PeerZone Workshops

The Malheur County Health Department is now hosting free PeerZone support groups on most Wednesdays.

PeerZone is a series of peer-led workshops for people who experience mental distress and addiction that explore topics like work, relationships, self-acceptance, and more.

The workshops are a combination of peer support and recovery education, and provide a fun, interactive, and safe structure for participants to share their experiences, learn self-management, and expand their horizons.

Join our facilitator, Hannah, for January’s scheduled workshops on “Understanding Ourselves.” Each is held at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Malheur County Health Department at 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario. No registration needed. Visit the Events Calendar for all upcoming groups, including SMART Recovery on Thursdays.

January 4: Understanding Our Distress — What responses help or don’t help us. Different ways of responding to distress. Different ways of naming and understanding distress.

January 11: Exploring Our Stories — The importance of stories. The hero’s journey. Our own and others’ stories of distress and recovery.

January 18: Leading Our Recovery — What recovery means. The process of recovery. Our own and other people’s experiences of recovery.

January 25: Understanding Our Alcohol and Drug Use — Turning lapse into learning. Taking control by choice. Why we use alcohol and other drugs, and the consequences of use.

We are a community of people in recovery and those who love and support them. Join us!

Winter Donation Drive

We, at the Malheur County Health Department, feel that it is important to practice the act of giving during the holiday season. We are hosting a Winter Donation Drive because it’s the season to help our neighbors!

Please bring new or gently used coats, clothing, and pajamas to the MCHD office at 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario during business hours. We also will accept unopened infant formula. We are collecting to distribute to local organizations, including Origins, MCCDC, and ODHS, serving people in need. Call us at 541-889-7279 for more information.

We thank you in advance for your kind donation.  Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!

Have a Healthy Holiday Season

On behalf of everyone at the Malheur County Health Department, we wish you a safe and joyful holiday and new year!

Brighten the holidays by making your health and safety a priority. Take steps to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy—and ready to enjoy the holidays.

  1. Wash hands often to help prevent the spread of germs. It’s flu and RSV season. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Bundle up to stay dry and warm. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: light, warm layers, gloves, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots.
  3. Manage stress. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, and out of control. Some of the best ways to manage stress are to find support, connect socially, and get plenty of sleep.
  4. Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive. Whenever anyone drives drunk, they put everyone on the road in danger. Choose not to drink and drive and help others do the same.
  5. Be smoke-free. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Smokers have greater health risks because of their tobacco use, but nonsmokers also are at risk when exposed to tobacco smoke.
  6. Fasten seat belts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your children in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt according to their height, weight, and age. Buckle up every time, no matter how short the trip and encourage passengers to do the same.
  7. Get exams and screenings. Ask your health care provider what exams you need and when to get them. Update your personal and family history.
  8. Get your vaccinations. Vaccinations help prevent diseases and save lives. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year, especially pregnant women.
  9. Monitor children. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, and other objects out of children’s reach. Protect them from drowning, burns, falls, and other potential accidents.
  10. Practice fire safety. Most residential fires occur during the winter months, so don’t leave fireplaces, space heaters, food cooking on stoves, or candles unattended. Have an emergency plan and practice it regularly.
  11. Prepare food safely. Remember these simple steps: Wash hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination, cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate foods promptly.
  12. Eat healthy, stay active. Eat fruits and vegetables which pack nutrients and help lower the risk for certain diseases. Limit your portion sizes and foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. Also, be active for at least 2½ hours a week and help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.

Be inspired to stay in the spirit of good health! 

Article adapted from the CDC.

Extreme Weather Preparedness & Health Equity

With devastating wildfires and extreme cold across Oregon and Idaho in recent years, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Environmental Public Health have expanded focus to severe weather and protecting those who may be at higher risk. The Malheur County Health Department is currently developing an All Hazards Plan, a Health Equity Plan, and a Climate Adaptation Plan to better protect everyone in our county and prepare for disasters.

Recently, Dr. Leandris Liburd, Director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, shared important points in a recent newsletter relevant to people in Malheur County especially because of our high risk on the Social Vulnerability Index.

“Social vulnerability is the potential negative effects on communities caused by external stresses on human health. Such stresses include natural or human-caused disasters, or disease outbreaks. Reducing social vulnerability can decrease both human suffering and economic loss.”

