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


10/12/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation health officials are offering free flu vaccinations for CN citizens and their non-Native family members living in the household to prepare for flu season. Health officials have dozens of vaccination clinics scheduled this month and next at schools, town halls and health centers throughout the 14-county jurisdiction. For the CN’s flu vaccination schedule, click <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. The flu season typically runs September to March, but each year it peaks during different months. The tribe vaccinated more than 50,000 people during the previous flu season. Vaccination clinic dates and locations are subject to change. Visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and click on the public notices section under the quick links tab for frequent updates.
10/06/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The National Indian Health Board in September honored the Cherokee Nation’s Public Health senior director, Lisa Pivec, with an area impact award. The NIHB honored Pivec for advancing American Indian health in Indian Country during an awards dinner Sept. 21 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Under Pivec’s leadership, the CN Public Health office in August became the first tribe in the country to receive accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board. Fewer than 200 public health agencies nationally have earned the title in the past five years. “The opportunity to serve, contribute and be part of my community is an honor. Receiving this award from those I respect across Indian Country fills me with gratitude and hope,” Pivec said. “There are so many heroes working across the country, giving back to ensure we remain a thriving and powerful sovereign Nation for centuries to come. Cherokee Nation is my home, my family, and I am grateful to those who have walked before to pave the way. My grandparents and mother provided a foundation for me to contribute to, and I hope we can all see our role in serving our great Nation.” Pivec, a CN citizen, has worked for the CN for more than 25 years. “Pivec and her team at Healthy Nation, the Cherokee Nation’s Public Health arm, are now the first accredited tribal public health department,” NIHB officials said in a statement. “This task is no small accomplishment and represents thousands of hours of work, coordination and no small amount of perseverance. Pivec’s hard work and dedication to public health accreditation is leading the way for Oklahoma and all of Indian Country.” The tribe’s Public Health department has worked on initiatives such as Zika Virus preparedness planning, launching community walking groups, funding school community gardens, implementing a cancer tumor registry database and conducting research with universities on things such as triggers for childhood asthma. CN Public Health also sponsors 5K races and operates a gym with certified public health trainers for CN citizens and employees for free to promote a healthier lifestyle. “Our investments in public health are an investment in the future of the Cherokee Nation, and no issue has been more important under (Principal) Chief Bill John Baker’s administration than quality health care for Cherokee people,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The tribe and our citizens are fortunate that we have talented and dedicated professionals like Lisa Pivec who continue to push that mission and create programs that are second to none.”
09/29/2016 09:25 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Claremore Indian Hospital officials want you to become a Kung Flu fighter as they start their “Flu Fighter” campaign on Oct. 3 at the hospital located at 101 S. Moore Ave. David Bales, Claremore Indian Hospital safety officer, said American Indians and Alaskan Natives are more likely than any other group in the general United States population to get sicker from the flu, be hospitalized and die from flu-related complications. He said he is advising people to get the influenza vaccine and that it’s safe and people cannot get the flu from vaccine. In the meantime, he said, people can help prevent getting or spreading the flu or colds by covering their mouths and noses when they sneeze or cough, washing their hands often, staying home if they are sick and not eating or drinking after people who are sick. For more information, call us at 918-342-6679 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
09/27/2016 08:15 AM
<strong>This is Part 1 of a multiple-part series about the opioid epidemic.</strong> TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The United States is undergoing an opioid epidemic, and Oklahoma is near the top of a nationwide list for drug-poisoning deaths. Cherokee Nation’s Behavioral Health defines an opioid as an umbrella term for a natural or synthetic drug derived from or related to the opium poppy plant. Opioids attach to receptors in the central nervous system reducing pain signals to the brain. According to, a website provided by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, in 2012 Oklahoma had the fifth-highest unintentional poisoning death rate in the nation (18.6 deaths per 100,000 population). Prescription painkillers were involved in nine out of 10 prescription drug-related deaths, with 460 opioid-involved deaths in 2012 alone. Anyone can be at risk of overdose if prescription drugs are not taken as directed and with a valid prescription, said Sam Bradshaw, CN Prevention “Partnership for Success” Project director, who is with a Behavioral Health group working against prescription drug abuse. Adults aged 35-54 had the highest death rate of any age group for prescription- and nonprescription-related overdoses, and men are more likely to die of an opioid-related overdose than women, according