N.D. health officials encourage flu shots

BISMARCK—State health officials are encouraging North Dakotans to get an influenza vaccination this fall, saying there are more than enough doses available.

The North Dakota Department of Health and Custer Health in Mandan had a news conference Monday morning to discuss the importance of receiving the vaccine.

Influenza is unpredictable, so health officials can’t determine what’s going to happen this year, said Michelle Feist, influenza surveillance coordinator. So far, one case of influenza has been reported in the state.

The vaccine covers two strains of influenza A, including H1N1, and one strain of influenza B, said Molly Sander, immunization program manager. The vaccine is available via injection or nasal mist.

Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus spread through coughing, sneezing and talking, Feist said. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, aches and extreme fatigue.

The Health Department encourages everyone 6 months and older to be vaccinated.

However, it’s especially important for children 6 months to 4 years, adults 50 and older, long-term care residents, pregnant women, people with high-risk medical conditions, American Indians and obese people to be vaccinated, Sander said.

People who could spread the disease to those at high risk – such as health care workers and parents of infants younger than 6 months – also should be vaccinated, she said.

Custer Health Administrator Keith Johnson said influenza is not the same as the stomach flu.

Each year, more than 400 North Dakotans die as a result of complications from influenza and pneumonia, and hundreds more are hospitalized, Johnson said. The state’s health partners are ready to administer vaccines, he said.

“It’s a small investment of your time for a potential really big payback,” he said.

UPDATED: Oil well leak in Dunn County

(UPDATE: The below news release came out Wednesday. Beneath it is a link to the Thursday story by Dickinson Press reporter Lisa Call and then Thursday’s update by the Associated Press; at the very bottom is Friday’s Dickinson Press story.)

The North Dakota Department of Health just sent out this news release. The Dickinson Press is chasing this story right now for the Forum Communications papers. 

This morning, Denbury Onshore LLC reported that a wellbore failed in the course of a hydraulic fracturing operation at a drilling rig about 2 ½ miles southwest of Killdeer, N.D. Personnel from the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources and the North Dakota Department of Health responded onsite. No injuries or offsite impacts have been reported. Mineral Resource officials are investigating the cause of the wellbore failure.

As a result of the incident, a mixture of primarily water and some oil began flowing from the ground in the area immediately around the wellhead. This was fully contained by a protective dike surrounding the site, preventing release into a nearby creek. All leaking fluid within the containment dike is being vacuumed into trucks and removed.

About 500 barrels have leaked thus far and all have been recovered. Coil tubing will be used to seal the wellbore below ground. Crews expect to have it fully cemented by later today or tomorrow.

The nearest city that accesses area ground water is Killdeer. The wellbore failure occurred more than a mile outside the city’s wellhead protection area, meaning that it will not affect Killdeer’s drinking water supplies. Based on preliminary information, the Department of Health has no evidence of adverse impact on private wells; however, the department will continue to assess any potential impact.

Beginning tomorrow, a number of monitoring wells will be drilled under the supervision of the North Dakota Department of Health around the wellhead area to determine if there was any underground seepage. If any seepage is detected, the Department of Health will oversee its removal.


Story by Lisa Call: http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/event/article/id/39260/


AP Thursday update:

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Texas company worked Thursday to seal the underground piping of a faulty oil well that has leaked more than 1,100 barrels of crude and water at the drill site in western North Dakota.

Officials say the spill happened about 2½ miles southwest of Killdeer and was reported early Wednesday morning. 

Bob Cornelius, a spokesman for Denbury Onshore, says the well continued leaking about two barrels of mostly water each minute on Thursday morning. 

He says 1,007 barrels of water used in so-called fracking operations and 125 barrels of oil had been recovered by Thursday morning.


Friday update: http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/event/article/id/39293/

Hoeven declares suicide prevention month

From a news release:

Gov. John Hoeven has proclaimed September as Suicide Prevention Month in North Dakota.  

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death among North Dakotans ages 15 to 34 and the ninth leading cause of death overall. North Dakota ranks 11th in the nation for its rate of suicide deaths.  In 2009, 89 North Dakotans died as a result of suicide.

Suicide affects everyone, but some groups are at higher risk than others. Men are four times more likely than women to die from suicide, but women are three times more likely to attempt suicide. In North Dakota, people in the 25 to 34 age group and American Indians are also at higher risk.

“Knowing the risk factors and warning signs for suicide may save a life,” Gail Erickson, suicide prevention director for the Department of Health, said in a statement. “It’s important to realize, however, that not everyone who displays these warning signs will attempt suicide.” 

