November is National COPD & Lung Cancer Awareness Month

As we close out November, we hope you’ll remember The Great American Smokeout and our Tobacco Prevention and Education Program efforts we focused on earlier this month. November is also Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

COPD is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs, usually in the cells that line the air passages. The causes of COPD and lung cancer are similar. About 85-90% of cases are caused by smoking, but nonsmokers can get COPD or lung cancer, too. Other risk factors include exposure to second hand smoke, exposure to radon or other pollution, and genetics.

At every stage of life, think about how to maintain health:

  • For developing fetuses, this means first and foremost reducing exposure to nicotine and tobacco product exposure.
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of vaping and cigarette use.
  • Middle school is a good time to start having these conversations. The American Lung Association has some great resources to jump start conversations with your children about vaping.
  • During childhood, think about air quality within the home and outside of it. The American Lung Association website has some great resources on how to protect the air you breathe.
  • Ensure children have their age appropriate, recommended vaccinations. Some new research suggests peak fitness levels in young adulthood are also associated with lung function later in life, so if you’re not exercising regularly, now is a good time to start.
  • If you or your children are experiencing prolonged shortness of breath or cough, don’t wait to talk to your health care provider about having your lungs evaluated. The bottom line is that it is never too late to begin investing in your respiratory health.
Infographic from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

You can lower your COPD and lung cancer risk in several ways:

  • Quit smoking or don’t start. 
  • Avoid secondhand tobacco smoke.
  • Aim for a healthy weight. 
  • Be physically active. 
  • Limit exposure to outdoor air pollution.
  • Reduce indoor air pollution.
  • Take precautions against seasonal flu and pneumonia. 
  • Test your home for radon gas. 
  • Use protective gear if exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution. 

Article adapted from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, American Lung Association and the CDC.

Take action to lower risk for children as RSV & flu cases increase

State health officials are asking people to take immediate, urgent action to protect children and ensure there are pediatric intensive care beds available in Oregon hospitals to treat any child or youth with a serious illness or injury. Oregon health officials expect respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases to peak after the Thanksgiving holiday, which will further strain pediatric hospital intensive care units. The graph below was shared on November 18th by OHSU, projecting severe strain on hospitals.

Malheur County is affected by both Oregon and Idaho cases and hospital capacity. Earlier this month, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported an early RSV season and the first influenza death of the season. The chart below was shared on the Idaho State Journal on November 16th. Hospitalizations have continued to increase since.

In response to Oregon’s acute shortage of pediatric intensive care beds, state health officials recommend that people:

  • Stay home when sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow, or with a tissue that you immediately throw away after use.
  • Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces, including doorknobs, faucets, chairs, countertops and tables.
  • Regularly wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, especially after coughing or sneezing into a tissue.
  • Get a flu shot and stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, including new bivalent boosters. There is no vaccine for RSV.
  • Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces.

Parents of children younger than 5, especially newborns to 6-month-olds, are especially advised to take precautions that keep their children safe and help to limit the spread of RSV and influenza in coming weeks. Young children, as well as older adults – people 65 and older – are at higher risk of severe illness from these respiratory viruses, including hospitalization and death.

Data showing that the RSV hospitalization rate for children quadrupled between Oct. 29 and Nov. 19, from 2.7 to 10.8 children per 100,000 population. RSV hospitalizations are expected to rise further over the next few weeks.

Hospitalizations are also being fueled by a rapid increase in influenza cases around the state. According to OHA’s weekly Flu Bites influenza surveillance report, the percentage of positive influenza tests has doubled each week since mid-October – it was 1% the week ending Oct. 22, 2% on Oct. 29, 4.5% on Nov. 5, 9.3% on Nov. 12 and 16.4% on Nov. 19.

A 5% positivity rate for influenza tests is considered a threshold for significant influenza circulation.

While cold-like symptoms are more typical of RSV infections, some children can experience severe symptoms requiring immediate care. Parents should call their pediatrician or seek care right away if child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or increased work of breathing.
  • Symptoms of dehydration, or fewer than one wet diaper every eight hours.
  • Gray or blue color to tongue, lips or skin.
  • Decreased activity and alertness.

For more information about RSV, visit OHA’s RSV page. Information about influenza is available at OHA’s Flu Prevention page. Follow all OHA news here.

Oregon’s Indoor Clean Air Act

Our Tobacco Prevention and Education Program (TPEP) responds to violations of the Oregon’s Indoor Clean Air Act (ICAA) and has seen an increase in complaints recently. Our enforcement focuses on relationship building, education, and making our community a safer place for everyone to live, work, shop, and play.

The ICAA protects people in our state from the health risks of secondhand smoke. The ICAA prohibits smoking in a workplace and within 10 feet of all entrances, exits, and accessibility ramps that lead to and from an entrance or exit, windows that open and air-intake vents. This applies to smoking, vaporizing, and aerosolizing of inhalants in and around public places and places of employment.

Anyone may report violations of the ICAA by completing an online complaint form or by calling 1-866-621-6107.

Download ICAA decals, flyers, signs, and cards here. Learn more from the Oregon Health Authority. Want to talk with someone locally? Call our office at 541-889-7279. We

Thank you, Public Health!

