September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

According to the American Cancer Society, 94,990 new cases of gynecologic cancers will be diagnosed in 2014, resulting in approximately 28,790 deaths.  That is why it is important for womento take care of their health, not just in September, but every day of the year.

Gynecologic cancers include cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine/endometrial cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer. Uterine cancer is the most common (more than 52,500 new cases per year), while ovarian cancer is the deadliest due to late stage diagnosis.
Cervical cancer is almost totally preventable given the availability of a vaccine for both boys and girls, and a wide-spread primary screening program using both the Pap test and HPV test (HPV is the cause of almost all cervical cancer).

There are specific steps that women can take to reduce their risks and even prevent these cancers. More than half of all cancer deaths could be prevented by staying at a healthy weight, eating right, keeping active, and getting recommended screening tests.

The Fargo Cass Public Health Clinic offers physical examinations for women including: pelvic exams, pap smears, urinalysis, and blood work. Fees are based on a sliding fee scale. Women age 40-64 may qualify for Women’s Way which may help pay for cervical and pelvic exams.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Fargo Cass Public Health at 701-241-1383.

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Support for Moms Who Breastfeed on the Rise

Breastfeeding mothers in North Dakota can more easily identify where to find support in both local hospitals and workplaces thanks to two designations developed by the North Dakota Department of Health’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The newest designation allows North Dakota hospitals to provide crucial support to new mothers by earning a breastfeeding-friendly designation. The “North Dakota Breastfeeding-Friendly Hospital Designation” is a five-step program that has been developed from research-based best practices in hospitals to help mothers who breastfeed get off to the right start. “We are thrilled that many hospitals across the state are interested in this designation and are willing to take the right steps in supporting breastfeeding mothers from the start,” said BriAnna Wanner, Division of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Two hospitals that are the first to apply for the designation are:

  • West River Health Services, Hettinger
  • Sanford Health, Bismarck

“Breastfeeding is natural, but is a skill that must be learned,” said Wanner. “The first few days of life are the most crucial in predicting duration and exclusivity for breastfeeding. That is why it is important to have the right practices in place in the hospital.”

For four years, the Department of Health has given the designation of “Infant Friendly” to North Dakota businesses if they adopt a policy that supports nursing mothers in the workplace.

The following 13 North Dakota employers have been designated as infant-friendly in the last year:

  • Bismarck – City of Bismarck
  • Dickinson – Southwestern District Health Unit
  • Emerado- Ascension Lutheran Church
  • Fargo- Discovery Benefits
  • Grand Forks – Altru Family YMCA, Amazing Grains, Kidney & Hypertension Center, Kidney Institute of North Dakota, Aurora Dialysis, Grand Forks Public Library, 1101 Dental, PLLC
  • Northwood- Valley Community Health Centers
  • Rolla- Presentation Medical Center

Businesses interested in becoming “Infant Friendly” can find resources for supporting their employees and the simple application at

The designation of these businesses coincides with Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s proclamation of Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, 2014, in North Dakota, which mirrors the annual global celebration event that draws attention to the health impacts of breastfeeding for both babies and mothers. The theme this year is “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal For Life.”

For more information about the infant friendly designation or Breastfeeding Week in North Dakota, contact BriAnna Wanner, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.4529.

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Community Forum on Alcohol Misuse Prevention

On Wednesday, August 6, Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH) will host the Community Forum on Alcohol Misuse Prevention to reveal findings from a community assessment and discuss effective strategies to prevent adult binge drinking and underage drinking in Cass County. The forum will be held two times: 1-2 p.m., and 7-8 p.m. at the Fargo City Commission Room, 200 3rd St. N., Fargo.

Fargo Cass Public Health has been awarded the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPG SIG) for Cass County. The purpose of the grant is to build our prevention infrastructure. The SPF SIG focuses on the prevention of adult binge drinking and underage drinking and consists of three phases: assessment, planning and implementation.

Fargo Cass Public Health will begin the planning phase which will include learning about effective prevention strategies, aligning them with what will work in Cass County, and using the data from the needs assessment as a guide. The public is invited to become involved in our community prevention efforts through this grant.

The community forum will address:

  • the problem of alcohol misuse in our community
  • the SPF SIG project
  • how to provide input or suggestions
  • how to apply for funding to implement strategies

If you are unable to attend personally, please send an agency/organization representative and feel free to share this information with anyone else who may be interested in attending.

