Welcome!

Through our programs, with a focus on disease prevention and health promotion, we are helping to ensure your health and safety. Call 541-889-7279 to make an appointment or to learn more about our services. Stay up to date with public health news below.

September 18 is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

This day brings attention to the growing number of people living long and full lives with HIV and to their health and social needs. The Malheur County Health Department supports efforts to bring awareness to the issues related to HIV and aging in our country. Through National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, our organization is committed to putting an end to HIV/AIDS related stigma, discrimination, and misinformation about prevention care and treatment for those over 50.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported persons aged 50 and older accounted for approximately:

  • 17% of new HIV diagnoses
  • 47% of persons with HIV
  • 71% of all deaths of persons diagnosed HIV infection

Of those individuals who were diagnosed with HIV at age 50 or older, 40% were 50-54 years of age.

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, launched in 2008 by The AIDS Institute, is recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, and www.hiv.gov.  The campaign highlights the complex issues related to HIV prevention, care, and treatment for aging populations in the United States.  The goal of the campaign is to emphasize the need for prevention, research, and data targeting the older population, medical understanding of the aging process and its impact on HIV/AIDS.

Everyone has an HIV status. People who know their HIV status can protect themselves and others. Testing is easy, but only 37% of adult Oregonians have ever been tested for HIV. About 1,200 Oregonians are infected with HIV and don’t know it. If these people get tested and start HIV treatment medications, we could prevent 150 new infections over 3 years.

Call our clinic in Ontario for comprehensive and confidential testing at 541-889-7279. Have OHP and need a ride? We can set that up for you.

Expanded eligibility for monkeypox vaccine

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has expanded its eligibility criteria for the monkeypox (hMPXV) vaccine. It now includes “anyone who anticipates having or has had recent direct skin-to-skin contact with at least one other person AND who knows other people in their social circles or communities who have had monkeypox.” Those “communities” may include Idaho or Oregon, which both have rising monkeypox cases.

In its vaccine eligibility criteria, the vaccination guidance no longer refers to sexual orientation or gender identity, which may have been a barrier for people seeking vaccinations. The guidance also clearly states what is known as the most common route of transmission: direct, skin-to-skin contact.

In addition to encouraging vaccination for anyone who anticipates having or has had recent skin-to-skin contact with others and shares a social circle or community with someone who had the virus, the guidance continues to recommend the vaccine for other high-risk persons: anyone who had close contact with someone with monkeypox.

Get a vaccine: If you believe you are at risk of monkeypox or have more questions, please call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 and a nurse will talk with you. We have the monkeypox vaccine in stock and want to get it to anyone who meets this expanded criteria.

Get a test: If you have a rash or sore, see your primary care provider — if you don’t have a provider please call 211 or our office at 541-889-7279 and we can help connect you to testing. Keep the rash covered, wear a mask, and avoid skin-to-skin contact with anyone until you have been checked out.

Hands Around the Park Today

The Malheur County Health Department will not have our regularly SMART Recovery meeting today, September 15th, to encourage everyone to go to Laxson Park (NW 4th St, Ontario) from 4:30-6:30 p.m. for Hands Around the Park. We will celebrate National Recovery Month at this amazing event, hosted by the Malheur County Prevention Coalition.

Malheur County Prevention Coalition welcomes everyone to join in honoring the hard work of all people in recovery, the dedication of all who support them and the care of the community. With motivational speakers, music, free food, awards, booths and activities for children, this free, family-friendly event is a celebration of prevention, treatment and recovery efforts and the people who are committed to the health of our community.

The SMART Recovery meetings will resume next Thursday, 3-4 p.m. at the health department (1108 SW 4th Street, Ontario). Led by our peer team of Certified Recovery Mentors, the meetings are free and open to anyone seeking science-based, self-empowered addiction recovery. People who are suffering from addiction, as well as their family and friends, or people who want to help others in their community are welcome. At meetings, participants help one another resolve problems with any addiction.

We hope to see you at Hands Around the Park today and SMART Recovery next week!

Raising awareness of hope during National Suicide Prevention Month

In recognition of National Suicide Prevention Month and National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 4-10, 2022), Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and local partners are continuing efforts to increase awareness of ways everyone can help prevent suicide.

In 2020, Oregon had the 13th highest rate of suicide in the United States, with a total of 833 deaths. Oregon’s suicide rate has stayed well above national rates since 2000. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death among youth aged 5-24.

“Suicide remains a persistent and yet largely preventable cause of death in Oregon,” said Debra Darmata, adult suicide prevention coordinator at OHA. “Every death by suicide in Oregon carries a substantial and long-lasting ripple effect into our communities. We know that suicide prevention is everyone’s business.” 

Oregon is brimming with advocates and champions for suicide prevention, including the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Suicide. Many organizations also have ongoing social media and awareness campaigns to join.

What can you do to help?

Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase thoughts of suicide. We all have a part to play in reducing stigma and ensuring people have hope, feel safe asking for help, and can get access to community-based support. You can also:

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis, free help is immediately available.

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, via phone, text and online chat, offering people compassionate care and support from trained crisis counselors for individuals, families or their loved ones. One does not have to be suicidal to call 988 but can reach out when experiencing any behavioral health crisis. 988 call services are available in English and Spanish, along with interpretation services in more than 150 languages. Texting 988 and online chat are currently available only in English. Veterans and military service members can call 988 and press “1” to connect with the Veterans Crisis Line.

Present a Session at Health Equity Conference

The Malheur County Equity Conference is happening Thursday, September 29th, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Four Rivers Cultural Center. Join us to connect and collaborate to advance community health and equity during a robust day focused on solutions and strengths. Register to attend here.

