Flu bug arrives early

Island County health officials are encouraging residents to protect themselves from a severe flu season before it’s too late -- and it’s already later than you think.

As surrounding counties deal with cases of the flu, the island is beginning to see its first cases as well.

“The flu season is starting earlier and the rate is higher,” said Roger Case, Island County Health Officer. Influenza doesn’t normally catch on until January or February but there are already many reports in November.

Whidbey General Hospital spokesperson Trish Rose said the hospital was told to expect a heavy flu season this year.

Although Case said the schools on North Whidbey have yet to report significant numbers of flu cases, one south end school did.

South Whidbey High School reported 117 cases of the flu Monday, Case said. The school has about 750 students.

To help people fight the flu this year, the Island County Health Department and Whidbey General Hospital are holding a flu clinic today at the Coupeville Recreation Hall from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Naval Hospital is also holding a clinic today for dependents, retired personnel and their families. It takes place at the VFW on Goldie Road from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Case said people can also go to their family doctor for vaccinations.

“People should be encouraged to go to their physicians because vaccinations are normally covered under employee health plans,” Case said.

After Nov. 24, county-administered flu shots will be available on Monday afternoons in Coupeville at the Nursing Annex on North Main Street and on Wednesdays in Oak Harbor at the Family Resource Center, corner of REgatta and Whidbey..

Island County’s flu vaccination fee is $25.

Surrounding counties have already felt the bite of this year’s flu bug.

In Snohomish County, Marysville-Pilchuck High School has an absentee rate of 20 percent due to the flu, Case said.

The flu causes more than 114,000 hospitalizations every year nationwide and is the leading cause of vaccine preventable deaths in the U.S.

Vaccinations have helped reduce the hospital rate and mortality rates in people ages 65 and older even though fewer than 60 percent of this group receives flu shots, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also recommends that children ages six months to 23 month to be vaccinated because they can easily be hospitalized from flu complications.

For more information about flu vaccinations contact the Island County Health Department at 678-5111.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at or 675-6611.

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