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.

Expanded eligibility for monkeypox vaccine

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has expanded its eligibility criteria for the monkeypox (hMPXV) vaccine. It now includes “anyone who anticipates having or has had recent direct skin-to-skin contact with at least one other person AND who knows other people in their social circles or communities who have had monkeypox.” Those “communities” may include Idaho or Oregon, which both have rising monkeypox cases.

In its vaccine eligibility criteria, the vaccination guidance no longer refers to sexual orientation or gender identity, which may have been a barrier for people seeking vaccinations. The guidance also clearly states what is known as the most common route of transmission: direct, skin-to-skin contact.

In addition to encouraging vaccination for anyone who anticipates having or has had recent skin-to-skin contact with others and shares a social circle or community with someone who had the virus, the guidance continues to recommend the vaccine for other high-risk persons: anyone who had close contact with someone with monkeypox.

Get a vaccine: If you believe you are at risk of monkeypox or have more questions, please call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 and a nurse will talk with you. We have the monkeypox vaccine in stock and want to get it to anyone who meets this expanded criteria.

Get a test: If you have a rash or sore, see your primary care provider — if you don’t have a provider please call 211 or our office at 541-889-7279 and we can help connect you to testing. Keep the rash covered, wear a mask, and avoid skin-to-skin contact with anyone until you have been checked out.

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:

Monkeypox Update

The Oregon Health Authority launched a new website dedicated to helping people learn more about the ongoing monkeypox outbreak. The new website includes information for the public, clinicians, public health and community organizations; the website is also available in Spanish.

See the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information about monkeypox and the outbreak in the United StatesMonkeypox can be prevented.

Anyone can get monkeypox. However, during the current outbreak, most cases have been detected among gay or bisexual men or men who report having sex with other men. Monkeypox is spread primarily through close, skin-to-skin contact, which may include sex, cuddling, massage and kissing.

To protect yourself and others, be aware of your health. Monkeypox may start with fever, achiness or sore throat, but may also start with just a rash or sores. If you’re feeling sick and notice any new rashes – especially on the genitals or around the anus – avoid close, skin-to-skin contact and talk to a health care provider (or call 211 if you don’t have one).

Let your provider know, before the appointment, that you think you might have monkeypox and cover any lesions you have. Ask your provider about monkeypox testing. Even if you are not in a high-risk category, but you think that your symptoms or rash are concerning for monkeypox, talk to your provider. Testing may be recommended for you.

The new monkeypox website includes a weekly summary of case data and will be updated on Wednesdays. As of August 17, 116 people have tested positive for monkeypox in Oregon. Cases have been reported in Clackamas (4), Columbia (1), Coos (1), Lane (20), Marion (1), Multnomah (73) and Washington (16) counties. As of August 19, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports 9 cases of monkeypox in the state of Idaho.

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.

hMPXV (Monkeypox) cases identified in Oregon and Idaho

As of July 12, 2022, there are five confirmed cases of hMPXV (also known as Monkeypox) in Oregon, with another seven presumptive, and one confirmed in Idaho. hMPXV is a rare disease caused by infection with the hMPXV virus. hMPXV virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. hMPXV symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and hMPXV is rarely fatal.

Symptoms of hMPXV can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
    • The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
    • Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
  • Symptoms usually appear one to two weeks after infection.

How is hMPXV spread?

hMPXV spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex. In addition, pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.

Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids is another way hMPXV spreads. It’s also possible for people to get hMPXV from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by eating meat or using products from an infected animal.

People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.

hMPXV can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

How can hMPXV be prevented?

People should take the following steps to prevent getting hMPXV:

  • Avoid close, skin- to- skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like hMPXV.
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of person with hMPXV.
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with hMPXV.
    • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with hMPXV.
    • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with hMPXV.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread hMPXV virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.

If you are sick with hMPXV:

  • Isolate at home
  • If you have an active rash or other symptoms, stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with, when possible.

CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been diagnosed with or exposed to hMPXV and people who are at higher risk of being exposed to hMPXV.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

  • See a healthcare provider if you notice a new or unexplained rash or other hMPXV symptoms.
  • Remind the healthcare provider that hMPXV is circulating.
  • Avoid close contact (including intimate physical contact) with others until a healthcare provider examines you.
  • Avoid close contact with pets or other animals until a healthcare provider examines you.
  • If you’re waiting for test results, follow the same precautions.
  • If your test result is positive, stay isolated until your rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.

