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

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.
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.


09/23/2014 09:48 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program will host three community health fairs in the month of October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Cherokee Nation Breast and Cervical Cancer Detection Program decided to make these communities aware of the importance of having a well woman’s examination and if over age 39 an annual mammogram,” Barbara Neal, CN Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program public health educator, said. According to <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, in 2013, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, along with 64,640 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. “Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30 percent of cancers in women are breast cancer,” the site states. “White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. However, in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.” The three health fairs dedicated to this disease will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Oct. 2 at the community building in Jay, 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 16 at the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 21 at the A-mo Health Center in Salina. “We want to make sure our Cherokee Nation communities know the facts so they can make an informed decision about their health,” Neal said. She added that one in eight women would be diagnosed with breast cancer at least once in their lifetime. Neal said getting the knowledge out there about breast cancer and how to detect it is important not only to women, but to men, too. “Men can get breast cancer too. One percent of men will have breast cancer,” she said. “So early detection is the key to survivorship.” The health fairs will have educational materials for men and women with regards to their health. Neal said CN programs will set up tables and hand out information. “There will be companies from each community that will set up a table also and hand out information such as home health,” she added. “They are community health fairs with an emphasis on breast cancer.”
09/16/2014 09:31 AM
CHICAGO (AP) – Hundreds of children in more than 10 states have been sickened by a severe respiratory illness that public health officials say may be caused by an uncommon virus similar to the germ that causes the common cold. Nearly 500 children have been treated at one hospital alone – Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Mo., – and some required intensive care, according to authorities. The suspected germ, enterovirus 68, is an uncommon strain of a very common family of viruses that typically hit from summertime through autumn. The virus can cause mild coldlike symptoms including runny noses, coughing and wheezing but Mark Pallansch, director of the viral diseases division at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this summer’s cases are unusually severe and include serious breathing problems. “It’s not highly unusual but we’re trying to understand what happened this year in terms of these noticeable and much larger clusters of severe respiratory disease,” Pallansch said. The virus typically causes illness lasting about a week and most children recover with no lasting problems. Cases have been confirmed in Missouri and Illinois. CDC said it is testing to see if the virus caused respiratory illnesses reported in children in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah. The states’ tally changes as specimens are confirmed or test negative. A spokeswoman for Iowa’s public health department said CDC tests confirmed the virus in samples from patients in central Iowa and a Colorado hospital said it has confirmed cases. The CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat said at a Monday news briefing that there are other viruses making kids sick. “Most of the runny noses out there are not going to be turning into this,” she said. Children with asthma and other health problems are especially at risk for the enterovirus, but reported cases include children without asthma who have developed asthmalike breathing problems, Pallansch said. He said no deaths have been reported in the outbreak. Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy, said local cases began appearing in mid-August and they appear to have peaked in her area. Schuchat said the strain involved also appeared in the United States last year and in specimens from other countries. She said the CDC learned it had reappeared in this country last month when authorities in Chicago and Kansas City notified the agency about severe illnesses in children who had to be hospitalized. She said the virus was found in 11 of 14 specimens from Chicago and in 19 of 22 specimens from Missouri. In the Denver area, more than 900 children were treated for severe respiratory illnesses at Children’s Hospital Colorado and its urgent care locations and 86 were hospitalized in recent weeks. Spokeswoman Melissa Vizcarra said Monday that CDC had confirmed the virus in 19 of 25 samples from her hospital. The University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital has treated several cases, including extremely sick children requiring life-support machines, said Dr. Rachel Wolfson, an intensive care unit physician. Affected children are “as small as infants all the way up to teenagers,” Wolfson said. The virus can spread through sneezing and experts say good hand-washing practices are important to curb transmission. “The take-home point is wash your hands and keep your hands away from your face,” Wolfson said.
09/16/2014 08:08 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In August, the Cherokee Nation began a phone survey focusing on tobacco use within the tribe’s jurisdictional service area. Dr. David Gahn, CN public health surveillance coordinator, said the survey is taken from the Centers for Disease Control and is specific to American Indians. “And we’ve done it in Cherokee Nation before,” he said. “The main purpose is to document and track tobacco use among Cherokee adults in the TJSA.” Participants were randomly selected from a list of Cherokee adults in each county within the TJSA. “So, we used to survey the TJSA as a whole, and this year to get a better understanding of each county individually, we have a list of Cherokee adults from each county and we do our statistics based on each county,” Gahn said. “So instead of 600 to 700 people being surveyed it’s going to be about 4,200 people being surveyed so we can compare counties to see where we need to work.” Phone numbers were shared through the tribe’s health care database. CN Health Services works off one database that encompasses the entire jurisdictional area. “So there’s no Salina clinic database, it’s all just one. So I can ask the database ‘give me a list of every Cherokee adult in Mayes County’ and then ask the same database question about each county,” Gahn said. The database is based all on whether the person is Cherokee and lives in the jurisdiction. “So the way our health care database works is that if you’ve used our health system anytime, then you’re in the database,” he said.” And we’ve found in the past on some other projects that our health care database is more up to date than the Registration database.” Shawn Arthur, Inara Creative Solutions vice president, said participants can be assured that names and contact information are kept in a locked drawer so it is not tampered with. Once the survey is complete that information will be destroyed. Gahn said the goal is to more accurately estimate tobacco use within the jurisdiction. “The information primarily is going to be used to direct our programs and our policies. So we give it to our policy makers like Tribal Council, our public health programs, our clinical programs,” he said. “We can see if we’ve made any progress over the last several years.” The survey is to determine what areas of the CN need more services in regards to tobacco cessation. “Of all of our tobacco control programs, we don’t have enough money or people to do all the programs in all 14 counties, so we have to direct our limited resources to where the need is the most,” Gahn said. “So we also want to track to see if our programs and policies are doing any good. So over time we can track is the rate going up or down.” A survey was conducted in 2011, Gahn said, and from 2009 to 2011 there was no change in the smoking rate overall for Cherokee adults. Results from that survey found a drop in women of reproductive age using tobacco. Their rates dropped, but those surveyed were so few that they could not determine if the rates dropped due to programs offered by the tribe. Gahn said there must be a 15 percent rate of change to be able to determine whether or not a program made a difference. The 2014 survey began in August and will continue until late October or early November. Results will not be available until late spring. Inara Creative Solutions is a Tribal Employment Rights Office-certified vendor in Tahlequah. The business will continue to hire survey administrators until all positions are filled. Those interested can call Drew Trahms at 918-506-8587 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday or from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. Those interested must be 18 or older.
