Change in Vaccines Required for Seventh Grade Students Next Fall

Two vaccines that were formerly required for students starting “middle school” will now be required for students starting the seventh grade, according to Amy Schwartz, Immunization Surveillance Coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health.  “Middle school” means different grades in different communities, which meant that all students were not receiving the same vaccines at the same times. “These changes were made to standardize immunization requirements,” Schwartz said. “We hope that requiring these vaccines for the seventh grade will be simpler for parents to remember.”

Students must now receive the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) and the MCV4 (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) vaccines to begin the seventh grade, Schwartz indicated. These requirements are in addition to previously-required immunizations. Parents are urged to check with their child’s healthcare provider or local public health unit to make sure their immunizations are up to date well before school starts this fall. A complete list of school immunization requirements and recommendations is available at

Valerie Fischer, Director of Safe and Healthy Schools for the Department of Public Instruction, said it was important for students to be current on their immunizations. “Diseases spread quickly in classrooms, so making sure children are immunized is the best way to make sure they are healthy and ready to learn,” Fischer said.

The vaccines required for entry into the seventh grade protect children against diseases that are spread by bacteria. Because vaccines have made these diseases relatively rare, it’s easy to forget how serious they can be.

The Tdap vaccination protects children against (1) tetanus, a disease that causes muscle spasms and death; (2) diphtheria, an infection that causes a sore throat, fever, swollen glands, muscle weakness and painful swallowing, and can result in death; (3) pertussis, or whooping cough, which can cause uncontrollable, violent coughing and can result in death. The MCV4 vaccine protects against meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord that can cause hearing loss, brain damage and death.

“Currently in North Dakota, most children are immunized appropriately before starting school.  Those who are not properly immunized are more at risk for developing these preventable diseases,” added Schwartz.  The middle school immunization rates for Tdap and meningococcal vaccines for the 2013-2014 school year were 72.4 percent and 69.8 percent respectively.

For more information, contact Amy Schwartz, North Dakota Department of Health, 701.328.2335.


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Reminder: E-Cigarettes Follow Same Law as Regular Cigarettes in North Dakota

Fargo Cass Public Health would like to remind e-cigarette users and North Dakota businesses that e-cigarettes are prohibited in all places where smoking is not allowed under the law; and that smoking is prohibited outside within 20 feet of entrances, exits, operable windows, air intakes and ventilation systems of an establishment where smoking is prohibited by law. Also, smoke-free signs must be posted at all entrances to public places and places of employment including: restaurants, bars, truck stops, guest rooms and common areas within hotels and motels, health care facilities, long-term and assisted living centers, and licensed adult day care facilities.

Fargo Cass Public Health Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Holly Scott says that they have been receiving reports of violations of the use of e-cigarettes in businesses in Cass County, “There seems to be confusion about indoor use of electronic cigarettes in ND. The law is clear: use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, is prohibited in the same locations as smoking is. The confusion could stem from the fact that the MN smoke-free law does not include electronic cigarettes. Ultimately, we just want to remind people that it’s illegal to vape inside in North Dakota and we are working with businesses and establishments to make sure they comply.”

The fine for not complying with the law by an owner, manager, or person of general supervisory responsibility of an establishment is not to exceed $100 for the first violation, not to exceed $200 for a second violation within one year, and not to exceed $500 for each additional violation within one year of the preceding violation.

To assist the public and businesses with the transition into the smoke-free law, Fargo Cass Public Health has educational resources and complementary signage available for local businesses. In addition, links to downloadable signage templates and educational resources are available at

For more information about the smoke-free law, contact Fargo Cass Public Health at 701-241-8576, or the Center for Tobacco Prevention & Control Policy at 1.877.277.5090 or

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Spring into Good Health with Walk This Way

Spring is finally here and that means it’s time for Walk This Way! Mayor Dennis Walaker will help kick off this annual series of 13 walking/biking events on Tuesday, March 25, at noon at the Fargo City Commission Room. The walk will continue through the downtown skyway and there will be the option of walking outside (weather permitting).  After the walk, samples of winter squash soup, as well as winter squash seed packets will be available as part of the One Vegetable-One Community promotion.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, walking helps to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, strokes, and also helps reduce cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, manage weight, and improve mood. Research has also shown that walking helps calm nerves and stimulate relaxation.

There is no cost to participate and participants are eligible for prize drawings at each event. Individuals who attend five or more walks are entered into a final drawing for a chance to win a Sunday night stay at the Hotel Donaldson, a $50 West Acres gift card or a $50 Scheels gift card. Registered participants can ride free on Metro Area Transit buses during the week of April 20-26, by showing their “Walk This Way” passport. Visit to register for the walks, view walking route maps, and receive updated event information. Participants may also register at each event.

