Garfield County Health District

To report a public health emergency or a notifiable condition, please call Garfield County Health District: (509) 843-3412.

After hours call the Sheriff's Office: (509) 843-3494

Health Alerts and Advisories

Hand in Hand Newsletter

Immunizations Required for School Attendance

How Sick is Too Sick: When to keep your child home from school or daycare

Vital Statistics/Birth Certificate/Death Certificate Form (PDF)

Our Mission

We are committed to professional, caring services that motivate individuals to a higher level of physical, mental, and environmental health awareness and responsibility.

Roles of Public Health


  • Monitor health status to identify community health problems.                                                            
  • Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.                                
  • Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues.
  • Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.                                       
  • Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.                                   
  • Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.                                                            
  • Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.
  • Assure a competent public health and personal health care workforce.
  • Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.
  • Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.


Questions and Answers about Influenza (Flu)

Frequently updated information and resources about flu and flu vaccine for the 2016-2017 flu season. Yearly flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months and older as soon as vaccine is available.


Flu Activity this Season:

What type of flu season is expected this year?

Flu seasons are unpredictable. The timing, severity and length can vary from one year to the next.

Flu Basics

What is influenza (also called the "flu")?

Influenza is commonly called the "flu." Influenza is a highly contagious disease that infects the nose, throat, and lungs and can cause moderate to severe illness.

When does flu occur?

Flu occurs in the United States most often in the fall and winter and commonly peaks in February and March.

What are the symptoms of flu?

People with flu often have:

  • Sore throat.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Body aches.
  • Fatigue (tiredness).
  • Some people may have vomiting or diarrhea, though this is more common in kids than adults.

If you or someone you know has these symptoms and they are severe, contact your doctor, nurse, or clinic as soon as possible. The best way to tell if you have flu is for a healthcare provider to swab your throat and have a lab confirm the diagnosis.

How does flu spread?

The flu spreads easily from person to person by coughing and sneezing. The flu can spread to others before a person knows they're sick. Adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. Kids can spread the virus for 10 or more days.

Does past infection with flu make a person immune?

No, because viruses that cause flu change frequently. People who have had the flu or a flu shot in previous years may become infected with a new strain.

How do you prevent the flu?

The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year as soon as it's available. Using good health habits can also help stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses: washing your hands, covering your cough, and staying home when you're sick.

How serious is the flu?

The flu is unpredictable and can be severe, especially for older people, young kids, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions. These groups are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu, including:

  • Bacterial pneumonia.
  • Ear infections.
  • Sinus infections.
  • Dehydration.
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions (asthma, congestive heart failure, or diabetes).

About Flu Vaccine

How many types of flu vaccine are there?

There are two types of flu vaccine --a flu shot and the nasal spray. Vaccination with any available flu vaccine provides protection against the flu. If you’re not sure which is best for you or your family, ask your doctor, nurse, or clinic. For the 2016-2017 season, the nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for any age group. 

Flu shot (for anyone aged six months and older)

The flu shot, or Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (PDF) (IIV), contains inactivated (killed) viruses and may cause some soreness where the shot is given.

This season, flu shots will be available as a trivalent (protects against three strains of flu virus) and quadrivalent (protects against four strains of flu virus.)

Nasal spray (for healthy kids, teens, and non-pregnant adults aged 2 to 49 years)

LAIV, commonly referred to as nasal spray flu vaccine, is not recommended for anyone of any age this 2016-2017 flu season. Learn more by visiting our nasal spray vaccine FAQ pages:

Intradermal flu vaccine (for adults 18 to 64 years)

The intradermal flu vaccine is a shot that’s injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a smaller needle than the regular flu shot. Visit the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) Intradermal Influenza Vaccination webpage for more information.

Is there a higher dose flu vaccine available for people aged 65 and older?

Yes. There is a special kind of flu vaccine called Fluzone High-Dose for people aged 65 and older. The vaccine is intended to give a stronger immune response than regular flu shots offering better protection against flu. Fluzone High-Dose is not recommended for people with a severe allergy to chicken eggs or people who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past. Visit the CDC's Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Flu Vaccine Web page for more information.

Is there a flu vaccine for people with egg allergy?

Persons with a history of severe allergic reaction to should be vaccinated in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting under the supervision of a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.

There's a recombinant flu vaccine (FluBlok) designed specifically for people aged 18 and older with egg allergy.

Can flu vaccine give you the flu?

No. Flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.

Some people incorrectly believe that they can get flu from the vaccine. The flu shot only contains proteins from the flu virus, so the virus cannot reproduce itself and cause illness. While the nasal spray vaccine contains live flu virus, the virus has been weakened, so it cannot grow in the lungs and cannot cause the flu. Some adults have reported mild and short-lasting side effects like runny nose, cough, chills, sore throat, and headache. Visit the CDC’s Nasal-Spray Flu Vaccine webpage for more information.

