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2109 Sumner Avenue
Aberdeen, WA

(360) 532-8631

In the news

State Board of Health passes emergency ban on flavored vapor products

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Today the Washington State Board of Health passed an emergency rule banning the sale of flavored vapor products or any products that will be used to create a flavored vapor product. The rule takes effect on October 10, 2019 and lasts for 120 days. The Board of Health and Department of Health will work closely with the Liquor and Cannabis Board on plans for implementation and enforcement now that the emergency rule is final.

“This is a critical part of our response to the youth vaping epidemic and the outbreak of vaping associated lung injury in Washington and throughout the country,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman, who is also a member of the board. “While we don’t yet know the exact cause of the lung injury, we know these products are not safe and we must act quickly to protect young people.”

Earlier this month, Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order directing the department to ask the board to adopt this emergency rule and take other actions to address the outbreak of vaping associated lung injury. There are currently seven cases in Washington and over 1000 nationwide. The outbreak is concentrated in young people. Nationally, the median age of patients is 23. Five of the seven Washington patients are between 10 and 29 years old.

 “We know from our health impact review of House Bill 1932 that flavors get adolescents and young adults to start vaping and smoking, and the health effects of added flavors in marijuana vapor products have not been well researched,” said Keith Grellner, chair of the State Board of Health. “Eliminating flavors from these products is an important first step to better protecting the health of people in Washington, especially to prevent and discourage youth and young adults from starting or continuing to vape unknown, unspecified, untested and unverified chemicals.”

In addition to the emergency rule, the department is investigating the outbreak, taking steps to warn consumers of the risks of vaping, asking health care providers to report all suspected cases and expanding educational campaigns to raise awareness of the hazards of vaping, including an emphasis on the high risk of buying and using products from the illegal market.

The healthiest option is to not smoke or vape. Regardless of the ongoing investigation, if you don’t use e-cigarettes or vapor products, you should not start doing so, and youth, young adults and pregnant or breastfeeding women should never use them.

Adults who use e-cigarettes, vapor products or other tobacco products and are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications. Resources are available at For those trying to quit marijuana, resources for quitting are available at

Severe lung illness linked to use of vaping products in Washington State

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

From the Washington State Department of Health:

The Washington State Department of Health is closely monitoring an ongoing investigation headed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration regarding an outbreak of severe lung illness associated with using vaping products.

While the CDC investigation is ongoing and has not identified a definitive cause, all reported cases have a history of using vaping devices.

Vaping devices — also known as JUULs, e-cigarettes, e-cigs, vapes, e-hookahs, vape pens, mods, tanks, or electronic nicotine delivery systems — can contain nicotine, marijuana, or other substances like flavoring agents and chemicals.

If you continue to use vaping devices, you should monitor yourself for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and promptly seek medical attention if you have concerns about your health. You should never buy vaping products with THC or other cannabinoids off the street, and you should not modify or add any substances to these products not intended by the manufacturer.

The Department of Health reminds people the healthiest option is to not smoke or vape.

Nicotine and marijuana can be harmful in any form. Anyone using tobacco or vaping products and attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications. If you need help quitting tobacco or vaping products, contact your health care provider or access online resources to quit tobacco and/or marijuana.

For more detailed information on the federal investigation, please refer to the CDC web page regarding the matter.

State officials make it easier to access overdose reversal drug

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy has signed a statewide standing order for naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. The standing order works like a prescription and allows any person or organization in the state to get naloxone from a pharmacy.

“Making it easier to access and distribute this lifesaving medication to people who need it is an important step in addressing the opioid crisis and reducing overdose deaths in our state,” said Dr. Lofy. “In 2018, 710 Washington residents died of an opioid overdose.”

An overdose of opioid drugs like prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl can cause a person’s breathing to slow or stop. Naloxone can be given as an injection or a nasal spray to someone experiencing an overdose. It works by temporarily blocking the effects of opioid drugs.

Naloxone is very safe and does not have serious side effects if accidentally given to someone who is not experiencing an opioid overdose. If you think someone is experiencing an overdose, but aren’t sure what kind of drugs they may have taken, use naloxone.

