Avian Influenza Detected in Skagit County

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June 14, 2022

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a red-tailed hawk collected from Skagit County on May 11, 2022, has tested positive for HPAI H5N1, a strain of avian influenza or “Bird Flu.” At this time, we can assume that Avian Influenza is actively circulating in Skagit County, similar to much of Washington State.

Avian influenza viruses, such as the H5N1 strain, are extremely contagious among certain domesticated bird species, and can sicken and kill chickens, pheasants, and turkeys, among other domestic fowl. The virus is often spread to domestic birds through interactions with wild birds.

DOH and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are asking the public to avoid contact with wild birds, especially sick or dead wild birds or their young. State officials are asking people to report any sick or dead wild or domestic birds using the following resources:

While avian influenza infections among people are rare, human infections can happen when the virus gets into an individual’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled. People may be at greater risk of bird flu virus infection during close or lengthy unprotected contact (not wearing respiratory protection or eye protection) with infected birds or contaminated surfaces.

Please note that chicken, eggs and other poultry and poultry products are safe to eat when properly handled and cooked.

If an individual develops flu-like symptoms within 10 days of contact with an ill or dead wild bird, they should contact their healthcare provider, as well as Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.

For more information, as well as safety tips, please visit DOH’s Avian Influenza webpage at https://doh.wa.gov/avian-influenza or call 1-800-525-0127.


Skagit Shellfish Harvesting: A Seasonal Reminder from Skagit County Public Health

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With the return of spring and daytime low tides, you might be venturing out to harvest shellfish from one of Skagit County’s many beaches. With the help of a diligent group of volunteer harvesters, Skagit County Public Health monitors samples of clams, oysters, and mussels for biotoxins, including the toxin that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Skagit County Public Health works with the Washington State Department of Health to issue beach closures when toxin levels become elevated.

PSP is a serious illness caused by eating shellfish containing elevated levels of a naturally occurring microscopic organism. What begins as a tingling sensation in the lips and tongue can progress to a life-threatening paralysis of the respiratory system.

Before harvesting shellfish always check the current beach closures posted on the Shellfish Safety Map or the Marine Biotoxin Bulletin or by calling the Marine Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632.

Samish Bay Seasonal Vibrio Advisory

The Department of Health has updated the Shellfish Safety Map to reflect the seasonal Vibrio Bacteria Advisory for recreational shellfish harvesting in Samish Bay from May 1- September 30, 2022. Vibrio is a bacteria naturally found in marine coastal waters, normally present in low numbers. When the weather warms up, these bacteria multiply rapidly so shellfish are more likely to be contaminated in the summer.

As a bacterium, vibrio can be removed from shellfish by using “Check, Chill, Cook”. Check the status of the waterbody, chill your harvested shellfish immediately, and cook shellfish to 145° F for 15 seconds.

Tips for Safe Shellfish Consumption

There are a variety of other bacterial and viral illnesses caused by consuming contaminated shellfish. Proper cooking of shellfish before eating is always advised. Eat only well-cooked shellfish, especially in summer months. Do not consider shellfish to be fully cooked when the shells just open — they need to cook longer to reach 145° F. For more information: How to handle store and cook shellfish

Safe Harvesting

  • Just before you leave, check for closures and advisories due to vibrio, biotoxins, and pollution at our Shellfish Safety Map, by contacting your local health department, or by calling our biotoxin hotline at 1-800-562-5632.
  • Harvest shellfish as soon as possible with the receding tide.
  • Don’t harvest shellfish that have been exposed to the sun for more than one hour.
  • Keep shellfish on ice immediately after harvesting.
  • Thoroughly cook shellfish- the internal temperature must reach 145 °F for 15 seconds. Thorough cooking destroys vibrio bacteria. Cooking does not destroy biotoxins.
  • If you need a refresher, here is a guide on shellfish identification.
  • More shellfish safety tips.

For questions about shellfish at beaches in Skagit County, please email Samantha Russell at srussell@co.skagit.wa.us or call 360-416-1500.


Public Health Is Where You Are: Help Celebrate National Public Health Week!

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These recent years we have seen how critical Public health is.  American Public Health Association and Skagit County Public Health are excited to invite you to celebrate  National Public Health this week. This year’s theme is “Public Health is Where You Are.”

Public health covers countless issues/ topics and practices that help every individual’s ability to live a long, healthy life. Together we can make our communities safer, healthier, and stronger!

So, what are some ways you, friends and family can get involved? Keep scrolling or visit www.NPHW.org for more info.

Get Involved

  • Help spread the word and become a NPHW partner.
  • Host a NPHW activity in your community.
  • Join Generation Public Health, a movement that’s all about creating the healthiest nation in one generation.
  • Help APHA by hosting a Keep It Moving Challenge event or participate in one.
  • Celebrate and support gratitude for public health.
  • Look for ways to strengthen our communities, locally and globally.
  • Help dismantle racism in your community.
  • Hold accountable companies, people, and organizations responsible for climate change.
  • Ensure public health authority to public health workers and families by progressing policies for paid sick leave and living wage.
  • Help make sure that health and wellness are not just available, but accessible to everyone in your community.

There are countless ways to make your voice heard and become part of the movement for public health. To learn more about this year’s daily themes go to https://www.nphw.org/Themes-and-Facts. Also, make sure to check APHA’s toolkits for more ways to keep the momentum going in your community.


Immediate closure of Pass Lake: Danger for toxic blue green algae exposure at Pass Lake, Deception Pass State Park

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August 17, 2021

Users of Deception Pass State Park should be aware that Pass Lake in the Skagit County portion of the park is closed until further notice due to high Anatoxin-a levels. Water samples tested this week detected concentrations of Anatoxin-a in exceedance of the state recreational guidelines.

The preliminary result from the King County Environmental Lab is 2,576 micrograms per liter of anatoxin-a present in the water sample taken from Pass Lake. According to the Washington State Department of Health, the level of public health concern for anatoxin-a is 1 microgram per liter. 

Anatoxin-a is an acute neurotoxin that can be harmful to humans and animals. Even short-term exposure is a concern. Signs of Neurotoxin Poisoning appear within 15-20 minutes of ingestion, and may include:

  • In people: numbness of the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, and dizziness.
  • In animals: weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and death.

Until further testing confirms the toxin levels are back within state recreational guidelines, red “Danger” signs will be posted at the lake advising individuals to keep out of the lake, do not swim, drink lake water, fish, recreate, or allow pets or animals to access the lake.

The toxicity of each bloom can vary and is difficult to predict. Toxicity can change from one day to the next. It isn’t possible to determine how dangerous a bloom is to people and animals by looking at it. Only testing can tell if it is dangerous. Pass Lake will be continuously monitored until the levels drop below recommended guidelines.

The public is encouraged to take the following precautions when choosing a body of water for recreation:

  • Look for signs of toxic algae blooms and pay attention to signage. When in doubt, stay out!
  • Do not swim in, and limit exposure to water that is under a health advisory or is listed as having a toxic algae bloom on the Washington State Department of Ecology toxic algae tracking site.
  • Contact a healthcare provider immediately if you become ill or have symptoms after a suspected exposure to algae bloom.

For questions concerning cyanobacteria blooms within Skagit County lakes, please e-mail Samantha Russell at eh@co.skagit.wa.us or visit the Washington State Department of Health website for Blue-Green Algae. Testing results for Washington Lakes are posted at Washington State Toxic Algae.