The importance of HPV Vaccination

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Did you know HPV is a common virus that can cause certain cancers later in life? According to CDC, more than 42 million American are currently infected with HPV types that cause disease and about 13 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year.  

What is HPV?  

HPV, also known as Human Papillomavirus, is a common virus that can cause cancers later in life. It is one of the most common sexual transmitted infections (STIs). HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by sexual contact with someone who has the virus, even if they do not have signs or symptoms.  

Who should get vaccinated? 

Children ages 11-12 years should get two doses of HPV vaccine, given 6 to 12 months apart, but HPV vaccines can be given as early as age 9 years. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about getting the HPV vaccine to prevent HPV infections. The vaccine is available for all people—male or female.  

It is recommended that everyone through age 26 should get the HPV vaccine. Adults between ages 27 and 45 years old who were not already vaccinated might still be able to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their medical provider about their risks for new HPV infections. The HPV vaccine for adults provides less benefit because most people in this age range have already been exposed to HPV at some point.  

Why is vaccination important?  

You can protect your child from certain cancers later in life with the HPV vaccine. The earlier the better! It can protect your child long before they ever have contact with the virus. 

HPV infections can cause certain cancers in both men and women. Some of those are cervix, vagina and vulva cancer in women and penis cancer in men. Both men and women can also get anus and back-of-the-throat cancer. Cancer usually takes years, even decades, to be detected after a person is infected with HPV.  

Are HPV vaccines safe and effective? 

The HPV vaccine can prevent over 90% of cancers caused by this virus and work best when given at age 11-12 years, before contact with the HPV virus.  

HPV vaccination is safe! More than 135 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed throughout the states since they were licensed. Also, 15 years of monitoring have shown that HPV vaccines are very safe and effective in protecting against the HPV types targeted by the vaccine. For more information about HPV vaccination please visit, HPV Vaccine Safety | CDC.  

For more resources please visit: 

https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/index.html

HPV Resources, Education, and References | CDC 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Information (immunize.org) 


Connecting the Dots: Youth Alcohol Awareness!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Did you know, April is Alcohol Awareness Month? If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to reflect on your drinking patterns and the role that alcohol plays in your life.

This year’s theme is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunity for Recovery, which focuses primarily on youth education and prevention. This specific group of individuals can be easily influenced by alcohol and other substances if not educated or informed about risks. For this reason, we are asking you to join us this month to help raise awareness in our communities, schools, and homes on alcohol use. 

Our youth in Skagit County

According to the 2021 Healthy Youth Survey, Alcohol use has been reported by youth as young as 6th grade, and prevalence of regular use increases each year. By 12th grade, approximately 1 in 5 12th graders reported drinking in the past month. This can be for many reasons, perhaps one being that children in these grades are not getting enough information about alcohol.

Why is it important?

Research shows that heavy alcohol use during teen years can permanently damage the still developing brain. Alcohol use at a young age is also associated with violence, poor school performance, suicide, and risky sexual behavior. The use of alcohol at this early age can lead to possible substance abuse later in life and Alcohol use disorder (AUD), which affects about 15 million adults in the United States. There are more than 380 deaths each day in the U.S. due to excessive alcohol use, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation.

Looking for something positive? Research also shows that about 50% of children who have conversations with parents about risks are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, than those who do not. That’s why “connecting the dots” with your child, sibling, cousin, niece, or nephew is so important.

What can we do to help spread awareness?

Although one month out of the year is not enough time to help educate and help everyone recover, continue to spread the word about the importance of alcohol awareness to friends and family.

Get creative and make informational flyers about the topic with resources and distribute them around your neighborhood town, local stores etc. Host a fundraiser to donate money to local non-profit treatment facilities.

For more information please visit:

Alcohol Awareness Month | AlcoholAwareness.org

Alcohol Awareness Month: Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder and Ways to Get Help | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

Skagit County | Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute (uw.edu)

HYS Fact Sheets (askhys.net)

Alcohol and Public Health | CDC


April is STD Awareness Month: Say Yes to Test!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Did you know in 2020 Washington State reported 613 Sexually Transmitted Infections cases in Skagit County? This month is Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Month. Join us by sharing information about STIs to friends and family on how to stay safe and stop the spread!

