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

WHO-Monkeypox

CDC-5 things you need to know about monkeypox

CDC-Monkeypox Information


Lyme Disease Awareness Month: The great tick off!

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The vast Minnesota wilderness is one of the reasons so many choose this state as their home. Living in Minnesota is like being one with nature. You can find a bounty of natural beauty just a short distance from your home. From lakes to wildlife, Minnesota has everything that makes our world special. However, nature also includes ticks and the bacteria they may or may not be carrying. May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and Tri-County Health Care wants you to enjoy the outdoors safely this summer.

What is Lyme disease?

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by tick bites. Primarily, this disease is spread by blacklegged ticks, commonly referred to as deer or bear ticks.

In the spring and summer, ticks begin searching for their first blood meal, which usually consists of rodents. Ticks are commonly associated with forests, but they can easily find their way into residential neighborhoods on the backs of mice and even pets. Luckily a tick needs to be stuck to the skin for several hours to transmit disease. Diseases carried by ticks include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Powassan virus disease
  • Borrelia miyamotoi disease
  • Borrelia mayonii disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Tularemia

By far, Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne disease. Experts are closely monitoring the spread of this disease and have noticed its frequency steadily increasing.

This video by Minnesota Lyme Disease Association puts the issue of Lyme Disease in Minnesota into perspective.

 

Lyme Disease Awareness Month is about learning the causes.

Symptoms and treatment

Symptoms usually appear within 30 days of the initial bite. One of the most common symptoms is a rash at the site of the bite. Sometimes it may appear to be a bulls-eye with a raised red sore in the middle and a circular patch of red skin around it. People may also experience chills, muscle pain, headaches, and fatigue.

If these symptoms appear, seek medical attention immediately. The chances of treating Lyme disease are better with early detection. After thorough examination and testing, treatment for Lyme disease includes antibiotics.

Prevention

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid ticks. Wear appropriate clothing that covers your body when exploring the outdoors. Also, make sure to use insect repellent. Additionally, when you return home, do a tick inspection. For example, use a mirror to examine your body for the tiny pests. If you discover one, remove it with tweezers. Submerging ticks in alcohol is a way to kill them.

Throughout Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Tri-County Health Care aims to make this summer safe for everyone. If you suspect you might have Lyme disease, please meet with your care provider as soon as possible. For scheduling, please call 218-631-3510.


Flu and masks

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Healthcare systems across the country have been battling COVID-19 for nearly two years. Face coverings are proven to be one one of the most important tools in keeping this virus at bay. Cloth masks are a popular infection control method worldwide, but they are a new prevention strategy in American life. Although they have become controversial, it is undeniable they slow the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. The flu and masks should be a common association.

Please take a few minutes to watch this PBS program on the importance of masks.

The impact

It seems like every year, thousands of people contract the dreaded flu. This terrible illness has become a part of our seasonal culture. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimated that 28,000 people died from influenza from 2018 to 2019 in the United States. From 2017 to 2018, an estimated 52,000 people died in our country alone. Every year thousands meet an untimely death from this virus. Data trends and studies on the effectiveness of masks have some wondering if they should be worn more often.

Masks aren’t about necessarily protecting ourselves. They are about protecting others from contaminated droplets. Wearing a mask during the flu season might be the best way to protect our communities.

Infection prevention

Cheryl Houselog is Tri-County Health Care’s infection preventionist. She has the duty of stopping the spread of contagions. For the last two years, she has worked non-stop to provide safe working environments for the staff and patients of Tri-County Health Care. When asked what she felt was the best way to prevent the spread of the flu, she quickly stated the importance of respiratory hygiene. To her, a cloth mask is one of the most important barriers between you and sickness. Cheryl doesn’t think you need to constantly wear a mask but choosing to wear one in certain situations makes sense. When you plan to be around several different people, wearing a mask, especially during the flu season, can be a very wise decision.

“The fact that we did not see a lot of colds or influenza last year indicates that masking helps prevent transmission of many respiratory diseases,” – Cheryl Houselog

Masking is more important than ever! They may not be convenient or fashionable, but they can save lives. Data from the Influenza Surveillance Network has been included below. If you compare rates of influenza in the State of Minnesota, it is clear that mitigation efforts were having a strong impact on the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. This winter, make sure you’re protected from the flu by wearing your masks and getting your flu shot.

Flu and Masks statistics.


