Monkeypox arrives in Minnesota: What you need to know

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage onward. Many want to forget it, but it continues to linger. It will most likely be with us for many years to come, along with other illnesses. Viruses never truly go away, and neither does the possibility of another pandemic. This time the virus comes from Africa and leaves a very visible mark on those it infects. That virus is monkeypox.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported the first presumptive case of monkeypox on June 27. The weeks leading up to this announcement had newscasters from around the world announcing cases of monkeypox in their respective cities, countries, and states. One by one, a new case would pop up, and COVID-like anxiety would follow with each one.

What is monkeypox?

According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox is a viral zoonosis that typically spreads in Central and West Africa. Its symptoms resemble smallpox, with the infected breaking out in a blistery rash. Monkeys and various rodents can also carry the virus, making it highly transmissible. Symptoms can also include headache, fatigue, fever, and swelling of the lymph nodes. Symptoms usually last two to four weeks.

Monkeypox can spread through close contact with infected people. Contaminated objects like clothing and bed linens can easily spread the virus. Additionally, sexual contact seems to be an intense spreader of monkeypox. Anyone can catch monkeypox, which isn’t limited to any group.

Monkeypox leaves a blistery rash.

Infection prevention

Tri-County Health Care has its very own Infection Preventionist, Cheryl Houselog. Her job is monitoring viral outbreaks like monkeypox and developing comprehensive plans for keeping staff and patients safe. She and the staff at Tri-County Health Care have been keeping a close watch on the virus for several weeks now, anticipating that a Minnesota case would eventually make headlines.

“The lessons we have learned during the COVID pandemic have certainly taught us a lot about dealing with communicable diseases, evolving with rapidly changing situations, adapting to and developing new protocols, responding to the needs of the public, and more. We have learned a lot and will certainly be able to apply that knowledge to another potential pandemic.” – Cheryl Houselog, Infection Preventionist

In late May, she communicated with providers and medical staff about our area’s potential risk for infection. Everyone is on high alert, looking for the signs and symptoms associated with monkeypox. Furthermore, if you suspect you may have contracted monkeypox, Cheryl has some guidance for you:

  • Seek medical care immediately, especially if you have traveled abroad or had close contact with a wild animal.
  • Be upfront and honest with your medical provider. The virus has been politicized and stigmatized to a certain extent, but this shouldn’t stop you from getting the help you need.
  • Avoid close contact with others. Play it safe and avoid social gatherings and sexual activity.
  • If you must leave your home for treatment, please wear a mask.

Dealing with the problem

Vaccination efforts and informational campaigns are underway. Continue to check local and state news publications like the Minnesota Department of Health for updates on the progress of such campaigns. If you suspect you may have monkeypox, please contact a healthcare professional immediately. For scheduling at Tri-County Health Care, please call 218-631-3510.

Important resources

CDC-United States Infection map

CDC-Global Infection map


CDC-5 things you need to know about monkeypox

CDC-Monkeypox Information

Heart Health and Hypertension

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February is American Heart Month, and Tri-County Health Care wants you to take extra special care of your body’s hardest-working muscle. Use the month to focus on heart health and hypertension. Lower that sodium intake, get some exercise and educate yourself on just how important the heart is.

Feeling the pressure

The CDC has partnered with healthcare leaders across the country to spread awareness about hypertension. Hypertension or high blood pressure is caused by the increased pressure of blood against arterial walls. High blood pressure is classified at 130/80 mm Hg or higher. Stage 2 hypertension is 140/90 mm Hg.

This call for hypertension awareness was prompted by a call to action made by the Surgeon General. In his address, the Surgeon General explains that high blood pressure is a preventable risk factor in most people. By controlling high blood pressure, individuals can lower their risk of heart disease and stroke.

The call to action lays out a simple but direct plan of action:

  • Goal 1: Make hypertension control a national priority.
  • Goal 2: Ensure that the places where people live, learn, work, and play support hypertension control.
  • High blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke if left uncontrolled. Heart health and hypertension should be monitored.Goal 3: Optimize patient care for hypertension.

