Preteens and teens-Protect their futures with vaccines

Taking them to their sports physical, making sure they eat healthy and get plenty of sleep … you know these are crucial to your adolescent’s health. But did you also you know your preteens and teens need vaccines to stay healthy and protected against serious diseases?

As they get older, preteens and teens are at increased risk for some infections. Plus the protection provided by some of the childhood vaccines begins to wear off, so preteens need a booster dose. You may have heard about whooping cough (pertussis) outbreaks recently. Vaccine-preventable diseases are still around and very real. The vaccines for preteens and teens can help protect your kids, as well as their friends, community, and other family members.

There are four vaccines recommended for all preteens at ages 11 to 12. Teens may also need a booster dose of one of the shots or get any shots they may have missed. You can use any health care visit, including sports or camp physicals, checkups or some sick visits, to get the shots your kids need. The vaccines recommended for preteen and teen girls and boys are:

  • Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against four types of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis – a serious infection around the brain and spinal cord – in teens and young adults.
  • HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer. HPV can cause future cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and cancers of the penis in men. In both women and men, HPV also causes mouth/throat (oropharyngeal) cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.
  • Tdap vaccine, which is a booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis (whooping cough) can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks. It can also be spread to babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and this disease can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly for babies.
  • Influenza (flu) vaccine, because even healthy kids can get the flu, and it can be serious. All kids, including your preteens and teens, should get the flu vaccine every year. Parents should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and to help protect their children. 

Talk with your child’s health care professional to find out which vaccines your preteens and teens need. Vaccines are a crucial step in keeping your kids healthy.

Vaccines are available at Fargo Cass Public Health. Call 701-241-1383 for more information and to schedule an appointment.

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City of Fargo recognized as “Infant Friendly” workplace!

Seven North Dakota businesses have been recognized as “Infant-Friendly” in the past year, according to BriAnna Wanner, Maternal and Child Health Nutritionist, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, North Dakota Department of Health. Employers are eligible for this designation if they adopt a policy that supports nursing mothers in the workplace.

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

  • Bismarck – NDSU Extension- Burleigh County
  • Fargo – City of Fargo
  • Grand Forks – University of North Dakota, Sublime Aesthetic Professionals, Calvary Lutheran Church, Grand Forks Head Start
  • Hettinger – West River Health Services

Since the inception of this program, 65 businesses in North Dakota, representing over 17,000 employees, have been designated Infant-Friendly. Businesses interested in joining the list of recognized organizations 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, August 1-7, 2015. This week is the global celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, an annual event that draws attention to the health impacts of breastfeeding for both babies and mothers. The theme this year is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work!” which draws attention to the importance of workplace support in helping mothers establish and sustain breastfeeding.

“More than 75 percent of women working in North Dakota are mothers of young children,” said Wanner. “The fastest growing segment of the workforce is women with children younger than three. Knowing these demographics, there are many benefits for the employer to be supportive of women and families in the workplace.”


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Blue-green algae advisory

The North Dakota Department of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Animal Health Division, are advising the public to avoid contact with or swallowing blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, and to protect their pets and livestock.

According to Dr. Susan Keller, state veterinarian, the advisory is to remind people that these blooms are most common in North Dakota in late summer, but it only takes a few hot days to cause the overwintering organisms to become active and bloom. Exposure can cause people and animals to become ill.

“Blue-green algae normally can be found in many lakes and pasture watering holes in the state,” Keller said. “Under certain conditions, the blue-green algae can grow into blooms and can produce toxins.”

According to the state health department, blue-green algae blooms can produce poisonous cyanotoxins. These toxins have no known antidotes. People, their livestock or other animals that swallow water containing a harmful algae bloom can become sick. Symptoms can include severe diarrhea and vomiting; numb lips, tingling fingers and toes, or dizziness; or rashes, hives or skin blisters. Children are at higher risk than adults for illness from harmful algae blooms because they weigh less and can get a relatively larger dose of toxin.

The Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, Animal Health Division, recommend these steps to avoid exposure to cyanotoxins:

  • Don’t swim, water ski or boat in areas where the water is discolored or where you see foam, scum or mats of green or blue-green algae on the water.
  • If you do accidentally swim in water that might have a cyanobacteria bloom, rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible.
  • Don’t let pets or livestock swim in or drink from areas where the water is discolored or where you see foam, scum or mats of algae on the water.
  • If pets (especially dogs) swim in scummy water, rinse them off immediately – do not let them lick the algae (and toxins) off their fur.
  • Don’t irrigate lawns or golf courses with pond water that looks scummy or smells bad.
  • Respect any advisories announced by public health authorities.

For more information about the effects of blue-green algae blooms on pets and livestock, contact the Animal Health Division, North Dakota Department of Agriculture at 701-328-2655. For more information on public health issues, contact Karl Rockeman, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701-328-5225.

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Wildfire Smoke Continues To Affect North Dakota

As wildfires continue to burn across Canada, smoke and hazy conditions will persist in North Dakota over the coming days. The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) reminds residents with respiratory conditions, young children, and the elderly to avoid, and all others to limit, strenuous outdoor activities while smoky conditions remain across the region. 

Elevated levels of particulate matter, a component of wildfire smoke, have been detected at all NDDoH air quality monitoring sites across the state.  The levels of particulate matter fluctuate with weather patterns, so the quality of the air at different locations around the state can vary from day to day. 

Particulate matter can be irritating to the respiratory system, especially for those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or conditions such as asthma and allergies. If a person finds themselves reacting to smoke to the extent that it is affecting their breathing, they should seek immediate help from a medical provider.

Updated air quality report from the National Weather Service.


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Department of Health Releases 2014 Drinking Water Compliance Report

Information about North Dakota’s public water systems is available in the newly released 2014 Drinking Water Compliance Report prepared by the North Dakota Department of Health. 

North Dakota public water systems maintain an excellent Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) compliance record. In 2014, the Department of Health issued certificates of compliance to 306 public water systems. 

“The purpose of the annual report is to improve consumer awareness of drinking water compliance issues,” said Greg Wavra, administrator of the department’s Drinking Water Program. “People served by systems that incurred Safe Drinking Water Act violations in 2014 should have been informed of those violations by their water suppliers.”  

All SDWA violations incurred in North Dakota in 2014 are included in the report. Also listed are violations recorded in 2015 based on 2014 monitoring data. 

“It’s important to understand that the majority of violations referred to in the 2014 report have been resolved,” Wavra said. “It is a significant challenge for public water systems and states to meet the ever-increasing number of requirements of the SDWA.” 

To obtain a copy of the 2014 Drinking Water Compliance Report, write to the North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Municipal Facilities, at 918 E. Divide Ave., 3rd Floor, Bismarck, N.D. 58501-1947, or call 701.328.5211.  To review the report, click on Publications on the department’s website at



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Department of Health Urges At-Risk Residents to Avoid Prolonged Exposure to Wildfire Smoke

Wildfires in Canada are sending smoke across North Dakota and other parts of the U.S.  In North Dakota, particulate matter (PM) is elevated across the state, but is highest in the northern and eastern thirds of the state.  The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) urges residents with respiratory conditions to consider limiting strenuous outdoor activities while smoky conditions remain across the region. 

Particulate matter can be irritating to the respiratory system, especially for those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or conditions such as asthma and allergies. The Department does not expect PM levels to exceed ambient air quality standards. However, as a precaution, the Department advises people with respiratory conditions, and the elderly and young children, to limit prolonged heavy exertion outside. If a person finds themselves reacting to smoke to the extent that it is affecting their breathing, they should seek immediate help from a medical provider. 

For more information, contact Chuck Hyatt at 701.328.5188


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National HIV Testing Day-June 27

Department of Health Urges Testing for North Dakotans

In observance of National HIV Testing Day, June 27, the North Dakota Department of Health is urging people to  “take the test and take control,” according to Gino Jose, HIV Prevention Coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH). 

National HIV Testing Day serves to spread global awareness and focus prevention efforts on the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  This day also serves as a reminder that HIV testing is recommended for all persons, regardless of risk, at least once in that person’s lifetime, and more often for people who have high risk of infection.  People at high risks include those who have unprotected sex, share needles for drug use, and get tattoos or piercings using non-sterile equipment.   

