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 WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
08/07/2015 08:24 AM
STILWELL, Okla. – When a health professional is beloved or highly regarded it is difficult to see them retire. Such was the case with nurse practitioner Vickie Love, who recently retired from the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center. Her assistant nurse, Victorian Scott, said Love’s patients have been consistently bringing her gifts when they learned of her retirement. Patients brought everything from a picture frame to candy, Scott said. “The way she works with patients, she shows people how you should treat them. She’ll drop what she’s doing to see a patient,” Scott, a licensed practical nurse who has worked with Love for 18 months, said. Scott said she was reluctant to work in women’s health when she got to the health center, but now it’s a “passion” of hers after working with Love. “She’s kind-hearted. When she’s doing her exams, she puts herself in that female’s position, so she’ll talk them through it,” she said. “She’s been a great teacher. I’ve learned so much from her.” Scott said. Love, 58, has been serving the Cherokee people as a nurse practitioner at WPMHC for more than 22 years. “I love my job. I love doing this,” she said. Love said she would miss the staff members who are like her family. “I think maybe it’s because we were in this clinic and it’s so small. Every department is right here, so you interact with everybody, and we’re here with the same group of people all day, so you’ve got to make the best of it. You’ve got to live with people,” she said. “It’s a good place to work, and it makes me sad they can’t get physicians to come here. They don’t know how good it is here. It does take a special doc to come in here because not everybody can take care of Native people.” She and her husband Chuck, who recently retired from W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, live in Pettit Bay southeast of Tahlequah. The couple recently purchased a recreational vehicle and was set to take their first trip in it at the end of July to visit their daughter Socia, who is in her last year of residency in Seattle. “She’s going to make me a grandma, so to help her in her last year of residency, we’re going to go up and help take care of baby so she doesn’t miss any time,” she said. Love grew up in Wichita, Kansas, but her Cherokee mother is from Eucha and her Muscogee (Creek) father is from Bristow. “Every weekend and every summer we were in Oklahoma, so Oklahoma is second-nature,” she said. She began her career in 1985 at Hastings Hospital as a nurse and a med surgeon in the intensive care unit. Later, she signed up through the Indian Health Service Area Office to attend school to be a nurse practitioner. “I didn’t even know what a nurse practitioner was then, and there were no nurse practitioner colleges in Oklahoma at all. It was a new concept. I knew to make rank (in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps) you had to have a master’s, and that was going to be a master’s program, so I signed up for it,” she said. She won a scholarship to attend nurse practitioner school at the University of Texas in Arlington and began her studies in 1989 and graduated in 1991. The IHS scholarship included a two-year payback period for students to pay back the IHS school loan. “I was always hoping I could go to school and come back here to Hastings. I didn’t get Hastings. I got sent out to Clinton, and I cried all the way,” she said. “I tell you, it was one of the best experiences I could have had. Back here they didn’t know what to do with us because it (nurse practitioner) was a new concept. When I got out there they were kind of feeling it out, too, but I was treated like I was a nurse practitioner out there. There was great group of doctors, and I learned so much from them.” She said when she went to Clinton, then-Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller was upset Love did not get posted at Hastings. She said Mankiller called the area office to get her posted in Tahlequah, but it was too late. She said the chief asked her to tell her when her payback was complete. When it was complete two years later, Mankiller advocated for Love to be posted near home. She was posted at the Nation’s Stilwell Clinic, which back then was in a trailer near the Stilwell City Hospital. In 1994, a new CN clinic opened in Stilwell named after Mankiller, and Love began a 21-year relationship with patients and staff there. She served with five different principal chiefs, and after beginning her career as an ensign, Love retired as a captain in the USPHS. She said during the past 22 years one thing was consistent in her job and that was the time she spent with patients. She said she might have known more about some of her patients than their families because she took that extra time with them when they came in for treatment. “I like spending time with my patients and not being on that time constraint, so what I’ve always done with my time is that I spend that time with them, and then after 5 o’clock I chart (update patient charts), and I could be here 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night trying to finish,” she said. “I don’t know how I would do with their new concept. I’m hearing there are 10-minute visits. It might be a good time for me to get out because that would be difficult for me.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/04/2015 12:00 PM
COOKSON, Okla. – There will be two Oklahoma Blood Institute blood drives in Cherokee County this August. The first blood drive will be from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the Cookson Methodist Church located at 21685 W. Cookson Bend Road. in Cookson. The second blood drive will be from at 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the Cherokee Nation Tsa-La-Gi Room behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees on the Tribal Complex. Blood donors will receive a donor T-shirt for their contributions. Donors will also receive a voucher for two free admissions to the Tulsa Zoo. Donating blood takes approximately an hour. A photo identification is required to donate at OBI blood drives. Donors must be 16 years old or older. Participants who are 16 years old must provide a signed parental permission form and weigh in at 125 pounds or more to donate, those who are 17 years old must weigh in at 125 pounds or more and those 18 and older must weigh in at 110 pounds or more to donate. The OBI provides all donated blood to W.W. Hastings Hospital, Northeastern Health System and to approximately 158 other medical facilities statewide.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
