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

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.
TESINA-JACKSON@cherokee.org • 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.

Health

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/15/2014 11:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Oklahoma Blood Institute will visit the Cherokee Nation on Dec. 16 for Donor Appreciation Day. The day will include door prizes, lunch and blood donation. The blood drive will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the CN’s Ballroom behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees. There will also be a “treasure chest” from which for donors to choose an appreciation item. Donors will also be able to receive free health screenings and donor reward points, which can be redeemed at the OBI’s online store. “We’re blessed to be surrounded by giving people who respond when they know of a need,” President and CEO of Oklahoma Blood Institute John Armitage said. “The gift of blood is a priceless one. It’s difficult to think of anything more important that we personally can do.” According to the OBI, the OBI is the ninth largest blood center in American and is the exclusive blood provider to patients at the W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital and Northeastern Health System. Approximately 140 medical facilities also receive blood from the OBI.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/03/2014 08:08 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – American Indian and Alaska Native children are exposed to violence at rates higher than any other social group in the nation, according to a new report that urges creation of a new Native American affairs office, additional federal funding and other measures to combat the problem. The report released Tuesday by a U.S. Department of Justice advisory committee reflects information gathered at public hearings across the country in 2013 and 2014. “We discovered something we’d known when we started – that this is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed,” committee co-chair and former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said during a teleconference. Based on the public input and research, the committee assessed the effects of violence on tribal youth and came up with an action plan. The report’s goal is to be a catalyst for action by Congress and the Obama administration, said Dorgan, who served as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee until his retirement in 2010. “State and federal governments must recognize and respect the primacy of tribal governments,” the report said. According to the report, exposure to violence results in American Indian and Alaska Native children experiencing post-traumatic stress at three times the rate of the non-Native population. The task force compared the level of stress to that of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. The study says 75 percent of deaths among indigenous children between the ages of 12 and 20 are caused by violence, including homicides and suicides. Alaska Native children were singled out as having the worst conditions systemically for various reasons including Alaska’s vastness, remoteness and steep transportation costs, along with a lack of respect for tribal sovereignty. Among recommendations specific to the state, the report urges that more sovereignty be granted to Alaska Native tribes. Currently the only reservation in the state is the community of Metlakatla, in southeast Alaska. A key recommendation in the report is to establish a White House Native American affairs office to coordinate services affecting children, among other things. The committee also said increased mandatory funding and coordination between tribal, federal and state governments are crucial to reversing the trend. The funding process also should be streamlined and less administratively burdensome, task force members said. “We all have to come together to make this work,” said committee member Valerie Davidson, with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Dorgan said it’s difficult to predict how such recommendations as creating a new office to deal with the problem will be received in the new Republican-led Congress. “I think the series of recommendations in this report about children exposed to violence and about the help that we need to provide for these children will fall on the ears of Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “They must care about children.” The recommendations are a step forward in helping Native American children receive opportunities to succeed, said U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat and member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “Native children dealing with the dire effects of exposure to violence has truly reached pandemic levels – and it requires our immediate attention,” Heitkamp said in a statement.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/27/2014 02:00 PM
ROCKVILLE, Md. – Officials with the Indian Health Service Bemidji Area recently determined that a physician employed by a staffing IHS contracted company had improperly accessed protected health information from three IHS facilities. The IHS, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. The three facilities include the Fort Yates Service Unit in the IHS Great Plains Area, the Cass Lake Service Unit in the IHS Bemidji Area and the Crow Service Unit in the IHS Billings Area. The data breach included patient names, Social Security numbers and health information such as diagnoses, prescribed medications and laboratory results. However, there is no current indication that the information has been used by or disclosed to any unauthorized individuals. “IHS is very disappointed that this breach occurred given that the staffing company contract included the requirement that contract providers must protect patient privacy and meet HIPAA regulations. We