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.

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

Climate Effects on Health

Climate change impacts a wide-range of health outcomes. The infographic above illustrates the most significant climate change impacts (rising temperatures, more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and increasing carbon dioxide levels), their effect on exposures, and the subsequent health outcomes that can result from these changes in exposures.

The Oregon Climate and Health Program addresses the health effects of climate change by focusing on developing cross-sectoral partnerships and promoting systems and policy changes that build resilience across a broad range of climate impacts, including extreme heat, extreme cold, wildfire, air quality and respiratory illnesses, flooding, sea level rise, vectorborne diseases, water-borne disease, mental health, drought, harmful algal blooms, and extreme weather events, such and hurricanes and tornadoes. This work primarily serves local and tribal health departments, partner state agencies, community health workers, and other state public health programs, including emergency preparedness, chronic disease prevention, and acute and communicable disease. Some of the program’s activities include developing the public health workforce, informing statewide climate policy and planning, and supporting partners in building social resilience.

Climate change, together with other natural and human-made health stressors, influences human health and disease in numerous ways. Some existing health threats will intensify and new health threats will emerge. Not everyone is equally at risk. Important considerations include age, economic resources, and location.

In the U.S., public health can be affected by disruptions of physical, biological, and ecological systems, including disturbances originating here and elsewhere. The health effects of these disruptions include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.

For more on the effects of climate change on health in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, visit the CDC page on Regional Health Effects in the Northwest and the Oregon Health Authority links below.

Community Conversation on Aging

The Malheur County Health Department is proud to be an event partner for Community Conversation on Aging in Malheur County – Connecting for a Shared Future, coming up Saturday, August 20, 2022, from 1-4 p.m. with a complimentary lunch served at noon and a session in Spanish in Ontario from 5-8 p.m. with complimentary dinner at 5 p.m. Register here. This innovative event will be held in four locations to reach the most people in Malheur County, in their towns.

Join others in Jordan Valley, Ontario, Nyssa, and Vale to:

  • Connect with neighbors and discuss your ideas for how to keep our community a great place to grow up and grow old.
  • Have your voice heard and hear from others about what it’s like to age in the community.
  • Get together with people of all ages to discuss the possibilities available when living a long life.

Registration is simple. Go to:  www.ageplus.org/register or call 541-889-7651 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Please indicate which meeting location you will join when you register. If you have any questions, please email admin@ageplus.org. Download and share fliers here.

Invest in Yourself with Health is Wealth Program

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) has a new incentive program, Health is Wealth, to increase recommended surveillance testing, immunization, and awareness of public health services. People can walk in or call MCHD at 541-889-7279 to schedule time for testing, vaccine, and short informative sessions with staff. Participants will receive a Health is Wealth card that will keep track of their progress through 10 core programs. Upon completion, the first 100 participants will receive a $100 gift card.  

The goal is for people to experience public health as an important part of their healthcare, get to know staff, and connect the people in their lives to available services.

Eligibility: Health is Wealth program participants must be 18 years old or older. Participants must be present to receive services, complete paperwork, and present the completed card to MCHD front desk to receive gift card. The Health is Wealth card must be started by June 30, 2023. One hundred gift cards are available and once that supply is exhausted, there is no guarantee a gift card will be provided.

Requirements: Participants must receive a stamp for each of the 10 programs, from MCHD employees on the Health is Wealth card, within 12 months of the start date on card. Immunizations must be up to date, as verified in the Oregon or Idaho immunization registries. Participants must receive testing for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis C, chlamydia and gonorrhea, or have record of tests within the last 12 months. Participants must schedule and complete short educational sessions with each program to receive a stamp.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends all adults get tested for hepatitis C and that everyone should be tested for HIV at least once in their life, regardless of risk factors. With climbing rates of communicable disease, more testing is needed to identify infections, many of show no symptoms. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer, however, with treatment, hepatitis C infection is curable. Early detection can save your life. Cases of HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea are also going up in Malheur County. Testing can give people peace of mind and more information about their overall health.

Along with increased testing, the Health is Wealth program aims to get more adults up to date on recommended vaccines. Immunizations are not just for children. Protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time. You may also be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to your age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. All adults need immunizations to help them prevent getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in poor health, missed work, medical bills, and not being able to care for family.

Public health promotes the wellbeing of the entire population of Malheur County and helps to ensure access to safe and quality care. Public health is for everyone! Visit malheurhealth.org or call 541-889-7279 for more information.

MCHD at the Malheur County Fair

The 2022 Malheur County Fair is happening this week, August 2nd through 6th, with the theme of “Just for the Fun of It!” We are proud to be part of one of the county’s best family-friendly events. Come visit our booth in the Commercial Building all week and be sure to stop by on Friday and Saturday for the special COVID-19 vaccine booth near ours. Vaccines available 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. for ages 6 months and older. $25 gift cards for every dose received. Download the flyer here.

Healthier Oregon: Health Insurance Expanded through OHP

As of July 1, 2022, adults 19-25 and 55 and older are now eligible for full Oregon Health Plan (OHP) benefits and other services and supports, regardless of their immigration status. OHP is free health coverage for people who live in Oregon and who meet income and other criteria. It covers health care services like medical, mental health, dental, prescriptions, tests, x-rays, hospital care, and rides to and from health care appointments. The expansion is the result of House Bill (HB) 3352, which put into law a program called “Cover All People.” The program is now known as “Healthier Oregon.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates reports that 12.2% of residents in Malheur County under age 65 are without health insurance, compared to 8.6% in Oregon. With expanded OHP coverage, hopefully more people will have health insurance and receive the health care they need.

Eligibility is open to people who live in Oregon who:

  • Meet income and other criteria,
  • Don’t qualify for full OHP benefits because of their immigration status, and
  • Are 19-25 years old or 55 years and older.

For example, before, a 22-year-old without a qualifying immigration status could only get CWM benefits (also known as emergency Medicaid). As of July 1, 2022, this person is eligible for full OHP benefits. If someone is a lawful permanent resident (LPR), ​​they will not need to wait five years before they are eligible for ​full OHP benefits through Healthier Oregon. ​OHP does not affect immigration status. OHP is not considered public charge.

Lisa is here to help!

For more information visit Oregon.gov/HealthierOregon or call Lisa Almaraz, OHP Application Assister and Health Specialist at the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 x136 or email lisa.almaraz@malheurco.org.

Download flyers in English and Spanish, or simply click on the images below.

First Mosquitoes with West Nile Virus Found 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 Harper, are the first to test positive for the disease in Oregon in 2022.

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 for information on West Nile virus testing.

Additional information about West Nile virus:

Oregon Health Authority website: http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/DiseasesAZ/WestNileVirus/Pages/survey.aspx

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/ index.htm