It’s Bat Time of Year Again!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

But, they’re sooo cute! Backyard wildlife really can be full of cute-looking creatures. I mean, check these charming ones out:

Here in Skagit County, we can potentially spot all of these critters in our living environment at different times. And, since all of these mammals can carry diseases, the general rule is please, DO NOT feed them and avoid direct contact with these cuties, especially if they look injured or sick.

I could end this blog here and feel pretty good about it, but I’d like to focus a little more on bats and what to do if you find one in or near your home!

If you find a live bat in your home and are sure no one in your house has had any contact with the bat:

  • Don’t Panic: Stay calm and avoid direct contact with the bat. Healthy bats normally avoid contact with humans and other animals.
  • Isolate the Bat: If possible, confine the bat to a single room by closing all doors and windows except for one leading outside. This will make it easier for professionals to capture or release the bat.
  • Protect Yourself: Wear gloves and use a container like a plastic tub or a cardboard box to safely capture the bat if it’s not flying. Approach the bat slowly and gently place the container over it. Then, slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Secure the container with tape if necessary.
  • Release the Bat: If the bat is unharmed and you are certain the bat did not have contact with any person in your household, you can release it outside during the evening. Bats are nocturnal and will be more active at night. Simply open the container outside and let the bat fly away.
  • Bat-Proof Your Home: To prevent bats from entering your home, make sure your home is properly sealed. Check for any gaps or openings in walls, roofs, and windows that bats could use to enter. More information on bat-proofing your home can be found here.

If you think you’ve been exposed to a bat (had a bite, scratch or other contact with mucous membrane, wound or non-intact skin):

  • Rabies Concerns: Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All warm-blooded mammals, including humans, are susceptible to rabies. If there was any chance of exposure to the bat (like if you woke up and found it in your room), it’s important to capture the bat for rabies testing if you can do so safely and without direct contact. Wear leather gloves and use a container or box to trap the bat. While only 3-10 % of bats submitted for testing are found to have the rabies virus, testing can prevent the need for post exposure prophylaxis if the bat does not have rabies.  If the bat tests positive, then there is time to intervene in the disease progression and provide prophylaxis to exposed people.
  • Wash the Affected Area: If you had direct contact with the bat (e.g., a bite or scratch), wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes.
  • Seek Medical Attention: Contact a healthcare professional to evaluate the situation. They will determine whether you need to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for rabies. PEP usually involves a series of rabies vaccinations.
  • Contact Health Authorities: Report the incident to your local health department (for Skagit County Public Health call (360) 416-1500).  You will receive guidance on next steps, including whether the bat should be tested for rabies.
  • Rabies Testing: If the bat is captured, the local health department will provide instructions for submitting the bat for rabies testing.
  • Rabies Vaccination: Rabies is preventable through vaccination. If you have an occupation or activity that will place you at high risk of bat exposure, your healthcare provider might recommend pre-exposure rabies vaccinations to provide protection in case of future exposure.

How to protect your pets from being exposed to rabies from bats:

  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies. Rabies vaccination of pets is required in Washington State. If you are uncertain of your pet’s vaccination status talk to your veterinarian and ensure you keep your pet up to date with booster doses.
  • Provide supervision during early morning and evening outings. Bats are most active at dusk, night, and pre-dawn. If you’re outside with your pet during dusk or dawn, supervise them closely to prevent them from interacting with any bats they might encounter.
  • Bat-proof your home. To prevent bats from entering your home and potentially interacting with your pet, make sure your home is properly sealed. Check for any gaps or openings in walls, roofs, and windows that bats could use to enter. More information on bat-proofing your home can be found here.
  • Pet Restraints. If you’re in an area where bats are active, keep your pet on a leash or under close control when outdoors to minimize the chance of interactions with bats.

Remember, even though this blog has had unsavory moments, most bats are completely healthy and vital to our Pacific Northwest ecosystem. They eat insects, helping to control pests. Bat droppings (called guano) are a source of nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Bats also play a role in pollination, which aids our agricultural economy here in Skagit County.

