Swim Healthy. Stay Healthy.

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week 2018 (small child on water slide)Public pools and beaches around Virginia begin to open in late May, making this the ideal time to talk about ways to reduce the risk of recreational water-associated illness, drowning, and injury in our communities. Water is not only fun to play and cool off in, but just a few hours of water-based physical activity per week can offer low-impact health benefits for everyone!

At pools, spas, and waterparks:

  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Every hour take kids on bathroom breaks. Change diapers in the restroom, not poolside, to keep germs away from the pool.
  • Read and follow directions on pool chemical product labels.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment (goggles, for example) when handling pool chemicals.
  • Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly children and animals, from accidental exposure.
  • NEVER add pool chemicals when the pool is in use, and only add them poolside when directed by the product label.

Safely recreating in Virginia’s natural streams, rivers, and lakes:

  • Look for beach advisory signs along public access points or along the beach. Many public beaches in Virginia are monitored for bacteria levels. An advisory is posted if these levels are too high. If the beach is under advisory, stay out of the water.
  • All natural bodies of water contain bacteria, including salt water. Salty water will not disinfect wounds. If you have broken skin, stay out of the water.
  • Avoid swimming in natural waters for at least three days after heavy rain.
  • Don’t swim when you are sick. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Avoid getting water up your nose. Use a nose clip or plug your nose before going under the water.
  • If you become sick after being in the water, report your water activities to your doctor.
  • Shower with soap and water before and after swimming.
  • Keep children and pets from swimming in scummy water. If you see mats of algae or discolored green, red, or brown water, an algae bloom may be present.
  • Report harmful algal blooms or large groups of dead fish to the HAB Hotline at:

It is also important to remember that drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 1-4 years. To keep swimmers safe in the water:

  • Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
  • Use life jackets and wear them appropriately.
  • Provide continuous attentive supervision near swimmers.
  • Know CPR. Find a class near you.
  • Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
  • Use locks or alarms for pool access points.

To learn more about staying safe in pools and natural waters, visit swimhealthyva.com.

EMS Week

EMS Strong, Stronger TogetherEMS Week in Virginia, May 20-26, honors EMS responders’ commitment to providing lifesaving services. EMS for Children Day, May 23, focuses on raising awareness of specialized care for pediatric patients. Last year, EMS providers responded to more than 1.46 million calls for help in Virginia, approximately 4,000 incidents per day.

Many EMS agencies across the state will host community activities, including first aid classes, health and safety fairs, open houses, fundraising dinners and more. These family-friendly events welcome everyone to meet and greet the first responders in their neighborhoods.

To learn more about the Virginia Department of Health Office of EMS, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/emergency-medical-services/.

Want to help in an emergency? Sign up for the Va MRC

medical reserve corps at an eventWhen emergencies like hurricanes hit Virginia, there are ways you can help. One way is by joining the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).  Virginia’s MRC is a force of dedicated volunteers who stand ready to support the community in the event of a public health emergency. Each of Virginia’s 27 local MRC units is comprised of teams of medical and public health professionals who, along with interested community members, volunteer their skills, expertise and time to support ongoing public health initiatives and assist during emergencies throughout Virginia. Learn more and sign up.

Advance Healthcare Directive Registry

man lying with laptop drinking coffee or teaAll adults can benefit from thinking about what their health care choices would be if they are unable to speak for themselves.  These decisions can be written down in an advance directive so that others know what they are.  VDH provides a free, secure tool to store end of life documents that protect your legal rights and ensure your medical wishes are honored if you are unable to manage your own care.  Visit the Advance Health Care Directive Registry to get started.

National Infant Immunization Week

This week, the Virginia Department of Health celebrates National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW).

NIIW is an annual observance that highlights the importance of vaccines for infants. The week celebrates the work of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities.

As part of NIIW, one healthcare provider in Virginia is selected as the state winner of the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award. This award recognizes a provider who contributes to public health by promoting childhood immunization.

This year’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award winner is Dr. Cyrelda Fermin of Alexandria, VA. Dr. Fermin is a pediatrician who speaks English, Filipino, and Spanish. She uses her multilingual abilities to provide care for families who are not native English speakers. Through her efforts, she has helped ensure high pediatric immunization rates in her community.

Congratulations, Dr. Fermin! And congratulations to Donna Deadrick of Carilion Children’s Pediatric Medicine and Cathie Harrington of Wythe Physicians Practices who were also nominated. The hard work of healthcare professionals across the state helps to ensure a healthy start for Virginia’s youngest residents. VDH thanks everyone who serves as an immunization champion for their community!

National Minority Health Month

April is National Minority Health Month, a time to learn more about the health status of racial and ethnic minority populations in the U.S. The theme for 2018 is Partnering for Health Equity.
The theme emphasizes the importance of partnerships at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial levels that help reduce the gap in health and health care for minorities.
VDH, through the Office of Health Equity, has an opportunity to renew its commitment to reduce health disparities and improve the health of minorities.
To learn more about the Office of Health Equity and its programs, please visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/health-equity.

Request for Applications: Sexual Risk Avoidance Education

The Virginia Department of Health’s Abstinence Education Program “Sexual Risk Avoidance Education” is excited to announce the release of our Request for Applications (RFA)! In order to be eligible for “Sexual Risk Avoidance Education” funding, all agencies must apply through this competitive process. The RFA can be located at www.eva.virginia.gov, RFA No. 705AO150, or under “Sexual Risk Avoidance Education”. Applications must be submitted by May 18, 2018 at 2:00pm EST.

Information on Mumps

  • Cases of mumps have recently been identified in Virginia, particularly among college-aged students. Local health department staff have been investigating these cases to determine epidemiologic links between them.
  • Mumps is an acute viral illness most often characterized by parotitis (swelling of the salivary glands), orchitis (swelling of the testes), or oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) unexplained by a more likely diagnosis. Other symptoms may include low-grade fever, myalgia, anorexia, malaise, and headache. However, mumps infection may present as only nonspecific or primary respiratory symptoms and up to 20% of infections are asymptomatic.
  • The incubation period for mumps is roughly 18 days (range 12-25 days) and individuals are infectious from 3 days before until 5 days after the onset of parotitis.
  • While two-dose vaccination with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps infection, the vaccine is not 100 percent effective.
  • If you are experiencing signs/symptoms of mumps, please contact your health care provider.
  • Local health departments also offer many routine vaccinations. Contact your local health department for more information.
  • A fact sheet on mumps may be found at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/mumps/