Avoid counterfeit at-home tests

Counterfeit at-home COVID-19 tests are circulating throughout the United States. Counterfeit tests are not authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and may not function properly.

At this time, the FDA has identified two counterfeit tests that are made to look a lot like Flowflex COVID-19 Test Kits and iHealth Antigen Rapid Test Kits. (iHealth tests distributed by Oregon Health Authority are NOT counterfeit.)

For examples of counterfeit at-home COVID-19 tests, what to do if you have one and other testing resources, visit http://ow.ly/cZtL50J82sf.

Before using an at-home COVID-19 test, make sure it’s on the FDA’s list of authorized at-home tests: http://ow.ly/l1W950J82sg

You can also order free COVID-19 tests directly from the federal government which are not counterfeit: http://ow.ly/n64n50J82se

Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Education release ‘Fentanyl & Opioid Response Toolkit’ for schools

Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education are releasing a Fentanyl & Opioid Response Toolkit for Schools to support educators, administrators, school nurses, students and families. The toolkit is in response to a public health crisis related to rising youth and adult opioid overdoses and deaths in Oregon. 

This toolkit provides information about how schools can create an emergency protocol to administer naloxone, also known as Narcan. The toolkit includes information on how to access, administer and store this life-saving opioid overdose prevention medication. In addition, the toolkit has resources to support staff training, prevention education and other resources essential to developing and implementing school emergency response procedures.

“The resources in this toolkit can save lives,” said Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education. “We strongly encourage schools to adopt policies and practices for safe and effective management and prevention of opioid-related overdoses in schools. When drug-related emergencies occur in or around schools, proper response is critical to save lives.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from May 2020 to April 2021, deaths due to accidental overdose surpassed 100,000 for the first time on record. Sixty-four percent of those deaths were attributed to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which often comes in the form of pills that closely resemble prescription oxycodone or benzodiazepines such as Xanax.

In Oregon, fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased by 74% from 2019 to 2020, for a total of 298 fentanyl-related deaths in 2020.

“Rising opioid overdose deaths are a public health crisis, and schools are the heart of Oregon communities. Unfortunately, this trend is expected to continue, as Oregon has continued to see an increase in accidental overdose deaths due to fentanyl,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen.

Some additional facts about fentanyl can be found on the Fentanyl Awareness Day website, here. Among the facts given on that site, “according to the CDC, fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under 50 than any other cause of death, including heart disease, cancer, and all other accidents. Among teenagers, overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl tripled in the past two years, yet 73% have never heard of fake prescription pills being made with fentanyl.”

Image courtesy DEA.gov

What are COVID-19 community levels?

The CDC‘s COVID-19 Community Levels tool, updated every week, uses multiple factors to rate the level of COVID-19 spread in your county and can help you make decisions about how to approach activities such as grocery shopping, masking, travel and more.

To learn more, read our recent story about how to use regional CDC and OHA data to help make those decisions: https://covidblog.oregon.gov/how-to-use-regional-covid…/

Vaccines coming to Nyssa

The Malheur County Health Department, in cooperation with the Nyssa Senior Citizens, will host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Nyssa Senior Center, 316 Good Ave., beginning at 11:30 Tuesday, May 17. The clinic will follow the Center’s Bingo activity.

With second boosters now recommended for people over 50, as well as people over 16 who are immunocompromised, as well as two new subvariants taking over the northeastern United States, now is a great time to get a second booster.

End HIV in Oregon

Imagine an Oregon where…
We end new HIV infections.
Everyone with HIV is healthy.
Can you imagine it? 

End HIV Oregon. 

Testing is easy.

Everyone has an HIV status and all Oregonians need to know theirs. It’s as easy as ever to get tested for HIV. Confidential HIV testing is available throughout Oregon. There are rapid tests which give results within 20 minutes, including home HIV test kits that can be purchased in drug stores and pharmacies. If you live in Oregon and haven’t been tested for HIV in the past year, you may qualify for a free at-home rapid HIV test. You can also ask your doctor for a confidential HIV test as part of a routine medical visit. Most insurance plans cover the cost of HIV testing. Free, confidential testing is offered at the Malheur County Health Department. Call 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

HIV testing is recommended for everyone at least once in their life. Six out of every 10 Oregonians have never been tested for HIV, and Oregon sees 210-230 new infections every year. In 2020 and 2021, new HIV cases nearly quadrupled in Eastern Oregon.

Getting tested is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Order a free at-home HIV test kit here.

Order free condoms here.

Contact the Malheur County Health Department for more information, for a free, confidential HIV test, or for free condoms.

More information about ending HIV in Oregon can be found here.

Walk in vaccine clinics on Wednesdays

Every Wednesday, the Malheur County Health Department is hosting a walk-in vaccine clinic, where you’ll be able to receive first or second booster doses of any brand of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as regular doses, if desired.

Additionally, most of the adult vaccines will be available, as are all of the childhood vaccines.

Second booster doses are now available for:

  • People who are over 18 and received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine for their primary and booster doses may receive either Pfizer or Moderna as a second booster.
  • People age 50 and older may receive either a Pfizer or Moderna booster.
  • Immunocompromised people age 12-17 may receive a Pfizer booster.
  • Immunocompromised people age 18 and older may receive either a Pfizer or a Moderna booster.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters continue to offer protection against severe illness and death, and they reduce a person’s risk of becoming ill with COVID-19.