Do it for your heart!

Obesity, smoking, diabetes, poor diet are all factors in heart health and hypertension. February should be a jumpstart for healthier living. The first step should be meeting with a cardiologist to ensure your heart is in good working order. From there, change your eating habits. A simple change in diet can be the easiest way to curb high blood pressure. Reducing sodium and replacing junk food with fresh fruits and vegetables can vastly improve heart health. Also, making time for physical activity is important. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Get creative and find an activity you love. Heart health doesn’t need to involve going to the gym several times a week.

Cardiology expansion

Recently, Tri-County Health Care expanded its partnership with CentraCare Heart and Vascular Center. This expansion introduced increased coverage for cardiac services in Wadena. The cardiology department offers diagnostic testing like EKGs, Holter monitoring and vascular ultrasounds. Additionally, providers can also answer questions about complex heart-related procedures and provide consultation.

“The partnership between Tri-County Health Care and the CentraCare Heart and Vascular Center will elevate the level of cardiac care provided to the people of Northwest Minnesota. This collaboration will bring access to advanced cardiac care with seamless follow up close to home,” said Executive Director Phil Martin of CentraCare Heart and Vascular Center.

You should consult a cardiologist if you’re experiencing chest pain, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness or have diabetes. Seeing a cardiologist can also be beneficial if you have a history of smoking, high cholesterol, or plan to start an exercise routine.

To schedule an appointment with the cardiologists in Wadena, call 218-631-7579.


COVID-19 vaccine: Everything you need to know

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The announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine has many breathing a sigh of relief. Several months of staying home, social distancing, and wearing masks has led to a major change in everyday life. People are in a hurry to return to the way things were and a vaccine seems like the only way out. Others are more hesitant; they may believe the vaccine has not passed through proper testing.

This article is designed to be a fact sheet about the upcoming vaccines. It is a condensed and simplified record of information gathered from sources like the Minnesota Department of Health, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Operation Warp Speed

Operation Warp Speed (OWS) combines scientific testing and government quality control. Essentially, OWS removes several administrative hurdles during the production of an effective vaccine. The methodology associated with OWS uses processes that would normally take years and compresses them down. This change is done by running the various steps simultaneously rather than one at a time.

Medical workers and seniors will be among the first to get the vaccine.

The breakdown

Creating an effective vaccine requires multiple steps and extensive testing. Generally, the process includes:

  • Methodology and lab research
  • FDA approval for clinical trials
  • Volunteer testing
  • Safety and efficacy testing in a large group
  • Large population testing with control groups
  • Final FDA approval
  • Distribution

The facts

  1. There is currently no approved vaccine available in the United States. Testing is underway, and a vaccine is expected before 2021.
  2. You will not contract COVID-19 by receiving the vaccine. The vaccines do not use a live virus. It will be similar to other widely used vaccines. It may cause symptoms like fatigue or muscle pain. These symptoms mean the vaccine is working.
  3. COVID-19 vaccination will not make you test positive for COVID-19. You may test positive for antibodies. This positive antibody test suggests either a previous infection or that the vaccine successfully created antibodies.
  4. People who were previously infected with COVID-19 should still consider being vaccinated. Studies suggest that reinfection is possible, and antibodies may last just a few months.
  5. Testing shows that receiving the vaccine does provide antibodies in around 90 percent of people. Receiving the vaccine could be the best option for fighting COVID-19.
  6. The vaccine was not rushed. Instead, administrative red tape was removed. The development and testing trials are still extensive.
  7. Once distribution begins, the first rounds of the vaccine will most likely go to health care workers and people with compromised immune systems.
  8. The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory.
  9. The COVID-19 vaccine will be available at no cost. However, providers of the vaccination will be able to charge an office visit fee.
  10. An mRNA vaccine will not harm your DNA. mRNA, which stands for messenger ribonucleic acid, makes protein. It does not interact with DNA at any point.

