What to know about bird flu and respiratory illness season

With the arrival of fall, it’s time to think ahead to the cooler indoor months that take us all inside.

With the arrival of the start of fall, it’s time to think ahead to the cooler indoor months that take us all inside.

While we’re indoors, we’re more likely to share infections in closed-up or crowded rooms. Getting vaccinated soon could help you stave off one or more of the tripledemic infections that caused significant illness last year — COVID, influenza (flu), and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). By the way, you pronounce “syncytial” a bit like the word “initial” or “sin-SIH-shull.”

Vaccinations are available now or expected soon against all three ailments. You can get vaccinations from your healthcare provider. Vashon Pharmacy also has a newly designed one-stop-shop immunization sign-up tool at its website.

All three vaccines are new this year.

  • Flu vaccine is reformulated every year to match the most likely variants of the flu virus. The latest vaccine version offers current protection.
  • The newly formulated COVID vaccine should be approved and available this month. Increasingly, public health officials are dropping the COVID booster terminology, and saying it’s just the new annual fall COVID immunization.
  • You can get the brand-new RSV vaccine now. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults 60+ and those at risk for other reasons (such as a compromised immune system) talk to their healthcare provider about whether the shot is right for them.
  • It’s safe and convenient for most people to get the flu and COVID vaccines at the same appointment. However, the RSV vaccine is given separately from the other two. It’s newer, so more study will be required before medical providers know whether all three injections can be given simultaneously.

Symptoms for the three diseases overlap, so it can be hard to know what you or a member of your household has without getting a lab test. However, you can get some idea from an interactive chart offered by the New York Times in this article.

Avian Influenza: Leave Wild Birds and Other Animals Alone

State health and wildlife experts have issued a caution about avian influenza (bird flu) spreading through Puget Sound, viewable here.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) urge everyone to help prevent the spread of this bird disease to humans by avoiding contact with wild birds and other wild animals, especially sick or dead wild animals. The no-contact warning applies to pets as well as humans.

The state advisory warns against moving sick wild animals to a veterinarian, an animal rehab center, or your home, because that could spread the disease. You can help control the disease by using this online form to report sick or dead wildlife.

Vashon Risk Level: Still Basic

The COVID risk level for Vashon remains at Basic, despite the summer spike around the country and here on Vashon.

At this level, wear an N95 mask indoors in public if you have been exposed to COVID, or are at risk for health or other reasons, or live with or spend time with someone at high risk.

Plan on getting the updated COVID and flu vaccines in early fall, as detailed above.

Maintain good ventilation at home and at work, and avoid those with suspected or confirmed COVID. If exposed to COVID, wear a mask in public and avoid contact with those at high risk for 10 days.

Always home-test if you have symptoms. If you test positive, isolate for at least five days and until you test negative. Also check in right away with your doctor about treatment, even if your symptoms are initially mild.

If immunocompromised, discuss additional prevention actions with your healthcare provider.

The VashonBePrepared COVID Risk Advice Tool aggregates data in our exposure area. That includes King, Pierce, and Kitsap counties because passengers on the island ferry routes take thousands of roundtrips daily to those mainland areas.

The primary metric evaluated by the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps is the COVID hospitalization rate, because that is reliably reported by public health agencies.

Editor’s Note: The online version of this article, at vashonbeachcomber.com, contains additional information on how to avoid phishing scam traps.

Don’t Get Hooked: Avoid Phishing Scam Traps

Yes, we said phishing with a “ph.” But it’s a lot like fishing with an “f,” because you want to avoid getting hooked. We all rely on technology these days to get information and communicate, especially during an emergency. And phishing scams seem to swarm like flies in the days following a disaster.

We have compiled some tips on avoiding online scammers. These tips could save you a lot of money and trouble. Be leery of emails or texts that want you to click on something. Often the message will bait the hook by claiming:

  • They noticed suspicious login attempts with your username.
  • There’s a problem with your account or payment information.
  • Your personal or financial information needs to be confirmed, or your account will be frozen.
  • You must pay an invoice that you don’t recognize.
  • You’re eligible to register for a government refund.
  • You can just click on a coupon for free stuff.

Don’t believe these claims before doing some very thorough checking. The scammer’s goal is to lure you into clicking through to a fake website — often a very realistic-looking website where you are asked to give your private information. The personal information you provide can be used to hack into your credit cards or bank accounts.

The Federal Trade Commission offers a detailed web page on how to protect yourself from phishing attacks, and how to report them to the authorities.