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News From The Health Officer

Updated April 14, 2014



Currently Washington State has 12 active cases of measles (the usual for the entire year is only 4-5) and they are primarily in San Juan and Whatcom Counties.  Luckily, most folks are immune, either because they've been vaccinated or if you were born before 1957 you have natural immunity.  However, measles is very contagious, spread by airborne droplets.  You can be exposed merely by being in the same room as the infected person for up to two hours after the infected person has left the area.  There have been larger exposures for instance at SeaTac Airport, and here is a link to the State Department of Health Measles alert.  This includes the list of locations and times for possible exposure.  This link also has good links to vaccine information and the disease itself.   If you are not immune, and think you have been exposed, please contact your health care provider.  They may want you to observe precautions so that you do not put other patients at risk of exposure.  Vaccination is safe and very effective at preventing this highly contagious disease!



If you've watched TV lately, you've likely seen ads for Hepatits C screening.   Here's the background, and why it's pretty darn exciting:  It's estimated that 3.2 million people in the US have chronic Hepatitis C and most of them do not know it.  And it's not just folks traditionally considered to be at high risk.  Prior to 1992 (when Hep C was discovered and preventive measures were put in place) baby-boomers (born 1945-65) were young adults and may have been exposed through blood transfusions, in health care settings, through drug use, or sexual activity. 

WHAT HAS CHANGED?:  There is now a comfortable, effective, short course treatment available with oral medication, which allows treatment of the illness and previnting progressive liver disease and liver cancer.  Best of all, since this screening has been recommended by governmental groups, there is a good chance private health insurance may cover this as a no cost preventative program.  It's estimated that if everyone was screened appropriately it could prevent 120,000 premature deaths!    Here's a link to the CDC web site:  CDC Viral Hepatitis C  Consider asking your health care provider if this is appropriate for you!


Again, there are some cases of both laboratory confirmed and clinically suspect cases of Pertussis in the community.  This is especially important if you are around or care for infants or are pregnant!  (Also grand-parents or others who may be care-givers.)  Vaccination can help minimize the illness and early treatment with antibiotics may help at least reduce the rate of infecting others if not reduce your own illness.  Here is a link to the CDC information about Pertussis.   CDC Pertussis info


Chicken and Poultry Safety

Raising poultry can be fun and profitable (and good eatin')... just make sure you don't get more than eggs and joy out of the proposition:  Washing hands after handling poultry can go a long way toward staying safe.

Poultry Safety Link


Drug Take Back Day  

The Island County Sheriff wants to let everyone know that the DEA will again be sponsoring the eighth National Pharmaceutical Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 26th from 10am to 2pm this year.  Island County will be participating and take back sites are:  Oak Harbor Police Department, Coupeville Marshal's Office and the South Precinct Sheriff's Office in Freeland.  This is a GREAT opportunity to dispose of drugs that are no longer needed, out-dated, etc in a safe manner for people and the environment. Oak Harbor Police Department also has a drug take back station which is open 24/7. 


FLU SEASON,   Winding Down?

Flu season may finally be winding down, and luckily we had a mild season.  But it is still a miserable way to spend a week or more feeling like every molecule in your body is staging a minor coup.   Flu Shots can help. This year's flu vaccine may have been about 61% effective against this years predominant flu strain.  Likely this same vaccine will be recommended for the 2014-15 flu season as well.   And don't forget what grandma told you as well:  Cover Your Cough, Stay Home When You Are Sick, Wash Your Hands.  And here is a link to the Washington State Health Department about flu shots:  Flu Prevention News Release     The CDC reminds us that flu shots are recommended for everyone over the age of six months, and they can be particularly beneficial for pregnant women and young children.

Health Department Flu Shot Access

 CDC weekly update  (Current Influenza status)

Washington State and Local .

CDC on H7N9 Influenza  There has been a recent death of a Canadian from H7N9 influenza, acquired while in China.  This is not one of the strains accounted for in current vaccine BUT it is also a very low risk for this to be transmitted locally.  This is of note only because it is the first case found in the Americas.