What is a STI?

A STI is an infection that is passed from one individual to another through sexual contact. STIs are also known as a sexually transmitted disease or STDs.  According to American Sexual Health Association ASHA, Americans contract around 20 million STDs every year, with young people (aged 15-24) making up half of the cases.

Most Common STIs

https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/2020/images/infographic-SM-1.png

Current trending STIs are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis. Chlamydia is the most reported STI in the U.S., with 15 – 24-year-olds making up nearly 2/3 of all cases. This STI is known as the silent STI due to it rarely having symptoms, therefore people often spread it before even realizing they have it.

Another prominent STI is Gonorrhea which has seen a 75.2% case increase since 2009. If caught early, it can most likely be cured early with a single dose of antibiotics.

Syphilis can cause serious health problems if not cured with treatment. This infection develops in three stages and has different signs and symptoms. It can also be spread from mother to her unborn child. In 2020 144,000 cases of syphilis were spotted in the country, which has been the highest in 30 years.

Why is it important to seek medical care and get tested?

Some STIs, like Chlamydia, if undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to a serious condition called pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID) that can cause infertility and increase the chances of transmitting or getting HIV.

Say Yes to Test every year and with every new partner! A way to reduce your risk of getting an STI is by practicing safe sex and using condoms every time you engage in sexual activity. Ask your health care provider at your annual check up to do a screening for STDs. For a list of providers near you visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/search_results?location=98273.

What can Skagit County Public Health do for STI prevention and treatment?

Skagit County Public Health (SCPH) does not offer any testing or treatment services to the general public but will test and treat as part of contact investigation for someone who has already been identified by a provider as STI positive. SCPH also provides free testing (via blood sample) and antibiotic treatment for the sex partner of positive cases, through a program called Expedited Partner Treatment (EPT). The patient must live in Skagit County to receive this. If a sex partner lives outside of Skagit County, they will be referred to their local county health department and be provided with adequate care. Our office also offers free condoms for anyone, located in the restrooms!  For questions or concerns feel free to contact us at (360) 416-1500 or visit our website for more info.

For more information please visit:

https://gettested.cdc.gov/

STI Awareness Week — April 11-17 – HIV (va.gov)

STI Awareness Week | Knowtify (nd.gov)

STI Awareness Month (ashasexualhealth.org)



Are You Tsunami Prepared?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As you may recall, on January 15, 2022, a tsunami warning was placed for parts of the U.S. West Coast and Alaska after a volcano eruption occurred near the Tonga Islands. Waves were projected to be 1-to-3 feet along the western coastline extending from California to Alaska.

Thankfully, this event did not result in any major damage along the Washington coastline. It was a good reminder, however, that we should always be prepared for future tsunami events considering our location here in Skagit County.

Are you and your family prepared for a tsunami? Join us in recognizing Tsunami Preparedness Week this week! Register at Tsunamizone.org for resources and get some tips on how to be safe in the event of a tsunami.

What is the Cascadia subduction zone? Why should you care?

The Cascadia Subduction Zone runs for 7 hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, this zone expands along Oregon and Washington, wrapping around Vancouver, Canada. 

An article (“New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County”) from the Skagit Valley Herald in 2021 did a great job at summarizing the risks posed by our location. The article informs us that the most recent modeling of a potential Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake alongside the West Coast would result in greater flooding, and a greater risk for a local tsunami event than formerly predicted.

What you should do to prepare before, during, and after a tsunami?

The above goes to show the importance of tsunami preparedness. There is so much that individuals and families can do to prepare for, and anticipate, these types of events. Here are a few simple steps that you can take to ensure that you’re ready if—or when—a tsunami occurs.

BEFORE

Step 1: Get a Kit

Remember, this will be your emergency bag and will be the only thing you’ll have, so make sure to prepare to meet the needs of yourself and/or your household. To find a guide for kit building, visit Ready.gov.

Step 2: Make a Plan

Make a communication and evacuation plan with your friends and family. Remember to have a plan for your pets as well! Have a couple of designated meeting areas for you and your family in case you become separated. Make your plan by visiting Ready.gov!