Since surveillance began in 1984, over 700 HIV cases have been reported to the NDDoH, with approximately 396 individuals currently living with HIV/AIDS in North Dakota. Newly reported cases continue to increase annually in North Dakota and 33 cases have been reported to the state thus far in 2015.  It is estimated that about one-fourth of the people who are HIV positive are unaware of their infections, and North Dakotans are likely no exception. Over one million people in the United States are HIV positive, and approximately 50,000 new infections occur every year. These estimations underscore the need for increased efforts to reach at-risk populations with HIV testing and prevention services. 

“National HIV Testing Day is great opportunity to raise awareness about the impact the disease has on people, families and communities,” Jose said. “If you do not know if you are infected with HIV, you could be spreading it to others. People need to know how to keep themselves from becoming infected with HIV, so we can reduce the spread of this disease in our communities. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.” 

HIV testing is available at test 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 for those at risk. HIV can be prevented by avoiding or not engaging in risky behaviors. Fargo Cass Public Health offers Free Rapid HIV Testing. Call 241-1383 to schedule an appointment. 

For information about HIV testing and other HIV/AIDS services, call the NDDoH at 800.472.2180 or visit the program’s website at  People can identify their risk factors through an anonymous survey 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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Residents Should Use Care While Cleaning to Avoid Hantavirus

With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, many people will be cleaning cabins, sheds and other buildings that have been closed for the winter. The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) reminds residents to protect themselves against hantavirus, a viral infection associated with exposure to areas where rodents have been present.

“Hantavirus exposure can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), which is a viral infection that causes severe lung disease. Infected rodents, primarily deer mice, 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,” according to Michelle Feist, Epidemiology and Surveillance Program Manager with the Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control.

If you will be cleaning areas that may have contained rodents, NDDoH recommends the following steps to avoid hantavirus infection:

  • Ventilate the space by opening the doors and windows for 30 minutes before cleaning
  • 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
  • Saturate material with disinfectant for five minutes before removal
  • Mop floors and clean countertops, cabinets and drawers with disinfectant
  • Use a commercial disinfectant or a bleach solution made with one part bleach and nine parts water.

    Symptoms of HPS usually begin 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 shortness of breath as lungs fill with fluid.

    Thirteen cases of HPS have been reported to the Department of Health since 1993, when the virus was first recognized in the United States. Seven of the 13 reported cases were fatal. Two cases were reported in 2014, one of which was fatal. Nationally, through December 31, 2013, 637 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.

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May 19-National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day

In observance of National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is encouraging residents to know their hepatitis C status by getting tested for the disease. 

Chronic hepatitis is a viral condition that affects the liver, and is the leading cause of liver cancer.  Many people do not experience symptoms of hepatitis C and do not know that they are infected because symptoms can take up to 30 years to develop.  When symptoms do appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease.  Symptoms of hepatitis C can include fever, fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice. 

Baby boomers – those born between 1945 and 1965 – should be tested for hepatitis C because their likelihood of being infected is five times greater than other segments of the population.  Others who should be tested include current and past injection drug users, those who received donated blood or organs before 1992, those on hemodialysis and those born to a mother with hepatitis C. In North Dakota and across the U.S., there has been such a large increase in hepatitis C among injection drug users under 30 that it is considered an epidemic.   

“Since May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and the May 19 is National Testing Day, we have a great opportunity to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, especially since as many as 75 percent of those infected with chronic hepatitis C do not know they are infected,” according to Sarah Weninger, STD/HCV Program Coordinator with the NDDoH.  “Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States and is the leading cause of liver cancer in the United States.  As many as 70 percent to 80 percent of all people who have hepatitis C will develop long-term infections. However, once the infection is identified, treatment options are available, and the earlier the diagnosis, the better the treatment options.” 

People who want to know their hepatitis C status can be tested without cost at many locations across North Dakota.  Call Fargo Cass Public Health to schedule an appointment or, a list of free testing sites is available at,


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