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North Dakota Observes Poison Prevention Week

In observance of National Poison Prevention Week March 16 through 22, the North Dakota Department of Health is encouraging North Dakotans to take measures to avoid unintentional poisonings. 

A poison is any product or substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount. Potentially poisonous items could include some household products, chemicals, drugs (prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, illegal or animal medicines), snake bites, spider bites and scorpion stings. Poisons can enter the body through the eyes and/or ears, on or through the skin, by breathing them or by swallowing.

More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the Nation’s poison centers. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, approximately 90 percent of poisonings happen at home, and 51 percent of poisonings involve children under the age of 6. The majority of fatal poisonings occur among adults, especially older adults.

In 2013, there were 5,300 exposure calls made to the National Poison Helpline. Of those 5,300 calls, 54 percent were for children younger than age 6, who had a misadventure serious enough for someone to call for help. Poison Prevention Week is an opportunity to remind parents, grandparents, caregivers and the public about the dangers of poisoning and to provide some basic prevention strategies avoid children from a serious episode.

“Most poisonings are preventable,” said Diana Read, Injury/Violence Prevention Program director for the North Dakota Department of Health. “I encourage all adults to take preventive measures to protect children and themselves from unintentional poisonings. Many of the most dangerous poisons are things found in a home such as antifreeze and window washer products, some medicines, corrosive cleaners like drain openers or toilet bowl cleaners, fuels like kerosene and lamp oil, or pesticides.”

The Department of Health recommends the following poison-prevention measures:

  • Keep all medicines, household chemicals and other poisonous substances away from children and away from food.  Never leave them on the bedside stand, kitchen table or bathroom counter. Lock them up if possible. This is applicable for visitors as well.
  • Warn children never to put medicines, chemicals, plants or berries in their mouths unless an adult says it’s O.K. At an early age, teach children that some pretty things, like vitamins and aspirin, can hurt them. Never call medicine “candy” to get a child to take it.
  • Never store poison in food or beverage containers.
  • Read all labels. Follow the instructions and measure carefully. Open and take medicines only when the lights are on. Only take medicines prescribed for you.
  • Put all unused medications in a sturdy, securely sealed container and then in the trash can where children and pets can’t reach them. You also can dispose of them through the North Dakota Attorney’s General’s Take Back Program. To find out more about the program visit:
  • Do not carry medicine in your purse or diaper bags; children like to play with them.
  • Do not put decorative lamps and candles that contain lamp oil where children can reach them because lamp oil is very toxic.
  • Keep windows and/or doors open or run fans when using strong cleaning products. Never mix cleaning products together.
  • Have the national poison control phone number with other emergency contacts available.  Telephone stickers and magnets with the phone number are available from the North Dakota Department of Health.

In case of a poisoning or a questionable episode, people should do the following:

  • Call 9-1-1 if the person is unconscious, having difficulty breathing or not breathing.
  • Do not give the person anything to eat or drink. Call the Poison Control Center at 800.222.1222 immediately.
  • Bring the product or bottle to the phone so you can read the label to the staff at the Poison Control Center. Explain what was taken, how much was taken, when it was taken, and the age and weight of the person.
  • Do not give syrup of ipecac or activated charcoal unless told to do so by the Poison Control Center or your physician.

For more information about poison prevention or to request stickers and magnets with the national poison control number, contact Diana Read, North Dakota Department of Health, at 800.472.2286 (press 1) or visit our website at

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Workshop to Focus on Community Gardening

The  “Growing Together Through Community Gardening” workshop will be the evening of March 14 and all day March 15, at the Dakota Medical Foundation, located at 4141 28th Ave. S., Fargo.

The March 14 program from 7 to 9 p.m. is FREE and features a public forum and Robin Garwood as the main speaker. Garwood has been involved in many aspects of the Homegrown Minneapolis Initiative, which is an initiative to improve the growth, sales, distribution and consumption of fresh, locally grown foods. He has been coordinating efforts to change Minneapolis ordinances on composting, farmers markets, mobile grocery stores and staple food requirements at grocery stores.

The March 15 workshop begins at 8:30 with registration. The fee is $25.  Session topics include:

* Local victory gardeners in World War II and 2014 – This talk explains how gardens helped win World War II, examines the local victory garden movement and encourages people to plant their own victory garden this spring.

* All about soil and garden location – This session will deal with finding a proper garden location, soil testing and preparation, and weed control.

* Growing Together – Growing Together is a community garden organization hosting more than 100 new American families. Participants will learn how the gardens are structured.

* Putting community in the community garden – This session will examine ways to help people understand the importance of the word “community” as it relates to “garden.”