Does flu vaccine protect against viruses other than the flu?

No. Flu vaccine will not prevent illness from other flu-like viruses, including flu viruses not in the current flu vaccine. The vaccine contains the strains of flu viruses that research suggests will be most common during the flu season.

Does vaccine protect throughout the flu season?

Yes. Getting vaccinated, even early in the season, will protect you throughout the flu season.

How long does it take for the vaccine to protect people from the flu?

It takes about eight to ten days after a single dose for the vaccine to create a strong immune response in most healthy adults. If you're planning to travel, be sure to get your flu shot at least two weeks before your trip.

What is the cost of flu vaccination for children under 19 years of age?

The Washington State Department of Health provides flu vaccine to all kids under 19 at no cost. Healthcare providers may charge an office visit fee and a fee to give the vaccine, called an administration fee. People who cannot afford the administration fee can ask their regular healthcare provider to waive the cost. Adults should talk to their insurance carriers about coverage for flu vaccine.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

Flu vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year. It depends on the match between the strains in the vaccine and the flu viruses that are circulating as well as the age and health of the person being vaccinated.

No flu vaccine is 100 percent effective but can provide moderate protection for about one year and can help reduce the severity of the disease if you do get sick. Flu vaccine helps prevent illness; it doesn't treat it.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Effectiveness--How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work? page.

Where to Find Flu Vaccine

How do I find a flu vaccine?

 Flu Vaccine Recommendations

Who should get flu vaccine?

Everyone six months and older should get a yearly flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available! Certain people are at greater risk and are especially encouraged to get a flu vaccine, including:

  • Adults 65 or older.
  • Young kids, especially kids under age five.
  • Kids and adults of any age with certain chronic health conditions or special healthcare needs, such as asthma, diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions, and certain other long-term health conditions.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Healthcare professionals and caregivers of people in any of the above groups.
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives.

How many doses of flu vaccine does my child need?

Children 6 months through 8 years old who have previously received 2 or more total doses of influenza vaccine before July 1, 2016 only need one dose for the 2016-2017 season. The two previous doses do not need to have been given during the same season or consecutive seasons.

Children 6 months through 8 years old who have previously received only 1 dose, or no doses, of influenza vaccine need two doses of vaccine to be fully protected for the 2016-2017 season.

How are flu vaccine virus selections made and who makes them?

Experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), and the CDC identify flu viruses that are the most likely to cause illness during the upcoming flu season. On August 26, 2016, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) published these recommendations for the 2016-2017 flu vaccine to consist of protection against:

  • A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
  • B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus

Vaccines with four strain of flu virus (quadrivalent) will contain the three strains mentioned above and an additional B virus (B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus). 

How can I learn more about the latest flu vaccine selections?

You can learn more by visiting the FDA website and the CDC's Summary Recommendations for the 2015-2016 flu season. 

Vaccine Safety

Is the flu vaccine safe?

Yes. Flu vaccines have a very good and long safety record. Over the last 50 years, flu vaccines have been shown to be safe. The vaccine is made and rigorously tested each year, no matter what strains are included.

Like any medication, vaccines may have side effects. Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), healthcare providers, state and local health departments, and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for flu vaccines. The CDC also works closely with the FDA to monitor unexpected health problems following vaccination.

Visit these links for more information about vaccine safety:

How are flu vaccines monitored for safety?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (along with state and local health departments, healthcare providers, and other partners) watch closely for any signs that the flu vaccine causes unexpected problems and investigates unusual side effects quickly. Side effects (also called adverse events) may not be related to vaccination, but just happen around the same time. Tracking and investigation helps us figure out which side effects are truly caused by vaccination and which are not.

Visit these links for more information about vaccine safety:

Are there side effects to the flu vaccine?

Side effects from the flu vaccine are mild, localized reactions. The most common side effects are:

  • Soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given; fainting (mainly in adolescents); headache, muscle aches, fever; and nausea. If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last one to two days.
  • Life-threatening allergic reactions, which are rare. If they do occur, it's usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot was given.

People who get the flu vaccine will be screened for an allergy to eggs that may be a precaution but not necessarily a contraindication. A vaccine information statement will be provided at the time you get your shot about benefits and risks, signs of side effects to look for after vaccination and how to report side effects (also called adverse events).

What can I do if I have a side effect from a vaccine?

If you think you or your child may have a side effect from a vaccine, be sure to discuss this with your health care provider and either:

  • Ask your healthcare provider to file a report with the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
  • File a report yourself with VAERS (follow instructions for online reporting).