The Washington State Department of Health encourages anyone who is at risk of experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose to carry naloxone. People who want to get naloxone can use the standing order at any pharmacy in the state without a prescription from a health care provider.

It’s best to call ahead to make sure the pharmacy has naloxone available and check your insurance coverage. Most commercial health insurance plans cover at least one form of naloxone, but coverage and costs vary. Apple Health (Medicaid) clients can get naloxone at no cost.

Visit our overdose prevention project page to learn about other ways to get naloxone for yourself or your agency.

MMR vaccine exemption law change 2019

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that removes the personal and philosophical option to exempt children from the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine required for school and child care entry. It also requires employees and volunteers at child care centers to provide immunization records indicating they have received the MMR vaccine or proof of immunity. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 10, 2019.

To help answer questions and share the current status, DOH has created an exemption law change webpage at This page contains information and resources on school and child care immunization requirement changes. The page is being updated as more information becomes available. 

The recent measles outbreaks in Washington and the ongoing outbreaks across the United States demonstrate why the change to the vaccine exemption law will help keep Washington healthy and safe from three serious diseases. As the new law comes into effect, DOH will continue work in helping parents and the public understand the safety record of vaccines and the critical role they have in saving lives.

Measles exposures in Pierce and King Counties

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department announced a confirmed measles case in a Piece County resident. There are locations of possible exposure in both Pierce and King Counties.

For a list of possible exposure locations, visit Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s website at

For more information to commonly asked questions about measles, download our Measles Q+A document.

Measles Q+A (.pdf)

Measles Q+A (.pdf)


State of emergency declared in response to measles outbreak

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Update (April 29, 2019):

The Clark County measles outbreak has been declared over, after six week with no new cases.

More information:

Update (March 8, 2019):

We are continuing to closely monitor the measles outbreak in Clark County. There continues to be no confirmed or suspected cases of measles in Grays Harbor County.

Common questions about measles

What is happening right now?

• There is an ongoing measles outbreak in Clark County, Washington (the area around Vancouver).

• No cases of measles have been identified in Grays Harbor County.

• For the latest information on the Clark County outbreak, visit Washington State Department of Health’s website at

What can I do to prevent measles?

• You can protect yourself and your family by ensuring everyone has the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.

• Over 95% of babies who get their first MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination at 12 months of age are protected against measles. Over 99% are protected for a lifetime after their second MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination.

What is Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) doing about the current measles outbreak?

• PHSS staff are closely monitoring the measles outbreak in Clark County, Washington. We receive daily updates that tell us how many cases have been diagnosed and where exposure to measles is known or suspected to have occurred.

• We regularly fax information about the measles outbreak to our local health care providers so that they know what is happening and can consider measles as a possible diagnosis when they are evaluating a rash illness.

• We consult with health care providers who have questions about measles diagnosis.

• We provide information and education to members of the public.

• We investigate probable and confirmed measles cases and ensure that measures are taken to reduce the spread of disease.

When would a health care provider test for measles?

• When a person goes to a medical provider, the provider will assess their symptoms. Some of the symptoms of measles are also seen in other common illnesses.

• Providers will test for measles if the patient has all of the symptoms of measles and if they have been in an area with a current outbreak or was recently in close contact with someone who has measles.

• Some providers may test for measles even if the patient does not have all of the symptoms and even if they have not been in close contact with a person who has measles – just to be 100% sure they can rule measles out.

What happens if a health care provider suspects that a person has measles?

• If a health care provider suspects that a patient might have measles, they will order lab tests that will confirm or rule out measles. The lab test may take a few days to complete.

• They may also ask the patient to stay home and limit the people they are in close contact with until they get the test results.

• The law requires health care providers and laboratories to report any probable or confirmed cases of measles to PHSS immediately.

• PHSS can receive reports from health care providers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What is a “case” of measles?

• In public health, a “case” is a person who has a diagnosis of a contagious disease that meets specific, defined criteria.

• A “probable case” of measles is defined as someone who, in the absence of a more likely diagnosis, has the symptoms of measles (fever more than 101 degrees, cough, runny nose, red watery eyes, and tiredness followed by a rash over the entire body that lasts more than 3 days).