For more information on the event contact Robyn Litke Sall at 701-241-1341, or


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Practice Safety Tips during Extreme Heat

Summer events are in full swing and Fargo Cass Public Health would like to remind everyone to take the necessary precautions during this heat wave to avoid dangerous health conditions. Those most vulnerable to the effects of heat include infants and young children, the elderly and those with existing medical conditions. Dangers we face during periods of very high temperatures include:

Heat Cramps: These are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. They are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.

Heat exhaustion: This typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim may suffer heat stroke.

Heat stroke (sunstroke): Heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. 

During a heat wave practice these safety tips:

  • Slow down and avoid strenuous activity,
  • Stay indoors as much as possible,
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing,
  • Drink plenty of water regularly and often. Do not drink liquids that      contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often,
  • If you have to be outside, take frequent breaks in the shade,
  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours,
  • Do not leave anyone or pets in a parked vehicle. Even with the windows cracked open, vehicles can still get 15-20 degrees hotter than outside temperatures,
  • Check on elderly neighbors, and
  • Keep infants and young children well hydrated.

Finally, never leave your pet in a hot car, not even for a minute, even with the air conditioning running. According to the Humane Society of the United States, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. For example, on an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car, with the windows open slightly, can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes, which may cause your pet to suffer irreversible organ damage or die.  Also, make sure all animals have plenty of cold water available.

For more information and videos on heat safety, go to

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North Dakota Observes National HIV Testing Day

Department of Health Urges Testing for At-Risk People

In observance of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, the North Dakota Department of Health is urging people at risk for HIV/AIDS to get tested, according to Gino Jose, HIV Prevention Coordinator for the Department of Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 1 million people 13 and older are living with HIV infection, including about 200,000 who are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level— particularly among certain groups.

As of June 20, 2014, 365 people are currently living in North Dakota with HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that about one-fourth of the people infected with HIV are unaware they have HIV; as a result, these people may be unknowingly spreading their infection to others. That is why it is important for people to learn their HIV status by getting tested.  Advances in medicine have made it possible for people who have HIV infection to live long healthy lives, and knowing your status sooner can help prevent poorer health outcomes.

HIV testing is available at testing sites throughout the state, and results are available in 20 minutes. The test sites are staffed by trained personnel who offer free and confidential HIV testing, counseling and referrals to those at risk. HIV can be prevented by avoiding or not engaging in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, needle-sharing for drug use, or tattooing and body piercing at unlicensed facilities.

Fargo Cass Public Health offers Rapid HIV testing. For more information go to and click on STD/HIV testing.  To make an appointment, call 701-241-1383.  Residents can also visit a website where they can identify their risk factors through an anonymous survey at .

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Documentary Focuses on Under-Vaccinated Society

Fargo Cass Public Health and the Fargo Public Library invite area residents to a free screening of the documentary “Invisible Threat” (not rated) which explores the science behind disease and the risks facing a society that is under-vaccinated. Following the screening, there will be a Q&A session with Dr. Mauriello, Sanford Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist. This film and Q&A event is set for Saturday, June 28, starting at 1 p.m. at the downtown Main Library. Contact Nicole at (701) 241-1472 or the Main Library Information Desk at (701) 241-1492 for more information. Watch the trailer at:

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Pool Season Hygiene and Safety Reminders

It is that time of year again, time for swimming lessons, fun with friends and family, and getting some much needed relief from the heat by cooling off in pools. Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH) would like to remind area residents to take the following precautions before and after using public pools, to help prevent bacterial illnesses like Cryptosporidia, Norovirus, and “Swimmer’s Ear”:

  • Avoid the Pool:  If you do not feel well or if you have any cuts or open wounds 
  • Rinse off in the showers using soap before you start swimming
  • Take children on regular bathroom breaks and check diapers every 30-60 minutes
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom
  • Do not swallow pool water
  • Obey all pool rules
  • Wash your swimsuits after each pool visit

Another reminder is that all pools in Cass County with a circulation system and/or 2 feet of water need a fence at least 5 feet in height that completely encircles the pool.

According to FCPH environmental health director Grant Larson, “Practicing these tips helps cut down on the number of reported illnesses and injuries in and around public pools.”

For more information swimming pool rules and regulations in Cass County, call the Fargo Cass Public Health Environmental Health Division at 701-476-6729.