* New Master Gardener Program – Participants will learn about changes to the North Dakota Master Gardener Program.

To register for the March 15 workshop, go to


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Higher Rates of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Reported in North Dakota

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is reporting an increase in the number of confirmed sexually transmitted disease (STD) cases.  Cases of gonorrhea and syphilis have risen, according to Lindsey VanderBusch of the Division of Disease Control at the NDDoH.  Statewide data show that the number of cases of syphilis has risen from 15 to 24 since 2012. The number of cases of gonorrhea has increased from 340 cases to 471 cases since 2012.

People at risk for STDs include:

  • young people ages 15 to 24 who are sexually active
  • people with multiple sexual partners
  • people who use condoms inconsistently
  • people who have anonymous sexual partners
  • people who are sexually active and infected with HIV

North Dakotans can reduce their risk of being infected with an STD by:

  • abstaining from sexual activity
  • having only one non-infected sexual partner
  • using condoms consistently with every sexual encounter

Syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are more easily treated in their early stages with antibiotics.  If left undiagnosed and untreated, STDs can eventually cause serious complications, including sterility or even death.  For those who may not be able to afford health care, “there are clinics and several local public health units across the state that can provide reduced or no-cost testing and treatment,” VanderBusch said.

One of the major hurdles with treating STDs is not only treating the patient, but also treating their sexual partners.  Those who may be reluctant to seek treatment because of privacy concerns should understand that testing, treatment and notification of partners is all done confidentially.  According to VanderBusch, “programs are available to ensure those who are diagnosed and their partners are tested and treated appropriately.”

The NDDoH is contacting physicians throughout the state to remind them to be aware of possible STD exposures when they see patients.  “Some physicians do not see many instances of certain sexually transmitted diseases and may not recognize some of the symptoms they see as being caused by an STD.  We wanted to raise the issue with providers to make sure members of the public are getting diagnosed and treated appropriately,” said VanderBusch.

For more information on STDs, go to


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Spit-Tobacco Users Urged To Quit

Great American Spit Out Celebrated February 23

Emphasizing the fact that spit tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking, the North Dakota Department of Health’s (NDDoH) Tobacco Prevention and Control Program encourages spit-tobacco users to get help with quitting during the Great American Spit Out on February 23.

“It’s important for people to understand that these products are not a safe alternative to smoking. They all contain addictive nicotine and many harmful chemicals,” said Krista Fremming, director of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program in the North Dakota Department of Health. “Smokeless tobacco use increases the risk of lip, tongue, cheek and mouth cancers and can cause other cancers, heart disease and strokes, high blood pressure, tooth decay and gum disease.  Quitting tobacco is one of the most important things a person can do to improve his or her overall health.”

In North Dakota, spit tobacco is used by 7.3 percent of adults and 13.6 percent of students in grades nine through 12. Boys in grades nine through 12 use spit tobacco at a rate of 22.2 percent, and 14.8 percent of adult males are spit-tobacco users.

“During the Great American Spit Out, we encourage spit-tobacco users, and users of any other smokeless tobacco products, to quit for a day, with the hope they will then try to quit for good,” Fremming said. “Tobacco users can use the NDQuits telephone, online and mobile services to help them through the process of quitting.”

Along with counseling services and support, NDQuits also offers free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges for those who qualify.

The Great American Spit Out is being held during Through with Chew Week (February 16-23). Through with Chew Week was started in 1989 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Inc., in an effort to decrease spit-tobacco use and to raise awareness about the dangers of using spit tobacco.

For help with quitting spit tobacco or other smokeless tobacco products, visit NDQuits at 1.800.QUIT.NOW (1.800.784.8669) or


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North Dakota Observes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Department of Health Urges Testing for At-Risk People

In observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7, 2014, the North Dakota Department of Health is urging people at risk for HIV/AIDS to get tested, according to Shannon Jahner, HIV Prevention Coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health.

It is estimated that more than one million people in the United States are HIV positive, and approximately 56,300 new infections occur every year. In 2013, preliminary reporting data indicates North Dakota had 58 newly reported cases, more than any other reporting year. Blacks are disproportionally affected by HIV both nationally and here in North Dakota. Nationally, one-fourth of people estimated to be HIV positive are believed to be unaware of their infections. As a result, they do not receive medical care that could help them live longer, fuller lives. Without knowing it, they also may be transmitting HIV to others. That is why it is important for people to learn their HIV status by getting tested.

Behaviors that put people at risk include:

  • Unprotected sex.
  • Needle sharing for drug use.
  • Unsafe tattooing and body piercing practices.

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 to those at risk.

For information about HIV testing and other HIV/AIDS services, call the North Dakota Department of Health HIV/AIDS Program hotline at 1.800.70.NDHIV or visit the program’s website at There is also a website where you can identify your risk factors through an anonymous survey at .