Get Back to School Ready: Emergency Preparedness Edition

Reading Time: 4 minutes

From school supply shopping to re-acclimating your kids to an early morning routine, there is a lot of preparing that goes into the start of the new school year. As school supplies are packed into backpacks and the finishing touches are put on that first day of school outfit, don’t forget to take the time to build an emergency kit, make a family communication plan, and know how you will reunite with your kids if there is an emergency.

A little preparation now can make a big difference later! Here are some tips for preparing your kids for emergencies to stay safe if the unexpected occurs.

Make a Go Bag (or two).

A go bag, or disaster kit, is a collection of basic items designed to provide survival essentials in the case of a short-term disaster (it is recommended to have enough supplies to last for at least three days in your go bag). When assembling your kit, collect the items together with your child and talk to them about what they need in their go bag and the importance of each item. Items like a book, puzzle, and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket is a great comfort item to consider when assembling your kit.

Remember, everyone has different needs, so be sure to keep that in mind when assembling your go bags! You never know when a disaster or emergency might strike, so consider making multiple go bags and storing them both at home and in your vehicle. Check out these printable go bag checklists and start building your go bags today!

Make a family communication plan.

If a disaster or emergency strikes, knowing how to contact one another and reconnect if separated is an important part of emergency planning for you and your family.

In the case of an emergency at school, it’s always good to know what kind of emergency plan is in place at your child’s school. If you don’t know what the school’s emergency plan is, ask for it and get familiar with it. Know how your child’s school will contact you and make sure the contact information they have on file is up to date. Know what relocation sites have been preidentified by the school in the case of an evacuation. If your child rides the bus, know what alternative routes they might take and where the new drop of location(s) will be in the event of an emergency.

Have a family discussion to determine who would be your point of contact during an emergency. It’s always a good idea to pick one primary emergency contact that lives locally and another that lives out of town. Unless you are in danger, send a text. Texts may have an easier time getting through than phone calls, and you don’t want to tie up phone lines needed by emergency workers. Knowing where to go and how to get there is also essential. Decide on safe, familiar, accessible places where your family can go for safety or to reunite. If you have pets or animals, think about animal-friendly locations. Consider places in your house, in your neighborhood, and outside of your city to you’re prepared for any situation.

Practice, practice, practice! Write down your contacts and plans. Make sure everyone in the family has copies and keeps them in a safe space, like in a backpack or wallet. Your family’s needs change over time, so regularly meet to review, practice, and update your plan.

Keep emergency contact information up to date.

Revisit your child’s emergency contact list every school year and make sure the contact information your child’s school has on file is accurate. Practice with your child to help them memorize emergency contacts, important phone numbers (like 911), and addresses. Remember, schools might not always be able to access the student’s emergency contacts in some situations. You can also make a backpack emergency contact card for your child, so they always have the information on hand when at school. And don’t forget that ICE (in case of emergency) contacts should be saved on all the family cell phones. Entries should start with ICE and then have the name of the contact.

Make sure your child is up to date on their immunizations.

Start the school year off right by making sure your child is up to date on all their recommended immunizations. Immunizations help keep your child healthy and protects those around them, too. Skagit County Public Health offers the immunizations required for children entering school, childcare, and other learning programs, in addition to influenza and COVID-19. There is no cost, and no insurance is required. For assistance scheduling an appointment, please call (360) 416-1500 or visit


Tips and Tricks for BBQing Safely From a Foodie Who Works at Skagit County Public Health

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As a foodie working at the health department, you’ve got the best of both worlds—appreciating delicious food and promoting food safety. Here are some light-hearted tips tailored for a foodie like yourself:

Cleanliness: Remember, the only thing you want to spread at your BBQ is laughter, not bacteria. So, wash those hands and keep your kitchen or prep space sparkling clean that even Gordon Ramsay would appreciate.

Marinating: Treat your marinade like a VIP guest. Give it a luxurious stay in the fridge, away from the heat. After working its magic in the fridge, it’ll be ready to transform ordinary ingredients into taste sensations that would make any proteins wanna take a dip. Make sure you discard the marinade the meat was in or cook it on the stove and magically turn it into a sauce as the perfect accompaniment!

Thawing: Forget about thawing meat on the counter; that’s no place to vacation. Stick to the refrigerator or the microwave’s defrost setting, no passports required!

Storage: Keep your raw meats in their own VIP section of the fridge, far away from the ready-to-eat foods. They might get jealous. If so, remind them nobody wants food drama.