to “It’s a national epidemic. I think it’s really important to share that. It’s not just in northeast Oklahoma or a Cherokee problem. This is a national problem that is affecting our state and our 14-county Cherokee Nation service area,” Bradshaw said. He said when prescription drug abuse prevention is discussed, people in his field talk about opioids. Opioids are painkillers, and Bradshaw said many people live with chronic pain and need the painkillers. Commonly used opioids are oxycodone, morphine, codeine, heroin, fentanyl, methadone, opium Demerol, Percocet, Lortab and hydrocodone. “Now, there’s a whole bunch of different ones, but the most prescribed opioid is hydrocodone. The United States is the number one consumer of hydrocodone (99 percent) in the world,” he said. More overdose deaths involve hydrocodone or oxycodone than all illegal drugs and alcohol combined, said CN certified prevention specialist Coleman Cox, who educates people about opioid drug abuse in Wagoner County. National Vital Statistics System data from 2015 indicate that deaths in Oklahoma attributable to opioids have exceeded the national rate with rapid increases since 1999. In that period, death rates attributable to painkillers in at least half of the 14 counties in the CN’s jurisdiction exceed the state rate of 8.7 per 100,000. Those counties are Cherokee (13), McIntosh (11.6), Mayes (11.1), Muskogee (11.1), Rogers (8.9), Sequoyah (12.3) and Wagoner (12.5). Opioid overdose signs include no response to stimuli, shallow or stopped breathing, person can’t be woken up, unusual snoring or gurgling sounds, blue-grey lips or finger tips and floppy arms and legs. It is recommended to not assume a person is asleep if you cannot get a response from him or her and to not let a person at risk “sleep it off.” Also, with a suspected overdose, do not leave the person alone and do not give the person anything to eat or drink or induce vomiting. “People believe that medication that comes from a doctor is less harmful. So, what happens with that is that people become accidentally addicted,” Bradshaw said. “It is really important to say this is a non-discriminatory destroyer. It doesn’t matter what your economic background is, your social class doesn’t matter or race. It’s an equal opportunity destroyer. Anybody can get addicted.” Addiction sometimes occurs after a person has surgery and is prescribed an opioid painkiller, he added. Bradshaw said he is wary of how he talks about prescription painkiller addiction because he has had “some push back from people in chronic pain” that rely on prescribed painkillers to relieve their pain. “We are not trying to take them away from people who legitimately need these medications. We have to have a balanced approach. We recognize and know that there are people in chronic pain that need their pain medication,” he said. “They should not feel like they are being profiled as a drug addict to get what they need to survive. What we are tying to prevent is misuse and abuse and dependency of opioid painkillers.” He said painkillers should be used appropriately or “taken as prescribed.” Problems and addictions can occur when people take more than the amount prescribed. “If you can’t get through the day without it, you’re dependent. That’s what we see. The people that are overdosing and dying are usually dependent on them,” Bradshaw said. “They’re taking 10 to 40 to 50 Lortabs a day, and that’s not a stretch.” There is no single indicator for when opioid abuse became a problem, but the epidemic claimed 28,647 lives in 2014, a four-fold increase in opioid overdoses since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To combat the epidemic, the CN received a $1 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant to strengthen drug misuse prevention efforts. A Department of Health and Human Services release states the grant program wants state and tribal entities to target prescription drug misuse, raise awareness about sharing medications and address the risks of overprescribing. It also seeks to raise community awareness and bring prescription drug misuse prevention activities and education to schools, communities, parents, prescribers and their patients.
09/22/2016 05:30 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A recently released report states Oklahoma has the eighth-highest adult obesity rate in the nation. A report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation states almost 34 percent of adults in the state are obese. Louisiana is ranked No. 1, while West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama tied for second place. Arkansas is ranked No. 6. The rankings are based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Adult obesity rates in Oklahoma remained stable since the last survey, The Oklahoman reports. Kansas and Kentucky saw their obesity rates increase. Richard Hamburg, Trust for America’s Health interim president and CEO, said “obesity remains one of the most significant epidemics our country has faced, contributing to millions of preventable illnesses and billions of dollars in avoidable health care costs.” According to the report, 17 percent of children in Oklahoman live in households that have limited access to adequate food and nutrition due to cost, proximity and other reasons. The report also said the 30 percent of high school students in the state reported drinking one or more cans of soda per day. To encourage fitness, 18 states, including Oklahoma, have set a minimum amount of time that elementary students must participate in physical education.
09/21/2016 05:00 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 Oct. 20, less than two weeks before the Nov. 1 open enrollment. “Nov. 1, 2016, will mark the beginning of the fourth Open Enrollment Period for the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace,” 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.