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
05/26/2015 04:00 PM
SALLISAW, Okla. – On June 1, Cherokee Nation’s Redbird Smith Health Center will open its expansion at 10 a.m. at 301 S. J.T. Stites Blvd. in Sallisaw. According to Cherokee Nation Communications, the tribe will debut the 30,000-square-foot annex that doubles the size of the health center. “The $10.7 million expansion adds radiology and lab, pediatrics, more outpatient space, optometry and pharmacy with drive thru. The addition also features a built-in community safe room,” according to a CN Communications release. “In 2014, the health center saw nearly 117,000 patient visits and is expected to serve up to 145,000 patient visits with the new services and facility expansion.” The tribe also recently opened the new health center in Ochelata, and are slated to open a new health center in Jay as well as an expansion in Stilwell in June. The event is open to the public and tours will be available after remarks from tribal officials.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Emergency Medical Services paramedic training program is now considered one of the best training programs in the industry. According to a CN press release, the CN is the only tribe to receive a five-year accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs for teaching paramedics to the highest national standards. The accreditation runs to March 31, 2020. “We are the only training center in this part of Oklahoma that offers paramedic training. So our goal is to offer the highest level of education to our students,” EMS Training Supervisor Mark Bighorse said. “We believe the standards of the accreditation process help us do that.” CAAHEP is a nonprofit accrediting organization established in 1994. It currently accredits more than 2,100 entry-level education programs within 26 health science professions. The CN EMS had to submit its study plans, teaching curriculum and complete interviews with the accrediting agency and attend required conferences to obtain the accreditation. The press release states that CN’s EMS is one of 10 Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic programs accredited in Oklahoma. Its ambulance services ranks in the top 1 percent in the country. CN EMS trains up to 20 students per year for the tribe and outside agencies. “We are excited to receive the accreditation because it allows us to continue with our program,” Dana Caviness, CN EMS director, said. “Having the accreditation holds our program to a higher standard and makes us more competent.” The paramedic-training program lasts for 18 months. This year’s program began in February and students are expected to graduate next April. Students will receive a certificate that gives them the opportunity to take the national registry test for paramedics after they complete the program. CN EMS consists of paramedic ambulance services, which is affiliated with a 911 communications staff and a certified training center. It employs approximately 60 staff members and has four ambulances active at all times. CN EMS has a coverage area of more than 1,000 square miles and responded to more than 4,700 emergency calls in 2014. For more information call, 918-453-5200 or email <a href="mailto: emstraining@cherokee.org">emstraining@cherokee.org</a>.
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
05/07/2015 08:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. – More than 250 area residents came out April 4 to get a glimpse of the Cherokee Nation’s newest health center at its initial open house. Slated to officially open later in May, Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials cut the ribbon on the Cooweescoowee Health Center, located two miles west of U.S. 75 along W. 2900 Road in southern Washington County. Designed by Selser Shaefer and built by Cherokee Nation Construction Resources, the 28,000 square-foot facility has 10 examination rooms and will offer family medicine, physical therapy, full lab services, optometry, five dental exam spaces, behavioral health, a pharmacy with drive-through service, radiology and disease prevention services. Once open, the center will replace the tribe’s 5,000-square-foot clinic in Bartlesville, which saw 23,000 patient visits in 2014. The 11 Bartlesville employees will move to the Ochelata facility, along with 20 new employees. “This will duplicate what we have available to Cherokee Nation citizens at our other clinics,” Connie Davis, CN Health Services executive director, said. “We want it to equal for all and for our folks to get the same quality of care here that they’d get at Tahlequah or Stilwell or Sallisaw.” Named for former Principal Chief John Ross and the old historical district in the northwestern corner of the tribe’s jurisdiction, the clinic’s walls feature plaques of each former CN chief and pictures of the region dating back to the 19th century. The lobby’s north side has a mural featuring the last names of Cooweescoowee district residents, according to the 1880 census, while a nearby wall map has an etching of the original allotments for what is now Washington, Nowata and Rogers counties. “We owe this to the people who came before us,” Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said. “We’ve all known someone or lost someone who didn’t life a full lifespan because of poor health care. This will hopefully keep that from happening again.” The $10 million project was wholly funded through casino profits as part of a more than a $100 million health care system expansion announced in 2013. Also included in the casino-funded push are a new facility in Jay, an addition at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah and expansions at Stilwell’s Wilma P. Mankiller Clinic and Redbird Smith Clinic in Stilwell. “We didn’t mortgage our education or contract health funds to build this,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said before a standing-room-only crowd. “We built it with cash.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/06/2015 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.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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="http://www.polytrauma.va.gov" target="_blank">www.polytrauma.va.gov</a>. For information about VA’s work to implement the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, see <a href="http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/documents/FactSheets/Progress-Report-March-2015-Fact-Sheet.pdf" target="_blank">http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/documents/FactSheets/Progress-Report-March-2015-Fact-Sheet.pdf</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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.