Voluntary My Electronic Vaccine Card available now

Oregon’s My Electronic Vaccine Card gives you an electronic copy of COVID-19 vaccinations you’ve received in Oregon. It’s the same information on your paper vaccine card, but easier to carry with you to airports, concerts and the like. Once you sign up, simply download the QR code to your phone.

You are not required to get an electronic vaccine card. Oregon has no plans to make it mandatory. You choose who you share your electronic vaccine card with. Your electronic vaccine card is NOT shared with other government agencies and does not include your address, phone number, social security number or immigration status.

You can retrieve your electronic vaccine card by either phone or email, depending on what your immunization provider sent to Oregon’s Registry. TIP: Try your mobile phone first. Most records have a phone number attached, so if you try your email address and your record isn’t found, try your phone number.

To learn more and to register, visit myelectronicvaccinecard.oregon.gov.

Answers to questions about COVID-19 treatments

Dr. Andrea Lara, MD, MPH, Oregon Health Authority health advisor, answered today’s questions. We’ll continue to answer your questions on COVID-19 topics in upcoming newsletters. 

Q: Why does my internist say she can’t give me a prescription for Paxlovid for travel?
“The available COVID-19 treatments are for treating active infections, not for preventing them. Paxlovid is not a preventative medication you can take with you when you travel. You must be infected by the COVID-19 virus and have a positive COVID-19 test to receive the medication.”

Q: President Biden announced the Test-to-Treat program in his State of the Union message. Is it set up and working? What is the criteria for being prescribed Paxlovid or Molnupirvir?
“The Test-to-Treat (T2T) program is up and working. You can find T2T locations on the federal locator site. Just enter your zip code and it will show you participating locations. To make an appointment at any of the locations, call the number listed on the site. To receive a COVID-19 oral antiviral (Paxlovid or Molnupiravir), you have to test positive for COVID-19 and be at risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness. Certain medical conditions or your age could qualify you to receive treatment. At the T2T location, you will be evaluated by a health care provider. See a list of medical conditions here that might qualify you to receive treatment.”

*For people who do not have insurance, there may be a fee associated with the T2T service.

Treatments are available for COVID-19

While we currently have highly effective vaccines that protect against the virus that causes COVID-19, medical research continues to identify effective treatments.

There are several treatments being used for COVID-19. They are for different kinds of people facing different risks, and they are in extremely short supply around the country. There are doses available in Malheur County, so if you test positive, and want the treatment, contact your health care provider right away. Test-to-treat locations, in which a person can get tested and treated immediately, can be found here.

If you get sick with COVID-19, contact your health care provider or 211 to see if you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatment. Please don’t go to the emergency room to seek these treatments.

To learn more about COVID-19 treatments, visit this website.

Mental Wellness: Redefining the Meaning of Health

On this, the last day of National Public Health Week, we bring up mental wellness as a component of public health. Thanks to our readers for celebrating this week with us, thanks to all the health care providers in our community for taking care of local residents, and especially thanks to the team at the Malheur County Health Department. We see you, and your work is appreciated.

For science.
Mental health is a critical component of public health. It consists of emotional, psychological and social well-being and is important from childhood through adulthood. But many people live with mental illness – health conditions which change the way we think, feel or behave, which can affect our lives and our work. In the United States, mental illness is one of the most common health conditions. Each year, one in five Americans will experience mental illness. Fifty percent of mental illness starts by the age of 14, and 75% begins by the age of 24. People who identify as being two or more races are more likely to report mental illness than other races, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, Caucasian and Black populations. For all racial groups, except American Indian/Alaska Native, women are more likely than men to receive mental health services.

For action.
Advocacy for mental health is crucial, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ask Congress to make mental health services readily available during the current and future public health emergencies. Get involved in Project 2025 — an initiative to reduce the annual rate of suicide. Learn about suicide prevention and intervention by joining the National Alliance on Mental Illness  or APHA’s Mental Health Section. And if you or someone you know is in need of mental health service, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

For health.
The COVID-19 pandemic can affect mental health in many ways, including through loss of a loved one, isolation due to physical distancing mandates, exposure to the virus and loss of income. Given the past year’s strain, it’s not surprising health care workers have a high risk of developing mental illness. Strategies like being physically active, getting a full night’s sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, practicing gratitude, participating in activities you enjoy, developing coping skills, meditating and connecting with others can improve mental health. People who engage in physical activity have fewer days of poor mental health than people who do not exercise. Talking to a licensed therapist, joining a support group or 12-step program or considering medication under the supervision of a physician can all be beneficial.

Where you are.
There is no single cause for mental illness, and certain childhood risk factors, including growing up in poverty or experiencing abuse, can be an indicator for mental illness later in life. Genetics, isolation and use of alcohol or drugs are other contributing factors as well. Unaddressed mental health challenges can have an impact on employment, housing stability, safety and a range of other issues. This underscores the urgency of access to better treatment and coping options for those most at risk. Prevention, early detection and treatment of mental health conditions can lead to improved physical and community health. Public health can incorporate mental and emotional health development and promotion into prevention strategies and activities. This can make health promotion more effective and protect people from other issues that have lasting physical and mental health impacts, such as community and interpersonal violence, tobacco use and houselessness.

Information provided by the American Public Health Association.