We need more presenters! We welcome all community partners working to develop health equity to share their approach and foster dialogue by presenting at the Malheur County Health Equity Conference. We encourage interactive sessions, with opportunities for connection, dialogue, and practice. Plan to present for 20-30 minutes and allow for 20-30 minutes of activity with your audience.

Host a session at the Health Equity Conference: Complete this form and submit by Friday, September 16, 2022.

This event is completely community-driven: for our community, by our community, about our community. We need a total of 25 break out sessions about the big and small ways we address health equity in Malheur County. Any organization invested in the health and wellbeing or our residents is encouraged to share about the successes they’ve had, strategies they’ve tried, lessons they’ve learned, and the people they serve. The expectation isn’t that each session is high level, polished, and hyper-professional. We want what is genuine and local! Share your strengths and help others.

Find more information, including registration, flyers, and session application forms, at 4rhc.org/health-equity-conference or on our previous post here.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact Sarah Poe at 208-501-5966 or sarah.poe@malheurco.org.

Community Needs Assessment Survey

We need your voice! Complete the 2023 Eastern Oregon & Western Treasure Valley Community Health Needs Assessment survey no later than Friday, September 16th. Your input helps us identify needs, drive strategic planning, and receive funding for services. Our local health systems, public health departments, and community partners are conducting this survey to gain a greater understanding of the issues our community members face. This includes all things that impact health (beyond just access to health care), like things related to where we live, work, and play.

Complete the survey here: https://tinyurl.com/24ntxzwv

Updated COVID-19 Boosters Approved

Updated COVID-19 boosters can both help restore protection that has decreased since previous vaccination, and provide broader protection against newer variants. The updated, or bivalent boosters, target the most recent Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, that are more contagious and more resistant than earlier strains of Omicron. The new updated COVID-19 boosters can be administered in Oregon now that the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup has recommended the vaccine, completing final step in the review and approval process following recommendations from the FDA and CDC.

The CDC is recommending updated COVID boosters, for people ages 12 and older. People are eligible if it’s been at least two months since they received their last COVID vaccine, either a booster or an initial dose.

The boosters can be administered regardless of which vaccine series a person received. Pfizer’s updated booster is available for anyone 12 and older. The Moderna booster is available for anyone 18 and older.

“If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in an interview with NPR.

The new boosters should be available in Malheur County this week. The Malheur County Health Department will have news out soon with increased availability for both boosters and first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. Call our office at 541-889-7279, your local healthcare provider, or pharmacy, to check availability and make an appointment, if available. Find local vaccine providers here.

Malheur County still lags behind every other county except Lake in Oregon for protection against COVID-19 and continues to be the only county in the High Community Level of risk due to recent outbreaks. The best way to prevent serious COVID-19 illness is to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

More West Nile Virus Activity in Malheur County

West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, has been detected in mosquitoes at a testing site in Malheur County, Ore., according to Oregon Public Health officials.

The mosquitoes, found in a trap site located on Butte Dr. between Vale and Ontario.

Health officials are advising people in Malheur County to take precautions against mosquitoes to avoid the risk of infection, including preventing mosquito bites. West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most infected people will show little or no signs of disease.

About one in five people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with febrile illness due to West Nile virus recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. It is important that you contact your health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms.

The incubation period is usually two to 14 days. Rarely, infected individuals may develop neuro-invasive disease (infection of the brain or spinal cord) that can be severe or may cause death. This is especially of concern to people 50 and older, people with immune-compromising conditions, and people with diabetes or high blood pressure.

Communities and individuals living in or spending significant time outdoors, particularly near irrigated land, waterways, standing water, and used tires—including those working in agriculture, such as migrant and seasonal farm workers—may be at increased risk of mosquito bites and related diseases.

The number of mosquito pools—samples of about 50 mosquitoes—that test positive in any area may indicate the risk of human exposure and infection, said Emilio DeBess, D.V.M., public health veterinarian at the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division. He recommends people and animals be protected against mosquito bites.

“Although mosquitoes are an inevitable part of summer, mosquito bites don’t have to be—they are preventable,” DeBess says. “You can take simple steps to protect yourself and reduce the risk of contracting West Nile disease.”

DeBess offers these tips for protecting yourself against mosquitoes:

  • Eliminate sources of standing water that are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including watering troughs, bird baths, ornamental ponds, buckets, wading and swimming pools not in use, and old tires.
  • When engaged in outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, protect yourself by using mosquito repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picardin, and follow the directions on the container.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas.
  • Make sure screen doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly.

While risk of West Nile disease is low, a handful of people get it each year in Oregon. The virus also affects wildlife and domesticated and farm animals.

In 2019, nine human cases of West Nile virus infection were reported in Oregon, with 85 mosquito pools and seven horses also found to be positive for the virus. In 2018, there were two human cases, with 57 mosquito pools and two horses testing positive. Last year was relatively mild for West Nile, with only three mosquito pools and one bird found to be positive for the virus.

People should consult their health care providers if they have these symptoms. Health care providers can contact the Malheur County Health Department for information on West Nile virus testing.

Additional information about West Nile virus:

Make the Connection: Shared Experiences and Support for Veterans

If you are a Veteran, or family member of a Veteran, facing challenges in your everyday life… you are not alone. At the Malheur County Health Department, we honor Veterans and recognize the unique health needs of Veterans and their families.

There are millions of Veterans and family members who have reached out for support during tough times through Make the Connection.

Created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, MakeTheConnection.net is an online resource designed to connect Veterans, their family members and friends, and other supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives. In addition to powerful stories, Make the Connection provides information about life experiences you can relate to. You also can explore information about signs, symptoms, and conditions that are related to mental health and well-being.

If you are in crisis, reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line anytime. Dial 988, then press 1. More information at veteranscrisisline.net. Veterans’ caregivers can find help through the VA Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.

Thank you, Veterans! We support you.