Fargo Cass Public Health offers Rapid HIV testing. Call 241-1383 to schedule an appointment.

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State Health Department Reports Widespread Influenza Activity

Emphasizes Vaccination as Circulation of the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Strain Increases 

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) today reported widespread influenza activity for the first time this influenza season and is reminding everyone that it is not too late to be vaccinated.

“In the last few weeks we have seen a dramatic increase in reported cases, and cases are being reported to us from providers across the state,” said Jill Baber, Influenza Surveillance coordinator for the Department of Health. “As of January 9, 2014, 843 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza have been reported since September 1, 2013, up from 88 cases only about a month ago on December 19th. In addition, people with mild illness do not always go to a doctor and doctors do not always test for influenza, so we know this is only a portion of the total cases for North Dakota.” 

According to the Department of Health, additional laboratory testing of influenza samples has shown the predominant strain circulating so far this season is the Influenza A 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain, along with a small number of influenza A H3N2 and influenza B strains also circulating. This is the first year since the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic that this strain has been responsible for a majority of cases.

“With the 2009 H1NI pandemic strain, we see more children and young to middle-aged adults affected than is typical for flu,” said Baber. “Even when seasonal influenza activity is normal, it can be alarming to hear about healthy adults with serious disease.”

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid the flu. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain is one of the strains included in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine, and yearly vaccination is recommended, even for people who received an H1N1 vaccine during the 2009 pandemic.

“Because the immunity gained from influenza vaccination can wane, it is important to get vaccinated every year,” said Amy Schwartz, Immunization Surveillance coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health. “It is not too late to get vaccinated, but people should get flu vaccine as soon as possible, as it takes a couple of weeks before it will prevent the flu. People who wish to be vaccinated should contact their health-care provider, local public health unit or pharmacist.”

In addition to vaccination, the Department of Health also recommends frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when you are sick to prevent spread of influenza. Common signs and symptoms of influenza include abrupt onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat and cough.

For more information about influenza activity in North Dakota, visit, or call Jill Baber or Amy Schwartz, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.2378.

Flu vaccine is still available, contact your health care provider or pharmacy. Fargo Cass Public Health also has flu vaccine. Call 701-241-1383 to schedule an appointment.

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January Is National Cervical Health Awareness Month

January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month, and the North Dakota Department of Health is reminding women to get screened for cervical cancer. Although cervical cancer is highly preventable through screening and other preventive measures, about 4,200 women die from the disease in the United States each year.

The main cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Most people with HPV do not even know they have it because they never have symptoms or problems. Usually the body’s immune system will fight off the infection, and it goes away on its own. But sometimes an HPV infection does not go away, and this can cause abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. If that happens, treatment may be needed. If left untreated, these abnormal changes eventually can lead to cervical cancer.

You can prevent cervical cancer with regular screening tests, like the Pap test and the HPV test. The Pap test is a screening test that can detect the abnormal changes in the cervical cells before they become cancer.  If cancer does occur, the Pap test can find it early when it is easier to treat.

An HPV test can find any of the types of HPV that can cause the abnormal cell changes on the cervix. The HPV test is done at the same time as the Pap test.

Current guidelines recommend that women should have a Pap test every three years beginning at age 21. These guidelines also recommend that women ages 30 to 65 should have a Pap test along with an HPV test every five years or a Pap test alone every three years. Women with certain risk factors may need to have more frequent screening or to continue screening beyond age 65.

Vaccines also have the potential to protect people from the HPV infections that can cause cancer. There are currently two vaccines available for people 11 to 26 years old. Both protect against HPV strains 16 and 18, the two main types of HPV that cause approximately 70 percent of all cervical cancers.   However, women who have been vaccinated still should get regular Pap tests.

“Unfortunately, many women do not get regular Pap tests because they are uninsured or underinsured,” said Barb Steiner with the North Dakota Department of Health. “The good news is that Women’s Way may be able to help women pay for their Pap and HPV test.

Women’s Way, North Dakota’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, is available to eligible North Dakota women ages 40 through 64. Women’s Way may provide a way to pay for pelvic exams, Pap test, clinical breast exams and mammograms. To learn more about Women’s Way or to see if you are eligible, call 1.800.44 WOMEN or visit

Another option is the North Dakota Family Planning Program, which provides reproductive health services to women, including Pap tests, pelvic exams and breast exams. Family Planning has nine main clinics and 14 satellite clinics located throughout the state. Clients are charged for services according to their household income and family size. To learn more about the Family Planning Program, call 701.328.2228 or visit to find a clinic near you.

To learn more about cervical cancer or HPV, visit or

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