Step 3: Be informed

Learn what you need to know to keep you and your family safe. Also, monitor the news and share your newly acquired knowledge with family and friends. Basic knowledge of first aid and CPR can also go a very long way!

In Skagit County, a great way to stay informed is by signing up for CodeRed alerts. Register here to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System. 

DURING

  • If you feel an earthquake: DROP, COVER, and HOLD on to anything you can that is sturdy to protect yourself.
  • When you have noticed that the earthquake has stopped, get together with your household members, and go over your emergency evacuation plan to safely get out.
  • Contact a Coast Guard emergency frequency station or any local radio station for any emergency information and listen for an official tsunami warning. If directed to do so, evacuate at once.
  • Make sure to take your emergency go-bag and your pets with you! If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for them to stay either.
  • Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. The further up and farthest away from the water the safer you and your loved ones will be during the disaster.
  • Avoid any downed power lines, buildings, bridges, or heavy objects during your evacuation.
  • Finally, wait until officials say it is safe before attempting to go home. There can be a series of waves within hours.

AFTER

  • Reach out to family and friends to let them know you are safe and to check in.
  • If you become injured or sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not hesitate and call 9-1-1.  
  • If evacuated, only return if authorities have said it is safe to do so.
  • Document any property damage. Take picture and keep an inventory for your insurance company. You can also contact Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850 for assistance.

For more resources please visit:

Tsunami Preparedness | Tsunami Safety Tips | Red Cross

TsunamiZone

SKAGIT COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County | Environment | goskagit.com


It’s Not Luck! 3 Tips to Prepare for an Emergency

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Have you ever asked yourself if you or your loved ones are ready in case of a disaster? With recent floods within the county, it is smart to start to preparing yourself, family and friends for any type of emergency. This March, in association with St. Patrick’s Day, the “It’s Not Luck” campaign asserts that no one should rely on luck when it comes to being prepared for disasters and emergencies. After all, luck is for the leprechauns. Don’t leave disaster prep to chance.

Don’t know how to prepare in case of an emergency? Keep scrolling for some helpful tips.  

1. Know your risk for the area where you live and work.

Be informed of what disasters and hazards could affect your area, how to get emergency alerts, and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.  Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Also, find out what plans are available for the locations you go regularly. Customize your personal and household plans based on what household members would do if an emergency occurred while they were at that location. 

2. Make a plan to lessen the impact of those risks.

Come up with a plan with your family, friends, or household and discuss questions like what is my shelter, communication, and evacuation plan to start your emergency plan.

As you make your plan think about specific needs in your household and responsibilities. Share your needs and responsibilities and how people in the community could possibly help each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like operating medical equipment.

Finally, fill out a family emergency plan and practice your plan with your family/ household. You can download one here at https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-04/family-emergency-communication-plan.pdf

3. Build a kit to be ready for disasters and emergencies.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water, and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

To assemble your kit store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed. Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work, and cars.

Need a checklist, no problem download a printable version to keep or to take to the store with you. https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/ready_checklist.pdf


Teen Substance Use Prevention Starts with a Conversation

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Research suggests that one of the most important factors in healthy child development is a strong, open relationship with a parent or caregiver. Believe it or not, parents and caregivers are the most powerful influence in a child’s life and can make a huge impact when it comes to youth substance use prevention.

Parents and caregivers need to start talking to their children about alcohol and other drugs before they are exposed to them—typically in the early preteen years. But before you get talking, it is important to get prepared. Before beginning the conversation with your child, consider: What are your goals or what you like your child to walk away with?

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of talking to your child about alcohol or other drugs, start with a game plan. Keep reading for a list of 5 helpful goals for when you talk to your child.

1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug misuse.

Studies have shown that over 80 percent of young people ages 10–18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision whether to drink. It is important to send a clear and strong message that you disapprove of underage drinking and misuse of other drugs.

It is recommended that parents begin talking to their children about alcohol at 9 years of age. Need some ideas for how to start this conversation with your child? Check out Start Talking Now for some conversation starters.

2. Show you care about your child’s health, wellness, and success.

Young people are more likely to listen and internalize your message when they know you’re on their side. Reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink or use other drugs—because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re open and you show concern.

