Are you at risk for diabetes?

As spring ushers in a new season of new beginnings, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is inviting North Dakotans to take a new step towards becoming healthier on March 24, Diabetes Alert Day. The NDDoH is supporting the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Alert Day by encouraging everyone to take the Diabetes Risk Test. Taking the test and using the strategies provided can help motivate individuals to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Over 45,000 North Dakotans have diabetes and over 190,000 are at risk for or have prediabetes. The NDDoH’s Diabetes Program educates North Dakotans on changes to make in order to prevent type 2 diabetes or to manage diabetes to prevent complications.

In observation of Diabetes Alert Day, the following are a few helpful strategies to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes:

Take the Diabetes Risk Test

The Diabetes Risk Test is quick to complete and includes questions about age, weight, family history, and other potential risk factors for diabetes. Results can indicate if a person has a low or high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Take the Diabetes Risk Test today by visiting:

Change Your Eating Habits

  • Include non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, carrots, broccoli and asparagus)
  • Include whole fruits (contain fiber, vitamins and minerals)
  • Eat healthy carbohydrates and increase fiber intake (brown rice, whole wheat breads, oatmeal and buckwheat)
  • Avoid skipping meals which can make you hungrier and unable to focus
  • Keep healthy snacks with you to avoid temptation to eat unhealthy foods
  • Watch portion sizes to help manage your calorie intake 

Move More Each Day

  • Try to be active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week
  • Walk during your breaks and after lunch
  • Check out your local walking trails
  • Check with your local community centers to join intramural leagues or walking clubs
  • Experience new activities you’ve always wanted to try whether its biking, dancing or swimming
  • Create a “health club” with friends to stay motivated

Taking the Diabetes Risk Test, changing your eating habits and becoming more active are ways to live a healthier life style. These actions can help in the prevention and management of diabetes.

For more information, contact Tera Miller, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.2698.

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Public invited to pitch ideas on local food systems

The Cass Clay Food Systems Initiative Advisory Commission has been formed and will have its inaugural public meeting, to address food systems issues in Cass and Clay counties, on Wednesday, March 25, from 1-2:30 p.m., in the Fargo City Commission Room located at 200 3rd St. N. There will be a 15 minute “hear from the community” segment where community members will have one minute to quickly pitch their ideas, concerns and needs for food systems in the counties to the commission. Please consider attending!

If you have questions please feel free to contact Megan Myrdal-project coordinator at

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North Dakota Observes Poison Prevention Week

State Health Department Urges North Dakotans to Prevent Unintentional Poisonings

In observance of National Poison Prevention Week, March 15 through 21, 2015, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is encouraging North Dakotans to take measures to avoid unintentional poisonings.

In 2014, there were 5,286 exposure calls made to the Minnesota Poison Center, the call center used by North Dakota. Of those 5,286 exposure calls, 52 percent were for children younger than age 6 that experienced an incident serious enough 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 to help children avoid a serious episode.

“Most poisonings are preventable,” said Mandy Slag, Injury 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 commonly 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, and 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. Lock them up if possible.
  • Warn children never to put medicines, chemicals, plants or berries in their mouths.

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. Only take medicines prescribed for you.
  • Unused medications can be disposed of 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.
  • 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 and other emergency contacts readily available.

In case of a poisoning or a questionable episode:

  • Call 9-1-1 if the person is unconscious, having difficulty breathing or is 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. Explain Poison Control Center staff what was taken, how much was taken, when it was taken and the age and weight of the person.
  • Do not induce vomiting unless instructed 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 Mandy Slag, North Dakota Department of Health, at 800.472.2286 (press 1) or visit our website at

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Suicide Prevention Programs Launched in North Dakota

In an effort to reduce suicide rates in the state, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is expanding their community education programs to educate citizens on how to recognize the warning signs of suicide. Suicide is a condition that affects people of all races, ages and socioeconomic status.

“One of the best ways to reduce suicide rates is to increase community awareness of the prevalence of suicide in North Dakota. Most people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts do not want to die; they only want their pain to end. Offering to talk to people about their thoughts of suicide and referring them to other people who can help is one way to end the pain without ending a life,” says Micki Savelkoul, Suicide Prevention Program Director at the North Dakota Department of Health.