06/29/2015 12:58 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to certified results, the Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 1 Tribal Council seat goes to Rex Jordan after he defeated Ryan Sierra in the June 27 general election. Certified results show Jordan won by a vote count of 856 to Sierra’s 494 votes. Jordan received 63.41 percent of the ballots cast while Sierra received 36.59 percent. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Jordan but was unsuccessful. In a Facebook post, Sierra expressed his gratitude to those who supported him during his campaign. “I must first praise God for giving my family and me this opportunity. He is still in control no matter what,” he wrote. “The numbers are in and we did not gain enough votes to serve as councilman for district one. I want to thank each and every person who showed us support and gave us your vote. You are appreciated! I will continue to serve within my community and in anyway God sees fit. Best wishes to Rex Jordan. Serve the people well.” Dist. 1 covers the western part of Cherokee County and a portion of eastern Wagoner County. The EC certified the results from the general election on June 29. Jordan is expected to be sworn into office on Aug. 14, which is the tribe’s inauguration day.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/22/2015 12:34 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – To promote health and wellness among American Indians, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic will host its annual “Walk for Wellness” and health fair from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on June 27 at Remington Park, 100 Remington Park. The event is free and open to the public. “Our staff members are dedicated to helping American Indians prevent and manage diabetes and pre-diabetes, and this walk and health fair helps promote those ideals,” Robyn Sunday-Allen, CEO of OKCIC, said. “Developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the first steps to changing the health risks that affect American Indians. The walk will provide attendees with valuable information on staying healthy while enjoying a fun, family-friendly environment.” The health fair will provide attendees with information on a range of clinic services, including medical, dental, prenatal, pediatric, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, family programs and behavioral health services. The one-mile fun walk begins at 9 a.m. Registration is available the day of the event, or participants can pre-register at <a href=" www.okcic.com/events/walk-for-wellness-2015/" target="_blank"> www.okcic.com/events/walk-for-wellness-2015/</a>. For more information about the walk or the clinic, visit <a href="http://www.okcic.com" target="_blank">www.okcic.com</a>. Providing a wide range of outpatient health care services to more than 20,000 American Indians in the Oklahoma City area each year, OKCIC is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the lives of not only their patients, but the general public as well. American Indians are at a higher risk for certain health issues, including childhood obesity and diabetes, and are more than two times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to other ethnic groups, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/18/2015 10:00 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will be sponsoring a Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on June 25 in the large conference room at the hospital. The fair is meant to assist Native American veteran patients in applying for health care services they are eligible for through the VA. Claremore Indian Hospital benefit coordinators, VA representatives and the Decorated American Veterans group will be on hand to assist with the application process. Veterans attending should bring their financial information (income and resource information) and their DD-214 military discharge papers. Veterans already enrolled for health care services through the VA should call 918-342-6240 or 918-342-6507 so that their files may be updated.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/10/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – To settle a complaint filed in 2008 by the Laborer’s International Union of North America, Indian Health Service has agreed to pay $80 million for allegedly forcing employees overtime without pay. The 2008 complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by LIUNA on behalf of 10,000 IHS employees at clinics and hospitals in Indian Country. The IHS agency operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In a May letter written to tribal leaders, IHS acting director Robert G. McSwain stated that it’s important that IHS employees are properly compensated. “We believe that settling these claims now is right, the appropriate step, and the most fiscally responsible action,” he said. “This settlement allows us to avoid future litigation costs and the possibility of future awards totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. It will allow us to continue to focus our attentions going forward on the important task of serving Indian Country health needs.” In the original complaint, LIUNA claimed IHS did not allow its employees the right to option for overtime pay instead of compensatory time off, failed to compensate employees for their travel time and for off the clock employment. “This is a great victory for Indian Health Service employees,” said Terry O’Sullivan, LIUNA general president. “It took many years of hard work for the union to recover millions of dollars and achieve a fair solution for the mostly Native American workforce who has labored long and tirelessly to provide health services to Native people.”