Can I get a mercury-free flu vaccine?

Yes! Mercury-free flu vaccines are available and meet the requirements of the mercury-limiting law that went into effect in Washington State on July 1, 2007. The law requires that pregnant women and kids under age three be given vaccines that are mercury-free (or thimerosal-free).

What is thimerosal?

Thimerosal is a preservative still used in some versions of the flu vaccine to prevent contamination. Thimerosal contains a different type of mercury called ethylmercury. Ethylmercury breaks down and leaves the body more quickly than methylmercury (the type of mercury found in the environment) and is much less likely to accumulate in the body and cause harm. A thimerosal-free influenza vaccine is defined as having less than 1.0 microgram of mercury per 0.5 milliliter dose. Understanding Thimerosal, Mercury, and Vaccine Safety (PDF)

Ask your doctor, nurse, or clinic about mercury-free flu vaccines for you or your child or if you have more questions about this law.

Can Washington's legal limits on mercury in flu vaccines be suspended?

Yes. The Secretary of Health can temporarily suspend Washington's legal mercury (thimerosal) limit for a vaccine for two reasons:

  1. If there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.
  2. If there is a shortage of vaccine available to protect the public health against vaccine-preventable diseases.

The department will not extend the previous suspension of the state's law on thimerosal limits for the current flu season. There will be enough thimerosal-free flu vaccine options for pregnant women, kids under three, and for people with latex allergies.

Where can I find more information about the recent suspension of Washington State mercury limits on certain flu vaccines?

For more information, visit the Washington State Department of Health's Flu Vaccine Mercury Suspension webpage.

What are the concerns with certain flu vaccine and reports of seizures from high fever (febrile seizures)?

The FDA and the CDC saw a rise in the number of reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) of febrile seizures (seizures from high fever) after vaccination with Fluzone vaccine for kids under age two.

In the cases reported, all kids recovered with no lasting effects. We have no reports of seizures related to high fever in Washington State. There are no changes in recommendations for childhood flu vaccination.

The swift investigation of these reports about Fluzone (made by Sanofi Pasteur), shows that VAERS works by pointing out possible problems. The FDA and CDC will continue to monitor reports, communicate findings, and make recommendations for improvements if necessary.

Another brand of flu vaccine called Afluria is related to a vaccine associated with fevers and fever-related seizures in young children in Australia. It should not be given to children eight years and younger, except in special circumstances. Ask your doctor for more information.

In the cases reported, all kids recovered with no lasting effects. We have no reports of seizures related to high fever in Washington State. There are no changes in recommendations for childhood flu vaccination.

Find more information about febrile seizures and the safety of Fluzone vaccine on the FDA website. You can also check with your healthcare provider if you have specific questions or concerns about this vaccine. 

Prevention and Treatment of Flu

Protect yourself and others--use good health habits

Take these simple precautions to help prevent the spread of flu:

  • Get a flu vaccine every year.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your upper sleeve, not your bare hand.
  • Use a tissue to wipe your nose, then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel or disposable wipes.
  • Stay home and away from others while you or your family members are sick.
  • Wear a mask to cover your face in a medical office, if asked.

Can the flu be treated?

Yes. There are medications called "antiviral drugs" that can be used to treat the flu. These drugs must be prescribed by a doctor.

Who should take antiviral drugs?

It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition. Otherwise-healthy people who get the flu do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.

Where can I find more information about antiviral drugs?

More information can be found by visiting the CDC's "What you should know about flu antiviral drugs" webpage.

What should I do if I think I have the flu?

If you have flu symptoms and they are severe, contact your doctor, nurse, or clinic as soon as possible, especially if you are at high risk of developing flu-related complications. The best way to tell if you have flu is for a healthcare provider to swab your throat and have a lab confirm the diagnosis. If you have the flu, antiviral drugs are a treatment option.

How long should I stay home if I'm sick?

The CDC recommends that you stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other things you have to do and no one else can do for you. Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

Five steps to take if you get the flu

  1. Stay at home and rest.
  2. Avoid close contact with well people in your house so you won't make them sick.
  3. Drink plenty of water and clear liquids to prevent water loss (dehydration).
  4. Treat fever and cough with medicines you can buy at the store.
  5. If you get very sick or are at high risk for flu complications, call your doctor

For more information about what to do if you get the flu,visit the CDC's webpage, "The Flu: Caring for someone sick at home."


Important information about antibiotics

Antibiotics don't work against viruses such as colds or influenza. If you take antibiotics for a viral illness, you could develop resistant germs or "superbugs." Then, when you really need the antibiotic for a serious bacterial infection, it may not work.



Public Health and Safety Laws

For more on Public Health and Safety Laws click here.

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