Normal flu activity reported in South Kitsap

Influenza activity may be listed as “widespread” throughout the state, but South Kitsap School District reported normal levels of flu activity in schools.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 states are in “widespread” status with 24 states considered “high” and only five with “low” activity. CDC has called the recent flu outbreak the “worst in decades.”

“I’m really surprised we haven’t had an outbreak in our schools,” said Gina Glenn, executive assistant for School and Family Support for the South Kitsap School District.

Glenn said when a school has 10 percent or more of students missing because of sickness or any other reason, the district will notify county and state health officials.

Kerry Dobbelaere, a clinical service program manager with the Kitsap Public Health District, said it hard for the district to measure flu activity in the county, because flu outbreaks are no longer reportable to health officials.

“We aren’t notified about flu activity unless a death occurs,” said Dobbelaere.

Despite no reports of flu activity, Dobbelaere said health district officials conduct a flu surveillance within the county.

“We can monitor flu activity in health facilities, assisted living and nursing homes, and schools during this time of the year,” Dobbelaere said. “It (flu) got a late start here, but we still encourage people to get flu shots. It’s not too late.”

The health district also contacts local pharmacies to make sure enough flu vaccine is on hand.

“We seem to have enough flu vaccine in out local pharmacies,” Dobbelaere said.

State’s Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer said widespread status means the flu is in more than 50 percent of all geographical areas of the state.

“We are just getting into widespread status,” said Moyer. “Even though it got off to a late start here, we typically see peak flu levels in January and February, and expect it to be as active as it is now. It will probably continue to increase for a while until it peaks and then drop.”

Moyer reported six people have died of the flu so far this season, including one child — all in Western Washington.

Laboratory-confirmed flu deaths are reportable in Washington, though many flu-related deaths may go unreported because they’re not lab-confirmed or tested for influenza.

Health officials recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting someone against flu viruses.

There is no shortage of flu vaccine in the state, Moyer said.

Help prevent the flu:

• Cover your cough. Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve or a tissue when you cough or sneeze — not your hand. Throw away the tissue after one use.

• Wash your hands often. Wash every time you eat, handle food, use the bathroom, change a diaper, touch a wound, blood or body fluids and when they look dirty.

• With soap. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 to 20 seconds — that’s about the same time it takes to sing the “Happy  Birthday” song twice! It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action  that helps remove germs.

• With an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It’s only effective if it air dries on your hands. Rub or wave your hands until they are dry. Don’t use a towel.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick. Stay home until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100°F or higher). Avoid close contact with others — this will help keep them from catching your flu.

Where to get flu shots:

• Call your healthcare provider — many of them offer flu shots and many insurance companies cover flu shots.

• Peninsula Community Health Services has offices in Poulsbo, Port Orchard and two locations in Bremerton. Vaccination is by appointment only, on a sliding fee scale. Call 360-377-3776 for appointments at all locations.

• Many drug stores and pharmacies offer flu shots at modest prices.

• If you cannot find a way to get a flu shot, call 360-337-5235 to help find a place to receive a flu shot.

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