Children are also less likely to drink or use marijuana or other drugs when their parents or caregivers are involved in their lives and when they feel a close connection. Some ways to increase or improve family bonding include:

  • Giving your kids at least 15 minutes of one-on-one time every day
  •  Doing fun things together
  •  Giving positive feedback about the healthy choices your child makes
  •  Eating as a family five times per week

3. Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol and other drugs.

You want your child to make informed decisions about alcohol and other drugs with reliable information about their dangers. So where are they getting their information?

You wouldn’t want your child to learn about alcohol and other drugs from potentially unreliable sources—from friends or social media. So, establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information!

After all, kids who learn a lot about the risks of alcohol and other drugs at home are less likely to use. In Washington, 85.3% of 10th graders who report having clear family rules about alcohol and drugs don’t drink (Healthy Youth Survey, 2018).

So, before you begin the conversation, make sure you have the facts! To get started, visit Start Talking Now.

4. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll discourage risky behaviors.

Show that you’re aware of what your child is up to, as young people are more likely to drink or use other drugs if they think no one will notice or that there will be no repercussions. If possible, try to do this in a subtle way, without prying.

The best way to monitor your child’d behavior and stay engaged in their daily life is by having a conversation. Try asking some of these questions when they spend time with their friends:

  •  Where are you going?
  •  What will you be doing?
  •  Who will be with you?
  •  When will you be home?
  •  Will there be alcohol, marijuana or other drugs?

5. Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking and drug use.

Even if you don’t think your child wants to drink or try other drugs, peer pressure is a powerful thing. Having a plan to avoid alcohol and drug use can help children make better choices. Talk with your child about what they would do if faced with a decision about alcohol and drugs.

You can help your child practice how to say “no” by visiting Start Talking Now.

Making sure that your child knows that they can come to you when they need you is also critical. Plan ahead—talk to your child about what they should do if they find themselves in a dangerous situation. Maybe it’s texting a code word for a no-questions-asked pick up.

Thankfully, you don’t need to accomplish all of the goals listed above in one conversation. It is important to chat about these topics frequently and beginning at a young age. In the end, the most important goal is to make sure that your child knows that they can come to you when they have questions or when they need help.


Want to get involved in teen substance use prevention initiatives in your community? Find out more about our local prevention coalitions:

Mount Vernon
MV HOPEhttps://mvhope.com/
Coalition Coordinator – Bethany Sparkle (b.sparkle@skagitymca.org)

Burlington
Burlington Healthy Community Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/Burlington-Healthy-Community-Coalition-105142296193 
Coalition Coordinator – Liz Wilhelm (liz.wilhelm@unitedgeneral.com)

Sedro-Woolley
Sedro-Woolley RISE – https://www.facebook.com/SedroWoolleyRISE
Coalition Coordinator – Samantha Stormont (sstormont@swsd101.org)

Concrete
Concrete Resource Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/concreteresourcecoalition
Coalition Coordinator – Marlena White (marlena.white@unitedgeneral.org


Secure Medicine Return…Now Available Statewide!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Secure medicine return has been a major area of focus for Skagit County Public Health for several years now. You may have seen return boxes popping up here and there over the past 2-3 years at police departments, pharmacies, and county buildings. You might have also taken part in one of our local take back events, hosted by law enforcement and prevention coalitions, which take place every April and October.

What you may not know though is that Washington State only just recently adopted a statewide Secure Medicine Return Program, which officially launched on November 21! If you have questions about the program, and about how to dispose of your unused or expired medication, please read on…

What is the Secure Medication Program?

Safe Medication Return is a unified, statewide program that gives Washington residents free, convenient, and environmentally responsible options to dispose of unwanted medication. Drug manufacturers fund the program at no cost to taxpayers.

Safe Medication Return is operated by MED-Project, which is the approved program operator. The Washington State Department of Health oversees the establishment of the program, monitors on-going operations, manages enforcement when compliance issues arise, and evaluates program effectiveness.

Why is secure medication disposal important?

Properly disposing unused and expired medication is a great way to protect your family and your community. Research has shown that unused, unwanted, and/or expired medicines in your home pose an increased risk for drug misuse/abuse. Local data has shown that the home medicine cabinet is one of the most common places for people to go when looking for drugs to get high.

