll do once every two weeks in small doses. Now I’m doing just once a week (on the radiation pill),” she added. “Yeah, the medicine is working.” The biggest issue she’s had while going through treatment is exhaustion. “Everyday I would get tired. I can never get enough sleep it feels like. I guess like depending on the day that I get treatment, I get really moody,” she said. She hopes her treatments will stop this fall. As for now, her goals are to continue with her classes, graduate in 2017 with a major in criminal justice and double minor in police force and homeland security. Her goal is to become a Cherokee Nation marshal when she turns 21. Her suggestion for kids and adults is to keep a close watch on one’s body. “But also just knowing your body, and what’s non-normal. Because like, when I got diagnosed with sarcoma, part of the whole treatment process is that you have to get pat downs every month to make sure that you don’t have any new spots as well,” she said. “Know their body. Know what’s not normal. Know if something’s out of place. Notice new spots on you or new bumps. If you don’t think something is supposed to be there, it’s probably not and you need to go to the doctor and get that checked out.”
08/13/2014 07:58 AM
BY STACIE GUTHRIE Reporter SALINA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Robert Jackson, 40, has lived his whole life facing health problems. He was born at the Claremore Indian Hospital with a single ventricle in his heart. This caused heart- and lung-related problems. He had Transpiration of the Great Vessels, in which the aorta and pulmonary arteries are switched. It caused hypertension on the artery connecting to his lungs, which caused his lung problems. Jackson said his whole life doctors told him he had limited time, but this did not stop him from being a “normal” child. “I went to school just like a normal kid. When I got to go to school,” he said. “My early years were pretty bad. They (doctors) always told me that I wouldn’t live until I was 9, 12 and 18.” By Jackson’s teen years he said he began refusing medications. “I began to rebel and refused the meds. I wanted to be like everyone else,” he said. “I learned how to function with my limits and blend in with the other teens. I graduated high school and got a job. I wanted to better myself.” He later married, fathered children and lived a normal life. But in the late 1990s, he came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized in Pryor. While there, doctors encouraged him to seek treatment at the Oklahoma Heart Institute in Tulsa. He said this was the first time he was told he had a serious heart problem. “I really didn’t understand the situation,” he said. “No one pushed me to follow up on their recommendations, so I went back to living.” In 2005, Jackson said he thought he had a serious sinus infection that caused him to struggle to breathe. His wife Dot took him to the Claremore Indian Hospital where doctors learned he suffered a heart attack. “I was transported to Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, by 2 a.m. in the morning a group of doctors from Oklahoma Heart Institute were at the foot of my bed. They stated that I needed to go to a specialty hospital because I needed a heart transplant or would be lucky to live two more years,” Jackson said. He and his wife began piecing together a plan to get him what he needed to live. During this time they encountered Dr. Brian Cole, a cardiologist at Tahlequah City Hospital. Cole completed his residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. This is where Jackson would need to go to receive his transplant. “He stayed on the phone with them that very day until he could get me an appointment because you cannot see them without a referral,” Jackson said. Jackson traveled to St. Louis to visit the hospital and found that not only did he need a heart transplant but also a double lung transplant. Since then, he and his wife have made multiple trips to B-JH for tests and appointments. In 2013, he began having more health problems, resulting in him moving up the transplant list. In 2014, the couple has made three weeklong trips to the hospital. Jackson’s next appointment was set for July 30 when doctors were to evaluate him a last time for a status on the transplant list. “During my last visit there I was told either go for the transplant or go home and wait for the stroke or heart attack that is about to happen,” he said. “I choose to live.” The transplant must be conducted in St. Louis because there are no Oklahoma hospitals that perform the surgery. This has caused Jackson to run into financial problems. “Right now we’re calling a lot of people, trying to get donations and stuff like that,” he said. “Love to get Cherokee Nation to help because the living expenses is going to be terrible up there. I might be up there a year. I could be up there two years. You just don’t get it as soon as you walk in the door. You’re on a waiting list, and you got to be matched up with somebody.” The couple is holding fundraisers for living expenses for when going to St. Louis. Dot said there are specified apartments that cost $450 a month for those awaiting transplants. She said she’s hoping to conduct fundraisers in September, including one at the Salina Highbanks Speedway. For more information about donating, call 918-521-2733 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
