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Island County > Public Health > News from the Health Officer

News From The Health Officer

Updated: February 6, 2019



Currently there are no reported cases of measles in Island County.


For information on case numbers and exposure locations related to current measles cases and outbreaks in Washington State:

  • Measles outbreak in Clark County, WA – click here
  • Confirmed King County case  – click here


Measles is a contagious disease that causes high fever, cough, runny nose, and red watery eyes. A rash of tiny red spots breaks out 3-5 days after symptoms begin. Measles can progress to pneumonia, brain swelling, brain damage and death.

Individuals at higher risk for severe illness and complications from measles include:

  • Infants and children younger than 5 years old
  • Pregnant women
  • People with compromised immune systems

There is no treatment for measles, but there is a way to prevent it. The combination of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects you and helps stop the spread of the measles virus to others. When more than 95 percent of people are vaccinated against measles, the disease slows down and doesn't spread as easily. Community (or "herd") immunity happens when enough people in a community are vaccinated against measles that it protects individuals who are not vaccinated or immune from measles. In case of a school exposure, susceptible students and staff will be asked to stay home for 21 days after the last exposure.

The best way to protect babies under 1 year of age from measles is to ensure that individuals around them, including family members and caregivers, are vaccinated.

Kids should get two doses of MMR vaccine:

One dose between ages 12 and 15 months, and the second between ages 4 and 6 years. If your family will be traveling outside the US or to an area with measles, please contact your healthcare provider about the best way to protect yourself and your family.

Adults born after 1956 may need an MMR vaccine if they have not already had it.

It's not too late to get vaccinated:

Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to catch up on your vaccines.

Talk to your healthcare provider to get the MMR vaccine for your children. Washington provides MMR vaccines at no cost for kids through age 18, and they're available from healthcare providers across the state. Providers may charge an office visit fee and a fee to give the vaccine, called an administration fee. However, if you can't afford the administration fee, you may ask your provider to waive it.

More information can be found on the Washington State Department of Health's measles frequently asked questions page.



Resources for Medical Providers

Resources for Schools and Daycare Centers


 Bats are benficial to our environment both as pollinators and excellent bug exterminators.  Unfortunately, they are also the only reservoir of rabies in Washington State.  The most common reason for needing to test a bat is waking up in the morning to find a bat in your bedroom. If you think you have had an exposure to put you at risk, if at all possible, please capture the bat (safely, wearing thick gloves, put the bat in something like a tupperware container) and store in the refrigerator (not the freezer) and contact Island County Public Health, (360) 679-7350, for information about whether the bat needs to be brought in for testing.   Their teeth are so tiny you may not feel a bite.  Also if the bat is found in a room with an impaired/intoxicated/mentally incapacitated person or child, the bat may need to be tested.  Please also make sure your pets are vaccinated (dogs, cats, ferrets) as they may be exposed, particularly if they are outside.  If necessary, we will work with your physician to arrange for vaccination. (Island County has not had a bat test postive for > 4 years.)


Public Health, Human Services, and the Sheriff's office have created an outreach program aimed at reducing opiate related health impacts on our community.

 Public Health Nurses are involved with this program in several ways, including needle exchange opportunities at the following locations:

 Public Health Office in Camano, 127 E. Camano Dr. by appt: 360.678.8247

Langley, Tuesdays, 1:30-3:30pm  #104, 5475 Maxwelton Rd.   

Oak Harbor, Wednesdays, 1:30-3:30pm  #114, 1791 NE1st Ave.  

In addition to reducing the risk of blood born and skin infections, this provides an opportunity to direct folks toward treatment options and offer other health guidance in a confidential, non-judgmental environment.


Saturday, April 28, there will be 3 drug take back sites open from 10AM-2PM:  

County Sheriff Office: 5521 E. Harbor Road, Freeland, WA

Coupeville Marshal's Office: 4 NE Seventh St. Coupeville

Oak Harbor Police Office: 860 SE Barrington Drive, Oak Harbor

Oak Harbor Police Department has a drug take back station which is open 24/7 year 'round.

There is also now a lot of interest at the state level of having pharmacies have a take-back kiosk, currently under review. This is an excellent way to keep drugs, particularly narcotics or pain killers, anti-anxiety or other popular drugs of abuse from being used inappropriately and putting folks/kids at risk for accidental or intentional overdose.  Recent state legislation may make drug take back facilities more prevalent and convenient, stay tuned....


Seattle/King County Health Department has a very helpful page for someone who is present at an overdose.  The main points:  

1:  Call 911.  

2:  Do mouth to mouth breathing until help comes.  

