Department of Health urges vaccinations as whooping cough reaches epidemic proportions

April 3, 2012

NEW — 8 p.m. April 3, 2012

State health officials said whooping cough cases reached epidemic proportions throughout Washington, and urged residents Tuesday to get vaccinated against the highly contagious disease.

Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said officials recorded 640 cases in 23 counties through March 31 — the highest number of reported cases in decades. King County experienced 88 cases through March 31. Officials recorded 94 whooping cough, or pertussis, cases statewide during the same period last last year.

Pertussis is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person through coughing and sneezing. The disease is most serious infants, especially children too young to receive the vaccination. Pertussis causes cold-like systems followed by a long, severe cough.

The pertussis vaccine, Tdap, is recommended for all children and adults.

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Washingtonians marry less, divorce more, live longer

March 20, 2012

In 2010, 909 couples married on Aug. 21 — the biggest day for weddings in the Evergreen State.

The total — and other figures from the state Center for Health Statistics — offer a snapshot of life and death in Washington.

Washingtonians live longer than the national average. The latest figures from the Center for Health Statistics also indicate more divorces, fewer pregnancies and better prenatal care for expectant mothers.

Statewide, the number of pregnancies, births and abortions continues to drop.

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Flu season arrives late in Washington, but no peak yet

March 19, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. March 19, 2012

Influenza is on the rise in communities throughout Washington, as the slow-to-arrive affliction starts to increase.

State health officials said predicting the timing and severity of each flu season is complicated. Though the flu most commonly peaks in February, peak flu activity has not yet occurred in Washington. The traditional flu season can last as late as May.

“Flu is a serious disease that puts many people in the hospital and claims a lot of lives each year in our country,” Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a statement. “Fortunately, we have a vaccine that offers the best protection against flu. We can all do our part to protect our communities.”

Officials said everyone 6 months and older should receive a flu shot each year. Some children under 9 may need a pair of doses for competition protection.

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Washingtonians marry less, divorce more, live longer

March 19, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. March 19, 2012

In 2010, 909 couples married on Aug. 21 — the biggest day for weddings in the Evergreen State.

The total — and other figures from the state Center for Health Statistics — offer a snapshot of life in Washington.

Washingtonians live longer than the national average. The latest figures from the Center for Health Statistics also indicate more divorces, fewer pregnancies and better prenatal care for expectant mothers.

Statewide, the number of pregnancies, births and abortions continues to drop.

The state recorded 108,045 pregnancies in Washington in 2010 — a 4 percent drop from 2009. The largest decrease occurred among teenagers aged 15-19, as the total dropped 12 percent from 2009 to 9,348 in 2010.

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Norovirus is to blame for cheerleader illnesses

February 14, 2012

Tests done at the state Public Health Laboratories revealed norovirus caused hundreds of students to become ill during and after a Feb. 4 cheerleading competition held at Comcast Arena in Everett.

At least eight Skyline High School cheerleaders were among those sickened, according to Sara Niegowski, executive director of communications for the Issaquah School District. Skyline Principal Lisa Hechtman also became ill after attending the event, as did one assistant coach.

As of Feb. 10, the students and staff were all doing better, according to Niegowski, who said the Skyline squad was slated to take part in a follow-up competition the weekend of Feb. 11-12.

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Skyline cheerleaders sickened after Everett competition

February 7, 2012

NEW — 8:35 p.m. Feb. 7, 2012

Skyline High School cheerleaders brought home a championship at a recent competition held in Everett.

They also may have brought back an as-yet-unidentified health problem.

State health officials say they are investigating a possible intestinal illness among attendees at a cheerleading competition held at Everett’s Comcast Arena on Feb. 4. Symptoms began to appear Feb. 5 and 6. They include vomiting and diarrhea, according to a state press release.

Skyline cheerleaders began reporting symptoms the evening of Feb. 5, said Sara Niegowski, Issaquah School District executive director of communications, in an email. In total, eight cheerleaders have been out sick, Niegowski added. The Skyline ill also include Principal Lisa Hechtman and one assistant coach. Hechtman attended the cheerleading event, Niegowski said.

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State is set to require rabies vaccine in dogs, cats, ferrets

December 27, 2011

Under a rule due to go into effect Jan. 1, the state is requiring dog, cat and ferret owners to vaccinate the animals against rabies.

The rule is meant to reduce the number of rabies exposures in Washington. Statewide each year, several hundred people must receive a series of rabies shots because of possible exposure to the rabies virus.

The state Department of Health’s Zoonotic Disease Program said the rule requires owners of dogs, cats and ferrets to have pets vaccinated against rabies.

Many cities and counties require rabies vaccinations for some pets, but vaccinations have never been required by the state. Vaccinating pets is one of the most effective ways of preventing rabies.

In Washington, bats act as the primary source of rabies. Many bats test positive each year for rabies across the state.

If a person is exposed to rabies, he or she should seek treatment immediately.

The most recent human rabies cases in the state occurred in 1995 and 1997. The last domestic animal in Washington — a cat — tested positive in 2002.

Winter burning poses air quality health risks

December 13, 2011

Winter in the Pacific Northwest means stagnant air — a health risk for some people.

Conditions from November through March often cause stagnant air. Pollution from outdoor burning, wood stoves and fireplaces gets trapped and collects near the ground.

The air pollutants can be harmful for people suffering from heart disease, diabetes, asthma and lung diseases. Pollutants pose the most risk to children and older adults.

Officials imposed several burn bans across the state in recent weeks due to poor air quality. Smoke contains fine particles and toxic gases.

The state Department of Health urges people to check for bans at www.waburnbans.net. Health officials also recommend people check air quality at www.airwatchnw.org before heading out for outdoor activities. Learn more about how air quality affects health at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/outdoorair.htm.

“People with asthma and other breathing problems need to pay special attention to air quality, especially this time of year,” state Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes said in a statement. “Often, people with health conditions get sick sooner than healthy people when air quality is poor.”

Jacob, Sophia rank as most popular baby names

December 6, 2011

Washington parents caught a national trend last year.

The most popular names for babies born in the Evergreen State — Sophia for girls and Jacob for boys — reflect the No. 1 choices nationwide.

The state Department of Health released the information Nov. 29.

Jacob — buoyed in recent years for a tie to a character in the “Twilight” saga — has held the top spot nationwide for the past decade. Jacob claimed the top spot in Washington in all but three recent years. Alexander topped the list in 2009, and Ethan ranked No. 1 in 2008 and 2002.

The most popular names for girls change more frequently.

Statewide, four names filled out the top five for most of the decade: Olivia, Isabella, Emma and Emily.

Of the 44,247 boys born in Washington last year, parents picked the name Jacob for 416 babies. Of the 42,233 girls born statewide during the same period, parents selected Sophia for 474 babies.

“Naming a baby is an important decision that will last for the child’s whole life,” Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health officer and a pediatrician, said in a statement.

State to require rabies vaccine in dogs, cats, ferrets

December 6, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Dec. 6, 2011

Under a rule poised to go into effect Jan. 1, the state is requiring dog, cat and ferret owners to vaccinate the animals against rabies.

The rule is meant to reduce the number of rabies exposures in Washington. Statewide each year, several hundred people must receive the series of rabies shots because of possible exposure to the rabies virus.

The state Department of Health’s Zoonotic Disease program said the rule requires owners of dogs, cats, and ferrets to have pets vaccinated against rabies.

Many cities and counties require rabies vaccinations for some pets, but vaccinations have never been required by the state. Vaccinating pets is one of the most effective ways of preventing rabies.

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