06/17/2014 08:55 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Health Services held a surprise lunch on June 11 at the Cherokee Springs Grill for Dr. Charles Grim, Health Services deputy executive director, to celebrate “Charles W. Grim Day.” In 2003, former Gov. Brad Henry dedicated the date in honor of Grim. Grim said when that occurred it was during his Senate confirmation hearing for his director of Indian Health Service. He said usually when a presidential appointee gets nominated either one or both of the senators from the appointee’s state come in and introduce the nominee to the committee before the hearing. “So the two senators from the state of Oklahoma came in and were setting on either side of me and were saying something nice about me. And prior to the meeting I had to go meet with each of them separate, so they got to know me a little better,” he said. Grim said during the hearing the two Republican senators approved of his appointment to IHS and said they agreed with Gov. Henry’s dedicating June 11 as “Charles W. Grim Day” in Oklahoma. “That’s kind of how they ended their talk about me, and I was surprised and shocked and didn’t even know you could do such a thing. But I felt very humbled and very honored by it,” Grim said. Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said the department decided to celebrate Grim because of him being an asset to Health Services, as well as for it being “Dr. Charles W. Grim Day.” “He was appointed by President (George W.) Bush to that position, and you know we’re just honored that he helps us run this health system. I couldn’t do it without him,” Davis said. “He’s a great resource and a great friend.” Grim said it was a surprise and honor that his fellow workers honored him on his day. “For this group of people to remember that or to know that even and then do it, I was just sitting here thinking what a special group of people I really work with,” he said.
06/11/2014 12:56 PM
JAY, Okla. – To pay tribute to Cherokee families and the history of Delaware County, Cherokee Nation officials are looking specifically for photographs depicting life in Delaware County and its citizens from the 1800s to 1970 to be placed inside the new Sam Hider Health Center, which is under construction in Jay. “The clinic in Jay will be a world-class venue upon its completion, and I think it is appropriate that its interior depict real family images of our Cherokee citizens in Delaware County,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I am confident we’ll have an outpouring of support and a long line of citizens wanting to share their personal family histories in a health care facility that is moving the Cherokee Nation forward.” Employees will be accepting photographs in the lobby of the existing health center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 18-20. “The health center in Jay already displays numerous Cherokee family photographs from around the area,” Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said. “When we open the new clinic, we hope to expand the collection to include more Cherokee families, historic buildings and landmarks.” All donated photos will be scanned, and the originals will remain with the owner. Each donor will be asked to sign a donation form granting CN permission to use scanned copies of the photographs. If known, donors should also bring details related to the photo, such as names, dates and location where the photo was taken. “We appreciate everyone who considers this request,” Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said. “This is a great way to honor our ancestors, showcase our community and educate future generations of Cherokee citizens from Delaware County.” Sam Hider Health Center is located at 1015 W. Washbourne St. For more information, call Krystan Moser at 918-384-7490.
06/05/2014 08:40 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Through a Indian Health Services grant, the Cherokee Nation recently received $2,577,845 that will be disbursed at W.W. Hastings Hospital and four of its health centers. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah will receive $910,645, while the Sam Hider Health Center in Jay will get $469,203. The Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw will get $402,293, while the Cooweescoowee Health Center in Ochelata will receive $397,852. The Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell is set to get $397,852. The grant will help purchase state-of-the-art radiology equipment, dental equipment, wheelchairs, defibrillators and more. The Redbird Smith and Wilma P. Mankiller Health centers will also use funds for new equipment in their respective expansion projects. “The Cherokee Nation’s mission is to increase access to quality care for Cherokee people, and the Indian Health Services investment will allow us to provide more essential services for more families,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The additional IHS funding helps provide state-of-the-art medical equipment for our people, because every Cherokee citizen deserves the best possible health care we can provide.” CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis called the money an “enormous blessing.” “The Cherokee Nation will have new health facilities opening over the next year, and our citizens deserve the best equipment to go along with them,” she said. “New facilities and state-of-the-art equipment allow Cherokee Nation Health Services to continue to better the lives of our citizens and be the leader in health care throughout Indian Country.”