3:  Give Narcan/naloxone if you have it.  And still, call 911! 

4:  Good Samaritan Laws protect the person who calls for help from police action, ie, arrest, even if drugs are present.  

You can save a life with a simple phone call!


The Washington State Department of Health, at the request of the Washinton State Board of Health recently completed a literature and scientific review of noise and health effects: DOH Noise Review.docx .  This came about in part because of the tremendous amount of interest and anxiety related to noise in our island community. Multiple state and federal agencies have also asked for further, more detailed data regarding noise in our environment and health impacts from noise.  It is important to remember that noise from ANY source may have the same effects listed in this document.  Most of these studies were done relating to industrial, road, or commercial aircraft noise pollution. It is also important to remember that being exposed to a risk factor is not the same as acquiring a disease. For example: the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease are: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, overweight, inactivity, age and family history. Exposure to noise and stress may add to this risk burden and certain individuals may be more susceptible to their effects than others. In addition to cardiovascular disease, this document also examines noise as it relates to hearing loss and tinnitus, annoyance, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, and susceptible populations.


Seems like flu season is either just starting or stopping... So far this year we have NOT been particularly hard hit although some surrounding counties have not been so lucky. Flu Shots can help even if they are not 100% effective, and you still get sick, you will likely be less sick for less time.  There has been some concern that this year's flu vaccine may not be effective based on experience in Australia.  There is an excellent overview from King County here:  King County Flu Vaccine Advice   There is also some interesting and somewhat discouraging information that getting flu shots year after year may actually reduce their effectiveness, and more study is underway to try to understand this. Nasal spray vaccine was not recommended this flu season, but is being reassessed and may be an alternative for folks that don't wish a poke in the arm...! As always, it's  important to remember 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 shot information . 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.  If at high risk (elderly, underlying health problems, etc), anti-viral medications can also be considered.  Unfortunately, just as with many other antibiotics, the antiviral medications are potentially losing their effectiveness against influenza, (there has been no antiviral effectiveness testing yet this year), so as always:  Prevention is the best medicine.

CDC weekly update   (Current Influenza status)

SPRING CLEANING and Hanta Virus:

Always a fun time, the list of things to clean up and repair seems longer each year!  Although rare, Hanta virus, from deer mouse droppings, can be a miserable disease.  Seattle King County has an excellent web site here about safety while cleaning around what furry friends may have left.  Hanta virus illness across the state has increased in recent years.  Here is a link to the department of health page for information. Hanta Virus Link


Because of naturally occuring toxins, (PSP, paralytic shellfish poisoning), large areas of Whidbey Island were closed for an unusually long period of time this year..  Please always check for the most up to date beach status at this link: Washington State DOH Beach Closure Map.  This toxin is NOT removed by cooking or freezing.  


If you're worried someone might be considering suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends five steps: Ask directly if they're thinking about suicide, Keep Them Safe by removing fatal means, Be There and listen without judgement, Help Them Connect to support and Follow Up in the days and weeks following the crisis.   If you are in crisis, call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


Hmmm… The good news is that our bats keep the mosquitoe populations low!!! There have been only a few animal detections so far throughout the state. Typically found in south-central Washington counties, here are some tips to reduce risk locally:

A few simple precautions can help reduce your chances of being bitten by a mosquito:

  • Stay indoors around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, if possible.
  • Use a mosquito repellent when spending time outdoors.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants outside when mosquitoes are most active.
  • People who spend a lot of time outdoors working, hiking, fishing, or hunting should take precautions to avoid insect bites.
  • Be sure that door and window screens are in good condition so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.
  • Reduce mosquito habitat around the home by dumping stagnant water out of old buckets, cans, flower pots, or old tires, and frequently changing water in birdbaths, pet dishes, and water troughs. 

 West Nile Virus Prevention Tips

West Nile Virus in Washington

(annual reports accumulated daily since 2002)


Hanta virus has recently been in the news as there has been an increase in cases in Washington State.  The virus is carried by the deer mouse and can be transmitted via their droppings.  Here is a link to the department of health page for information. Hanta Virus Link.  The main points are to rodent proof your home and use care in cleaning up any "party favors" rodents may have left after their visit with you.


Just because it's a little cloudy doesn't mean you don't need sun block!  Here's a link to some good information from the Washington State Department of Health.

