One quarter of U.S. homes have septic systems. It’s important to maintain your system to protect your home, health, environment and property value. The Environmental Protection Agency offers many tips.
At VDH, the Division of Onsite Sewage and Water Services program protects public health and ground water quality through its wastewater program. Read more about the office.
Protect Your Pipes
Think at the Sink
Are you prepared? Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes. Establish a plan today to include where the family will meet during a disaster or an emergency. To start developing a plan consider these 4 steps:
Step 1: Discuss the following questions before developing a plan.
Step 2: Consider specific needs in your household. Consider the supplies and specific daily living needs for those your household.
- Different ages
- Dietary needs
- Languages spoken
- Pet or service animals
- Disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment
Step 3: Fill out a Family Emergency Plan.
Step 4: Practice your plan with your family/household.
Summer has begun, which means that many people in Virginia will be taking out their grills and spending more time outdoors. Follow these tips for your cookout for safe and enjoyable outdoor cooking all summer long!
Bringing perishable or raw foods to a picnic or cookout?
Bacteria grows faster in warm temperatures. Be sure that these foods don’t spend more than:
- one hour sitting out when the temperature is above 90˚F or
- two hours when temperatures are below 90˚F.
Use an insulated cooler to help keep foods colds. Foods that need to be kept cold include:
- raw meat, poultry, and seafood;
- deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches;
- summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood);
- cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.
To help keep your food cooler for longer:
- keep your cooler full,
- place the cooler in the shade, and
- avoid opening the cooler.
Cooking on a grill?
Keep your food safe by remembering these four steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
- Clean: Start with clean surfaces and clean hands.
- Separate: Keep raw meat and poultry separate from your veggies. Keep cooked foods away to avoid potential cross-contamination.
- Cook: Your food thermometer is your grill’s most important tool! Check the temperature of your meats, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods before taking them off the grill to make sure they have reached a safe internal temperature.
- Chill: Bacteria grow most rapidly in the temperature “danger zone,” between 40°F and 140°F. It’s essential to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods can be kept on the grill and cold foods can always be chilled with packs of ice or in a cooler.
Also, be sure to check out My Meal Detective for short videos on all four of these steps and learn how to prevent foodborne illness.
For more information on general and summer food safety, visit the VDH Food Safety page and:
As the weather warms up and you plan on spending more time outdoors be sure to keep the bugs away while you play! Ticks and Mosquitoes can make you sick. They can carry illnesses like Lyme disease, West Nile and Zika. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents to keep you and your family safe this summer.
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 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/.
Communication disorders are among the most common disabilities in children nationwide, with 11% of children ages 3–6 having a speech, language, voice, or swallowing disorder—and almost 15% of school-age children experiencing some degree of hearing loss. Timely intervention is important, as untreated speech/language and hearing disorders can lead to problems with reading and writing, academic success, social interactions, behavioral problems, and more. These disorders are highly treatable and, in some cases, can be reversed or even prevented. The Virginia Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program (EHDI) encourages families to learn the early signs of hearing loss and seek follow up testing as early as possible for their child. Please join the VA EHDI program in raising awareness for better hearing and speech development for children during the entire month of May!
When 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.
All 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.