This flu season has become a headline-making one for much of the nation, and Vashon is one of the many communities feeling its effects.
From staff at island clinics to the nurse at the public schools, people are saying the same thing: A lot of people are sick right now.
In King County, the flu is widespread, according to information from Public Health — Seattle & King County. Compared to the previous five flu seasons, adults have been particularly hard hit by the illness, and hospital emergency rooms have reported more people seeking care for flu-like symptoms than in previous years.
At the Vashon Health Center, clinic manager Rita Cannell noted the clinic has been busy tending to people with a variety of illnesses, including the flu, and at Fulton Family Medicine, Nurse Supervisor Jan Kuhns reported the same.
“We have had a lot of sick people coming in,” Kuhns said.
At the public schools, district nurse Sarah Day said many students have been out with flu-like symptoms, but not in alarmingly high numbers.
Public health officials have been urging people to take preventative steps, including getting a flu shot, staying home when ill and washing their hands frequently.
At Vashon Community Care, Donna Zaglin, the director of clinical services, said no residents have been ill with the flu, and they are taking prevention very seriously. Staff are instructed to stay home when sick, she said. Housekeeping staff are being especially diligent, and notices have been posted encouraging all visitors to wash their hands, see Zaglin if they begin to feel ill or see an area that needs cleaning and not to visit if they are sick.
“Especially with this population, we have got to be so careful,” she said.
While public health officials are still urging people to be vaccinated, only two clinics on the island have flu shots left for adults: Vashon Natural Medicine and the Vashon Women’s Health Center.
The Vashon Health Center expects to receive more flu shots for children ages 3 through 18 this week, Cannell said, and the front desk staff are keeping a list of places that are still providing the shots off-island, as that number has dwindled in recent weeks as well.
Dr. Nicole Maxwell, a naturopath who owns Maxwell Family Medicine, noted that by the time many patients have come to her, they have become very sick. The flu can strike fast and linger for several days; for treatment to be most effective, such as the frequently prescribed anti-viral medication Tamiflu, she noted, people should seek care early. The same is true for herbal remedies, she added.
Kuhns concurred. “The quicker you can get on top of it, the better,” she said.
Public Health — Seattle & King County will offer the following flu shot clinics for people without insurance or the ability to pay for the vaccine.
North Public Health Center
10501 Meridian Ave. N., Seattle, 296-4765
3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29
Tuesday, 29, 3-7 pm through January
Columbia Public Health Center
4400 37th Ave. S., Seattle, 296-4650
3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, Jan. 24 and 31.
Eastgate Public Health Center
14350 S.E. Eastgate Way, Bellevue, 296-4920
3 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Jan. 23 and through January
Federal Way Public Health Center
33431 13th Place S., Federal Way, 296-8410
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26