Open Enrollment

If you get medications or health insurance through Virginia ADAP, call Benalytics at 1-855-483-4647 for help enrolling in a health care plan today! Benalytics is available Monday-Friday 8A-7P Eastern Time and on Saturdays 9A-1P Eastern Time. ACA open enrollment ends on December 15, 2017.

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.

World AIDS Day: A Changing Landscape

World AIDS Day, observed each year on December 1, is an opportunity for people around the world to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV, and to remember those who died from HIV- or AIDS-related complications.

Knowing your HIV status is the first step in preventing HIV.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone get tested at least once in their lifetime.  If a person participates in high-risk behaviors, CDC recommends more frequent testing.  Take a moment to read about HIV Risk and Prevention and consider taking an HIV test as part of your personal commitment to preventing HIV.

People who are HIV negative and people who are HIV positive can both take medications to prevent new HIV infections. Biomedical interventions (using medication to prevent HIV transmission) give us a real opportunity to end the HIV epidemic.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)—Prophylaxis means to prevent the spread of infection or disease.  PrEP is a once-a-day pill that can prevent the transmission of HIV.  Studies have shown that PrEP is over 90% effective in preventing HIV when taken every day.  The CDC also recommends that people on PrEP continue to use condoms for extra protection and to prevent other sexually transmitted infections.  For more information about PrEP, or to find a PrEP provider in your area, visit the Virginia Greater Than AIDS page.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)—PEP is used after a person has a potential exposure to HIV.   PEP can be used after unprotected sex; a condom broke or after a sexual assault.  Health care workers can also use PEP if they have an exposure at work.  PEP is taken for 28 days and must be started within 72 hours of exposure.  The sooner that PEP is started, the better the results are.  For more information on PEP, check out the CDC PEP Fact Sheet, or call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline at 800-533-4148.

HIV Treatment—While there is no cure for HIV, taking HIV medications can improve health outcomes and help people living with HIV live a normal lifespan.  CDC recently confirmed that when HIV medications result in viral suppression, HIV is not transmitted to other people through sex.  Viral suppression is when an HIV-positive individual has less than 200 copies of the virus per milliliter of blood, or is undetectable.  Undetectable is a term that means a person’s viral load is at such low levels that the virus may not be detected in their blood.  Being undetectable is not a constant state and if a person stops taking their medications, their viral load will go back up again.

Across three different studies, including thousands of couples and many thousand acts of sex without a condom or PrEP, no HIV transmissions to an HIV-negative partner were observed when the HIV-positive person was virally suppressed.  This means that people who take HIV medications daily as prescribed, and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner.   The results of these studies are being promoted through U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) campaigns across the US to encourage both HIV testing and linkage to and retention in HIV medical care. Feel free to read more about HIV treatment as prevention.

Many have died from HIV- and AIDS-related complications, but with new scientific advances occurring every year, we can change the story of HIV in the United States and Virginia.  Protect yourself and your loved ones by learning about HIV and how to prevent infection.  Talk to your friends or loved ones about the importance of HIV testing and treatment.  Together we can combat the stigma around and educate on HIV, helping to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

The United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Women and girls around the world are subject to violence. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. IPV can be physical, sexual or psychological harm by a current or former partner. In Virginia, 71% of victims of intimate partner homicide were women. If you or someone you know is experiencing partner violence, get help:

  • Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-838-8238
  • The LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-800-356-6998

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

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.

What you need to know about Vibrio

Vibrio

Roughly a dozen Vibrio species are known to cause a bacterial disease called vibriosis in humans, with the most common in the United States being V. parahaemolyticus, V. vulnificus, and V. alginolyticus. The Vibrio species that cause vibriosis naturally live in the salt or brackish (i.e., somewhat salty) waters of Virginia’s coastal zone. People with vibriosis become infected by eating raw or undercooked seafood or exposing a wound to seawater. Most infections occur from May through October when water temperatures are warmer.  Vibrio vulnificus, in particular, can cause severe or fatal infections. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions such as liver disease, diabetes, HIV, cancer, and certain stomach disorders are at greater risk of becoming sick with vibriosis and experiencing severe complications.

Remember these helpful tips for preventing Vibrio infection:

  • Eat cooked seafood, which tastes just as delicious!
  • Avoid contact with seawater or preparing raw seafood such as oysters and shrimp if you have an open wound, even if it’s a minor cut or scrape. Or cover your wound with a waterproof bandage.
  • Wash wounds and cuts with soap and clean water if they have been exposed to seawater, raw seafood, or juices from seafood.

Learn more about Vibrio.

Traveling This Fall?

travelers in airportBefore you take off for a getaway, business trip, or family visit, there are some things you should know about Zika. Use these tips to plan ahead:

Before your  trip:

  • If you are pregnant, do not travel to an area with Zika. If you or your partner are trying to get pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before traveling to an area with Zika.
  • Check the latest travel recommendations from the CDC

During your  trip:

  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites
  • Keep mosquitoes outside by staying in places with air-conditioning and windows and doors, or use a bed net

After your  trip:

Tricks and Treats for Having a Food Safe Halloween

Avoid the real horrors of Halloween by learning how to keep you and your family members safe from foodborne illness. Follow these tips to scare away food safety hazards:

  • Remind kids (and adults!) to wash their hands before and after enjoying their Halloween treats.
  • Going trick or treating?
    • Inspect candy before eating. Look for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance, discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers.
    • If your child has a food allergy, check food labels to make sure the allergen is not present.
  • Hosting a Halloween party?
    • Prevent frightful bacteria from multiplying by keeping foods at the right temperature. Don’t keep perishable foods out for more than two hours at room temperature (or 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).
    • If you bake Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters that contain uncooked eggs. These items may harbor Salmonella, bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Salmonella live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs.
    • Beware of spooky cider! Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as coli and Salmonella. Serve products labeled as pasteurized to keep these bacteria from creeping up on you.
    • Say “boo” to bacteria during a bobbing for apples game. Rinse apples and other raw fruits under cool running water, and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

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

FDA- Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents

Fight BAC!- Halloween Food Safety How-To

FoodSafety.gov- Avoid “Nightmares” on Halloween: Food Safety Tips

StateFoodSafety.com- Food Safety Talkabout: Halloween

Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 2014, there were 6,471 new cases of breast cancer in Virginia. Every Woman’s Life (EWL) helps low-income, uninsured women between the ages of 18-64 get FREE breast cancer screening. If these tests lead to a cancer diagnosis, successful treatment can increase dramatically with early detection. Find out if you are eligible for EWL, and schedule your annual screening today.