Suicide numbers continue to climb both nationally — 40,600 in 2012 — and within North Dakota — 138 in 2013, which is the most recent data.  In 2013, North Dakotans between the ages of 35 and 44 had the highest rate of suicide in North Dakota at 31.9 per 100,000, followed closely by people ages 25 to 34 with a suicide rate of 29.8 per 100,000. Community education programs focus on teaching people how to identify warning signs and how to ask about suicidal thoughts, as well as provide resources for those thinking of suicide. These trainings are known as “gatekeeper” trainings.  A gatekeeper is someone who is able to recognize warning signs of emotional distress and crisis. Gatekeepers can include a variety of community members, from parents and friends to caseworkers and firefighters.

North Dakota Department of Health is offering two community education programs free to communities upon request. The programs are SafeTALK and QPR.

SafeTALK- SafeTALK is presented in a three-hour, classroom-style training that focuses on how to identify warning signs that people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts exhibit when thinking about suicide. SafeTALK also teaches participants how to connect people experiencing suicidal thoughts to resources that can help.

Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) – QPR is presented in a 1- to 2-hour training session. Participants in this training will learn how to identify warning signs of suicide, how to ask the question of suicide, how to persuade that person to get help, and how to refer someone to a higher level of care.

If you are interested in one of these community programs being held in your community or other suicide prevention programs and activities, contact Micki Savelkoul, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.4580.

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North Dakota Physicians Testing for Measles

Department of Health Reminds North Dakotans of the Importance of Measles Vaccination

Although no measles cases have yet been identified in North Dakota this year, physicians in North Dakota have identified three suspect cases and have submitted samples to the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) for testing.  Two have tested negative and results are pending on the other. The pending case is under investigation by the North Dakota Department of Health and has been advised to avoid contact with the community.

Since the recent outbreak of measles related to Disney properties in California was identified, the NDDoH has been working with local public health units and private health care providers to raise awareness of this disease, which has become so rare that many physicians have never seen a case in their practice. As a result of this outreach, North Dakota physicians have been alerted to consider the disease as a diagnosis in patients with symptoms consistent with measles. In the event a positive case would be identified, NDDoH is prepared to work with the health care provider and local public health to investigate contacts, and recommend or implement isolation or quarantine.

“Measles is a virus that causes rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation and fever,” said Amy Schwartz, immunization surveillance coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health. “It can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. Parents who suspect their child may have measles or adults who are symptomatic should contact their primary care provider before presenting to a clinic or emergency department, in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease in those settings.”

“Measles is highly contagious; ninety percent of unvaccinated people that are exposed to measles will go on to develop the disease,” said Schwartz. “Two doses of MMR vaccine are 97 percent effective at preventing measles.” All children are recommended to be vaccinated against measles at ages 12 to 15 months and 4 to 6 years. Measles is included in a combination vaccine with mumps and rubella (known as MMR vaccine). Adults at high risk for measles, including health-care workers, international travelers and college students, should have two doses of MMR vaccine or laboratory evidence of immunity to measles, regardless of age. All other adults born in 1957 or later should have at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Adults born before 1957 are presumed to be immune to measles because the disease was so widespread then that it is likely they were exposed or had the disease. Booster doses of MMR vaccine are not recommended for adults who are not at high risk for measles who have already had at least one dose of MMR vaccine or who were born prior to 1957.

MMR vaccine is required for childcare, school, and college entry in North Dakota. “If a case of measles occurs in a school in North Dakota, the case would be kept out of school until four days after rash onset. All unvaccinated children in that school would be kept out of school for 21 days (incubation period for measles) as a precaution, since they would be likely to develop measles and cases are contagious prior to having a rash,” said Schwartz.

MMR vaccine is available by contacting your primary care provider or Fargo Cass Public Health at 241-1383. For additional information about measles or MMR vaccination, visit

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Department of Health Urges Caregivers to Register Car Seats During Child Passenger Safety Month

As part of Child Passenger Safety Month in February, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) emphasizes the importance of registering car seats and reminds caregivers that unregulated products should not be used with their car seats.