The problem with herd immunity

Herd immunity is a common talking point but is likely impossible to achieve. This form of immunity implies that a large enough section of the population has contracted the virus and is resistant. Herd immunity is not a reliable strategy for combating COVID-19. It is due to a lack of important data about transmission frequency after infection. We do not know how long it takes from initial infection for a person to be vulnerable again.

The race for a vaccine

At this time, five vaccines are being tested. These vaccines are being tested by:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Janssen
  • Moderna
  • Novavax
  • Pfizer

AHA, AMA, ANA seeks safe COVID-19 vaccine

Recently, the American Health Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association addressed the American people about the status of the COVID-19 vaccine. They have given their full support to the creation of a safe vaccine. All three groups consider it to be the best option for safeguarding communities around the world. They cited the importance of scientific testing, safe distribution and total transparency about the vaccine within the address. They collectively want people to know the benefits and risks associated with the vaccine.

Become informed

The rate of vaccine production might seem like a cause for concern, but it is not. The same level of quality control used in the past is present with the manufacturing of these vaccines. The creation of these vaccines is the combination of good science and a unified need for relief.

For more information about how Tri-County Health Care and how it has been combating COVID-19, visit

The Coronavirus: Tri-County Health Care is prepared

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The worldwide outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus, recently named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), has had people on high alert for over a month. The WHO has declared it a global health emergency and travel restrictions are in place for residents of the United States. Many questions are circling around this new strain of coronavirus. Should you be worried? How fast is it spreading? What is your local health care organization doing about it? These are all good questions to ask, and we’re here to help fill you in on the outbreak.

So, what is the COVID-19?Coronavirus blood test in hospital laboratory

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this coronavirus is part of a large family of viruses. These viruses are estimated to cause about one third of all cases of the common cold.

The COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus that has not been found in people before. It was first detected in Wuhan, China.

Patients confirmed with the COVID-19 infection have had mild to severe respiratory illnesses with symptoms that include fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache, sore throat or diarrhea. Patients with severe complications have had pneumonia in both lungs.

How contagious is the COVID-19?

While it is not currently clear how easily COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person, the infection is being reported in at least 30 countries internationally, including the United States.

The infection was first detected in the United States in a person who recently returned from Wuhan on January 21, 2020. Research is still being done on how contagious COVID-19 is. However, like other infections, it is spread through close contact.

The most at risk for serious complications are those age 65 or older, children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.

What can I do to protect myself against the COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to combat the COVID-19, so the best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) suggests taking the same precautions recommended for avoiding colds and the flu. These precautions include:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash and then wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What is Tri-County Health Care doing to prepare for an outbreak?

The COVID-19 has not been found in Minnesota, but seven other states, including Wisconsin and Illinois, have confirmed cases. The risk for contracting the new strain of the COVID-19 remains low for U.S. residents. Tri-County Health Care remains proactive and prepared for Side view of young woman with protective coronavirus face mask in town, she standing in front at the bus stop and waiting for her transport after work.any contagious disease and will follow the same protocol with the COVID-19.

Patients who are experiencing symptoms – fever, coughing, shortness of breath – AND have traveled from China or have been in contact with someone that has traveled from China in the last 14 days are asked to call ahead before entering the building. This will allow Tri-County Health Care to take additional steps to keep all patients and staff safe. Registration will also ask new travel questions including if patients have traveled from China or have been in contact with someone who may have been in COVID-19 affected areas, and report symptoms they are experiencing. Patients may also be asked to wear a mask; similar to when presenting with influenza-like illnesses.

Additionally, Tri-County Health Care is working with the MDH and emergency preparedness officials to remain educated and updated on the current status of the outbreak.

How serious is this outbreak?

The majority of the outbreak has been confined to China, where there have been over 70,000 confirmed cases at a 2.7 percent mortality rate. The U.S. has had 15 people test positive for this strain of the virus.

For comparison, preliminary estimates from the CDC show that since October 1, 2019, there have been 26-36 million cases of influenza in the U.S., resulting in 14,000-36,000 deaths.

