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Epidemiology

is the study of the distribution and determinants of disease in a population. Public health epidemiologists monitor the health and illness of a population, investigate the factors that affect the community's health, and recommend interventions to reduce the risk of disease. Epidemiology is practiced in health departments daily and involves principles of surveillance, investigation, laboratory testing, data management and communication.


Epi News: Influenza Activity

Click here for the latest Virginia Weekly Influenza Activity Report.

No one likes getting the flu, but for people at higher risk for complications it can be very serious, even life threatening. Stay healthy and help keep the people closest to you healthy too by getting a seasonal flu vaccine.

What is influenza? 
Influenza is commonly referred to as "the flu." It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

What are the symptoms of flu?
Symptoms of flu may include fever (though not everyone with flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue (tiredness), chills, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 3 days after exposure. Although most people are ill for less than a week, some people have complications and may need to be hospitalized.

Who gets influenza?
Influenza can infect persons of all ages. The flu can be especially serious for babies, children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, people with certain long-term medical conditions (e.g., lung disease, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes), or those with weak immune systems. However, even healthy people can get the flu and should protect themselves by getting the flu vaccine every year.

How is it spread? 
The flu virus spreads easily through exposure to discharges from the nose and throat of an infected person. It is often spread by coughing, sneezing or talking. A person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

When and for how long is a person able to spread the disease?
Influenza can spread from one person to another beginning one day before symptoms appear through about a week after the onset of symptoms. This means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

Who should be vaccinated against influenza?  
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine every season.  Everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.

Who is at high risk for developing flu complications?
The flu is a serious disease, especially for certain age groups and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially younger than 2 years old 
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic lung disease (such as asthma and COPD), diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions, blood disorders, immunosuppression and certain other long-term medical conditions, even if these conditions are well managed.
  • People who are morbidly obese

 

Other groups at increased risk of flu complications are listed at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm

The flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis and can make chronic health problems worse.  To help prevent the spread of the flu, those who live with people in a high risk group and healthcare workers who provide care to high risk patients should also receive an annual influenza shot.

 

Infants younger than 6 months are too young to get a flu vaccine, but they are at higher risk for complications, hospitalization and death from the flu. Therefore, it is especially important that family members and other people who care for young infants get vaccinated to help ensure that they don’t spread the infection to them.

What are other steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of influenza?
You can take three important steps to fight the flu: 1) Get vaccinated. 2) Stop the spread of flu and other germs by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, washing your hands often to help protect yourself from germs, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, staying home from work, school, and other activities when you are sick, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. 3) Use antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them.

Contact Information

Communicable Disease Fax Line
(804) 862-6294

District Epidemiologist
Louise Lockett, MPH
(804) 862-8986

Communicable Disease Nurse
Catherine Bailey, RN
(804) 862-7617

Tuberculosis Nurse
Angelia Brennan, RN
(804) 862-8901

CD/TB Outreach
Charmin Davis
(804) 862-8902

Resources for Health Care Professionals

Communicable Disease Quarterly Report

Request for Epi-1 Forms

Request for Data

Online Resources

Office of Epidemiology
Home page for VDH’s Office of Epidemiology.  It will connect you with the Divisions of Surveillance and Investigation, Disease Prevention, Environmental Epidemiology, Immunization and Radiological Health.

Disease Regulation Information
Contains the complete regulations for disease reporting and control for Virginia.  You will also find the reportable disease list, conditions reportable by laboratories, outbreak reporting requirements and the reporting form (Epi-1). 

Disease Fact Sheets
Contains all of VDH's disease fact sheets. From head lice to whooping cough to West Nile Virus, this is the first stop for quick, reliable disease information. Fact sheets are also available here in Spanish.

Communicable Disease Chart for Schools
Direct link to the PDF.  Make sure to review the footnotes at the bottom of this document.  Last revised November 1st, 2011.  More information can be found in the VDOE School Health Guidelines (located at the bottom of the page).

Nursing Facility Regulations
Contains a line list of guidelines from VDH’s Office of Licensure and Certification.  The Rules and Regulations for the Licensure of Nursing Facilities in Virginia can be found here.

VDSS Assisted Living Facility Regulations
Contains information on regulations, Code of Virginia, application process, guidelines, forms, training and more.

EPA Registered Disinfectants
Contains listings of EPA registered antimicrobial products that are effective against HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Norovirus, MRSA and more.

FDA Bad Bug Book
Provides basic facts regarding foodborne pathogens and natural toxins

CDC Health Alert Network
Provides recent and archived health alerts, advisories, updates and informational messages regarding vital health information.

Harrisonburg:

The Rockingham/Harrisonburg dental department is located at 110 N. Mason St., Harrisonburg, VA 22803, in the BASEMENT of the Health Department. 

Qualifications for dental services:

  1. Patient must live in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County
  2. Have either Medicaid and/or Free Lunch, qualify as “A” income on our sliding scale
  3. Patient must be between the ages of birth and nineteen, and still attending high-school if age 21.  We do NOT treat adults.
  4. We accept Virginia Premier, Optima, Sentara and FAMIS.  With FAMIS the patient must have the $2.00 co-pay plan, NOT the $5.00 co-pay plan.  (Patients having the $5.00 co-pay FAMIS must go to a private dentist, as it is considered private insurance.)  The health department does NOT collect the $2.00 co-pay

If you meet these qualifications, please call 540-574-5210 to make an appointment.  Our office hours are Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.  Please call before coming to make sure we are open, as occasionally we are closed for a holiday or inclement weather.

Waynesboro:

The Waynesboro-Augusta dental team sees children from birth to 21 years of age who have Medicaid or are eligible for free school lunches. The Waynesboro dental clinic, located at the Waynesboro Health Department, sees children from Waynesboro, Staunton and Augusta. Our office hours are Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To make an appointment at the Waynesboro-Augusta office call 540-949-0137, ext. 122.

Lexington:

The Lexington-Rockbridge dental team sees children from birth to 21 years of age who have Medicaid or are eligible for free school lunches. The Lexington-Rockbridge dental clinic, located at the Lexington Rockbridge Health Department, sees children from Lexington, Rockbridge and Buena Vista. Our office hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To make an appointment at the Lexington-Rockbridge office call 540-463-3185, ext. 125.

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Last Updated: 03-28-2014

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