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Dr. Liburd shared what she learned from Dr. Patrick Breysse, Director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and ATSDR, on how “communities that experience a disproportionate burden of health disparities across a variety of health issues might also be at greater risk for the negative impacts of climate change,” which includes extreme weather. Some of his points related to health equity and extreme weather preparedness are below.

  • People throughout the United States face climate change-related health risks, but some of us will feel the effects earlier and more severely. This is because of differences in our exposures to climate hazards, our sensitivity to these hazards, and our ability to adapt. These obstacles particularly affect communities of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, people who are incarcerated or without homes, and those who live in rural or frontier settings.
  • Climate change will worsen existing disparities in social conditions and health, and harms associated with climate change are burdening groups that have contributed the least to cause it. Very often, communities with lower access to basic necessities such as clean air and water, and other vital social determinants of health (SDOH) struggle to fully recover from climate related events, leaving them more fragile to respond to future health hazards. 
  • Partnering with communities with the greatest need to ensure they have consistent access to their basic necessities is an important step in becoming more resilient against climate change.

Mobile Mammography Unit Coming to MCHD Jan. 27th

The Mobile Mammography Unit is coming to the Malheur County Health Department on Friday, January 27, 2023 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The “mammo bus” will be parked outside our clinic at 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario.

The Mobile Mammography Unit is equipped with 3D technology to provide digital mammography, clinical breast exams in a comfortable and convenient setting. All results or follow-up procedures are referred back to your primary care provider in your local community. Most insurances are accepted and grants are available for low-income women who do not have insurance.

Saint Alphonsus knows it is critically important for women to stay ahead of a cancer diagnosis. Yet, many women who need mammograms are not getting this life-saving screening. Schedule your spot today! Call 208-367-8787.

Please share this post and flyer with other women locally. Thank you!

Prevent and Treat Frostbite & Hypothermia

With temperatures around Ontario below freezing nearly every day lately, it’s important to stay warm. In cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, which can lead to serious health problems. This occurs from inadequate protection against exposure to cold temperatures. The very young and elderly are the most susceptible to developing hypothermia when exposed to cold temperatures.

The risk and extent of hypothermia is directly influenced by presence of wet clothing, contact with metals, wind-chill, and extent of temperature gradient between the body and its surroundings. Vulnerability is increased when circulation is impaired by cardiovascular disease, alcohol intake, exhaustion, and/or hunger.

Frostbite Caution

Since skin may be numb, victims of frostbite can harm themselves further. Use caution when treating frostbite and:

  • Unless necessary, do not walk on feet or toes with frostbite
  • Do not use a fireplace, heat lamp, radiator, or stove for warming
  • Do not use a heating pad or electric blanket for warming
  • Do not rub or massage areas with frostbite

Signs of frostbite

  • Signs and Symptoms
    • Redness or pain in any skin area may be the first sign of frostbite.
  • Other signs include:
    • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
    • skin that feels  unusually firm or waxy
    • numbness

Hypothermia symptoms

  • Adults:
    • shivering
    •  exhaustion
    • confusion
    • fumbling hands
    • memory loss
    • slurred speech
    • drowsiness
  • Infants:
    • bright red, cold skin
    • very low energy

What to do if someone has hypothermia

  • If a person becomes unconscious, get medical help immediately. If cardiac arrest (heart attack) has occurred, have someone call for medical assistance and then apply CPR.
  • WARNING: Do not warm the person too fast.
  • Bring the person indoors or to a dry place protected from the wind.
  • Remove wet clothing and cover the person with dry blankets. Make sure to cover the head, hands, and feet.
  • Put the person in a cot or bed next to a warm — not hot — heater.
  • Lie under the covers next to the person to transfer your own body heat. If possible, have someone else lie on the other side.
  • Give the person warm — not hot — broth or soup. Do not give alcohol to drink.
  • Wrap an infant inside your own clothing against your skin.

How to prevent hypothermia & frostbite

  • Wear warm, multi-layered clothing with good hand and feet protection (avoid overly constricting wrist bands, socks, and shoes).
  • Wear warm headgear. This is particularly important since significant heat is lost through an unprotected head.
  • If possible, change into dry clothes whenever clothing becomes wet.
  • Find appropriate shelter to stay warm.

Article adapted from King County Public Health and the CDC.

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