Accidental poisoning is also of major concern. Many young children get poisoned by taking medicine not intended for them. If medication is left out or stored improperly, the likelihood of little hands getting hold of these medications is quite high.

Lastly, disposing of medications improperly is bad for the environment. When medicines are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash, it pollutes our water and soil.

How does it work?

There are two main ways to return your unused medication. Both options are FREE.

  • Mail in your unused medication
    • Request a free prepaid envelope and one will be sent to you by mail.
    • Place your unused medication in the envelope
    • Mail the package as you would any other parcel.
  • Take it to a drop off site
    • Find your nearest drop off site, and deposit your medication in the kiosk. That’s it!
    • You do not need to provide an ID, talk with anyone, or complete paperwork.

What medicines are accepted by MED-Project? 

Medicines in any form including solids, liquids or patches, inhalers and prefilled products containing a sharp and auto-injectors (such as Epi Pens). This can include:

  • Prescription and over the counter medicines
  • Brand name and generic medicines
  • Controlled substances
  • Pet medications 

What medicines are NOT accepted?

  • Vitamins or supplements
  • Herbal-based remedies and homeopathic drugs, products or remedies
  • Cosmetics, shampoos, sunscreen, toothpaste, lip balm, antiperspirants or other personal care products
  • Pet pesticide products contained in pet collars, powders, shampoos or other forms
  • Medical sharps (needles, syringes) and empty auto injectables (such as used Epi Pens)
  • Medical devices
  • Medicines generated by businesses

For more information, visit the WA Department of Health’s Secure Medication webpage here. You can also contact Skagit County Public Health either by email at eh@co.skagit.wa.us or by phone (360) 416-1500.

Thank you for taking this extra step to ensure the safety of your friends and neighbors!


The Flu Vaccine: It’s not too late to get yours!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Flu activity was kept low last season because of vaccination, social distancing, masking, school closures and limited travel. Now that many pandemic restrictions have been lifted, the flu has a much higher chance of spreading.

The timing of flu is difficult to predict and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. So, while we haven’t seen much flu activity yet, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t prepare. Experts have warned that reduced population immunity due to lack of flu virus activity since March 2020 could result in an early, and possibly severe flu season. 

Thankfully, there is something that we can all do to prevent illness and hospitalizations caused by flu. We can get vaccinated!

What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and seasonal flu (most often just called “flu”) is caused by infection with one of many influenza viruses that spread annually among people.

In general, COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. Compared with people who have flu infections, people who have COVID-19 can take longer to show symptoms and be contagious for longer. This FAQ page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.

So, do I need to get the flu vaccine this year?

Yes! Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting yours, and your family’s health every year. Yearly flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and older. It is also important to note that certain people are at greater risk, including:

  • Young kids (especially kids under five years).
  • People 65 years and older.
  • People of any age with certain health conditions like asthma and lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, neurological conditions, kidney or liver disorders, cancer, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia.
  • Pregnant women.
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
  • Health care professionals.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of kids, especially those in contact with babies under six months of age who are too young to get seasonal flu vaccine.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people in any of the above groups.

Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

Flu vaccines are not designed to protect against COVID-19. Flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death in addition to other important benefits.

Likewise, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19, but those vaccines are not designed to protect against flu. Visit the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions page for information about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same time?

Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time!

Even though both vaccines can be given at the same visit, people should follow the recommended schedule for either vaccine: If you haven’t gotten your currently recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccine, get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can, and ideally, get a flu vaccine by the end of October. To find a COVID-19 vaccine provider, go here.

While limited data exist on giving COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, including flu vaccines, experience with giving other vaccines together has shown the way our bodies develop protection and possible side effects are generally similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines. If you have concerns about getting both vaccines at the same time, you should speak with a health care provider.

If I get sick with the flu, am I at greater risk of contracting COVID-19?

Because COVID-19 is still a relatively new illness, there is little information about how flu illness might affect a person’s risk of getting COVID-19. We do know that people can be infected with flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time.

Getting a flu vaccine is the best protection against flu and its potentially serious complications, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19.

When is the best time to get your influenza vaccine?

September and October are generally good times to be vaccinated. Ideally, everyone should be vaccinated by the end of October.