Puget Sound, if it were a state by itself, would rank fourth in the nation for skin cancer rates. That’s because of a misconception that cloudy weather means people don’t have to protect themselves from the sun.The state Department of Health advises that protecting you and your family from skin cancer is something that must be done all year, regardless of whether it’s sunny or cloudy. Ultra Violet (UV) light exposure, the most preventable cause of skin cancer, occurs even on cloudy days.Although children are rarely diagnosed with skin cancer, sunburns in childhood are associated with melanoma later in life.   So, it’s important to protect children from UV light and establish healthy behaviors early. Reducing exposure to UV at early ages is among the reasons for a new law that went into effect this month banning kids under 18 from using tanning beds without a written prescription from a doctor.UV-B rays penetrate the top layers of skin and are most responsible for sunburns; UV-A rays go through the deeper layers of the skin. Both types of UV rays/light are emitted by lamps in tanning beds.You can help prevent skin cancer by using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher; staying in the shade, especially during midday hours; covering skin with clothing that covers your arms and legs or a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.You can learn more important facts about skin cancer and how to prevent it on the Washington Cares about Cancer partnership page and on the Department of Health website about comprehensive cancer control.


​​​​Until recently, a rare tropical disease of academic interest, over the past several years Zika has become widespread throughout Central America, and has now been transmitted by mosquitoes in Florida as well as having numerous individuals infected both by travel in affected areas and through sexual transmission. It can cause potentially devastating birth defects, primarily microcephaly. Initially thought to be a problem only if a pregnant woman became infected during pregnancy, it is complicated by the fact that 80% of infections or more may cause no symptoms in the woman.  And since it may also be transmitted​ sexually, a man may become infected during travels to affected areas and subsequently infect his partner. Our NW climate does NOT support the mosquito (Aedes aegypti) that transmits the virus, but some of the southern and eastern portions of the US may during warmer months so it may not require even leaving the continental US for a woman or her male partner to potentially be exposed as has been experienced in Florida.  And Hurricane Matthew may complicate matters by both adding standing water to previously dry areas as well as spreading the mosquitoes on the wind (as they normally do not travel very far on their own.)


The CDC is continually updating their guidelines and recommendations for travel, guidance for females or couples considering pregnancy, etc., If you have concerns, especially regarding pregnancy, your primary provider can help you assess your risks, and we will be happy to work with them regarding testing suggestions.  CDC Zika Guidelines 


Washington State Department of Health in October released an advisory re: razor clams harvested from the Washington coast.  Because low levels of domoic acid naturally occur and may be present in shellfish, the DOH recommends eating no more than 15 razor clams/month during a one year period.  (Domoic acid occurs naturally, and at high levels wil trigger harvesting closure).  Prolonged consumption of large quantities of razor clams even with low levels of domoic acid may cause memory impairment.  This is especially important for pregnant women, nursing moms, children, the elderly, and people with impaired kidney function.  A link for more shellfish safety information:  DOH Shellfish Information



Whenever you get a "tetanus booster", remember to ask about getting the pertussis component as well.  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  Recent studies from the 2012 Washington State Pertussis outbreak shows that, unfortunately, the effectiveness of acellular pertussis vaccine (found in Tdap) wanes over time, to approximately 34% effectiveness after 2-4 years.  Because of this, and the fact that infants are most at risk, the recommendations now include that pregnant women should receive a Tdap booster in the third trimester of EACH pregnancy, to protect their newborn when it is at highest risk of this disease which can be deadly for infants.

Pertussis status statewide, current data

     (Distinguish the sounds of various coughs)
             Pertussis Billboard (English) (En Español)

                     Surround Your Baby With Protection



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.  This is a problem that may be approached both from the doctor and the patient end of things.... not all respiratory infections will benefit from antibiotics, a good number of infections are viral for which antibiotics do nothing except expose the patient to potential drug reactions (which can be worse than the disease!) and may increase the chance of drug resistance among 

Antibiotic Resistance 


The Centers for Disease Control has made available a smartphone "Can I Eat This?" app for travelers that may help prevent "Delhi Belly" or "Montezuma's Revenge".  This website also has the "yellow book" which is the primary resource for traveler health issues. Can I Eat This? app 


Did your kid "get his/her bell's rung"?  Now what to do?  Here's a link   to downloadable apps for your android or apple device. There has been a lot of interest in this with lawsuits agains the NFL and a full on movie.  If your child is involved in contact sports, consider talking with the coach to assess their awareness of the risks associated with head injuries.



If you've watched TV lately, you've likely seen ads for Hepatits C screening.   Here's the background:  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 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!  However, because of the medication expense, there is significant debate about when (and possibly even IF) people should be treated... Your provider can help guide you in making these decisions.


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.  CDC.gov 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 Travelers

       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 / Healthy Communities

Region 1 Communicable Disease Monthly Report
              State Department of Health Newsroom 

Pertussis status statewide, current data

                                County Health Ranking  



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


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