MCHD Rockstars Leah and Michelle

We are all public health! Join us on in expressing our collective commitment to supporting the public health workforce – nurses, community health workers, peers, health specialists, and many others – and their tireless efforts to protect and improve health.

Each year on the Monday before Thanksgiving, the American Public Health Association celebrates Public Health Thank You Day to raise awareness of how our ability to live healthier, longer lives depends on public health initiatives and the individuals who carry them out.

Shout out to our favorite public health team – right here at the Malheur County Health Department! Check out names, pictures, and contact information on the Meet Our Team page.

Public health is the field of science concerned with improving the health of populations. It encompasses everything from research into diseases to preventing injury and promoting healthy lifestyles to detecting and controlling outbreaks. Examples of public health work include anti-smoking campaigns, the development of vaccines against polio, and pinpointing the source of outbreaks. Get to know us better! Call us at 541-889-7279 to see how we can help serve you. 

National Rural Health Day: November 17

National Rural Health Day (NRHD) is an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” by honoring the selfless, community-minded spirit that prevails in rural America. NRHD showcases the efforts of rural healthcare providers to address the unique healthcare challenges that rural citizens face today and into the future.

Rural communities have unique healthcare needs. Today more than ever, rural communities like Malheur County, must address accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens.

The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health sets aside the third Thursday of every November to celebrate National Rural Health Day. Learn more at

There Has Never Been a Better Time to Quit Smoking

Every year on the third Thursday of November, we celebrate The Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States. Quitting smoking is one of the most important actions you can take to improve your health. There has never been a better time to begin living your best smokefree life!

Download flyer here.

Like many people who smoke, you may have thought about quitting. You may have found yourself coughing more than usual or found it harder to breathe. You probably thought, “I have to stop smokingnow!” You may have even tried once or twice before—only to find yourself smoking again.

Quitting smoking is not easy, and it’s not a matter of willpower. The nicotine in tobacco is addictive, and that’s what makes quitting so hard. The good news is we know more than ever before about what works best to help people quit. A smokefree life is possible and there has never been a better time to try quitting than right now.

Download Spanish flyer here.

Tomorrow, November 17th, join thousands of other people from across the country for the Great American Smokeout. Mark the date. Make a plan. Start living life smokefree. The Great American Smokeout is more than a reminder of the dangers smoking poses to your health. It’s a call to act. No matter your age, or how long you’ve been smoking, quitting improves health both immediately and over the long term.

Are you ready to quit? Visit the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line for free counseling and medication (like patch and gum) to quit smoking, vaping or other tobacco products. Free for all adults and youth over age 13 living in Oregon. Insurance not needed. Coaches are there 24/7. They are real people who have helped others quit for good—no judgments, just help. Learn more about what happens when you call the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line.

In English
Text “READY” to 200-400
Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)

En Español
Call 1-855-DEJELO-YA (1-855-335356-92)

People Living with Disabilities
Deaf & Hard of Hearing people can call TTY line @ 1-877-777-6534 or use a relay service to connect with 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

National Native American Heritage Month

The Malheur County Health Department recognizes National Native American Heritage Month and the importance of health equity efforts on American Indians and Alaska Natives in our communities. 2.1% of Malheur County residents identify their race as American Indian or Alaska Native alone and 2.8% of residents identify with two or more races.

American Indian and Alaska Native people have long experienced lower health status when compared with other Americans. Lower life expectancy and the disproportionate disease burden exist perhaps because of inadequate education, disproportionate poverty, discrimination in the delivery of health services, and cultural differences. These are broad quality of life issues rooted in economic adversity and poor social conditions.

American Indians and Alaska Natives born today have a life expectancy that is 5.5 years less than the U.S. all races population (73.0 years to 78.5 years, respectively). Given the higher health status enjoyed by most Americans, the lingering health disparities of American Indians and Alaska Natives are troubling. Additional information on the Indian Health Service is available at

Native American Heritage Month, observed every November in the United States, celebrates the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of American Indians and Alaska Natives. This month presents an opportunity to educate the public about the proud history of Indigenous people in America, and to celebrate the rich and diverse tribal cultures that continue to thrive. Today, Native American cultures are alive and evolving within cities, rural communities, tribal communities, and nations across the United States. This month, let’s all celebrate the traditions, languages and stories of Native people and ensure their rich histories and contributions can live on with each passing generation.

We Honor Veterans

Photo By: Elizabeth Fraser, Army,

Today is Veterans Day and November is National Veterans and Military Families Month. At the Malheur County Health Department, we stand united in respect for our veterans and their families. We celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. In many ways, public health shares those same values and it is our love of country and all who are here who guide our purpose to sustain healthy communities. Thank you, veterans!

Learn more about Veterans Day in the video below and visit Honoring Our Veterans website.

Save the Date! National Rural Health Day

Mark your calendars! November 17th is National Rural Health Day and an opportunity to remember and promote healthcare providers in communities like ours. Small towns, farming communities, and frontier areas are places where neighbors know each other, listen to each other, respect each other, and work together to benefit the greater good. We know how great it is to live here, but we also recognize the challenges.

The third Thursday in November has been set aside to highlight rural communities as wonderful places to live and work, increase awareness of rural health-related issues, and promote the efforts to address these issues.

Rural communities have unique healthcare needs. Today more than ever, rural communities like Malheur County, must address accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens.

To follow along on social media, please use the hashtag #PowerofRural.