Adults, especially those older than 65, should not get vaccinated early (in July or August) because protection in this group may decrease over time. Children can get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available—even if this is in July or August. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about the flu shot.

While flu activity may be low right now, it could begin increasing at any time. Remember, after you are vaccinated, your body takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that protect against the flu.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

If you don’t have a health care professional you regularly see, you can find flu vaccines at many places, including your local pharmacy!

Looking for a vaccine for your child? Talk to their pediatrician or call the Help Me Grow Washington Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

How much does a flu shot cost?

In Washington, all children under age 19 get flu vaccines and other recommended vaccines at no cost. That said, a provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it.

Uninsured and over 18 years old? The WA Department of Health is collaborating with Safeway Inc. and Albertsons Companies LLC to offer free flu vaccines across the state. Check here for a list of participating locations.  

Note: Most insurance plans, including Medicare part B, cover the cost of flu vaccine for adults.

I got the flu shot. What else can I do to prevent getting sick?

The flu vaccine keeps many people from getting the flu, however some people who get the flu vaccine may still get sick. If you do get the flu, the vaccine will help reduce the severity of your illness. It will also lower your chance of needing to go to the hospital.

Increase your protection by covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and staying home when you’re sick. Cloth face coverings or masks can also help prevent the spread of the flu—just like with COVID-19!

If you do feel sick with flu, it’s important to know when to stay home and when to get emergency medical care. When in doubt, check with your doctor.


Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2021-2022.htm#what-virus  
https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Flu


Are you Prepared for a Flood?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On October 4th, the Skagit County Commissioners declared this week (October 11-15, 2021) Flood Awareness Week. Flood Awareness Week offers multiple opportunities for community members to get involved and learn about flood preparedness for themselves and their families.

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself, your family, and your home! A great way to learn about floor preparedness is participating in two free webinars being held this week:

Flood Awareness with the Department of Emergency Management
Wednesday, October 13 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Join via zoom here: https://bit.ly/3uqlmdE

NOAA Weather Spotter Training
Thursday, October 14 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Join via Zoom here: https://bit.ly/3uE569d

Not able to attend a training this week? That’s okay! Keep reading for some important steps to reduce the harm caused by flooding.

Stay informed about flooding risks in your area

Photo from the Roger Fox Collection, taken from Burlington Hill looking down into town during the flood of 1921.

Information about flooding in Skagit County, and some helpful flood preparation resources, can be found at www.skagitcounty.net/flood. Skagit also prepares a Flood Awareness Week booklet each year, which you can find that booklet online here.

Skagit County offers a variety of alert tools for residents, as well. You can sign up for CodeRed Alerts, follow @SkagitGov on Twitter, or sign up for news releases to receive key emergency information before, during, and after an event.

For more information on Skagit County flood response, call 360-416-1400 or visit www.skagitcounty.net/flood.

Prepare for Flooding

Sometimes floods develop slowly, and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs. Oftentimes flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.

Create a Communications Plan

It is important to be able to communicate with your family and friends in the event of a disaster. Whether it’s having a specific person identified to contact for status updates or a safe location to meet up with family members, having a plan in place will give you peace of mind if disaster does strike.

Assemble an Emergency Kit

It is good practice to have enough food, water, and medicine on hand to last you at least 3 days in the case of an emergency. Water service may be interrupted or unsafe to drink and food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration may be needed if electric power is interrupted.

You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a NOAA Weather Radio or other battery-operated radio easily available.

Prepare Your Home

Burlington Northern Sante Fe Bridge over the Skagit that failed in 1995, stopping rail traffic for a couple of weeks.

1. If you have access to sandbags or other materials, use them to protect your home from flood waters if you have sufficient time to do so. Filling sandbags can take more time than you may think.

2. Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your home. Make sure your sump pump is working and consider having a backup. Make sure your electric circuit breakers, or fuses, are clearly marked for each area of your home.

3. Since standard homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover flooding, ensure coverage by contacting your insurance company or agent to purchase flood insurance. This must be done before there is even a threat of flooding as insurance companies stop issuing policies if there is a threat of flooding. (i.e. an approaching hurricane).

