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 www.ndhealth.gov/Disease/Hepatitis/Information/GetTested.htm,


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Community Garden Day-Saturday, May 30

The experts agree: eating fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the simplest ways to maintain a healthy diet. Yet, the cost of fresh produce has rose five times as much as it has for processed food in the last thirty years. So, how can the average person afford to make healthy choices with skyrocketing supermarket costs?

The answer is growing in community gardens. Nine local community gardens are inviting the community to learn, volunteer and socialize on Community Garden Day, Saturday, May 30, from 9 a.m. to noon. The event is an opportunity for residents to get acquainted with gardens, prepare for the upcoming season. Community gardens offer an opportunity for anyone to gain access to fresh food. In exchange for lending a hand one or two hours per week during the season, volunteers can bring home a bounty of fresh produce, gardening knowledge, and sense of community. Last year, Growing Together Community Garden’s four sites produced enough food to feed 200 families.

The community gardens participating in the program are: Cass County 4-H, CHARISM, Churches United for the Homeless, the Gifted Learning Project, Golden Ridge Lutheran Church, Growing Together, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, and Probstfield.

Go to the Community Garden Day Fargo-Moorhead Facebook page to sign up to volunteer at one of the nine gardens. Then show up ready to help Saturday morning, May 30 from 9 a.m. to noon. If it is raining, Community Garden Day will be rescheduled via the Facebook page.

This event is being organized by several community partnering agencies including Fargo Cass Public Health.

Participating Garden Locations:

Churches United for the Homeless
315 34th St. N., Moorhead

Cass County 4-H Council
Red River Valley Fair Grounds Planters
1805 West Main Ave., West Fargo

McCormick Park
23rd St. & 9th Ave. S., Fargo

The Gifted Learning Project
12506 20th St. N., Moorhead

Golden Ridge Lutheran Church
730 27th St. N., Fargo

The Gathering
Growing Together
3910 25th S. S., Fargo

World Garden
Growing Together
4243 19th Ave. S., Fargo

Lutheran Social Services of ND
3911 20th Ave. S., Fargo

Probstfield Organic Community Garden
4626 Oakport St. N., Moorhead

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Free beet seeds available to community

Group Encourages Area Residents to Grow Beets

If you have some spare room in your garden, or would like to try growing a new vegetable this year, try beets! The group, One Vegetable, One Community, wants to unite the Fargo Moorhead communities by encouraging gardeners to grow, cook and share a single vegetable – beets.

The group has created 1000 free starter kits with beet seeds, growing instructions and preparation tips that are now available at: Fargo Cass Public Health, the Adult Learning Center Agassiz Building, Cass County Social Services, Clay County Family Services, Family HealthCare, Fargo Public Library-Main and Carlson locations, the Moorhead Public Library, Hjemkomst Center, the FM Community Bike Shop and Red Raven.  

The group’s goal is to get people talking about local food and create access to fresh, healthy food in our community. Beets are the 2015 One Vegetable, One Community vegetable because they taste great, are easy to grow, and are packed with nutrients. The Agassiz Seed Company and Prairie Road Organic Seed Company donated the seeds for this year’s vegetable. 

To learn more, or to share your ideas, visit the FM One Vegetable, One Community’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/onevegonecomfm. 

One Vegetable, One Community is sponsored by: the Cass Clay Food Systems Initiative, Fargo Cass Public Health, North Dakota State University Extension Service, and the North Dakota Nutrition Council.



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Infant immunizations vital to disease protection and prevention

During National Infant Immunization Week, April 18 to 25,  the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) reminds parents of the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases.

National Infant Immunization Week is an annual observance that emphasizes the need to fully immunize children 24 months and younger against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases. Following the recommended immunization schedule not only protects the infant, but also everyone in their community, by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

“Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents may not have heard of some of today’s vaccines or the serious diseases they prevent,” said immunization surveillance coordinator, Amy Schwartz. “These diseases can be especially serious for infants and young children. That is why it is important to follow the recommended immunization schedule to provide immunity early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.”

