As flu fears lessen, Vashon stays prepared

The H1N1 flu virus is proving to be less worrisome than feared initially, and Vashon’s health care providers and the Vashon Island School District are acting accordingly.

As of Monday, there were no suspected cases on Vashon and 22 probable cases in King County.

With flu fears decreasing, Public Health - Seattle & King County chang-ed its position from calling for mandatory school closures if a student had a suspected case of H1N1 to focusing on keeping all students with symptoms of influenza out of school during their period of illness and recuperation, according to a recent press release from the public health agency.

Assistant to the Superintendent Donna Donnelly said school district officials are in close touch with public health, as they are for any potential health problem affecting the school or community.

“It gave us a good chance to examine our processes and plans,” she said, noting this experience will be useful if this strain returns more virulently in the fall, as health experts say is a possibility.

At the Vashon Health Center, the largest clinic on the Island, manager Rita Cannell said it was pretty much business as usual.

“We are treating it like a typical flu season,” she said.

Always on hand, face masks and hand sanitizer were moved more prominently to the foyer for people to use if they had a respiratory infection with flu-like symptoms, and anyone who suspected she or he might have the flu was moved to a treatment room immediately.

The clinic only sent out one culture for the flu, but staff there did not expect it to be H1N1, Cannell said.

Other Vashon organizations were poised to help should the flu worries have come to fruition.

VashonBePrepared and Vashon Island Fire & Rescue announced last week that they were readying the Island for an outbreak, should one happen here.

A team coordinates daily with public health officials to stay apprised of the constantly evolving picture, according to Fire Chief Hank Lipe.

Others coordinated with medical volunteers to call them to action had they been needed, and the district stocked up on protective gear for medical personnel and volunteers.

VashonBePrepared’s Web site,, includes a question and answer sheet of useful information, and Voice of Vashon Standing By, 1650 AM, carries the latest flu information.

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