Lower your cancer risk with public health services

February is National Cancer Prevention Month! In 2022, an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases were diagnosed and 609,360 people died of cancer in the United States. Research has shown that more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed and nearly half of all deaths from cancer in the United States can be attributed to preventable causes – things like smoking, excess body weight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun.

As a result, steps such as quitting smoking (or never starting in the first place), maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, protecting your skin from the sun, getting tested and treated for communicable diseases, and getting vaccinated against the pathogens that cause certain cancers can dramatically reduce your risk of certain cancers.

There are many ways our team at the Malheur County Health Department can help you and your family reduce cancer risk:

  • Reproductive Health program provides pelvic exams, pap smears, health education and counseling.
  • Immunization program provides HPV vaccine, which protects children from 6 types of cancer later in life. The HPV vaccine recommended for boys and girls aged 9-12 and up to age 26 if not already vaccinated. Vaccines also available to protect against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer.
  • Tobacco Education and Prevention program can help create policies for smoke-free spaces, provide education, and refer to Quit Line services.
  • WIC program provides nutrition counseling for pregnant women and children up to age 5. Our Registered Dietician and WIC Certifiers provide education on how to follow a healthy diet that can lower cancer risk.
  • Communicable Disease and STI testing programs provide rapid testing for several infections that can cause cancer. Hepatitis can cause liver cancer. Chlamydia increases risk of cervical cancer. People with HIV are susceptible to several cancers, including Kaposi sarcoma.

Learn more about National Cancer Prevention Month from the American Association for Cancer Research and American Cancer Society.

COVID-19 rapid test expiration dates extended

Abbott Laboratories just released an update regarding Abbott BinaxNOW expiration dates. Effective immediately, all Abbott BinaxNOW test kits have a shelf life of 22 months from date of manufacture.

iHealth just released an update regarding iHealth self-test expiration dates. Effective immediately, all iHealth self-test kits have a shelf life of 15 months from date of manufacture.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will continue to supply Abbott test kits for use under CLIA certification of waiver to health care providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid or otherwise serve vulnerable populations. These testing supplies are expected to remain available through July 2024. Organizations in Oregon may order Abbott BinaxNOW tests here.

OHA will also continue to supply iHealth self-test kits to priority partners serving populations with limited or no access to testing. Priority partners include hospitals, local public health and tribal authorities, organizations serving migrant and seasonal farmworkers, state and federally funded early learning programs, community-based organizations, behavioral health facilities, homeless service sites, and K-12 schools. These testing supplies will remain available until supplies are exhausted. Organizations may order iHealth self-tests here.

iHealth Rapid Antigen tests are authorized for non-prescription home use with self-collected anterior nasal swab samples from individuals age 15 or older who have symptoms of COVID-19 within the first seven days of symptom onset. People age 2-15 may use the test, if an adult collects the swab samples. Test results are available in 15 minutes.

Rapid antigen tests, such as the iHealth tests, are not typically accepted as proof of a negative COVID-19 test for travel.

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.

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.

RSV Season is Here: Protect Those at Highest Risk

Take care! RSV season is here.

RSV season has been declared in Idaho and in Oregon with virus activity increasing earlier than usual. Respiratory syncytial virus, (RSV), is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.

If you or a loved one is at high risk for severe RSV disease:

If you are at high risk for severe RSV infection, or if you interact with an older adult or young child, you can take extra care to keep them healthy with the following tips:

  • Wash your hands often
    Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Washing your hands will help protect you from germs.
  • Keep your hands off your face
    Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Germs spread this way.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
    Avoid close contact, such as kissing, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who have cold-like symptoms.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash afterward.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces
    Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that people frequently touch, such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices. When people infected with RSV touch surfaces and objects, they can leave behind germs. Also, when they cough or sneeze, droplets containing germs can land on surfaces and objects.
  • Stay home when you are sick
    If possible, stay home from work, school, and public areas when you are sick. This will help protect others from catching your illness.

Learn more on RSV surveillance from the Oregon Health Authority here. Read and share the CDC fact sheets RSV in Infants and Young Children and Older Adults are at High Risk for Severe RSV Infection.

Flu & COVID Vaccine Event This Friday 10/14

Do you need an updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster or flu shot? Perhaps you’re ready for your first COVID-19 dose. Join us this Friday, October 14th, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Four Rivers Cultural Center (676 SW 5th Ave, Ontario) for this free, walk-in, flu and COVID vaccine event. Bring your vaccine card and insurance card if you have it. No one will be turned away, if eligible for vaccine.

Incentives!

Everyone who receives a flu or COVID-19 vaccine will receive a $25 gas gift card for Farmers Supply Co-Op, a food box, and a COVID-19 home test kit. Additionally, anyone who receives a COVID-19 vaccine will also receive a $25 grocery gift card for Albertsons. We will have a prize drawing, snacks, and more!

Vaccine, food boxes, test kits, and gift cards available as long as supplies last. Please share the flyers in English and Spanish and the following details:

COVID-19 Vaccine

  • COVID-19 Vaccines available:
    • Pfizer-BioNTech
      • Primary doses for ages 6 months and up
      • Booster doses for ages 12 and up
    • Moderna (primary and updated boosters)
      • Primary doses for ages 6 months and up
      • Booster doses for ages 12 and up
    • Novavax
      • Primary doses for ages 12 and up
    • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J)
      • Primary doses for ages 18 and up
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine after you recover from COVID-19 infection provides added protection against COVID-19. Especially because the updated COVID-19 boosters target Omicron subvariants that are responsible for 98% of cases recently, you are best protected with an updated vaccine booster, even if you had COVID-19 and a previous booster.
  • CDC recommends everyone ages 12 years and older get an updated COVID-19 booster to help restore protection that has decreased since your last vaccine.
  • People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have different recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines. You can self-attest to having a weakened immune system, which means you do not need any documentation of your status in order to receive COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Use CDC’s COVID-19 booster tool to learn if and when you can get boosters to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.

Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

  • Flu vaccines (often called “flu shots”) are vaccines that protect against the four influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.
  • There are many flu vaccine options to choose from, but the most important thing is for all people 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. We will have standard flu shots for ages 6 months through age 64 and high-dose flu shots for people aged 65 and over.
  • While some people who get a flu vaccine may still get sick with influenza, flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness. The same is true for COVID-19 vaccination. Receiving the vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t be infected, but has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of severe disease.
  • Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with certain chronic health conditions, including people with heart disease, chronic lunch disease, and diabetes.
  • Flu vaccine can be lifesaving in children.
  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

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: