Monkeypox – What You Need to Know

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.

Sources:

Monkeypox | Washington State Department of Health

Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC

Graphics | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC


July is BIPOC Mental Health Month!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

According to Mental Health America (MHA), BIPOC communities are significantly more likely to develop mental health conditions, and one of the major barriers to mental health treatment is access and the need for understanding mental health support.

Join us to celebrate Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Month! This year’s theme is #BeyondTheNumbers. which explores the nuances and uniqueness in BIPOC communities and celebrates their strengths and resilience.

BIPOC Mental Health Month is not only about raising awareness about the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental health in the U.S, but is also about shining a light on their needs, stories, and experiences.

Together, let’s gain knowledge on historical context, systems of support, and actionable ways to move forward toward a mentally healthy future for us all.

Here are some resources to share with your friends, family and colleagues to support the BIPOC community, be a stronger ally, spread awareness about BIPOC mental health to reduce stigma, and encourage people to get the treatment they need.

For more resources visit:

Mental Health America | Homepage | Mental Health America (mhanational.org)

National BIPOC (Minority) Mental Health Month – Lifeworks Northwest (lifeworksnw.org)

BIPOC Mental Health Month | Postpartum Health Alliance


Firework Safety Tips for Fourth of July

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Fourth of July is just around the corner and already next week which means fireworks and family fun! Although fireworks are fun, they can be very dangerous causing fires and deadly injuries. According to the National Safety Council, due to fireworks an average of 18,500 fires happen each year and about 200 people in the month of July go the emergency room everyday due to firework- related injuries. These injuries range from head, face, ear, arm, leg, hand, or finger and 34% occur to people between ages 24-44. Although, children aged 5-9 are more than twice as likely as other age groups to be injured by fireworks.

To keep yourself, friends and loved ones safe this holiday continue reading for some firework safety tips.

Tips to Celebrate Safely

  • Make sure to purchase legal fireworks from your area and labeled for consumer use.
  • Never leave young children alone with fireworks or to handle on their own, this includes sparklers.
  • Safer options for children are glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.
  • Always keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby, in case of a fire.
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Do not use fireworks while being impaired by drugs or on alcohol.
  • If using fireworks or nearby, consider using protective eye wear.
  • Light fireworks one at a time and make sure to move as quickly as possible after lighting.
  • Do not relight or use a malfunctioning firework. To discard, soak them in water and throw them away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks including sparklers towards no one.  

For more resources visit:

Fireworks | CPSC.gov

Fireworks Safety Tips – National Safety Council (nsc.org)

Summer fire safety outreach materials (fema.gov)


Are you Wildfire Smoke ready!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yesterday was officially the first day of summer! This means nice warm weather, but also possible wildfires. Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas like forests, grasslands, or prairies. These dangerous fires spread quickly and devastate not only wildlife and natural areas, but also communities.

Wildfire smoke is a major threat to public health. Smoke from wildfires can cause wheezing, coughing, heart and lung disease, and even death. Wildfire smoke is also the largest source of particle pollution in Washington.

Here are some ways that you and your family can prepare for and stay safe during a wildfire. Below you will also find information about what to do following the aftermath of a wildfire in your community.

Prepare for Wildfires

  • Have several ways to receive alerts so you don’t miss anything important. Sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert. Also sign up for CodeRED or download the FEMA app and receive alerts from the National Weather Service.
  • Look out for air quality alerts. To check your air quality visit AirNow.gov
  • Make an emergency plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows what to do if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Know your evacuation zone.
  • Have a communications plan, and make sure everyone in your household knows it.
  • Have an emergency go bag ready for you, household members and pets. For a checklist visit Build A Kit | Ready.gov
  • Review important documents. Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents  are up to date. Create copies and keep them in your go bag!

Stay Safe During a Wildfire

  • Evacuate as soon as authorities tell you to.
  • Pay attention to emergency alerts for information.
  • Call 911 if you’re trapped and give your location.
  • Use an N95 mask to protect you from smoke inhalation.

Returning Home After a Wildfire

  • Do not return home until authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Look out for hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers.
  • Wear protective clothing when doing any cleaning.
  • Document property damage with photographs.
  • Reach out to family to check if they are OK or to let them know you are.

Helpful Resources:

The Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) offers resources on how to protect yourself and others during wildfire smoke events. See their website’s Wildfire Smoke Information page: https://bit.ly/3wgdcEM. For NWCAA monitors and related air quality information: https://bit.ly/3lXahMq.

For information on low-cost air sensors and a map showing local sensors: https://bit.ly/3iWcwxM.

Wildfires | Ready.gov

May 2 2022: Wildfires and Smoke | AirNow.gov

Wildfire smoke – Washington State Department of Ecology

Smoke From Wildfires – Toolkit | Washington State Department of Health



10 Tips on how to keep your home cool this summer!

Reading Time: < 1 minute

In the summer, we all know how uncomfortable a hot home can be. With summer being right around the corner, it is a good idea to prepare your home for the heat. Continue reading for 10 ways to keep your home cool this summer.

Tips

  1. Switch to LED light bulbs. LED bulbs produce less heat and use up to 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs, saving you money at the same time.
  2. Use ceiling, portable desk, and floor fans to circulate air, making your home feel cooler.
  3. Light bulbs give off heat when they’re being used. Add light dimmers and occupancy sensors so your light bulbs turn off when you’re not in the room.
  4. Block the sun’s heat from your home by installing solar screens, window tinting, or shutters.
  5. Buy an air conditioner ahead of time. If you buy a window AC unit, make sure to insulate around it.
  6. Plant trees and bushes outside your home to create shade.
  7. Reduce the use of appliances, and unplug the ones you are not using.
  8. Minimalize your kitchen use throughout the day. A helpful tip is to meal prep in the morning or night when temperatures are cooler.
  9. Wet your patio floor. Evaporation naturally cools the air.
  10. Weather strip doors and windows to keep outside heat from coming in, and keep your cool air from your AC from seeping out.
https://blog.constellation.com/2020/06/25/how-to-keep-your-house-cool-without-raising-your-energy-bill/

Helpful resources:

Home Cooling | Department of Energy

Heat Safety Tips and Resources (weather.gov)


Are you prepared for this summer’s heat?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Summer is right around the corner which means sunshine and heat! While Pacific Northwesterners anxiously await these warmer months, we also need to be conscious of potential risks associated with extreme heat. For those who may be heat sensitive or who do not have adequate access to cooling systems or water, extreme temperatures can be life threatening. And with extreme heat events predicted to now be more common due to our changing climate, it is a good time to look at ways to prepare.

As you may recall, last summer we experienced a record-breaking heat wave that lasted 7 days—from June 26th to July 2nd. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were 100 heat related deaths reported throughout the state. In Skagit County, we sadly lost 6 individuals to heat related complications during this time.

It is crucial that during these times we are ready and prepared. Being ready can help to prevent heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and—most importantly—death. Do you know the signs of heat-related illnesses and ways to respond? Keep reading for some helpful information.

Prepare for Extreme Heat

  • Weather strip doors and windows.
  • Cover windows with drapes or shades.
  • Have at least 2 fans to create air flow in home. Remember fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort but will not reduce your body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses.
  • Install a window air conditioner and insulate around it.
  • Add insulation to keep the heat out.
  • Know of cooling places like stores or libraries near you! Contact Skagit County Public Health to find a cooling shelter near you—(360) 416-1500.

Be Safe During

  • Stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids.
  • Take cold showers or baths.
  • Go to a cooling center if air conditioning is not available in your home.
  • Never leave people or pets in a closed vehicle on a hot or warm day.
  • Wear loose, light colored clothing, and lightweight clothes.
  • Use your oven less to help reduce heat in your home.
  • Avoid being outside.
  • Check in with family members to let them know you’re okay or to check if they’re okay. As well with neighbors, and friends.
  • Consider pet safety.
  • Watch for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What is heat illness?

Some common heat illnesses are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. Here are some signs to look out for.

Signs of Heat Stroke:

If you suspect a heat stroke, immediately call 9-1-1 or get the person to a hospital as soon as possible.

  • Rapid, strong pulse.
  • Red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat.
  • Dizziness, confusion, or unconsciousness.
  • Extremely high body temperature.

Signs Heat Cramps:

  • Muscle pains.
  • Spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Fast or weak pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you have signs of heat cramps or heat exhaustion, go to the closest cooling center/location near you. Try to cool down by removing excess clothing and drink water or sports drinks. Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.

Helpful Resources:

Extreme Heat | Ready.gov

Summer Safety (weather.gov)

Heat Wave 2021 | Washington State Department of Health


Don’t Fry Day: Sun Safety!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Imagine yourself in ten years from now. How do you look? How’s your skin? What if you were told that you had skin cancer? Most of us do not think about how important our skin is and how crucial it is for us to take care of it every day.  

Although we have not had much sunshine this spring, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day” to share awareness and remind everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors as the summer gets closer.  

Keep reading for some tips on how you and your family can prevent skin cancer and long-term skin damage.  

Sun Safety Tips:  

  1. Do not burn or tan 
  • Avoid intentional tanning and tanning beds. 
  1. Seek Shade 
  • When it’s very hot out, sit under a tree or other shade structure. Use an umbrella when at the beach. 
  • Sun rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 
  1. Wear protective clothing  
  • Use long sleeve shirts and pants 
  • Wide brimmed hat and sunglasses 
  1. Apply Sunscreen throughout your day 
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher for protection from harmful ultraviolet A and B radiation.  
  • Budget friendly and clean sunscreens: CeraVe sunscreen, Neutrogena sunscreens, Derma e sunscreen, etc. To check if your sunscreen contains any harmful ingredients visit: Best Recreational Sunscreens | EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens 
  • Apply 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours.  
  1. Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand 
  • These surfaces can be very harmful and reflect the damaging rays of the sun leaving you with a possible sunburn.  
  1. Get vitamin D safely 
  • Take vitamin supplements 
  • Incorporate in your healthy diet.  

What is Melanoma? 

Melanoma is a skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body and causes over 9,000 deaths every year. People who die of melanoma lose an average of 20 years of life expectancy. Melanoma can be caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sun or sources such as indoor tanning.  

Why Is it important? 

Skin Cancer is one of the most common diagnosed cancers in the United States. Too much sun exposure can age your skin, lead to skin cancer, weaken, or suppress your immune system.  

According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, more than 1 million Americans are living with melanoma. Early detection of melanoma can save your life. Without additional prevention efforts, cases of melanoma will continue to increase in the next 15 years.  

You can detect it early by carefully examining all your skin once a month and visit your doctor if you notice a new or changing spot on your skin. For more helpful tips, visit How to Spot Skin Cancer

Please visit the sources for more information:  

Don’t Fry Day : National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention 

Healthy Skin  |  American Skin Association 

Best Recreational Sunscreens | EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens 

How to Spot Skin Cancer 

Preventing Melanoma | VitalSigns | CDC 


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) 


Building Safety Month: Evacuation Planning!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Were you and your family woken up by the earthquake that happened on May 1, 2022 here in Mount Vernon? Some described feeling a shake and hearing a loud explosion-like noise.  

If you felt the earthquake, what was the first thought that came to mind? Did you know what you and your family would do in case an evacuation was needed?  

This May, join Public Health and the International Code Council in commemorating Building Safety Month. This year, Building Safety Month is focusing on safety for all building codes in action. Help us educate and spread awareness about how to properly evacuate a building or home in case of an emergency.  

Preparing an effective evacuation plan is important. The worst mistake that you can make is waiting until the last minute to get prepared. Here are some helpful preparedness tips for you and your family on how to evacuate a building, including your home, in case of an emergency.  

At your home: 

  • Arrange your evacuation plan ahead of time. For tips on creating a plan, go to: Five Steps to preparing an effective evacuation plan | III.   
  • Sit down with your household and discuss clear exit points located in your home.  
  • Come up with a meeting point outside of your home in case you must evacuate.   
  • Remove any objects or furniture that are blocking exit ways. 
  • Make clear pathways to all exits. 
  • Make sure family members know how to unlock and open windows and doors. 
  • Have a plan for evacuating your pets, as well!  

In a building:  

  • Learn about your emergency exit routes and know where a building map is located. Talk with your employer about their approved evacuation/safety plan.  
  • If working in the building, safely stop your work. 
  • Leave the building through the nearest door with an exit. 
  • Wait for instructions from emergency responders.  

Why is it important? 

Being prepared and planning ahead can save lives during an emergency. Not only that, but it can also prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or scared. After all, having a plan will give you the confidence you need in order to activate during an emergency situation.  

Support Building Safety Month  

  • Educate Your Community  
  • Visit buildingsafetymonth.org to find the online campaign toolkit, safety tip sheets and kids’ corner materials.  
  • Issue a Proclamation  
  • Ask your city official to sign a proclamation.  
  • Promote  
  • Hand out Building Safety Month materials to your community, family, and friends. For print copies of brochures, pencils and more, you can visit the Code Council store

For more resources please visit: 

Evacuation | Ready.gov 

Five Steps to preparing an effective evacuation plan | III 

Building Evacuation Procedures (ucsd.edu) 

BUILDING SAFETY MONTH -May 2022 – National Today 

2022 Building Safety Month – ICC (iccsafe.org) 

Magnitude 3.6 earthquake shakes Mount Vernon | king5.com 


Today is National Fentanyl Awareness Day

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Today marks the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a day of action to raise public awareness about an urgent problem: people dying at alarming rates due to illegally made fentanyl.

But what is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid many are unaware has entered the market. Fentanyl is a synthetic or “man-made” opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than other opioids like morphine and heroin.

There are two types of fentanyl: medical grade (prescribed by a doctor) and illegally made (illicit). Illegally made has been involved in the majority of U.S. drug deaths in recent years.

Fentanyl is very cheap and extremely addictive. There is an alarming nationwide trend of drug dealers mixing illegally made fentanyl with, and disguising it as, other common drugs like Oxycodone, Percocet and Xanax to increase profits. People may not be able to tell if fentanyl is present based on taste, smell, or the look of the drug. In Washington, fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills made to look like prescription opioid pills, as well as in powders and black tar heroin. According to the WA Department of Health, people should assume that any drug not from a pharmacy could have fentanyl in it.

Most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose and death have been linked to illegally made fentanyl. New data show that deaths from drug overdoses continue to increase for Washington residents and that fentanyl is a major driver. Preliminary data as of April 13 show drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in all of 2020 is nearly twice the number in 2019. In 2021, the number of overdose deaths were 72% higher than overdose deaths in 2020. Fentanyl overdose deaths have increased about 10-fold since 2016.

What can Skagitonians do to help?

Know the facts about fentanyl and share them with your friends.

  • Fentanyl is extremely potent. As little as two milligrams of fentanyl, an amount equal to a few grains of salt, can kill a person.
  • Do you know where your pill came from? Any pill you don’t directly get from a pharmacy may contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. Real prescription drugs are not available on Instagram or Snapchat.

If you are a parent or educator, don’t avoid the topic.

  • Young people are dying from lack of information about this. 35% of youth ages 13-17 say they don’t know enough about fentanyl and its rate of danger, and 73% have never heard of fentanyl in counterfeit pills.
  • In our region, fentanyl is most commonly seen in blue, greenish, or pale colored counterfeit pills. There may be other colors. These pills may be marked as “M30” and sometimes as “K9,” “215,” and “v48.” Fentanyl may also be in white powders.

If you’re a person who uses drugs, or is considering using drugs, exercise caution.

What should you do if someone may be overdosing?

  • Under the statewide standing order, anyone can get naloxone at a pharmacy without seeing a doctor first.
  • The Good Samaritan Overdose law (RCW 69.50.315) says neither the victim nor people assisting with an overdose will be prosecuted for drug possession.

Help people struggling with opioid use disorder to find the right care and treatment. If you, or a loved one, want treatment or just want to learn more, see the Washington Recovery Helpline, or call 1-866-789-1511.

For information about what Skagit County is doing about the opioid and fentanyl crisis, for list of local treatment providers, or to learn how to use naloxone, go to www.skagitrising.org or call (360) 416-1500.