Opinion

Whooping cough outbreak on Whidbey sends important message

Whidbey Island’s pertussis outbreak seems to be winding down this week, with fewer cases reported and public concern waning. But it should not be forgotten as parents think about getting their kids vaccinated before another school year begins.

As many as 28 cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, were reported, with most located on South and Central Whidbey. North Whidbey parents apparently do a better job of getting their kids vaccinated. One theory is that South Whidbey residents tend to be more anti-establishment, and more susceptible to widespread but scientifically discredited information supposedly linking certain vaccinations to autism and other childhood afflictions. As a result, fewer children are vaccinated there.

The Island County Health Official in charge of handling such situations, Roger Case, M.D., erred on the side of caution, which is what we should expect of our top health official. He widely warned of the danger of whooping cough and advised unvaccinated people to think twice before attending large gatherings, participating in youth sports, or even coming to the island if they had not had the recommended vaccination. Several Little League tournament games were canceled as a result.

Seattle TV stations showed flyers being handed out at the Mukilteo ferry dock, and daily newspapers gave the situation significant coverage. The Herald of Everett quoted Case as saying people who aren’t immunized should avoid public events, even Langley’s big celebration, Choochokam, which took place last weekend. Case was being admirably bold in the face of the criticism such pronouncements must have generated. Had the mayor of Amity Island been so forthright, there never would have been so many shark attack victims in “Jaws.”

The unforgettable lesson from the summer of 2008 pertussis scare on Whidbey Island is that it’s critically important to get children vaccinated against a host of diseases that once were the scourge of human kind. Whooping cough is bad, but not as bad as measles, mumps or diptheria, just to name a few. It’s a blessing that we have vaccinations against these diseases, and parents should look at it that way.

Meanwhile, school boards throughout the island should take the time to review their vaccination policies before school begins in September. Vaccinations should not be mandatory for children whose parents have deep moral or religious convictions against them, but they should be strongly encouraged. And parents should know that if their children are not vaccinated, they might be spending a lot of time away from school if there’s another outbreak.

Food donations needed

This Saturday, North Whidbey residents can give Help House some help by donating food items outside local grocery stores.

Help House’s annual “Christmas in July” food drive has seldom been more necessary. Like other food banks throughout the nation, Help House has been hurt by the economic downturn, the phenomenally high price of gasoline, and the skyrocketing cost of food.

Many islanders are finding it hard enough to feed their own families, let alone donate to others, but a lot of us can still afford to give. And this year it’s important to give a little more as Help House stocks up for the late summer and early fall. Typically, giving picks up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, so the aim of this weekend’s effort is to tide them over until then.

Demand for food at Help House is up this year compared to last and could grow considerably as the economy continues to sour. So help our local Food Bank be ready to help the hungry.

On Saturday, July 19, look for volunteers provided by various service groups and the Navy outside all our major grocery stores. They will provide lists of needed food items that you can purchase inside and donate on the way out. Or just wing it and donate some food as you leave the store.

For people who aren’t out shopping Saturday, drop by Help House and make a donation of food or cash. The address is 1091 SE Hathaway St. in the downtown core. For more information, call 675-0681.

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