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.

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

january is cervical cancer awareness monthCervical Cancer Awareness Month is an annual observance in January to raise awareness of cervical cancer prevention, causes, diagnoses, treatments and survivorships. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more than 12,500 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014. Women between the ages of 21 – 65 should receive a routine cervical cancer screening with a Pap smear every 3 years; women ages 30 – 65 can also receive a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test with their Pap smear every 5 years. HPV is a common virus that causes nearly all cervical cancers. Protect yourself and loved ones from cancerous types of HPV by getting the HPV vaccine; people between the ages of 9 – 26 old can receive the HPV vaccine. Keep yourself and your loved ones free from cervical cancer and HPV by talking with your doctor about getting a Pap smear and the HPV vaccine.

Sexually-transmitted Zika case in L.A. County

Los Angeles County officials last week reported that a woman had been infected with the Zika virus by her partner, in the first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the county. A man who lives in L.A. County traveled to Mexico and became infected with Zika in early November, and shortly afterward his female partner, who didn’t travel to Mexico, also developed the infection, officials said. Learn more

Opioids now kill more people than breast cancer

(CNN)More than 63,600 lives were lost to drug overdose in 2016, the most lethal year yet of the drug overdose epidemic, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of those deaths involved opioids, a family of painkillers including illicit heroin and fentanyl as well as legally prescribed medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. In 2016 alone, 42,249 US drug fatalities — 66% of the total — involved opioids, the report says. That’s over a thousand more than the 41,070 Americans who die from breast cancer every year. Learn more

Oregon Health Authority: OSU requires vaccinations in light of sixth meningococcal disease case

Health officials today reported a sixth case of meningococcal disease infecting a student enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis, and are encouraging undergraduate students during winter break to receive vaccinations for meningococcal B disease.

“Oregon State University takes the health and welfare of its students, employees and the general public very seriously,” said Steve Clark, OSU vice president for university relations and marketing.

“Effective immediately, Oregon State University will require all of its Corvallis students 25 and younger to be vaccinated for meningococcal B disease by Feb. 15,” he said. “Prior to this latest case, vaccinations were encouraged for all OSU students 25 years and under, but required for all incoming first-year students and transfer students.” Learn more

Allergic to eggs? You can now get the flu shot, new guidelines say

Most flu vaccines administered today are manufactured using chicken eggs and contain trace amounts of a protein called ovalbumin. But a paper published Tuesday in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found the flu shot to be safe and recommended its use for people who are allergic to eggs. “People with egg allergy of any severity can receive the influenza vaccine without any special precautions,” said Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, the paper’s lead author and chairman of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Food Allergy Committee. The new findings mean that even more people will be able to get their recommended flu shot without sacrificing peace of mind. Learn more 

Be Food Safe This Holiday Season

food safety graphicFood safety is important for keeping your holiday gathering happy and healthy. However, food safety can be a challenge during the holiday season. Group gatherings may include more dishes than there is room for in the refrigerator or oven. Guest lists may also include those who are more vulnerable to illness, such as older people, young children, and pregnant women.

Follow these tips for a food-safe, happy holiday season:

Happy Handling

  • It’s flu season! Wash your hands well to prevent the spread of germs, using soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds. This will help prevent the spread of bacteria from raw poultry, too.
  • Wash all fresh produce to reduce the potential for bacterial contamination.
  • Don’t forget to also wash utensils and work surfaces to protect your food and family!

Let’s Talk Turkey

Follow the tips in the infographic (right) to make sure your turkey is both delicious and safe to serve.

Cooking for a large group?

  • Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes that include raw meat. Also, store uncooked items out of the way while preparing meat dishes. These steps will help to reduce cross-contamination.
  • Cook to the proper temperature, and use a thermometer!
  • Remember the golden rule: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold! Use chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should stay above 140 ˚F, and cold items should stay below 40 ˚F.
  • Discard perishable foods left out for 2 hours or more. Plan to refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours of preparation.

Eating Out?

Follow these four tips from CDC to prevent food poisoning:

  1. Check inspections online for the restaurant you plan to go to. Restaurant inspection data for Virginia is available by health district here.
  2. Make sure that the restaurant is clean. If not, you may want to visit a different establishment.
  3. Check that your food is completely cooked. Send back any undercooked food, as it may contain harmful bacteria.
  4. Refrigerate leftovers within 4 hours of eating. Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days from purchase.

View our My Meal Detective videos to learn how to prevent and report foodborne illness. For more information on general food safety, visit the VDH Food Safety page and:

CDC- Food Safety Tips for the Holidays and Tips for Your Holiday Turkey

FDA- Food Safety Tips for Healthy Holidays

FightBAC.org- Holiday Food Safety Resources (includes recipes and kids games and activities)

FoodSafety.gov- Thanksgiving and Winter Holidays

USDA- Seasonal Food Safety

National Influenza Vaccination Week

CDC Get A Flu Shot Graphic (superhero arm with a bandaid) National Influenza Vaccination Week is a great time to make sure that you have had your flu shot this year and encourage your friends and family to get theirs. Getting a flu shot every year is the single best way to prevent the flu. It not only protects your health; it protects the health of those around you. Everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu shot.

Even if you got a flu shot last year, it’s still important to get one this year. The flu vaccine is updated every year to provide protection from the flu viruses that are likely to be circulating and causing disease. Also, your body’s level of immunity from a vaccine received last year will have declined.

You can find out where to get a flu shot in your area by

Be familiar with the symptoms of flu and the people most at risk from flu complications, including young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions. If you fall into one of those groups, make sure you get vaccinated promptly, and treated promptly if you do get the flu.

There are also simple steps you can take to help prevent the spread of flu:

  • Always cover your cough and sneeze into your elbow
  • Wash your hands
  • Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that get touched a lot, such as door handles, countertops, and faucets.
  • If you feel sick, stay home from work or school

Learn more about the Flu and how to care for you and your loved ones.

FDA: Virginia Diner, Inc. Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Peanut Allergen in Chocolate Covered Cashews 10 oz. cans

Virginia Diner, Inc. is voluntarily issuing a recall of 10 oz. cans of Plow & Hearth Chocolate Covered Cashews at Plow & Hearth’s locations and nationwide (Mail Order) as a precaution because they may contain peanuts and peanut allergens. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.  A label mix up was discovered by a consumer who received and opened a Cashew Tower Set (3 individual cashew cans) of which one can, the 10 oz. Chocolate Covered Cashews, were found to have Salted Peanuts.

The Virginia Diner, Inc. is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in administering this voluntary recall.  The Virginia Diner has not received any reports of illness or injury to date regarding this product. Learn more