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Department of Health Reminds Residents to Take Precautions Against Hantavirus Disease

People who are cleaning cabins or other buildings that have been closed for the winter should protect themselves against hantavirus, a disease transmitted by infected mice, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.

“Hantavirus infection has been associated with cleaning or occupying previously vacant cabins or other dwellings,” said Michelle Feist, epidemiologist with the Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control. “It’s important to take precautions while cleaning buildings infested with rodents. Preventing infection is important since there is no cure and the disease can be fatal.”

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a viral infection that causes severe lung disease. Infected rodents spread the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. The virus is transmitted to people when they breathe in air contaminated by the virus, and on rare occasions it can be transmitted through an infected rodent bite. The deer mouse is the primary carrier of the virus.

The Department of Health offers the following tips for cleaning a rodent-infested building to prevent hantavirus infection:

  • Ventilate the space by opening the doors and windows for 30 minutes. You should leave the area during this period.
  • Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming up droppings, urine or nesting materials.
  • Wear gloves and use disinfectant when cleaning up dead rodents or their urine, droppings and nests.
  • Mop floors and clean countertops, cabinets and drawers with disinfectant.

Symptoms of HPS usually occur two to three weeks after infection. Early symptoms commonly include fever, muscle and body aches, fatigue, headache, dizziness, chills, nausea and vomiting. The illness worsens within a short period of time to include coughing and severe shortness of breath when lungs fill with fluid.

Eleven cases of HPS have been reported to the North Dakota Department of Health since 1993, when the virus was first recognized in the United States.  The most recent case was reported in 2009. Six of the 11 cases were fatal. Nationally, through December 31, 2012, 616 cases have been reported with 36 percent resulting in death. About 75 percent of all cases in the U.S. have occurred in residents living in rural areas.

For more information, contact Michelle Feist, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.2378.

A fact sheet containing important precautions to minimize the risk of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome infection is available

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Department of Health Reminds Parents That Now is the Time to Think About Back-to-School Immunizations

The North Dakota Department of Health and Department of Instruction are encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated now to avoid the back-to-school rush later this summer.

Before entering school, children should have five doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), four doses of IPV (polio), three doses of HBV (hepatitis B), two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), and two doses of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. There also are vaccines that are required for adolescents when entering seventh grade. Seventh grade requirements include an immunization against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap), and meningococcal disease (MCV4). The vaccine that protects against meningococcal disease is also required for newly admitted North Dakota college students residing in on-campus housing. Other vaccines may be recommended by health-care providers.

“By requiring vaccines, we hope to minimize the spread of preventable illnesses in schools and provide North Dakota’s children with a healthier environment to learn,” said Valerie Fischer, Director of Safe and Healthy Schools. “Children should get vaccinated as soon as possible to ensure they are protected before the first day of school.”

“Approximately 10 percent of kindergartners and one-third of middle school students were not up-to-date with the required vaccines during the 2013-2014 school year,” said Amy Schwartz, Immunization Surveillance Coordinator. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Dakota ranks fifth to last in the United States for immunization rates for measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine for kindergartners.”

In an effort to increase immunization rates, the Department of Health will be sending letters to all children who will be attending kindergarten or seventh grade next year who have not yet been vaccinated with required vaccines.

Children can be vaccinated at local public health units or private health care providers. For more information on school immunization requirements, contact Amy Schwartz, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.2335, or visit our website at

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FCPH Receives Grant to Combat Underage Drinking and Adult Binge Drinking

Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH)  is receiving $389,503 to build local substance abuse prevention infrastructure, to combat underage drinking and adult binge drinking. This funding is granted under the federal Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG), through the ND Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

Fargo Cass Public Health, in collaboration with community partners, is currently completing a Community Needs Assessment to determine how and where to focus their efforts in addressing underage and adult binge drinking. The next step will be to develop a strategic plan and then to implement evidence-based strategies tackling underage and adult binge drinking.

According to FCPH’s Alcohol Prevention Coordinator, Robyn Litke Sall,  “This is an incredible opportunity for our community.  The topic areas that have been selected are very appropriate and Fargo Cass Public Health is excited to begin work with community partners to address underage drinking and adult binge drinking.”

The Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) is an infrastructure grant program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  The funding is to support states, tribes, and communities in building a solid foundation for delivering and sustaining effective substance abuse prevention.  Grant funds run through September of 2015.

If you would like to be involved with these community substance abuse prevention efforts, call 701.241-1341 or

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