Risk factors for suicide include, but are not limited to:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s).
  • History of depression or other mental illness.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Family history of suicide or violence.
  • Physical illness.
  • Feeling alone. 

“Unfortunately, someone dies as a result of suicide every four days in North Dakota,” State Health Officer Terry Dwelle said in a statement. “ That’s why it’s important for all of us to recognize the warning signs and reach out to people who are having difficulty coping.”

The warning signs of suicide can include:

  • Changes in a person’s mood, diet or sleeping pattern.
  • Increased alcohol or drug use.
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society.
  • Rage or uncontrolled anger.
  • Reckless behavior. 

Some of the ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide include:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be nonjudgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don’t dare him or her to do it.
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove lethal means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
  • Get help from someone specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Help is available by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free and confidential 24/7 suicide prevention lifeline.  

The North Dakota Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention raises funds for scientific research, education and treatment programs, as well as programs to support those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

This year, six “Out of the Darkness” community walks are scheduled in North Dakota to raise funds for suicide prevention and awareness. The event will be in Williston Sept. 18, Minot Sept. 18, Grand Forks Sept. 19, Fargo Sept. 26, Bismarck Oct. 2, and Valley City Oct. 3.  For information about locations and starting times, contact Mary Weiler at afspnd@gmail.com or www.afsp.org. 

The North Dakota Department of Health, the North Dakota Department of Human Services, Mental Health America of North Dakota and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are partnering with local organizations, tribal agencies, the Veterans Administration and the North Dakota National Guard to address suicide prevention through the North Dakota Suicide Prevention Coalition.

For information about the coalition, contact Beth Huseth at 701.341.0756 or bethh@staloisius.com.

State Health Council to meet

The State Health Council, the advisory body of the North Dakota Department of Health, will meet at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in AV Room 212 in the Judicial Wing of the State Capitol Building in Bismarck.

The following topics will be discussed:

  1. Minutes of the May 27, 2010, meeting
  2. Adoption of proposed amendments to NDAC Article 33-10, Radiological Health, contingent upon approval of the Attorney General – Dan Harman
  3. Adoption of proposed amendments to NDAC Section 33-06-01-01, Reportable Conditions – Kirby Kruger
  4. Adoption of proposed amendments to NDAC Chapter 33-24-08, Technical Standards and Corrective Action Requirements for Owners and Operators of Underground Storage Tanks, contingent upon approval of the Attorney General – Gary Berreth
  5. Internal audit function, fraud risk assessment process, and forming an audit committee – Karol Riedman
  6. Update on State Health Improvement Process – Kelly Nagel and Howard Anderson
  7. Legislative update – Arvy Smith
  8. Other business

Pollution control group plans meeting

The North Dakota Air Pollution Control Advisory Council and the North Dakota Department of Health have scheduled a public hearing to address proposed changes to the North Dakota Air Pollution Control Rules and State Implementation Plan for the control of air pollution.

The public hearing will be at 9 a.m. CDT Thursday in the Fourth Floor Conference Room at the Gold Seal Center, 918 E. Divide Ave., Bismarck.

Health Department encourages vaccinations

News release from the state Health Department:

The North Dakota Department of Health is encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated now to avoid the back-to-school rush later this summer.

Children entering school are required to have received five doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), four doses of IPV (polio), two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), and two doses of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. Adolescents entering middle school are required to receive immunizations against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) and meningococcal disease. Other vaccines may be recommended by a child’s health-care provider.

“We encourage parents to plan ahead,” Abbi Pierce, Immunization Surveillance coordinator, said in a statement.  “School children should get vaccinated as soon as possible to ensure they are protected on the first day of school.”

To get your children vaccinated, call your local public health unit or health-care provider. For more information about school immunization requirements, contact Pierce at 800.472.2180 or visit www.ndhealth.gov/immunize.

Emergency preparedness meeting planned

The North Dakota Department of Health has scheduled a meeting Friday to educate the public about emergency preparedness and provide opportunity for public comment.

The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. CT in Bismarck, but the public will be able to participate through videoconference at any local public health unit in the state.

“An extensive amount of work has been done on both the state and local levels and with the private health-care sector to develop and strengthen plans to respond to public health emergencies,” said Tim Wiedrich, section chief of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section of the North Dakota Department of Health. “An important part of planning is making sure the plans will work and are accepted by the general public. This meeting will give people a chance to learn about the work we’ve done and give us feedback.”