Cooking temperature: Get a food thermometer, your BBQ’s friendly sidekick. Use that trusty gadget to make sure your meat is hotter than a summer day but not so hot that it becomes a charcoal briquette.

Grill safety: Keep safety center stage while you orchestrate a symphony of sizzling flavors as the BBQ maestro. Don’t forget to keep your grill away from anything that can go up in flames faster than a firework. Safety first, fun second!

Serving: Keep your gloves handy for plating and handling foods that are ready-to-eat or finished cooking. Food should be a lovely display, but most importantly safely handled. Also, keep those perishables cool and those hot dishes hot.

Leftovers: As a foodie, you know the importance of savoring every morsel. If there are any leftovers (which is doubtful), make sure you give them a proper cool down in the fridge so you can transform them into culinary masterpieces and continue enjoying them the next day.

Need some inspiration for your next BBQ? Try this super simple watermelon salad!

1 brick of feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic reduction

Toss watermelon and feta, then dress with olive oil and salt and pepper. Dish it up on a platter and finish with a drizzle balsamic reduction. Serve chilled and enjoy the compliments!

Remember, food safety is important, but it doesn’t have to be boring. So, grill on, have a blast, and let the good times and delicious food roll at your summer BBQs! For more helpful information on food safety and handling, visit the CDC’s food safety page or Skagit County Public Health’s website.

A Day in the Life of a Disease Investigator

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You may be reading that title and wondering what a disease investigator is and why the topic is being discussed in a public health blog post, so let’s start there!

In the state of Washington (and all states), there are certain health conditions that are considered “notifiable,” which means that anytime they are diagnosed (or suspected) by a healthcare provider, the information is forwarded to the local health department so they can learn more about who has the condition and how they got it. This is where a disease investigator comes in!

Disease investigators usually work within the communicable disease division of health departments, and you may have even talked to one before! When a community member gets sick with something like salmonella, E. coli, or hepatitis C, we reach out to ensure the patient is aware of their test results, discuss treatment, if necessary, and work to ensure the disease doesn’t continue to spread further. A day in the life of a disease investigator can be very exciting stuff.

An example of a typical (but busy) day can look like:

  • A member of the public called to say they got sick with a stomach bug after eating at a birthday party.
  • We received a call from the Washington State Department of Health letting us know they need our assistance reaching out to a local nursing home to test residents for a possible multidrug-resistant organism exposure.
  • We received A new lab result in the state reporting system notifying us there is a new case of valley fever (coccidioidomycosis) to evaluate. It is important to call the patient to find out if they have recently traveled.
  • A local veterinarian called asking for advice about whether or not a dog they are treating should be tested for rabies since it came in contact with a live bat.
  • A fax from a hospital came in with a lab result for someone who tested positive for salmonella. Upon speaking with the patient, we discovered they ate at the same birthday party we received that call about earlier. Time to figure out if we have an outbreak on our hands!
  • A school nurse called to inform us that one of their students is being evaluated for chickenpox. Even though it isn’t notifiable, we still have guidance and a notification letter we share just in case.

The possibilities are endless! The next steps we take depend on the needs of the case we are investigating.

Next steps might look like:

  • Interviewing the patient to learn about their experience, including how they may have been exposed, their symptoms, and if they may have accidentally exposed others.
  • Conducting contact tracing to inform contacts they may have been exposed and possible guidance if they need to seek healthcare.
  • Consulting with healthcare providers to help them decide next steps for treatment.
  • Conducting a foodborne illness outbreak investigation with the help of our environmental health team.
  • Providing treatment if the person is unable to see a healthcare provider (for certain conditions, not all).
  • Packaging specimens and shipping them to the public health lab for further testing. This can include things like stool specimens, nasal swabs, and even animals.
  • Providing education on how to prevent the illness from spreading to others. Which usually always involves talking about good hand washing!