Radon Exposure in your Home?

There is a new program from the State Department of Health that allows people to pinpoint their locale to determine local Radon experience. DOH Radon Tool   In general, Island County is a very low risk area in general because of it's geology.  Radon is colorless, odorless, and originates from natural decay of radioactive material in the soil.  When inhaled, especially if one is a smoker, it increases greatly the risks of lung cancer.  Radon levels are typically the highest during cold months when windows and doors are tightly closed.  Radon is believed to cause from 5,000 to 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the US  (Smoking alone is believed to cause more than 120,000 lung cancer deaths each year, for comparison).


Antibiotic Resistance

is becoming increasingly a problem, especially for certain at risk populations, hospitalized patients, and patients with artificial joints.  Here's a CDC site which discusses the "bad old days" before antibiotics, the magic era of antibiotics, and the unfortunate potential for a world of infection post antibiotic effectiveness.

 Emerging Antibiotic Resistance


West Nile Virus…

Hmmm… Doesn’t  sound like something to mess with.  Here’s some tips on how to avoid being one of our state’s (luckily small) statistics:

west nile virus prevention tips

 West Nile Virus in Washington
(annual reports accumulated daily since 2002)


Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

(MERS) Important information from our Public Health partners

CDC is recommending that anyone traveling to the Middle East monitor their health while there, AND for 14 days after returning home, for signs and symptoms of MERS. If someone becomes symptomatic, medical attention should be sought immediately (60% fatality rate, no effective treatment or cure, can be spread from person to person). Please see the following link for more information

  Region 1 Communicable Disease 2014 Monthly Report
              Pertussis status statewide through 22 June 2013  
                      State Department of Health Newsroom  
                               County Health Ranking  


Did you know that alcohol based hand cleansers effectively 'sterilize' your hands only temporarily? The static effects are practically gone within just a few minutes. Get into the habit of washing your hands frequently ...and for at least 18-20 seconds (sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star...")


Vaccinations help prevent illness!  What is your status?   A lot of adults forget about the benefits of keeping current with vaccines. Tdap, yearly influenza, Zoster "shingles" shot, if over age 60 are worth considering.  There are also special situations where other vaccines may be of benefit. has an excellent travel page for vaccinations that may be recommended for travel outside the US, as well as other travel tips for staying healthy.  Health Tips for Travellers

       For more information regarding all vaccines, click here

      Do you know which vaccines you may need?
               Read more about Communicable Disease
                        State-wide Data and Statistical Reports

Healthy Families / Healty Communities



Whooping Cough is still being reported in the state, stable in Island County 
Snohomish and Skagit counties  have had the highest number of pertussis cases in the state. For the latest alert, click here. All adults, especially grandparents, should have been administered one immunization with the Tdap vaccine, as should children at age 12 years. Administration of only 1 Tdap is approved at this time... no booster. Washing your hands and covering your cough, and staying home if you are ill are primary principles in minimizing spread of this very contagious disease. Island County had 46 cases in 2012, a little higher than our normal case rate. There have been no reported cases to date in 2013. 
Please keep sick children home.
     (Distinguish the sounds of various coughs)
             Pertussis Billboard (English) ( En Español)
                    Surround Your Baby With Protection


Measles in The News:
World travelers need to be aware of the possibility of measles, which still occurs far more commonly than that of the United States, where it is relatively uncommon. The rate of measles in the U.S. is typically low, ranging from 37 in 2004 to a high of 222 in 2011. There several measles exposures this summer in the Northwest, but the time to onset of illness has passed.  Measles outbreaks are typically restricted to communities that have not had completed or timely measle vaccinations.
     What does measles look like?

Health Status Indicators
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services maintains data on Island County Health Status Indicators. All said, we're doing fairly well, but regular exercise is the best medicine. Just do it! 
      Click here for Island County data.  
            Washington State County Health Rankings


Related Links