“Registering a car seat is very easy to do and essential to a child’s safety,” said Dawn Mayer with the Division of Injury Prevention and Control. “It is also important to use best practices with car seats, which includes not modifying them or adding items that may affect their integrity or ability to prevent injury in an accident.”

There were numerous car seat recalls that occurred in 2014, which emphasized the need for caregivers to register car seats. Registration of car seats makes it possible for manufacturers to notify consumers if there is a safety issue with their car seat. Car seats, by federal law, are sold with a registration card that the consumer should use to register their seat.

If consumers do not register the seat, they may not hear of a recall, which may put children at risk. Data collected from car seat checkups conducted by the department in 2014 showed that 40 percent of the car seats checked had not been registered with the car seat manufacturer. These consumers would not have been notified if their seat had been recalled. Consumers, who want to register their car seats now can visit or contact the car seat manufacturer directly.

The Department of Health would also like to remind consumers that they should not use unregulated products with their car seats, because they may affect the integrity of the safety features of the seat.  Examples of products that should not be added to car seats include head pillows/body blankets, harness covers, vehicle seat protectors, mirrors and extra padding.

According to data collected from the same car seat check-ups in 2014, approximately 20 percent of the seats checked had an unsafe product added.  Of the 20 percent that were found, only 61 percent of the caregivers removed the unsafe product.

NDDoH recommends following these best practices when it comes to transporting children:

  • Children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat.
  • REAR-FACING: Children should ride rear-facing until at least 2 years of age (following car seat instructions)
  • FORWARD-FACING: When children are at least 2 years of age or have outgrown      the highest rear-facing limits of their car seat, they may ride forward-facing in a car seat with a harness. Use the seat until the child reaches the harness’s highest weight limit allowed by the manufacturer.
  • BOOSTERS: When children have outgrown the harness in their forward-facing car seat, they may be moved to a booster. The child should be at least 40 pounds and at least 4 years of age.  Keep the child in the booster until about 4’9” tall.
  • SEAT BELT: Children should use a seat belt when it fits over the body correctly. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest. It should not lie on the stomach or across the neck.
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ND Department of Health Reminds Residents to Test for Radon

During National Radon Action Month in January, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) reminds residents that January and other cooler weather months are a great time to test their home for radon, a leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

“Radon is a cancer-causing, naturally-occurring radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste, and it is found throughout the soil in North Dakota,” said Justin Otto, Indoor Air Quality and Radon Program Coordinator for NDDoH. “Its presence in the home can pose a danger to a family’s health.”

Radon is harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air at low levels, but when trapped in buildings, it can be harmful, especially at elevated levels. “The good news is that radon is a problem that can be managed,” said Otto. “By installing a radon mitigation system, homeowners can effectively lower the level of radon in their homes. These systems use many common building materials and require few specialized tools to install.”

Systems may be installed by a homeowner or a radon mitigation contractor.  A list of contractors is available on the North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Air Quality’s website at Once in place, a properly installed mitigation system will reduce radon gas and safely vent it outside.

Radon-related illness claims more than 21,000 lives in the United States annually, according to Otto. “In North Dakota, 63 percent of homes have an elevated level of radon above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ‘Action Level’ of 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L),” said Otto. “In fact, the EPA lists North Dakota as Zone 1, meaning the entire state has the highest potential for elevated radon levels.”

The EPA has launched a new series of television, radio and print public service announcements encouraging people to test their homes for radon and fix any problems. During January, events nationwide will focus on testing and fixing problems in homes with a radon level of 4.0 pCi/L or higher.

Radon test kits are available by emailing Justin Otto at and including a mailing address.  The radon test kits are available at no cost to the general public and they include all mailing and laboratory-analysis fees. The test kits are very easy to use and come with easy-to-follow directions, says Otto. Test kits also may be available for purchase at local hardware stores, building supply stores, local public health units or call the American Lung Association in North Dakota at 1.800.252.6325.

For more information about radon, visit , or call contact Justin Otto, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.5188.

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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

The North Dakota Department of Health is reminding women to get screened for cervical cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year approximately 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer and over 4,000 women die from the disease. As many as 93% of cervical cancers cases could be prevented through cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination.