09/15/2014 08:04 AM
SALINA, Okla. – Public art created for the Cherokee Nation’s A-mo Health Center by Cherokee artists Bill and Demos Glass was carefully delivered by crane to a prominent place in front of the clinic on Sept. 3. Though Bill insists Demos created the stainless steel “Prayer Feather,” Demos said he collaborated with his father to create the 8-foot, 2-inch tall and 24-inch wide piece. “Dad and I wanted to do this symbolic ‘Prayer Feather’ for our clinic in Salina because the staff is very friendly and courteous. We also wanted to do this in loving remembrance of my grandmother Jean Justice Glass, who was a trained Army nurse,” Demos said. “I primarily designed the feather, and he had a ceramics portion in it. The ceramic’s got an inset detail with a nice four (crossed) logs motif. It’s just our symbol for prayer.” The material used was fabricated stainless steel, so it began as a sheet of steel that had to be cut and welded. Demos said he and his dad spent the past five months working on it and that working with stainless steel is challenging. “It’s not going to let you do everything, so you got to use a lot of manipulation,” he said. He said after the piece was welded together, he hand polished it, which can sometimes take months. “I’m still planning and trying to get some of the time cut down in different processes, so I’m always researching. That’s what my whole philosophy is on art. I’m a contemporary artist, and I’m going to continue to research the boundaries of what I can do because it’s exciting to me,” Demos said. “I think the Southeastern designs are the perfect platform to use fabrication techniques.” He said it is a benefit to use the minimalist, and sometimes intricate, designs of Southeastern designs and art used by Cherokee people in ancient times. Gina Olaya, Cherokee Nation Businesses director of cultural art procurement, said the Glasses were commissioned to do the “Prayer Feather” for the clinic. “Bill Glass is a patient at the Salina Clinic. He thought it would be good to have some place where people could actually say a prayer as they’re walking into the building, so that’s how the idea for the ‘Prayer Feather’ sculpture started,” she said. “I’m excited about this. I’m excited for the clinic.” Olaya said there is a CN law that allows for 1 percent of construction or renovation funding to be set aside to procure Cherokee art for the tribal building being constructed or renovated. “We had some money left over from a couple of projects that we pulled together, and those leftover funds are what’s funding these “Prayer Feather” sculpture projects,” Olaya said. Three “Prayer Feathers” are being created at a cost of $76,000. A second “Prayer Feather” will be placed at the renovated Redbird Smith Clinic in Sallisaw, and a third one will be placed at the new W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah when it is constructed. “The overall design of it will be the same, but the tiling that the Glasses are putting on the bottom of the sculpture will be different at each one of the facilities,” she said. Olaya said she would work with the Glasses to determine the wording for the plaques that will be placed at the bottom of the three sculptures to explain the artwork. CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said the sculpture is “absolutely beautiful.” “I think the important thing is that a patient here was inspired and felt like they wanted to contribute something to the clinic,” she said. “Mr. Glass spoke of how he appreciated the care the staff here delivered to him and his family, and I think that just shows the tightness of this community and how well the staff does take care of its patients.” Demos studied metalsmithing and sculpture at the University of Southern Illinois. He shares an art studio with Bill in Locust Grove, located south of Salina. Demos said he and his father put their thoughts together to come up with an idea that represented prayer. “We know that when you go through the health care system sometimes you’re not really looking forward to going there, so we just thought it would be a nice thing,” Demos said. “Public art can affect people just by walking by it, we believe. So, that’s what we are trying to do. We’re trying to create good feelings here.”
09/09/2014 02:57 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Healthy Nation will offer a smoke cessation class on Oct. 1 that is open and free to the public. Those interested must register for the class by Sept. 25. It’s a six-week class meeting at 5:30 p.m. each Wednesday at the CN Field Office located at 23205 Highway 66. Nicotine Replacement Therapy will not be provided in class, according to a release. “To receive Nicotine Replacement Therapy, participants must see their physicians,” the release states. For more information, call Misty Crittenden 918-575-6062 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
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.