• A “confirmed case” of measles is defined as someone who has the symptoms of measles along with positive results to specific lab tests that confirm that the person is currently infected. How are patients informed about a measles diagnosis?

• Patients may receive paperwork that says their doctor saw them for “measles” but that is not the same as a diagnosis of measles.

• A diagnosis of measles is made when lab results confirm the illness is measles. The health care provider will contact the patient directly to share the information from the lab result.

When would PHSS announce a case of measles to the public?

• When there is a suspect or confirmed case of measles, we contact the person who is ill to conduct a thorough disease investigation. In investigations we work to identify places the person has been and people the person has been around during the period of time they are contagious.

• This helps us identify and communicate with every person that has been in contact with the person who is contagious.

• If the person was in a public place that exposed a group of people who couldn’t be identified individually (like a carnival), we would announce the date, time, and location to the public so that people who were there could contact us.

Download and print the Measles Questions and Answers document (.pdf)

Download and print the Measles Questions and Answers document (.pdf)


Original post (January 25, 2019):

This afternoon Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to a measles outbreak in our state.

Currently, 31 cases of measles have been confirmed in Washington state (30 in Clark County and 1 in King County). No measles cases have been reported in Grays Harbor County.

Our staff will continue to monitor the outbreak closely.

You can protect yourself and your family by ensuring everyone has the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. More information, including how to check your immunization records online, is at

Nature or nurture argument could hinge on hope

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

This month our director shares her thoughts about nature vs. nurture - and the research that illuminates a critical relationship between health and hope.

You can read the article on The Vidette’s website: Holden: Nature or nurture argument could hinge on hope

“Most importantly, [the research] suggests that there are specific actions that individuals and communities can take to prevent trauma, mitigate harm, and foster resilience - which can help us decrease health disparities. It provides a recipe, backed by science, for making hope.” - Karolyn Holden, Director

Helping bring public health into view

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Our director, Karolyn Holden, will be writing a monthly article for Grays Harbor News Group, focused on topics of concern to public health.

You can read the first article on The Vidette’s website: Holden: Helping bring public health into view

“I hope you’ll look with me through the lens of public health. It’s a particular lens that is focused on achieving a public good - improved health for everyone - while respecting individual autonomy. We can use it to bring health data, services and programs, research, and current events into view illuminated by the public health values I appreciate most: hope, resilience, and recovery.” - Karolyn Holden, Director

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to prevent cervical cancer.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity and it causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV don’t know they are infected.

The good news?

  • The HPV vaccine can prevent HPV.

  • Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests and follow-up care.

In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services encourages women to start getting regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21. And parents should make sure their pre-teen gets the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12.

For more information, or to make an appointment, give us a call at (360) 532-8631.

UPDATED: Romaine lettuce linked to outbreak of E. coli infections

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department


Based on new information, the CDC is narrowing its warning to consumers about romaine lettuce. You should not eat any romaine lettuce harvested from the Central Coastal growing regions of northern and central California. If you cannot determine where the romaine is from, do not eat it - throw it away. More information here:


Romaine lettuce is not safe to eat in any form, according to the CDC.

If you have any type of romaine lettuce in your home, throw it away and wash drawers and shelves where the lettuce was stored. Be sure to check if bagged/boxed salad mixes contain romaine. If you are unsure if a lettuce is romaine, throw it away.

Investigators are currently studying a new outbreak of illnesses caused by E. coli bacteria. They aren't sure where, when, or how the contamination happened yet, so, to be on the safe side, they are advising that all romaine lettuce be thrown out.

Local coalitions need to hear from you!

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Two local coalitions are soliciting participation in an annual community opinion survey.

My TOWN Coalition in Hoquiam and the newly-formed Harbor Strong Coalition in Aberdeen are focused on reducing underage drug use.

“Our goal is to understand all the factors that contribute to youth drug use and then work with the community to make a significant change. Your opinions, along with data from student sources, help guide the direction of the work that we do,” share Coalition Coordinators Wilma Weber and April Heikkila.

Community members can complete the survey online. Each coalition has its own link for the survey. Although each survey is the same, the coalitions are competing for the highest completion numbers. Please choose your community and let your anonymous voice be heard!

