Flu season strikes early on Whidbey Island

Flu season has arrived early on Whidbey Island and across the state.

Theresa Sanders, Island County Public Health epidemiologist, said flu activity in the county has increased this month. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported influenza activity is “widespread” in Washington state as well as 29 other states and Puerto Rico.

Most of the cases are affecting children and are predominantly influenza B, Sanders said. WhidbeyHealth diagnosed one case in November and seven in December, according to hospital spokeswoman Patricia Duff.

“It is our experience that the island sees a spike in flu cases in late January,” Duff said in an email.

Last year, the hospital and clinics saw the most cases in March. This year, there are no reported deaths or outbreaks in long-term care facilities, Sanders said.

There is more activity on the mainland, she said.

Duff said that, however, over the past five years, WhidbeyHealth has experienced a spike in flu cases after the illness on the mainland subsided.

Flu season typically ends in April, she said.

The state Department of Health reported Dec. 7 there had been five lab-confirmed influenza deaths in the state to date.

Flu vaccinations are available available at WhidbeyHealth primary care clinics, the Naval Health Clinic and at most pharmacies.

Additionally, there was a case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, confirmed at Oak Harbor High School this month. This is the only case known in the school district, according to Superintendent Lance Gibbon.

People who have the disease are contagious until they have completed a five-day course of antibiotics, according to Island County Public Health.

To avoid spreading the flu, public health officials recommend taking the following precautions:

• Get vaccinated (It’s not too late)

• Wash hands frequently

• Stay home if you are sick

• Cover your cough