And at the end of the day, we take our on-call phone home with us in case of any urgent needs throughout the night. Though no day is the same, it usually contains a mix of these things, plus a few meetings. As disease investigators we often make interesting discoveries that make us feel like a detective. But no matter what the day brings, we’re here to help determine the cause of an outbreak, keep tabs on where and how disease spreads, connect people with the proper treatment when appropriate, and help prevent others from getting sick.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Septic System

Reading Time: 3 minutes

With the return of long, sunshine-filled days and warmer temperatures, a lot of us have been spending more time outside; including in our yards! If you live on a property with a septic system, this puts you, your family, and pets, up close and personal with your home’s wastewater treatment system for better or worse.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Septic System This Summer (and beyond!)

  • Inspect it! All septic systems are required by WAC 246-272A to have an inspection by a Certified Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Provider. Most septic systems require annual inspections (pressure, pump to gravity, alternative systems, mounds etc.) however, conventional gravity systems can be inspected every 3 years. There is no exemption for seasonal use, so if you have a “summer cabin” plan your inspection while you’re visiting this summer.
  • Protect your drain field. Do you know where your drain field is? Your system’s drain field requires oxygen to adequately treat effluent. Take some time to find out where the different components of your septic system are by checking records available on Property One Stop. Once you know where your drain field is, do you need to divert downspouts away from it? Should you put up some rocks or a log to prevent people from driving over it? Does your chicken coop or garden planters need to be moved?
  • Ensure access by installing risers. One of the most common frustrations with inspections (and an added expense) is accessing your septic tank. If you’re lucky it may only be a few inches below grade, but some systems may be 2-3′ below ground making digging and accessing the tank lids a literal pain in the back. Take the drier summer months to dig down one last time and install risers! These green plastic tubes are sealed to your tank top to provide a watertight seal, and the circular green lids are screwed on. This means accessing your tank is as easy as pulling out your screwdriver!
  • Learn more about how your septic system works in our 40-minute Septics 101 online class. This no-cost online course will provide some good pointers for you and your family and is a required class to qualify for our rebate! If you don’t have internet access, you can take this class at any local library.

A septic system is a huge investment for your property. Every septic system is designed to operate for 30-50 years, but eventually all septic systems will fail. A new system could run from $10-50,000+ depending on the soil conditions and previous development on your property. Required, routine inspections provide you with information about your system’s status, alert you to any maintenance issues that need to be addressed and can inform you if pumping is needed.

Septic System Resources

Have questions or want more information about septic systems and maintenance? Give Skagit County Public Health a call at (360) 416-1500 or email

Celebrating and Honoring Dads this Father’s Day (and every other day!)

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Happy Father’s Day to all Skagit Dads!

Skagit County Public Health and the partners of the Washington Fatherhood Council send you our best wishes on this Father’s Day. This day is set aside specially for you. We want to take a moment to honor the amazing role you play in the success of your children, your family, and your community.  

We believe that every day should be Father’s Day. Fathers and father figures play an important role in the development and success of their child(ren), families, and communities. Parenting is joyful and an important part of who we are. Our children deserve to be cherished by both parents and to have both parents actively supporting and guiding their development. That’s why we should celebrate fathers every day by welcoming them to the table and valuing their role in families in maximizing human potential in the current and the next generation.

Fathers are essential to their child’s well-being and success, whether they live with their child every day or only see them part-time. Enabling that relationship and nurturing that success is a big part of the Washington Fatherhood Council’s mission.

The impacts a father’s presence can have on his child’s life have been proven time and time again. The birth of a child has been called a “magic moment” when fathers — including unmarried fathers — are present in their children’s lives, and both mothers and fathers are optimistic about their future together, as noted in a Princeton University study.

A father’s involvement in the care of their child has also been shown to enhance father-infant attachment, which leads to better outcomes for both children and their mothers, according to a Northwestern University study. Having a father positively involved in a child’s life means children experience better birth outcomes, more positive social emotional development, and better success in school, as well as less poverty over the course of their lifetime.

In spite of fathers’ initial enthusiasm for becoming parents and the positive outcomes associated with their involvement, fathers are often excluded from services and other parenting supports from their child’s birth. They often report feeling powerlessness and discounted when seeking services for their children. Despite the initial high hopes, by the time children are 5 years old, many parents’ relationships have dissolved, leaving fathers disengaged from their children’s lives.

These early, formative years of parenthood present a perfect opportunity to support and engage fathers who may be experiencing difficulty in feeling like an important part of their family. The Washington Fatherhood Council is here to amplify the voices of those fathers, who often experience high levels of stress in becoming a dad.