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. Women’s Way is also available to women ages 21 to 39 who meet specific eligibility requirements. 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. Clients are charged for services according to their household income and family size. The Fargo Cass Public Health Clinic offers these services. For more information, or to schedule call appointment, call 701-241-1383 or go to

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Health Department Reports Widespread Influenza Activity

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is reporting widespread influenza activity for North Dakota. As of December 13, 332 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza have been reported, with a large increase in the number of cases reported in the last two weeks. Several community outbreaks have also been reported in recent weeks.

For the third season in a row, influenza activity is starting earlier than is typical,” said Jill Baber, influenza surveillance coordinator for NDDoH. “Because the influenza season may very well continue for weeks, it’s important that everyone take precautions to avoid spreading the flu, including getting the flu vaccine.”  

It is common for different types of flu strains to circulate each season. Nationwide, the majority of flu cases have been caused by Influenza A H3N2 this season. However, this circulating A H3N2 strain has changed a little (or drifted) from the A H3N2 strain used to make the vaccine. “At this time, no cases of the drifted strain have been identified in North Dakota, but it is likely that it is present in the state,” said Baber. “We want to reiterate that vaccination is still advised.”  The vaccine is effective against other influenza strains circulating in the country and may still provide some protection against the drifted strain.

In years when the circulating influenza viruses differ from the vaccine components, treatment with influenza antivirals becomes especially important. Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick. For this reason, it is important people receive prompt medical attention if they think they may have the flu. Antivirals may also be given to people at risk of severe complications of flu if they know they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with flu.

Influenza can be a serious illness for some people. Complications of influenza and pneumonia contribute to the deaths of over 400 North Dakotans annually, most of whom are older than 64. However, a large number of influenza cases occur in children younger than 10, many of whom require hospitalization. “You should talk to your doctor promptly if you think you may have symptoms of influenza,” said Baber. “Common signs and symptoms of influenza include abrupt onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat and cough.”

To help prevent the spread of influenza, the Department of Health urges everyone to:

  • Get a flu vaccine as soon as possible if you have not had one this season. Immunization is the best way to prevent influenza. As a reminder, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water. Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent all diseases, including influenza.
  • Use good respiratory manners. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
  • Stay home from work, school or recreational activities when you are ill. This will help prevent the spread of influenza to your friends, coworkers and family.

For more information about influenza activity in North Dakota, visit Flu vaccine is available at Fargo Cass Public Health.  Call 241-1383 to schedule an appointment.


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National Influenza Vaccination Week Highlights the Importance of Flu Vaccination

The North Dakota Department of Health is reminding all North Dakotans of the importance of receiving flu vaccine as part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, observed Dec. 7 – 13, 2014.

“Despite some initial delays, there is more than enough flu vaccine available this year for anyone who wants to be vaccinated,” said Amy Schwartz, Immunization Surveillance Coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health. “Everyone ages 6 months and older is recommended to be vaccinated, regardless of age or health status. It’s important to remember that getting vaccinated not only protects you, but everyone around you as well.”

Influenza vaccinations are available at physician offices, local public health units and pharmacies. Sixty-eight cases of influenza have been reported to the North Dakota Department of Health so far this season. The flu season typically does not peak in North Dakota until after the New Year, but the last two seasons have had early influenza activity. Now is a great time for people to get vaccinated if they have not done so already.

“The flu vaccine protects against flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness that year,” said Schwartz. “Protection from vaccination declines over time, so it’s important to get vaccinated again this season. Getting vaccinated each year is the best way to protect yourself and your family each flu season.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone be vaccinated against the flu, especially the following at-risk groups:

  • All children ages 6 months through 18 years
  • All adults ages 50 and older
  • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • Pregnant women
  • American Indians
  • People of any age who have long-term health problems, such as:
    • Heart disease
    • Lung disease
    • Kidney disease
    • Diabetes
    • Asthma
    • Anemia
    • Weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS and cancer treatments
    • Breathing problems due to neuromuscular disorders
    • Morbid obesity

People who could spread the disease to those at high risk – such as health-care workers, people who care for family members or other sick people in their home, and household contacts – also should be vaccinated.

Fargo Cass Public Health has vaccine. Call 241-1383 to schedule and appointment.  Walk-ins welcomed.  For information about influenza, visit


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