are committed to ensuring the security and integrity of all our patients’ personal information and are putting additional protections in place” said Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, acting IHS director. “Keeping patient information secure is of the utmost importance to us and we very much regret that this situation occurred.” The IHS contract at issue contained the requirement that contractors must protect patient privacy and comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and its implementing regulations. Even though these protections were required as a part of the staffing company’s contract with IHS, the contract provider improperly accessed these records. In accordance with regulations implementing HIPAA, on Oct. 17 the IHS has notified all persons whose information was improperly accessed. The Area HIPAA Coordinators have completed an investigation and the matter has been referred for appropriate action in accordance with HIPAA and its implementing regulations. Patients who received the letter and have any questions can contact the following Area HIPAA coordinators: • Cass Lake Service Unit in the IHS Bemidji Area – Phillip Talamasy at 218-444-0538 or email <a href="mailto: orphillip.talamasy@ihs.gov">orphillip.talamasy@ihs.gov</a> • Fort Yates Service Unit in the IHS Great Plains Area – Heather H. McClane at 605-226-7730 or email <a href="mailto: orheather.mcclane@ihs.gov">orheather.mcclane@ihs.gov</a> • Crow Service Unit in the IHS Billings Area- Felicia Blackhoop at 406-247-7184 or email <a href="mailto: felicia.blackhoop@ihs.gov">felicia.blackhoop@ihs.gov</a>
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/27/2014 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently awarded $3.9 million for outreach and enrollment efforts targeted at American Indian and Alaska Native children who are eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. The awarded money from the grant will go towards funding activities that are designed to engage schools and tribes in Medicaid and CHIP outreach and enrollment efforts. CMS awarded grant funds to health programs that are operated by tribes, tribal organizations, Indian Health Services and urban Indian organizations located in Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Alaska and New Mexico. “We are very pleased to support efforts that help eligible American Indian and Alaska Native children gain access to affordable health coverage,” said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and CHIP Services Director Cindy Mann. “More people with health coverage also benefits local health care facilities, allowing them to offer more services and improve health care for the whole community.” Grantees will organize activities that are focused on helping eligible teens enroll for coverage and ultimately ensure that eligible children maintain coverage for as long as they qualify. These awards ensure that Native American and Alaska Native children will be given the opportunities to receive quality health care services. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.insurekidsnow.gov" target="_blank">www.insurekidsnow.gov</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/27/2014 08:00 AM
JAY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials on Nov. 19 celebrated the topping out of the tribe’s new health center in Delaware County, which is still under construction. “Access to quality health care is the most important issue facing our people. We made a strategic investment to ensure Cherokee citizens would have every opportunity to receive the kind of world-class health care they deserve,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The expanded space, coupled with new state-of-the-art equipment, allows us to deliver better and faster care to more people.” The health center will be 42,00 square feet and is expected to cost approximately $13.5 million. It will have services such as behavioral health, contract health, dental, diabetes care, laboratory, nutrition, optometry, pharmacy with mail order, physical therapy services, primary care, public health nursing, radiology and Women, Infants and Children. According to a CNB press release, the original Sam Hider Health Center was opened in 1989, which makes it one of the oldest health centers in the tribe’s health care system. Approximately 100 people are employed in the existing 26,000-square-foot facility. In 2013, that facility served more than 80,000 patient visits. “It was time for a new health center,” Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said. “Health care is important to the Cherokee people, and I am grateful we are able to make this investment for the citizens.” The new Sam Hider Health Center is one of four health centers under construction with the help of CNB, which provided funds of more than $100 million. “This new health center is something that Cherokees will take pride in for years,” Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said. “This has been a dream for a long time, and I couldn’t be more pleased that local citizens will have access to improved health facilities.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/18/2014 10:13 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Oklahoma Breast Care Center’s Mobile Mammogram Unit will be making a stop on Dec. 11 at the Cherokee Nation’s Gadugi Health Center. The mammogram screening is available to CN employees who carry insurance. The MMU is a service that is provided in an RV-type vehicle that has a mammogram machine where women can get their mammogram done without having to travel far distances. When receiving a mammogram it is important to wear a two-piece outfit so it is easy to undress from the waist up. It is also recommended to not wear deodorant or powder because is can show up on the scan. For more information or to schedule a mammogram, call 918-207-4911 or email <a href="mailto: leonda-barnett@cherokee.org">leonda-barnett@cherokee.org</a>.