Resources and New Opportunities for Skagit Dads

The Council hosts a monthly virtual Dads Connect time where you can meet other dads, add your voice, and explore topics facing dads. Skagit County Public Health and Help Me Grow-Skagit are also working to create more welcoming systems and supports for fathers in Skagit County.

We now have an online learning experience made just for dads available through our Help Me Grow Skagit Family Resource Center. Fathering in 15 is an Interactive, online tool that helps people build the knowledge and skills they need to be the best dads they can be anytime, anywhere. There are 15 topics that are 15 minutes each.

Dad and Me at CMSC: New special sessions for fathers/father figures and their children at the Children’s Museum of Skagit County on the last Saturday of each month, beginning June 24, from 9am to 10am. Dads and their children can enjoy the museum with no admission charge from 9am to 10am. After 10am, regular rates will apply.

If you have ideas for how our community can better support dads, we welcome your input! Please comment on this blog post to share your ideas or email Jennifer Sass-Walton at

Enjoy your day – you earned it, dads! We see you, and we appreciate you!

Tips for Prioritizing Your Wellness This Summer

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As humans, sometimes we are so busy thinking about the next thing on our to do list that we often forget to prioritize wellness – not just our physical wellness, but the mental, community, social, and spiritual domains of wellness as well. Neglecting these domains can take a toll on our quality of life and overall health. So, what can you do to improve your overall wellness? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Physical Wellness
One of the more commonly considered areas of wellness is physical wellness. The first thing that may come to mind when you think of physical wellness is physical activity. Thankfully, we live in a beautiful county with a vast number of trails to explore by walking, jogging, or biking. Our local parks and recreation offices offer a variety of physical wellness activities and events, so stop by or look them up online to learn more. Sleep is another important part of our physical wellness. We often use screens before bed, but what may seem like a harmless habit can, in actuality, negatively impact your sleep. Consider avoiding screens at least one hour before bedtime and try reading a book, taking a bath, or doing some other type of relaxing activity instead. A diet full of fruits and vegetables is also essential for optimal physical wellness. Challenge yourself to try a new recipe every week that includes at least one fruit or vegetable. Need some inspiration? Check out MyPlate for some easy, low-cost recipes.

Mental Wellness
How we think, feel, and act determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices about our overall well-being.  Practicing self-care and promoting mental health can look different for everyone. Maybe it’s taking a bath, spending time with your pet, calling a friend, connecting with nature, or simply taking a deep breath. Mental health challenges are common and real, and help is available, though sometimes it is hard to find. If you are struggling with a mental health issue, know that you are not alone. Being clear and honest about your needs and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness – we all go through challenges and need help every now and then!

Community Wellness
The Skagit Valley is a magical place that offers so many unforgettable experiences! Yet with everything at our fingertips on our mobile devices – it’s easy to miss opportunities to go outside and explore new places or attend community events. Need some ideas? Check out for all kinds of events, things to do, places to explore, and so much more!

Social Wellness
Did you know that the Surgeon General just released a report on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation? In a time when we are more connected than ever before through virtual means, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Human connectedness is essential for healthy well-being. Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships and developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system. It can be as simple as going on a walk in the park with a family member, sharing a meal together, or going to the movies with a friend. Instead of sending a text, try to video chat or call someone you’ve been thinking about, and make plans to see each other in person if you can. Want to learn something new? Join a group focused on a hobby like reading or painting and make friends with similar interests.

Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness can look different for everyone. The goal of improving our spiritual wellness is to become more in tune with our surroundings and our inner creativity. It may or may not involve religious activities; it could involve going out in nature, learning a new skill, practicing yoga, connecting with a faith community, or volunteering. Focusing on your spiritual wellness may help you expand your sense of purpose in life and understand the values and beliefs that guide your actions.

Participate in the Wellness Challenge
Are you ready to focus on your overall well-being but feel like you may need more guidance and ideas? Check out our Skagit Wellness Challenge for many ideas on how to improve your wellness. If you choose to participate, you will be entered to win a prize and may even end up finding new hobbies or meeting new people in the community!

Bookmark our Healthy Eating Active Living web page, as we will be adding more content in the coming weeks.