Many flood insurance policies take at least 30 days to go into effect so even if you can buy it as a storm is approaching, it may not protect your home. For more flood insurance facts: https://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance

During a Flood Watch or Warning

  • Listen to your local radio or television station for updates.
  • Evacuate immediately, if told to evacuate. Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
  • Prepare your family and pets. You may be evacuated, so pack in advance. Don’t wait until the last moment to gather the essentials, including emergency supplies.
  • Have immunization records handy. Store immunization records in a waterproof container.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks, gallon jars, and plastic soda bottles so that you will have a supply of clean water. Sanitize sinks/tubs first by cleaning them using a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water. Then rinse and fill with clean water.
  • Bring in outdoor possessions (lawn furniture, grills, trash cans) or tie them down securely.
  • Charge your essential electronics. Make sure your cell phone and portable radios are all charged in case you lose power or need to evacuate. Also make sure you have back-up batteries on hand.
  • If evacuation appears necessary: turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
  • Leave areas subject to flooding, like low spots, canyons, washes, etc. (Rememberavoid driving through flooded areas and standing water.)

After Flooding Has Occurred

  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters or standing water. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • If you have been evacuated, return to your home only after local authorities have said it is safe to do so.
  • Do not drink flood water, or use it to wash dishes, brush teeth, or wash/prepare food. Drink clean, safe water. Listen to water advisory from local authorities to find out if your water is safe for drinking and bathing. During a water advisory, use only bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, etc.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food and bottled water that comes/may have come into contact with flood water.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Use generators at least 20 feet from any doors, windows, or vents. If you use a pressure washer, be sure to keep the engine outdoors and 20 feet from windows, doors, or vents as well.
Aerial photo of the town of Hamilton in 2003.

The initial damage caused by a flood is not the only risk. Standing flood waters can also spread infectious diseases, bring chemical hazards, and cause injuries. After you return home, if you find that your home was flooded, practice safe cleaning.

For ways to stay safe after flooding, visit: https://www.ready.gov/floods#prepare.

For more information:

https://www.ready.gov/floods
https://www.weather.gov/safety/flood


Knock Out Flu: Think of It as Your Best Defense

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From the WA Department of Health

Think of It as Your Best Defense

This year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against the flu. The flu vaccine can keep you from getting and spreading the flu to others during the COVID-19 pandemic and help keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Why is it so important to get the flu vaccine this year?

Flu activity was unusually low last year. People in Washington did a great job getting their flu vaccine, and the COVID-19 safety measures like masking, staying home, and limiting gatherings also helped limit the spread of the flu. But this year, many of these safety measures are lifted.

Some people are returning to work in-person, and most children are going back to in-person school. That means we have a much higher risk of exposure to the flu virus. And with last year’s low activity, most people weren’t as exposed to flu viruses, so they don’t have much natural immunity to the flu anymore. Getting the flu vaccine is your best defense.

Should I still get the flu vaccine if I’m usually healthy?

Yes, we recommend the flu vaccine for everyone six months and older. The flu vaccine protects not only you, but also the people you’re around. Flu can be serious even in healthy people, but some people are at higher risk including:

  • People 65 years and older
  • Young children, especially those under 5 years of age
  • Pregnant people
  • People with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or neurologic conditions

While flu illness can be mild in most people, it’s important to remember how serious flu really is. Sadly, over 900 people in Washington died from flu-related illness in the last five years, including many children. The flu vaccine saves lives.

When should I get the flu vaccine?

You should get your flu vaccine before the end of October for the best protection through the fall and winter months when flu is most likely to spread. You can even get your COVID19 and flu vaccines at the same time. You can still get a flu vaccine for several months after October and get protection through the end of the flu season in the spring.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

You can visit your local doctor’s office, pharmacy or clinic event in your area. Visit www.vaccinefinder.org or call the Help Me Grow Washington hotline at 1-800-322-2588 (language assistance available) to find a flu vaccine location near you. If you’re working,
you can also check with your employer to see if they are hosting an on-site clinic for their staff.

Does my insurance cover the flu vaccine?

Most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare part B, cover the cost of flu vaccine for adults. If you do not have insurance, you may still be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost.

Children aged 18 and under in Washington can get a flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines at no cost. The provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it.

For more information, visit www.KnockOutFlu.org.