Tri-County Health Care assures the public that it will continue to monitor the outbreak. We will react according to protocols already set in place. We encourage anyone who has not received the influenza vaccine to get one at a local pharmacy or health care facility.

Gross! Hand hygiene and other germy facts

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Your hands are gross. It’s a fact of life. You touch hundreds of surfaces a day, all of which contain their own little worlds of nasty germs. But you might not realize just how gross your hands really are.

Take a look:

  • Germs can survive for up to three hours on your hands.
  • There are between 2 to 10 million bacteria on your fingertips and elbows.close up of 3d microscopic blue bacteria
  • The number of germs on your fingertips doubles after you use the toilet.
  • When you don’t wash your hands, you transfer germs to the food and drinks you eat.
  • Your hands spread 1,000 times more germs when they are damp than when they are dry.


Why are germs so bad?

A germ is a tiny organism that can cause diseases and illnesses. Germs can get on your hands after you use the toilet, change a diaper, handle raw meats, or touch any object that has germs on it. When germs are not washed from your hands, they can be passed from person to person. By killing these germs, we lower the likelihood that someone will get sick.

This is important for a number of reasons. For one, nobody wants to be sick, and some of those illnesses could become quite serious. Secondly, those who get sick could be affected financially.

Another reason is that the more people who get sick, the more antibiotics are prescribed, often unnecessarily, according to Cheryl Houselog, infection preventionist at Tri-County Health Care. The more antibiotics you take, the more bacteria builds a resistance to those antibiotics, meaning they will not work as well to fight off that infection. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the U.S.

Other “fun” germ facts:

  • One germ can multiply into more than 8 million germs in one day.
  • Nearly 80 percent of illness-causing germs are spread by your hands.
  • Your remote control is a top carrier of bacteria.
  • There are more germs on your phone, keyboard and cutting board than on a toilet seat.
  • One in five people don’t wash their hands, and of those that do, only 30 percent use soap.
  • When you flush the toilet, germs can spray up to 6 feet.Hygiene. Cleaning Hands. Washing hands.
  • Purses and handbags have up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch, and 30 percent of them contain fecal (poop) bacteria.


Fighting those germs

Now that you’ve been effectively grossed out by the facts above, you’ll need to know how to kill some of those germs that live on your hands to keep you and others safe from illness.

Other than getting vaccinated, the number-one thing you can do is wash your hands, Cheryl said. Washing your hands is one of the best defenses you have against infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it this way: When you wash your hands, you can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections such as a cold or flu.

So what’s the best way to clean your hands? Simply use soap and water! The CDC has this down to a science:

  • Get your hands wet, turn off the water, and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to lather up the soap. Clean every surface from between your fingers and under your nails to your palms and back of your hands.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds. If you need a way to time it, sing or hum “Happy Birthday” twice through.
  • Turn the water back on and rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel and use the towel to turn off the water.

However, if you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (as long as your hands are not visibly soiled or dirty).

In fact, primary care providers have begun using alcohol-based sanitizers. That’s the foam spray you see them use as they enter your exam room. The CDC cites many studies that show these hand sanitizers work incredibly well in clinical settings.

For more information about hand washing from the CDC, go here.


Cover your coughlittle boy, big sneeze.

Your hands aren’t the only way that germs are spread. Germs of respiratory illnesses, such as the cold or flu, can be spread through coughing or sneezing into the air or on your hands.

Did you know that when you sneeze, you shoot droplets with up to 100,000 bacteria and viruses into the air at 100 mph? And those droplets can stay in the air for up to 10 minutes!

That’s why it’s important to practice proper cough etiquette. Try to sneeze or cough into a tissue, a sleeve or your elbow if possible, and turn away from other people while doing so. Finally, wash your hands once you’re done.


Flu season in Minnesota begins ramping up near the end of December and beginning of January, so it’s a good time for everyone to start doing their part to prevent the spread of infection by washing their hands, practicing cough etiquette, and getting vaccinated.


Sources: CDC, Unicef, Med One Group