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in North Dakota, the United States, and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases is the increase in measles cases that has occurred in the United States this year. More than 150 cases have been reported in the United States so far this year and 668 cases were reported in 2014, the most cases since measles elimination was announced in 2000. The vast majority of measles cases have occurred in unvaccinated people. Measles kills 1 in 500 cases and 1 in 4 cases require hospitalization, so an increase in the number of cases is cause for concern.

Parents should contact their primary care physician or local public health unit for vaccinations for their children. A child’s first measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended at 12 to 15 months.

For more information about infant immunizations, contact Fargo Cass Public Health at 241-1383.

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E-cigarette use triples among middle and high school students in just one year

Current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Findings from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that current e-cigarette use (use on at least 1 day in the past 30 days) among high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, rising from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students. Among middle school students, current e-cigarette use more than tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014—an increase from approximately 120,000 to 450,000 students.

This is the first time since the survey started collecting data on e-cigarettes in 2011 that current e-cigarette use has surpassed current use of every other tobacco product overall, including conventional cigarettes. E-cigarettes were the most used tobacco product for non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic other race while cigars were the most commonly used product among non-Hispanic blacks.

“We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.”

Hookah smoking use roughly doubled for middle and high school students, while cigarette use declined among high school students and remained unchanged for middle school students. Among high school students, current hookah use rose from 5.2 percent in 2013 (about 770,000 students) to 9.4 percent in 2014 (about 1.3 million students). Among middle school students, current hookah use rose from 1.1 percent in 2013 (120,000 students) to 2.5 percent in 2014 (280,000 students).

The increases in e-cigarette and hookah use offset declines in use of more traditional products such as cigarettes and cigars. There was no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014. Overall rates of any tobacco product use were 24.6 percent for high school students and 7.7 percent for middle school students in 2014.

In 2014, the products most commonly used by high school students were e-cigarettes (13.4 percent), hookah (9.4 percent), cigarettes (9.2 percent), cigars (8.2 percent), smokeless tobacco (5.5 percent), snus (1.9 percent) and pipes (1.5 percent).  Use of multiple tobacco products was common; nearly half of all middle and high school students who were current tobacco users used two or more types of tobacco products. The products most commonly used by middle school students were e-cigarettes (3.9 percent), hookah (2.5 percent), cigarettes (2.5 percent), cigars (1.9 percent), smokeless tobacco (1.6 percent), and pipes (0.6 percent).

Cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco are currently subject to FDA’s tobacco control authority. The agency currently is finalizing the rule to bring additional tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, hookahs and some or all cigars under that same authority. Several states have passed laws establishing a minimum age for purchase of e-cigarettes or extending smoke-free laws to include e-cigarettes, both of which could help further prevent youth use and initiation.  

“In today’s rapidly evolving tobacco marketplace, the surge in youth use of novel products like e-cigarettes forces us to confront the reality that the progress we have made in reducing youth cigarette smoking rates is being threatened,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “These staggering increases in such a short time underscore why FDA intends to regulate these additional products to protect public health.” 

Today’s report concludes that further reducing youth tobacco use and initiation is achievable through regulation of the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products coupled with proven strategies. These strategies included funding tobacco control programs at CDC-recommended levels, increasing prices of tobacco products, implementing and enforcing comprehensive smoke-free laws, and sustaining hard-hitting media campaigns. The report also concludes that because the use of e-cigarettes and hookahs is on the rise among high and middle school students, it is critical that comprehensive tobacco control and prevention strategies for youth focus on all tobacco products, and not just cigarettes.  

The National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) is a school-based, self-administered questionnaire given annually to middle and high-school students in both public and private schools. NYTS, which surveyed 22,000 students in 2014, is a nationally representative survey.

The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report found that about 90 percent of all smokers first tried cigarettes as teens; and that about three of every four teen smokers continue into adulthood. To learn more about quitting and preventing children from using tobacco, visit www.BeTobaccoFree.gov.

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Wildfire Smoke Can Exacerbate Health Problems

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is urging residents to use caution and avoid wildfires and the resulting smoke from the fires.

Wildfires present health concerns for a number of reasons. Because North Dakota’s wildfires are wind-driven, they can change direction rapidly and can move extremely fast.  Anyone caught by flames can suffer serious burns or damage to airways from the superheated air.  Anyone not involved in fire suppression or emergency management activities is urged to comply with evacuation orders and to stay out of the area so suppression crews can do their work.