For more information:

  • Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
  • Oregon Health Authority Monkeypox webpage here.
  • Investigative Guidelines for healthcare providers available here.

Health Department promotes increased testing in light of outbreaks, positivity rate increase

The Malheur County Health Department will offer free drive-up COVID-19 testing this Friday, Feb. 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Vale High School. Everyone is eligible; no symptoms, exposure or documentation are required. The event is in response to an outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases in Malheur County, particularly at Vale High School.

Due to the drive-through nature of the event, test result forms will not be available; however, people who test positive will be notified. Additionally, all negative and positive student test results will be shared with Vale School District administration.

In addition to outbreaks affecting Malheur County schools and businesses, the state’s most recent county metrics report prompted a call for increased testing as the positivity rate is on an upward trend over the past four weeks.

“The report released by the Oregon Health Authority yesterday shows that our case count per 100,000 people has dropped from 499.5 to 415.2, which is great, but it also shows that our test positivity rate has jumped from 14.3% to 16.1%. That’s a significant increase,” MCHD Director Sarah Poe said. “We know that the way to get that positivity rate down is to do more testing. You can help slow the spread of COVID-19, reduce the positivity rate, and get the county open again by getting tested.”

TESTING AVAILABILITY IN MALHEUR COUNTY

Malheur County Health Department offers free COVID-19 testing by appointment four days a week at the MCHD office:

  • Tuesdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Wednesdays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., 1-3 p.m. (except Feb. 5)

For an appointment or more information, call 541-889-7279.

Valley Family Health Care is offering COVID-19 testing every Monday in February, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Treasure Valley Community College baseball field in Ontario. Anyone requesting a test will be tested. There are no out-of-pocket costs, and test results are available in 15 minutes. Call VFHC at 208-452-6661 for more information.

Snake River Pediatrics Clinic, call for information, 541-216-6556.

Rite Aid, appointment required, CALL 541-889-3390.

More information is available at COVID Testing in Oregon.

OHA expands community-based education, outreach campaign

Masks mean love.jpg

Oregon Health Authority has expanded its multilingual Safe + Strong education and outreach campaign with a new theme and materials to help communities find simple, culturally specific information on safely connecting with family and friends this winter. Press release here.

Led by the theme “Love Finds a Way,” new campaign materials and resources available in 12 languages provide fresh public health recommendations on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Oregonians continue to show their resilience through this pandemic by finding new ways to stay connected while physically apart,” said Oregon Public Health Director Rachael Banks. “Whether it is wearing a mask when around anyone you don’t live with — including close friends and relatives — or keeping our social groups small, love, and a good plan, will keep us strong.”

Ensenemos nuestro amor.jpg

Since launching in April with the support of Brink Communications, the campaign website has been a trusted place to get culturally relevant tools and information, as well as a hub for finding resources like food and rental assistance, unemployment benefits and health coverage. The campaign has partnered with more than 170 community-based organizations (CBOs) statewide to expand access to lifesaving information and support.

By working directly with community organizations representing groups most affected by health disparities, the Safe + Strong campaign will help communities continue to make safe choices, while recognizing people need simple plans to protect themselves and their families. The site’s new “Make a plan” page contains reminders and information on what activities are low, medium or high risk for spreading COVID-19.

“While hope is on its way with the arrival of vaccines, helping our communities understand and access vital information to continue to stay safe this winter is critical for everyone’s health and well-being,” Banks said. “We know how much people want to gather and spend time with their loved ones. Thankfully, there are safe ways for us to do so without spreading this deadly virus.”

OHA data show that 38% of COVID-19 cases have been linked to people who identify as Latino/a/x. And more than 50% of cases have been linked to people identifying as Black, Asian, American Indian/Native Alaskan, Pacific Islander, or Latino/a/x. The state’s history of racism and oppression, as well as inequitable access to medical services, have exacerbated the impacts of COVID-19 in many communities across the state.

The Safe + Strong campaign focuses on Oregonians who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The expanded effort will use strategically targeted digital, radio, broadcast, print and other out-of-home advertisements to help create awareness. Online advertisements in 12 languages — English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Hmong, Somali, Chuukese, and Marshallese — will connect Oregonians directly to resources and information on the website.

The campaign is anchored with two new television spots, available in English and Spanish:

MCHD Will Work with School Districts to Return Students to the Classroom

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) commends the Governor’s announcement yesterday to put more Oregon schools on track to return to in-person instruction, beginning as early as January 2021. Read the press release here. Local public health will continue working closely with school districts to follow their Ready Schools, Safe Learners Blueprints and allow more students back into the classroom in person, full time.

“As public health workers, we are very aware of the hardships that students, teachers, and parents have endured while schools are closed to regular in-person instruction and we support the efforts to return students to the classroom, where we know they thrive best,” said Sarah Poe, MCHD Director.

As a community with a nearly 30% childhood poverty rate, our schools are critical supports to the many needs families have not just for learning, but addressing many of their social determinants of health. Rural, high-poverty counties are disproportionately affected by the hardships of both COVID-19 and remote learning. For many months of this pandemic, the counties with the highest incident rate of COVID-19 cases were also counties with a high number of people of color, essential jobs in high-risk industries that cannot be done remotely, a lack of childcare providers, and less community social supports to narrow the gap in capacity to effectively and safely provide distance learning. All of these risk factors negatively affect social determinants of health and have resulted in not only a disproportionate impact of severe COVID-19, but also more students at home without safe and equitable support to sustain distance learning.

COVID-19 vaccines will be available to essential workers, including school teachers and staff, soon after the priority group of healthcare workers has had access to the vaccine. We hope to have more information on county vaccine distribution plans soon.

Thank you to the many advocates who worked on state and local levels to meet the needs of students, teachers, school staff, and families during this crisis. Thank you to Governor Brown for her decision to support a more local response.

12/16 OHA Weekly Report Update

Malheur County COVID-19 outbreaks reported in latest Weekly Outbreak Report by Oregon Health Authority. Find more statewide reports on the OHA COVID-19 website.

  • Active outbreaks in care facilities, senior living communities and congregate living settings with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19 related deaths
    • Pioneer Place: 5 cases, 0 deaths
    • Sunset Estates, 24 cases, 2 deaths
  • Resolved outbreaks in care facilities with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19 related death.
    • Brookdale Assisted Living Ontario: 37 cases, 5 deaths
    • Dorian Place Assisted Living: 23 cases, 3 deaths
    • Pioneer Place: 39 cases, 2 deaths
    • Riverside Manor: 3 cases, 1 death
    • Nyssa Gardens: 9 cases, 0 deaths
    • Wellsprings Assisted Living: 6 cases, 1 death
    • Wellsprings Assisted Living: 6 cases, 0 death
  • Active workplace outbreaks with five or more confirmed COVID-19 cases
    • Snake River Correctional Institution: 556 cases
    • Bureau of Land Management, Vale District Office: 5 cases
  • Resolved Outbreaks
    • Walmart 13 cases
  • K-12 Schools with recent COVID-19 Cases
    • Vale Elementary School: 4 students, 7 staff/volunteer
    • Ontario High School: 0 students, 2 staff/volunteer
    • Cairo Elementary School: 0 students, 1 staff/volunteer
  • Schools with recently resolved COVID-19 Cases
    • Adrian High School: 1 student, 0 staff/volunteer
    • Four Rivers Community School: 2 students, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Annex Charter School: 0 students, 1 staff/volunteer
    • Vale Elementary School: 2 students, 3 staff/volunteer
    • Jordan Valley High School: 1 student, 0 staff/volunteer
    • Nyssa High School: 1 student, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Nyssa Middle School: 0 students, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Nyssa Elementary School: 1 student, 3 staff/volunteers

Malheur County COVID-19 Cases by Zipcode

  • 97913 (Nyssa): 465 cases, rate of 8413.2 cases per 100,000 people
  • 97914 (Ontario): 1845 cases, rate of 9606.9 cases per 100,000 people
  • 97918 (Vale): 274 cases, rate of 6039.2 cases per 100,000 people
  • All other Malheur County Zip Codes: 92 cases
    • Total cases 12/16/20 = 2,676
    • Total cases in Nyssa, Ontario, Vale = 2,584

If you have questions or comments on outbreaks, reporting, or cases, please call the Malheur County Health Department and ask to speak with a COVID-19 Case Investigator at 541-889-7279.