This survey is intended for all adults over the age of 18.

Harbor Strong (Aberdeen) link:

My TOWN (Hoquiam) link: (en español:

You can also find links to the surveys on My TOWN’s Facebook page:

For more information, please contact Wilma Weber at (360) 500-4069 or or April Heikkila at (360) 500-4057 or

Aberdeen School District water testing

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

News reports about levels of lead in drinking water at Aberdeen School District schools are raising questions about the safety of drinking water.

  • Community water systems are required to regularly test for lead and other contaminants to ensure the water provided is safe to drink.  If you have concerns about the safety of your drinking water, you should contact your public utility company.
  • Lead in drinking water usually comes from water distribution lines or the plumbing in your home, especially if your home was built before 1986.

It is important to understand that water is not a major source of lead exposure.  Lead paint, dust, and contaminated soil are usually the most significant sources of lead exposure.

If you're concerned that your child may have been exposed to lead, call:

  • your medical provider
  • Lisa Leitz, RN, Communicable Disease Program Coordinator at (360) 532-8631 x.4044

For more information:

Update on Aberdeen school water testing (

Lead (Washington State Department of Health website)

Lead in Drinking Water (Washington State Department of Health website)

Lead in School Drinking Water (Washington State Department of Health website)

Grays Harbor County Division of Environmental Health

Concerned about lead in your drinking water? (Environmental Protection Agency website)


Tobacco companies must run ads telling the truth

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Starting on November 26, 2017, the major U.S. tobacco companies must begin running court-ordered television and newspaper ads that tell the American public the truth about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. The ads -- called corrective statements -- will run in print and online in about 50 newspapers. They will also run for one year on the major television networks during prime time.

If you're someone who smokes, quitting is the single best thing you can do to improve your health. Just one year after quitting, the risk for heart attack drops sharply. Two to five years after quitting, the risk for stroke falls to about the same level as a non-smoker.

Resources are available to help people in Washington quit. For more information, visit

Flu activity picking up in Washington: protect yourself now

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

State health officials are already seeing influenza cases across the state, and they expect the number to rise in the coming weeks. People are urged to get a flu shot now as the best line of defense against flu.

“The flu can, and does, make people really sick,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, health officer for Washington State Department of Health. “Most healthy people who get the flu don’t need urgent medical care; however, people in a high-risk group and those who are very sick should contact their health care provider as soon as possible.”

Flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and up. Serious complications from influenza are more likely to occur in high-risk groups such as young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions. Health care providers, and others in close contact with people in high-risk groups, should get a flu shot to protect themselves and the people in their care.

People who are sick should stay home so they don’t spread the flu to others. Antiviral medication may be prescribed to help reduce the severity and duration of flu illness.

Washington had 278 confirmed flu deaths in the past year, and medical facilities saw high numbers of patients seeking care for flu. While most people with the flu can be safely treated at home, there are some symptoms that should trigger immediate medical care. To find out what to do if you feel sick with flu-like symptoms read this guide from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

Grays Harbor County Public Health encourages everyone to knock out flu with an annual flu shot. Flu shots are available at these locations:

  • Safeway Pharmacy, 221 W Heron in Aberdeen
  • Rite Aid, 301 East Wishkah in Aberdeen
  • Rite Aid, 3130 Simpson Avenue in Hoquiam

New this year: Medicaid will only reimburse for flu shots done at the patient's primary care doctor's office. Medicaid will not reimburse for flu shots done at a pharmacy.  If your primary care doctor doesn't offer the flu shot, you can call your plan and ask to be referred to one that does.

  • Molina: (800) 869-7165
  • Amerigroup: (800) 454-3730

Rabid bat numbers continue to rise in WA

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Twelve bats found in public parks and private homes across Washington have tested positive for rabies since August 1. While health officials test for and find rabid bats every year – typically during summer months – the August numbers are the highest in a decade, bringing the total number to 21 this year.

The number of bats submitted for testing in August was higher than in past years. Whether the rise is due to increased public awareness or other factors is not clear. What is clear is that many members of the public are doing the right thing: alerting local health officials if a family member or pet encounters a bat.