Winter Weather Health and Safety Tips

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Winter weather can pose health and safety impacts. Here are some important tips to help keep you and your family safe this winter season.

  • Plan for power outages.
    • Make sure your emergency kit contains light sticks, flashlights, and extra batteries. Candles can lead to house fires.
    • Have an alternative heat source and heat your home safely.
      • Practice generator safety to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Never burn charcoal or use a generator indoors. Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector!
      • Keep heat sources, like space heaters, away from flammable objects.
    • Keep food safe. Be sure to throw out perishable food that has not been refrigerated or frozen properly.
    • Avoid downed powerlines.
  • Ensure you have a safe water supply.
    • Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze. Leave water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
    • When the power goes out, water purification systems may not be functioning fully. Check in with local/state health officials to see if any advisories are in place.
  • Eat and drink wisely.
    • Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages – they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm beverages or broth to help maintain body temperature.
    • Remember to practice food safety if the power goes out.
  • Stay connected and check on others.
    • Older adults, young children, and houseless people are more at risk of extreme cold. Monitor body temperature and do not ignore shivering.
    • Check on friends, family, and neighbors often. Provide help when you can or call 911 if there is an emergency.
  • Protect your pets and livestock.
    • Bring them inside and make sure they have plenty of food and water. If unable to bring them inside, move animals to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
  • Be safe during outdoor activities.
    • Dress warmly and avoid excess sweating. Avoid walking on ice or getting wet.
    • If hiking, skiing, or participating in other outdoor winter activities, let your friends and family know where you will be.
  • Be careful while traveling.
    • Listen for travel advisories and look at road conditions. Do not travel is low visibility conditions and avoid traveling on ice-covered roads.
    • Before you travel, fill up your gas tank, make sure your cell phone is charged, and have an emergency supply kit in your car. Not sure what should be in your kit? Visit
    • Protect yourself against accidents on the road. Don’t forget to clean off your car, turn on your lights, slow down, and leave extra distance between vehicles when driving in ice and snow.
    • Let others know you are traveling, your destination, and when you expect to arrive.

Additional resources:

Tips for Gathering Safely this Holiday Season

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Whether you plan to get on a plane to visit extended family for Thanksgiving, spend time with friends and family for Christmas, or throw a New Year’s Eve party at home, many of us are preparing to gather with the people we love this holiday season.

While it might feel safer to gather this year, it doesn’t mean we should party like it’s 2016. As the weather gets colder and people are more frequently gathering indoors for dinners and holiday parties, respiratory viruses have ample opportunity to spread. It’s not just COVID-19 that you need to think about. Cases of cold/flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are already increasing and beginning to strain the healthcare system. This evidence suggests we should all consider approaching the holidays with cautious optimism.

Being cautious doesn’t mean we can’t plan for safe gatherings with friends, family, and loved ones. “People can celebrate the holidays safely, provided they take precautions and use available resources like vaccines, boosters, COVID-19 tests, and take extra care not to be around others when experiencing any symptoms,” says Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit County Public Health Officer. “We have the tools. We just have to use them.”

Here are some ways to mitigate risk without missing out this holiday season.

Get the updated COVID-19 booster and seasonal flu vaccines.
One of the best and safest ways to protect yourself and others is to stay up to date on your vaccines. This includes receiving the seasonal flu vaccine and the new COVID-19 bivalent booster specifically designed to provide broad protection against the original COVID-19 virus and now dominant Omicron variants. Experts recommend that everyone five years and older receive the updated COVID-19 booster as long as it has been two months since their last dose. Even if you have already been infected with COVID-19 it is important to get a booster dose. Regarding the seasonal flu vaccine, everyone six months and older should receive it each season.

Skagit County Public Health provides COVID-19 vaccines at no cost and no insurance is required. Protect yourself and your loved ones by scheduling an appointment at or by calling (360) 416-1500. To find season flu vaccine providers near you, visit

Stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, or RSV.
Pay attention to symptoms in the days leading up to an event or gathering. A sore throat, runny nose, cough, fatigue, fever, and headache are all signs of respiratory illness, including COVID-19, the flu, and RSV. The guidance is clear and remains the same as it has for quite some time – stay home if you have symptoms or aren’t feeling well – even if you’re negative on a COVID-19 rapid test. Respiratory viruses can have severe consequences for young children, pregnant people, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised.