The meeting will start with a presentation highlighting the planning done and will conclude with time for comments. To participate in this meeting, contact your local public health unit.

For more information, contact Wiedrich at (701) 328-2270.

2009 drinking water report

Information about North Dakota’s public water systems is now available in the newly-released 2009 Drinking Water Compliance Report.

North Dakota public water systems maintain an excellent Safe Drinking Water compliance recor, according to a news release from the Health Department. In 2009, the department issued 272 certificates of compliance to operators and public water systems.

“The purpose of the annual report is to improve consumer awareness of drinking water compliance issues,” Larry Thelen, administrator of the department’s Drinking Water Program, said in a statement. “People served by systems that incurred Safe Drinking Water Act violations in 2009 should have been informed of those violations by their water suppliers.”

All violations are included in the report. Also listed are violations recorded in 2010 and based on 2009 monitoring data.

“It’s important to understand that the majority of violations referred to in the 2009 report have been resolved,” Thelen said. “It is a significant challenge for public water systems and states to meet the ever-increasing number of requirements of the SDWA.”

To obtain a copy of the 2009 Drinking Water Compliance Report, write to the North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Municipal Facilities; 918 E Divide Ave, 3rd Floor; Bismarck, N.D. 58501-1947, or call 701.328.5211. A summary of the report can be viewed on the department’s website at http://www.ndhealth.gov/mf.

Health Department offers tips for holiday eating

With picnics, camping and barbecues slated to be popular this weekend, the state Health Department offers some tips to avoid food poisoning.

From Sarah Weninger, foodborne surveillance epidemiologist with the North Dakota Department of Health:


As always, key recommendations for all food handling include washing hands and surfaces often and using a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked safely and to the correct temperature.


Sauces and marinades used on raw meat or poultry should never be reused on cooked foods. Bacteria from the raw meat can grow in the reused marinade and make people sick. Prepare a fresh batch of marinade for use as a dipping sauce or for basting cooked foods. Always allow meat and poultry to marinate in the refrigerator. At room temperature, bacteria on raw meat and poultry can double in number every 20 minutes. Likewise, thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator, never on the counter.


Bacteria can grow and multiply in food that is not properly chilled. Sliced fruits and vegetables, cold salads with or without eggs, and meat should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Meals served outside in temperatures higher than 90 degrees F should not be left out for more than one hour. During summer picnics, it is important to pack a refrigerator thermometer in your ice cooler to ensure the food in the cooler is kept at 40 degrees F or below.


Cooked foods left out at room temperature may become unsafe within two hours. In temperatures higher than 90 degrees F, food may become unsafe in just one hour. Food that has been cooked and left sitting on the table for several hours should not be eaten. Hot foods need to be kept hot. Use the grill and warming trays to keep food warm while serving.


Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating. Scrub fruits with rinds, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, with clean water and a food brush before slicing. Bacteria can transfer from the knife on the outside of the fruit and contaminate the flesh of the fruit. Use clean knives and cutting boards.


A common mistake backyard chefs make is serving cooked food on the same plate that was used to transport the raw meat or poultry from the kitchen to the grill. People often use the same spatula or kitchen tongs to remove fully cooked food from the grill as was used to place raw food on the grill. Cross-contamination also can occur when vegetables or other uncooked foods come into contact with cutting boards, plates and utensils that were used for raw meat and poultry products. Keep it safe by using two instead of one – one for raw foods and one for cooked foods.

For more information about food safety or to report a possible foodborne illness, contact Sarah Weninger, North Dakota Department of Health, at 800.472.2180

National HIV Testing Day

In observance of National HIV Testing Day on Sunday, the North Dakota Department of Health urges people at risk for HIV/AIDS to get tested.

An estimated 1 million people in the United States are HIV positive, and approximately 56,300 new infections occur every year, according to a news release from the Health Department.

As of Dec. 31, 480 cases of HIV/AIDS had been reported in North Dakota since surveillance began in 1984. About one-fourth of the people estimated to be HIV positive are believed to be unaware of their infection; as a result, they do not receive medical care. They also may be transmitting HIV to others.

HIV testing is available at test sites throughout the state, and results are available in 20 minutes. The test sites are staffed by trained personnel who offer free and confidential HIV testing, counseling and referrals to those at risk.

For information, call the North Dakota Department of Health HIV/AIDS Program hot line at 1-800-70NDHIV or visit www.ndhealth.gov/hiv.