Wildfire smoke can cause health problems as well.  The smoke contains particulates that can be irritating to the respiratory system.  Those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or conditions such as asthma and allergies, can have strong adverse reactions to wildfire smoke. Staying indoors and away from the smoke plume is advisable for those who suffer from respiratory problems. If a person finds themselves reacting to wildfire smoke to the extent that it is affecting their breathing, they should seek immediate help from a medical provider.

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Nearly 4000 STD Cases in ND in 2014

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is observing Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month in April to emphasize the importance of educating the public and health care providers about the growing rate of STDs in North Dakota.  The NDDoH encourages everyone to become educated about STDs by using accurate STD prevention information, as well as utilize testing and treatment choices that lead to better health.  This is especially important as STDs rates have risen across the country and across our state.

Over the past five years, the number of STD cases reported in North Dakota has steadily increased, and the increase has been documented across the entire state, not just in high growth areas.  In 2014, over 4,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in 51 of 53 counties. The good news, however, is that many STDs are easily treated, as long as they are diagnosed in a timely fashion.

“We know that people receive a lot of conflicting information about STDs—how they’re spread, treated, and prevented—and sometimes it is difficult to determine which information is fact or fiction,” said Sarah Weninger, STD Program Coordinator. “However, finding accurate information about prevention and treatment is available to all North Dakotans through local public health units, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and from NDDoH.”

Here are some things you need to know:

  • You can’t tell someone has an STD just by looking at them
  • STD tests aren’t always a part of a regular doctor visit
  • Almost all STDs that can be spread via unprotected vaginal sex can also be spread through unprotected oral and anal sex
  • Using a condom can help make sex safer, since it can provide protection from many STDs

The surest way to prevent STDs is to abstain from sexual activity.  However, those who are sexually active can lower their risk of contracting STDs by:

  • Being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and does not have STDs
  • Limiting the number of people you have sex with if you have more than one partner
  • Using latex condoms and dental dams the right way every time you have sex
  • Getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can protect you against diseases (including many cancers) caused by the HPV

“Getting yourself tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Once you know your status, you can protect that status or receive treatment if you do have an infection. STD testing is quick, simple and confidential,” said Weninger.

A 2014 study found that one-third of adolescents did not talk about sexual health issues with their physicians during annual health visits. Patients must be honest with health care providers about sexual history to obtain appropriate STD testing and prevention guidance. 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, clinics and local public health units across the state may be able to provide reduced or no-cost testing and treatment. For more information on testing call Fargo Cass Public Health at 241-1383 or go to FargoCassPublicHealth.com.   Materials are available that highlight STD Awareness Month at http://npin.cdc.gov/STDAwareness/GYT.aspx.

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Celebrating Public Health Collaborations

Gov. Jack Dalrymple has proclaimed April 6-12, as Public Health Week in North Dakota to recognize how the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) and local public health units, along with worksites, coalitions, universities and other organizations, are working to protect and promote the health of all North Dakotans. This year’s national Public Health Week theme is “Healthiest Nation 2030.”

Local public health units across the state have formed regional networks to share services and staff expertise to strengthen local public health infrastructure, more efficiently use funding and staff, and provide more equitable access to quality public health services for all people in North Dakota.

In North Dakota, the NDDoH recognizes the importance of collaborations to provide more efficient and effective public health services and programs to assure a Healthier North Dakota by 2030.

“Public health in cities, counties and regions across the state provide invaluable services to the residents of North Dakota,” explained Dr. Terry Dwelle, State Health Officer at the North Dakota Department of Health.   “Collaborations between service providers are essential to build better public health services in North Dakota.”

As an example of successful collaboration, public health coalitions, such as Healthy North Dakota and Hunger Free North Dakota Coalition, are bringing diverse groups together to reduce diabetes and cancer risks by helping people make healthier choices and gain access to information, education, health screenings where they live, work, and learn.

For more information about Public Health Week, contact Kelly Nagel, Public Health Liaison, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.952.8195.

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