Monthly Learning Labs

Each program at the Malheur County Health Department will be in the spotlight over the next year with monthly learning labs, open to the public. On one Wednesday each month from 1-2 p.m. in our conference room, program staff will share about their services, data about our county, and ways for the community to engage and improve our work together.

Please share the flyer. Each learning lab is only presented once in the year at the health department, in English. However, we would love to take the show on the road! Invite us to present any of the learning labs after their scheduled date for your group, at your location, in English, Spanish, or request another interpreter and we will do our best to make it happen.

Learning lab presentations are free and in person only. Space is limited to 25 in our conference room, so if you have a group attending, it may be better to request your own presentation. Food and drinks will be served.

Each scheduled learning lab is also on our Events Calendar. Stay up to date and copy events to your calendar so you don’t miss out. Thank you for your support!

Nyssa School Vaccine Clinic Friday, 11/13

Make sure your children are up to date on their vaccines! We’re bringing vaccines to Nyssa Elementary School in the Mac Hall Gym (809 Bower Ave, Nyssa) Friday, January 13, 2023 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Share the flyers in English and Spanish. All ages welcome–family and guardians, too!

Parents must provide schools and child care facilities with kids’ vaccine records.

Getting your children vaccinated now is critical! February 15th is School Exclusion Day, and the Oregon Immunization Program is reminding parents that children will not be able to attend school or child care starting that day if their records on file show missing immunizations.

Under state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their immunizations or have an exemption. If a child’s school and child care vaccination records are not up to date on February 15th, the child will be sent home.

“Immunization is the best way to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles. It helps keep schools and the entire community safe and healthy.”

Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator in the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division

Call our office at 541-889-7279 for an appointment that is convenient for you if you can’t make it to this event. Appointments available all weekdays. Walk ins welcome and we’ll get you in or scheduled as soon as possible.

Healthy Communities. Healthy Babies.

January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month. About one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Although not all birth defects can be prevented, people can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant.

Birth defects (sometimes referred to as “birth anomalies”) affect around 2000 infants in Oregon each year and are a leading cause of infant mortality. Babies who survive and live with birth anomalies are at an increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges.

What Can You Do?

Encourage the people in your life who are pregnant or may become pregnant to:

  • Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Plan a visit with their healthcare provider to support a healthy pregnancy. Make sure to discuss medication and supplement use, family medical history, mental health, and social supports.
  • Reduce their risk of infections by staying up to date with all vaccines.
  • Care for their body and mind before, during, and after pregnancy.
  • Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

Meeting the complex needs of a person with birth anomalies involves the whole family and can be challenging at times. But finding resources, knowing what to expect, and planning for the future can help. Early intervention services and supports can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills, overcome challenges, and increase success in school and life. 

Learn more about the National Birth Defects Prevention Network here. Information for families living with birth defects can be found here.

Thank you to the Malheur WIC team and the Oregon Maternal and Child Health team for raising awareness!

23% of Women Overdue for Cervical Screening

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month! Cervical cancer screening has dramatically reduced new cases and deaths from the disease over the past 50 years. But the percentage of women in the United States who are overdue for cervical cancer screening has been growing.

The lack of screening also shows concerning disparities among groups of women. In 2019, Asian and Hispanic women were more likely to be overdue for screening, as were women who lived in rural areas, lacked insurance, or identified as LGBTIQ+.

Our caring team at the Malheur County Health Department wants to help protect people from cervical cancer with HPV vaccine and screening. Services are available for free or low cost. Call us at 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

Article adapted from the CDC and Cancer.gov.

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.

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.

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 powerofrural.org.

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 ihs.gov.

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.