Flu sufferers fill Whidbey Island waiting rooms

Flu is taking its toll on Island County with feverish people packing clinic waiting rooms, health care workers calling in sick and some school nurses reporting a stream of coughing, congested kids.

More patients with flulike symptoms sought help at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center during December than all of last flu season, said emergency services director Jeanne Sandahl.

“We are still seeing it, people of all ages coming in,” she said. “And we’ve definitely had the staff affected. The week before and after Christmas, it seemed to peak. And I don’t think they were just trying to get extra time off for the holidays. People we’re truly feeling puny during that time.”

Many of the employees and patients stricken with the flu had received flu shots, Sandahl said. Every year, scientists must concoct a vaccine in advance of the flu season projecting which influenza strains will dominate.

“That’s the sad part,” she said. “The overwhelmingly amount of folks we’ve seen have been vaccinated.”

Vaccines are still widely available at WhidbeyHealth clinics, she said. Most local pharmacies also have flu shots.

No influenza-related deaths have been reported in Island County, said Dr. J. Brad Thomas, county health officer.

Statewide, 24 laboratory-confirmed influenza deaths have been reported, state health officials said Friday.

Most of the deaths occurred in people over the age of 65, and many suffered underlying health conditions which weaken the immune system and often leads to pneumonia.

Some hospitals around the state have run out of beds to treat those most stricken. WhidbeyHealth Medical Center says it’s barely been able to keep up.

“We’ve definitely been juggling, but we’ve been able to find places for most people,” Sandahl said.

The Washington State Health Department says the epidemic hasn’t yet peaked. It also urges only the sickest or most at-risk flu patients to seek help at emergency rooms, in part to keep the virus out of health care settings and also because there’s no magic cure available.

“Flu’s cure is time,” Sandahl said. “Time, rest and fluids. There’s really nothing we can do for you. We know it’s horribly frustrating for folks who just want a pill to feel better. “

The Oak Harbor School District website urges parents to keep children home who have flu symptoms. Fever, headache, dry cough, congestion, body aches and extreme fatigue are the most common symptoms of the contagious respiratory disease, which can range from mild to severe.

“Our nurses report a steady stream of students visiting school health rooms in recent weeks. Please, keep your child home from school at least 24 hours after their fever and/or vomiting is gone,” the district website suggests.

Oak Harbor Schools spokesperson Conor Laffey said some schools have significant numbers of students out sick while others report little flu activity. “It seems to be happening earlier than last flu season,” he said.

On average, the flu lasts a week to 10 days.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the flu shot for the 2016-17 season is a good match for the predominant circulating H1N1, H3N2 and A and B strains, Sandahl and others at Whidbey Medical Center say otherwise.

“I had a shot and I was sick through the entire holiday season,” Sandahl said. “For three days, even my hair follicles hurt. It was awful.”

It’s tough to dodge the ubiquitous virus, doctors admit, but precaution is the best prescription.

“Wash your hands with soap and water. Cover your cough and don’t share cups and drinking glasses,” advises Thomas.

More in News

New education, training program for juvenile court

Island County Juvenile Court will soon start a pilot program aimed at… Continue reading

Paula Ludtke, SWHS teacher and choir director, sang a rendition of “Thanks for the Memories” to Chris Gibson to honor him for his five years of service as Foundation Board President. Photo provided. Photo by Laura Canby.
Schools foundation ends year with gala, awards

The South Whidbey Schools Foundation followed up its annual fundraising gala —… Continue reading

Expert says chief followed right protocol

David Marks’ arrest of suspect ‘exactly what we teach’

Photos by Whidbey Camano Land Trust
                                Taylor Schmuki, left, and Kyle Ostermick-Durkee, both part of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s stewardship team, study the plant life this spring in a newly protected forest on South Whidbey.
Conservation Buyer Saves a Whidbey Island Forest

By RON NEWBERRY Special to the Record Pat Powell has worked with… Continue reading

Sailor shoots man, himself

A Navy man shot another man and then himself in Oak Harbor… Continue reading

Trooper, ranger try to prevent man from jumping off bridge

A trooper with the Washington State Patrol and a ranger with State… Continue reading

Valetta Faye will perform at Ott & Murphy Wines in Langley.
Singing sensation comes to South Whidbey

Singing is her passion, music is her soul. That’s singer Valetta Faye’s… Continue reading

Shhh…it’s a surprise party for old-timer Bill Lanning

Friends, customers invited to celebrate former owner of Bill’s Feed Tack

Retail sales grew in Island County, Langley

New numbers released by the state Department of Revenue show that Island… Continue reading

Most Read