While any mammal can be infected with rabies virus, bats are the primary animal that carry rabies in Washington. It is important that people continue to take appropriate precautions if a bat is found – dead or alive. If you suspect that a family member or pet has had contact with a bat, do not touch the bat and call us at (360) 532-8631 for next steps. More detailed precautions and information can be found on the Washington State Department of Health website.

Resources, and hope, for those struggling with opioid addiction

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services Department is participating in a 5-year grant awarded to Washington State by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant provides free naloxone to those at risk of an opioid overdose and supports the County’s efforts to prevent opioid addiction.

“Opioid abuse and overdose death is a public health crisis that touches all of our lives. The good news is that it can be prevented. Our immediate goal is to get people into treatment and, ultimately, recovery. Getting naloxone out into the community has and will save lives,” says Karolyn Holden, Director.

Since April, 378 naloxone kits have been distributed and 76 have been reported used in our community. Naloxone is a medicine that temporarily stops the effects of opioids (heroin, OxyContin, Percocet, dilaudid, fentanyl, methadone, etc.) and can prevent someone from dying of an overdose.  

Anyone can get a free naloxone kit at Public Health’s syringe services program and training is provided to all who carry naloxone. Throughout this summer and fall, more locations around Grays Harbor will become naloxone distribution sites.  In Washington State, naloxone kits are legal to carry and administer in a suspected opioid overdose and should not be confiscated.

“Naloxone distribution is just one part of the Department’s comprehensive approach to the opioid crisis in our community,” explains Holden.

Public Health coordinates Hoquiam’s My TOWN Coalition, which works to prevent young people from using drugs in the first place. A local strategic plan to prevent opioid use and misuse is underway as well.  

At Public Health’s 13-year-old syringe services program, people who inject drugs can turn in their used needles for clean ones. This reduces the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne infections among people who inject drugs as well as their families, and communities. It also prevents those needles from ending up in public places. Public Health collected 750,000 needles last year, down from 900,000 the year before.

“When people visit our syringe services program, we make sure that they not only exchange their used needles for clean ones, but that they also get information about drug treatment services,” says Holden. “We care about them and want them to get well so we make every effort to connect them with treatment services.”

Holden says that the drop in the number of needles exchanged shows that drug treatment and community collaboration works -- and that there is hope. 

If you or a loved one is interested in getting opioid related treatment, help is available.  People with Washington State Apple Health insurance coverage can call (360) 795-5955 to discuss treatment options in Grays Harbor County. You can also contact Evergreen Treatment Services in Hoquiam at (360) 209-6339.

For more information about naloxone distribution in Grays Harbor County, visit

For more information about the syringe services program and local drug treatment options, visit

To reach someone at Grays Harbor’s 24-hour Crisis Clinic, please call (360) 532- HELP.

Wildfire smoke

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Smoke from British Columbia wildfires have moved into Grays Harbor County.

Since mid-day on Tuesday, August 1, air quality monitors across the state have shown increased levels of air pollution. Data from a monitoring station located in Taholah is currently showing Unhealthy air quality and a monitoring station in north Pacific County is also showing Unhealthy air quality.

Until our local air quality improves, you should avoid outdoor physical activities and keep windows and door closed.  The Washington Department of Health offers detailed information on how residents can best deal with smoke impacts on their homes and communities.

Zika virus

Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department

Currently, there are locally transmitted Zika cases reported in Miami, Florida and Brownsville, Texas.  No other locally transmitted cases have been reported in the continental United States.

We will continue to monitor the Zika virus outbreak and will update this page.

Zika virus is primarily spread to people through mosquito bites.

There are two different types of mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus - most commonly Aedes aegypti and possibly Aedes albopictus.  Neither type typically lives in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

There have also been reports of the Zika virus being spread by sexual contact.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are:

  • fever
  • rash
  • joint pain
  • red eyes (conjunctivitis)

The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.

Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, but Zika virus disease among pregnant women has been associated with birth defects.

For more information, visit

If you have further questions, call:

  • your medical provider
  • Lisa Leitz, RN, Communicable Disease Program Coordinator at (360) 532-8631 x.4044