ENT at Tri-County Health Care

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We don’t usually think about our nose unless something is wrong. It’s just a fleshy slope with two nostrils that sit nestled on the front of our face. It takes in air and the occasional aroma. We need it but we don’t really think about it unless it stops working properly. The same goes for our ears and throat. They are often forgotten parts of the body but play a pivotal role in our health. When our ears, nose or throat (ENT) stop working, it hurts or at the very least it makes for a pretty miserable day. ENT at Tri-County Health Care offers a wide variety of services not easily accessible in the central part of the state.

Dr. Waters is always looking for new and innovative ways to help patients.

ENT services

  • Throat-Airway and vocal disorders, swallowing disorders, tumors
  • Ears-ear infections, hearing loss, balance and dizziness, ringing in the ears
  • Nose-Sinusitis, allergies, smelling disorders, nasal obstruction
  • Neck and head-Thyroid disorders, deformities, infections, facial trauma

Additionally, visiting specialists diagnose and treat sleep apnea. Facial surgery and reconstructive surgery are also possible at Tri-County Health Care.

Kurtis Waters, M.D.

Kurtis Waters, M.D.

Tri-County Health Care has partnered with ENT expert Kurtis Waters, M.D. He brings over 20 years of experience to our organization. Dr. Waters brings an innovative and unique approach to treating conditions involving the ears, nose and throat. Dr. Waters is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. He is also certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. At this time, he is the only board-certified facial plastic surgeon operating in the lakes area.

Katie Starns, NP

Katie Starns, NP

Katie Starns, NP, also sees patients at Tri-County Health Care. Her special practice interests include chronic ear infections, sinusitis, hearing loss, vertigo and much more. She is a part of a legacy of healthcare

providers and is passionate about finding unique ways to treat her patients.

Currently, ENT services are offered via provider referral. Please check with your primary care provider about scheduling an appointment.

Call 218-631-3510 to schedule an appointment today. Also, follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.


First step back to normal: Dr. Redig on the vaccine

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On Dec 21, 2020, Dr. Redig felt the pinch of a needle. A group of socially distanced reporters snapped photos and recorded video of the historic event. She was the first at Tri-County Health Care to receive the vaccine. She and several others marked the beginning of a movement within Tri-County, a mission to get as many people vaccinated as possible. This is the first step back to normal.

Why get the vaccine?

“I did it for myself, my family, and the patients I see every day,” said Dr. Redig. For her, this is the first step back to normal. When the vaccine was offered to her, she wasted no time and signed up. Dr. Redig has been following the development of the vaccine and knows it is safe.

Nothing but the usual symptomsDr. Redig has now received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Redig is alive and well. With her first dose, she experienced only mild soreness in her arm. This pain would only last a couple of days. On Jan. 11, she received her second dose. This time, she was sore and experienced slight chills and body aches. This was nothing she couldn’t handle and was still able to work and go about her day normally. These symptoms are a part of the typical immune system response associated with vaccination.

Give it time

Receiving two doses does not make you automatically immune to COVID-19. It takes around two weeks after the second dose for the body to generate proper immunity. It’s important even after receiving the second dose to continue practicing mitigation strategies. The vaccine does have a high efficacy rate but it doesn’t provide 100 percent immunity. Everyone must continue wearing masks in public while socially distancing themselves from others.

A safe vaccine for everyone

According to Dr. Redig, there are two things to remember when considering the vaccine. First, get it to protect yourself and the ones you love. The second is that this is an opportunity to do something for the good of everyone. Getting the vaccine is a way to heal our world and take a big step toward normal life. A vaccine is the only way to achieve herd immunity and only when we achieve herd immunity will it be safe to open back up.

The first thing I’ll do…

Dr. Redig works in the emergency room at Tri-County Health Care and is no stranger to intense situations but she and her coworkers are in agreement that things were easier before COVID-19. Staff members dream of the days before the pandemic but have hope for a future where the population is more aware of their health. For Dr. Redig, when COVID-19 is finally defeated, she plans to gather with friends, relatives, and neighbors for a huge birthday party for her twins, one without masks and hand sanitizer.

For more information about the vaccine please visit TCHC.org/covidvaccine. The CDC website is a great resource for information about COVID-19. For regular updates on the progress of the vaccine please follow Tri-County Health Care on Facebook.


Coping with COVID-19 during the holidays

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COVID-19 has changed much about our society over the last year. It may seem like coping with COVID-19 during the holidays is just one more change to navigate. The holidays have changed with the pandemic. In years past, December would be a time for Christmas parties and family gatherings but that isn’t possible this year. Tri-County Health Care wants you to enjoy the holidays safely. We offer these tips to enjoy the 2020 holiday season.

Stay Home and stay safe

This is the one time of year families can set aside work and gather with family, but things have to be a little different this time around. Instead of making the long trek to grandma’s house, keep everyone safe by staying home. Holiday gatherings are a risk to become super spreader events. Meeting for Christmas dinner isn’t worth spreading COVID-19. This year, take a break from the icy roads and fruit cake.

Embrace technology this year

The gift of technology

Embrace technology this year. Most have been blessed with a smartphone. Often this little plastic rectangle dominates our lives and causes a certain amount of stress but it is also a great tool for communication. It allows us to connect to our loved ones who may live hundreds of miles away. Call your family members, use video chat and learn to love technology. Technology exists to make life easier; let’s let it do that. This year, save a spot around the Christmas tree for an iPad.

Don’t go it alone

Spending time with your immediate family is great but not everyone has family they live with. This can be a little depressing…but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t spend the holiday alone, find creative ways to connect with others without standing in the same room. Take this opportunity to explore social media. There are a myriad of groups, channels and pages dedicated to spreading Christmas cheer. If you’re feeling lonely, jump on Facebook and enjoy some cat videos or check out other online communities that focus on an area of interest.

New traditions

Instead of pining over past Christmases, look to the future. Use this year as an opportunity to create new traditions that can be passed down for generations. The holidays have become increasingly corporate and materialistic over the years. Break this downward trend and use this year to come up with new ways to enjoy the holidays. Challenge yourself to learn a new Christmas recipe. Flex your arts and crafts skills and make custom ornaments or decorations. Even doing something a simple as playing a board game or watching a Christmas movie could liven things up.

Christmas 2020 needs to be a little different

The pandemic won’t last forever and we’ve all been given a little hope. A vaccine is currently being distributed to frontline workers and it could bring an end to the pandemic. Use this time to reflect. Tolerating COVID-19 during the holidays doesn’t have to overshadow the good tidings this time of year should bring.

Tri-County Health Care is taking extensive measures to safeguard the health of its employees and patients. Check out this page for more information about COVID-19 and how Tri-County Health Care is putting your health first.


COVID-19 Requires Unified Response

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We have reached a serious and critical point in our efforts to battle COVID-19. COVID-19 requires a unified response now. This virus is not only affecting those overseas or in densely populated areas; it has made its way to rural central Minnesota and is currently spreading quickly right here in our own backyard. Cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent weeks. The trajectory of these cases is predicted to increase throughout the holiday season.Tri-County Health Care COVID Todd County Wadena County Health Partners Germs Hand Hygiene

Healthcare facilities and their respective staff have watched as larger regional hospitals within the state have been overrun. Bed space has been depleted; there is no more room. That means COVID-positive individuals that may have otherwise been transferred to a larger hospital must seek care locally, increasing the strain on our local hospitals which are also near capacity. If this trend continues, this crisis will quickly increase and affect our ability to provide care to those who need it. People who could have been saved may succumb to COVID-19.

As the holidays draw near, healthcare leaders in the area have come together to plead that you celebrate responsibly this holiday season. These gatherings can be a significant source of spread and risk the lives of family members and friends. It may not be easy, but we ask you please try to find safe alternatives to these gatherings. Stay home. Call your loved ones or use video chat to communicate.

Fighting this virus requires a unified front, not just from hospitals but from every single individual. Everyone needs to practice physical distancing, wash your hands regularly, only leave home when absolutely necessary and wear a mask when in public.

COVID-19 is not a hoax or conspiracy. It is a very real virus affecting us all. The recent COVID-19 surge requires unified response. Please take this message seriously. For us to return to normal life as soon as possible, it must be earned with great effort and genuine care for others.

Thank you and stay well,

Daniel J Swenson
Administrator, CentraCare – Long Prairie

Joel Beiswenger
President & CEO, Tri-County Health Care

Tim Rice
President & CEO, Lakewood Health System

Jackie Och
Director, Todd County Health & Human Services

Cindy Pederson
Director, Wadena County Public Health