Remember, it is still possible to have an asymptomatic case of COVID-19. You can spread the virus even if you do not have symptoms, so let’s review the recommendations about testing before gathering.

Test for COVID-19.
Testing is another great tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. The question isn’t whether or not to test but when. Whether you are taking a PCR test at a clinic, or an at-home antigen test, experts say it is best to test the day before the event or gathering and also right before. If you have symptoms or were recently exposed to COVID-19, interpret a negative at-home test with caution and stay home. 

Consider taking extra precautions leading up to your gathering.
For an added layer of protection, you may want to take extra precautions the week before your gathering. This might include wearing a mask in public spaces and limiting your time spent with people outside your household.

Mask up while you travel.
Although it is no longer required, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age two and older wear a high-quality mask in indoor areas of public transportation and transportation hubs. Whether you’re taking a plane, bus, train, or waiting at a terminal to board, consider wearing a well-fitting mask.

Ventilate your space.
If it isn’t reasonable to gather or hold your event outside, increase air circulation to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Opening the windows just an inch or two brings fresh air in and improves airflow. You can also purchase a portable air purifier or make a less expensive DIY option. If your space has central heating or an HVAC system, setting the fan to the “on” position rather than “auto” allows the fan to run continuously, which also helps reduce virus transmission.

Think about others and protect the most vulnerable.
Though staying up to date with vaccines (including the seasonal flu shot) is the best way to protect people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for complications from infection, there are additional prevention actions to take to protect the most vulnerable. Testing, masking, asking others to minimize community contacts the week before gathering, improving ventilation, and making sure people stay home if sick, are all important strategies to consider if you plan to gather with individuals with a higher risk of serious illness. And don’t forget that good old-fashioned handwashing and covering your coughs and sneezes also help prevent the spread of all kinds of germs and viruses.

“Don’t be the turkey who brings COVID to the table or the Grinch who steals Christmas from a loved one!” says Dr. Leibrand, Skagit County Public Health Officer.

Despite us all feeling eager to get back to “normal”, we’ve come this far doing what we can to keep each other safe – let’s keep it going! Thank you for helping protect one another and doing what you can to steer clear of COVID-19, flu, and RSV. We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season!

Monkeypox – What You Need to Know

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You’ve probably heard about the monkeypox in the news and might be wondering about it, worried, or want more information.

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of monkeypox in Skagit County. However, as of July 26, 2022, 101 people in Washington State have tested positive for orthopoxvirus, likely to be monkeypox.

While new information continues to come in, here are answers to several common questions including information about how it is spread, who is at risk, signs and symptoms, and what to do if you have symptoms or think you may have been exposed.

What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral disease that can cause rashes and other symptoms. It does not commonly occur in the U.S., but there is currently an outbreak of monkeypox with cases spreading in Washington state and across the country, as well as in many other countries. Many of the current cases are occurring in men who have sex with men, although monkeypox can spread person-to-person with any kind of close, skin-to-skin contact.

How is it spread?
Monkeypox spreads in different ways but requires close interaction with a symptomatic individual. The virus can be transmitted from person-to-person through:

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs or body fluids
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
  • Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
  • Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta

It is also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.

Who is at risk?
At this time, the risk of monkeypox in the United States is fairly low, however, anyone in close contact with a person with monkeypox can get it and should take steps to protect themselves.

What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms of monkey pox can include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a rash. The rash can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.

What should you do if you have symptoms or think you may have been exposed?
CDC recommends that anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox isolate themselves from others and immediately contact their healthcare provider, even if they have not had contact with someone who has monkeypox. Additional recommendations to prevent the spread of infection include:

  • Isolate yourself from other people and from animals
  • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, sleep, or have sex with others
  • Wear a well-fitting medical mask around others
  • Do not share bedding, towels, dishes, or utensils
  • Wash your own laundry and dishes
  • Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items
  • Do not use commercial travel (airplane, bus, taxi, shared car)

For more information about monkeypox, please visit Monkeypox | Washington State Department of Health. If you have symptoms of monkeypox or think you may have been exposed, contact your health care provider or Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Monkeypox | Washington State Department of Health

Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC

Graphics | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC