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.

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.

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

Health Threats from Extreme Heat

Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable, yet annually many people succumb to extreme heat. With another week of high temperatures, we want to share resources to help protect you and your family.

Infants and Young Children

Infants and young children are sensitive to the effects of extreme heat, and must rely on other people to keep them cool and hydrated.

  • Never leave infants or children in a parked car. (Nor should pets be left in parked cars—they can suffer heat-related illness too.)
  • Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Seek medical care immediately if your child has symptoms of symptoms of heat-related illness.

People with Chronic Medical Conditions

People with a chronic medical condition are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category need the following information.

  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor, and have someone do the same for you.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates regularly.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook – it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or someone you know experiences symptoms of heat-related illness.

Athletes

People who exercise in extreme heat are more likely to become dehydrated and get heat-related illness. STOP all activity and get to a cool environment if you feel faint or weak.

  • Limit outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest.
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package. 
  • Schedule workouts and practices earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.
  • Pace activity. Start activities slow and pick up the pace gradually.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more. Muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness.
  • Monitor a teammate’s condition, and have someone do the same for you.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or a teammate has symptoms of heat-related illness.

Outdoor workers

People who work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated and are more likely to get heat-related illness. STOP all activity and get to a cool environment if you feel faint or weak.

  • Drink from two to four cups of water every hour while working. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
  • Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar.
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package.
  • Ask if tasks can be scheduled for earlier or later in the day to avoid midday heat.
  • Wear a brimmed hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Spend time in air-conditioned buildings during breaks and after work.
  • Encourage co-workers to take breaks to cool off and drink water.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or a co-worker has symptoms of heat-related illness.
  • For more information, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress.

Heat and low income

  • If you have air conditioning, use it to keep your home cool.
  • If you can’t afford to use your air conditioning:
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor, and have someone do the same for you.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-related illness.

Learn more from the Oregon Health Authority Preparedness program.

Vaccine for small children now available at the Health Department

Both Moderna and Pfizer’s “Little Peds” vaccine, for children ages 6 months to 5 years, has arrived at the Malheur County Health Department, and will be available at two local clinics on Wednesday, June 22.

Walk-in Wednesday, the Health Department’s weekly walk-in vaccine clinic, opens at 9 a.m., closes for lunch, and reopens from 1-4:30 for people interested in being vaccinated. The clinic is located at 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario. For the first time, Walk-in Wednesday will feature the vaccine for the littlest children.

The Health Department will also offer COVID-19 vaccines for everyone age 6 months and older beginning at noon Wednesday at the Vale Senior Citizen Center, 100 S. Longfellow Ave., in Vale.

COVID-19 vaccines are free, and the Health Department will provide a $25 gift card to everyone who receives a vaccine, including infants and small children.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 2 million cases, 20,000 hospitalizations and 200 deaths in children under 5, due to COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Stanford Children’s Health. Vaccines continue to be effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization, including in children without any underlying medical conditions. All of the effects of “long COVID” in children are not yet known, and vaccination helps prevent some of the known effects, including Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), and may potentially prevent post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (“long COVID) which has the potential to be very debilitating for young children. Vaccines can protect children, which can in turn reduce the risk of transmission to others.

For children 5-11 years old in the U.S., there has been only one vaccine option available. For children under 5, there are two. The three-dose Pfizer BioNTech vaccine can be given to children 6 months to four years. It is three micrograms per dose. The second dose is given three to eight weeks after the first, and the third dose is given more than eight weeks after the second. The two-dose Moderna vaccine is recommended for children 6 months to 5 years old at a dose of 25 micrograms. The doses are given four to eight weeks apart. Children who are moderately to severely immunocompromised may need additional doses, similar to teens and adults.

The most common side effects parents can expect for their child are a sore arm, headache, fever, and fatigue. Children 6 months to 23 months may be fussy or more sleepy. Symptoms usually occur one to two days after vaccination and are mostly mild and resolve after a few days. parents should contact their primary care provider if they have any specific concerns about side effects from a shot.

Parents who prefer to have their child vaccinated by their own pediatrician are encouraged to call the pediatrician’s office to ensure the vaccine is available, and to schedule an appointment.

Young children now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Children age 6 months to 5 years may now receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon, after a flurry of weekend activity to approve Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine. While children could begin to receive the vaccine as early as today (Monday, June 20, 2022), most providers won’t have vaccine in their office, so please contact your provider before taking your child to get a vaccine. Some providers will receive vaccine shipments today, while others won’t have their shipments until later this week, or even after that.

Approval of the vaccine followed the usual protocol, with an FDA committee finding that the benefits of either the two-dose Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series for infants age 6 months through 5 years, or the three-dose Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for infants and children 6 months through 4 years of age substantially outweigh any known or likely risks. Later, the full FDA endorsed the recommendation, and over the weekend, it was endorsed by the CDC, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, on which Oregon relies for such decisions.

Having your child vaccinated against COVID-19 will help keep them from becoming severely ill with the virus, and help keep them from spreading it to others.

Parents with questions are encouraged to talk to their child’s health care provider to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and the importance of keeping children up-to-date with all the recommended vaccinations.

Some tips for parents of young children being vaccinated are here.

What to do after a positive home test

If you feel at all sick, it’s important that you stay home, isolate away from others in your household and wear a mask in common areas. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, contact your primary care physician and ask about testing and possible treatments. If you receive a test that will take a few days before you find out results, isolate at home while you wait. For more information, call the COVID-19 Response Hotline at 866-917-8881. After you feel better, get vaccinated! Next Wednesday, there are two opportunities for vaccination from the Malheur County Health Department. Come to our office at 1108 SW 4th St., between 9 a.m. and noon, or 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., no appointment needed, and ask for your vaccine, or a booster. Or, from noon to 5 p.m., we’ll have a team in Vale at the Vale Senior Citizen Center, 100 Longfellow, ready to vaccinate you or a loved one.

Answering questions about vaccinating your children

As early as next week, parents and caregivers may be able to get their youngest children vaccinated against COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee met today, June 15, and recommended approval of emergency use for Moderna and Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccines. Moderna’s application is for vaccinating kids ages 6 months through 5 years, and Pfizer’s is for kids ages 6 months through 4 years.

“The vaccine is an important tool to protect them from the virus. It prevents kids from getting very sick and from spreading it others, both at home, in school and at day care,” said Dr. Kim Bonner, epidemic intelligence service officer for acute and communicable disease prevention with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read on for answers to common questions about vaccinating this age group.