Traveling This Winter?

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

Before your Winter 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 Winter 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 Winter trip:

Children’s Dental Health Month

happy tooth cartoonFebruary is Children’s Dental Health Month! Promoting good dental health in children is important for their current smile and especially for their smile in the future.

In Virginia, 47% of third graders have experienced tooth decay. Through learning and practicing good dental health, we can lower this number. Good dental habits can help prevent cavities and tooth decay, not just for children but for all Virginians.

Here are a few tips to remember for healthy smiles:

  • Brush teeth for two minutes, two times a day
  • Take children to the dentist by age one
  • Use a pea-size drop of fluoride toothpaste for young children
  • Use dental floss daily
  • Eat fruits and vegetables for a snack instead of candy and other sweets
  • Drink more water and less soda
  • Protect children’s teeth with dental sealants
  • Schedule family dental visits every year

These tips are great to remember and help keep healthy smiles for a lifetime. If you have questions about your children’s dental health, find a local dentist. Good dental health leads to overall health. This month is a perfect time to focus on teaching children how important their teeth are!

Keep Food Safety in your Super Bowl Playbook

For many people, Super Bowl Sunday is about much more than football. It’s a day of celebration, traditions and favorite game-day snacks and treats. No matter which team you are cheering for, proper food safety practices should be in everyone’s playbook. Whether serving home-cooked food items or ordering takeout for your Super Bowl party, use this game plan for a safe and delicious gathering:

  1. Keep it clean: Before you eat or handle food, wash your hands, food prep tools and surfaces. For handwashing, use soap and warm water for 20 seconds to avoid spreading bacteria to your towels and other surfaces or foods. Cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops should also be washed with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  2. Cook to the right temperature:  Use a food thermometer to check that foods are cooked to the right temperature, including to 165°F for chicken and 160°F for ground beef.
  3. Watch the clock: Throw out perishable food that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours, or one hour if it’s 90°F or warmer.
  4. Serve at the right temperature: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Start a game day tradition by using a food thermometer to check that foods being served to guests are not in the “Danger Zone” where dangerous bacteria can grow and multiply. This means that hot foods should be held at 140°F or above by placing in chafing dishes, preheated warming trays, or slow cookers, and cold foods should be kept at 40°F or below, which can be done by nesting serving dishes in bowls of ice.

For more information on general and Super Bowl food safety, visit the VDH Food Safety page and:

Folic Acid Awareness Month

pregnant woman holding pillsJanuary is Folic Acid Awareness Month. Folic acid is a B vitamin that is good for women’s health. Every woman needs folic acid to help form the healthy new cells the body makes daily. Think about your skin, hair, and nails. These―and other parts of the body–make new cells each day. Taking folic acid daily also helps prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine if you decide to become pregnant or get pregnant before you are ready.

Here are some helpful tips for making sure you are getting the proper amount of folic acid daily:

  • Take a vitamin with folic acid every day unless you eat a serving of breakfast cereal that says it has 400 mcg of folic acid on the nutrition label.
  • Place vitamins by your toothbrush or on the kitchen counter to help you remember to take them daily.

Learn more about the importance of folic acid

Radon Action Month

January is National Radon Action Month. Test Your Home. Protect Your Health.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages everyone to test their homes for radon, especially during the winter when levels are at their highest and people spend more time indoors with windows and doors closed tightly.  Radon, an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas, is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in general. Unsafe levels of radon can lead to serious illness and it is estimated that radon in indoor air causes nearly 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States. In Virginia, an estimated 670 people (3.19% of the national average) are believed to die each year from radon-related lung cancer.

People can lower their health risks from radon by making simple fixes in a home or building:

  • Seal cracks in floors and walls to reduce radon. More severe cases may require the installation of fans and piping to vent unsafe levels of radon to the outside environment.
  • Use a radon kit to test your home’s radon levels. Test kits are simple to use and cost approximately $20; most are available in most home improvement centers and hardware stores.

For more information about radon and radon testing visit the EPA or the VDH Division of Radiological Health website.

Birth Defects Prevention Month

pregnant womanJanuary is Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Not all birth defects can be prevented, but a woman can increase her own chance of having a healthy baby by taking certain steps. Many birth defects happen very early in pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant: remember that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

Here are some steps a woman can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid every day.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.
  • Keep hands clean by washing them often with soap and water to prevent infections.
  • See a health car e professional regularly.
  • Talk with the health car e professional about any medical problems and medicine use (both prescription and over-the-counter).
  • Ask about avoiding any substances at work or at home that might be harmful to a developing baby.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.
  • Avoid eating raw or under cooked meat.


While Pregnant:

  • Keep up these healthy habits.
  • Get early prenatal care and go to every appointment.

Learn more about preventing birth defects

Food Safety Tips for a Happy Holiday Season

hot cocoa and cookiesWhether you are celebrating at home or dining out, there are simple steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy this holiday season.

Preparing a holiday meal at home? Prevent foodborne illness by washing hands and surfaces frequently, avoiding cross-contamination, cooking foods to proper temperatures, and refrigerating foods promptly. If you are cooking a holiday turkey, follow these four tips to take the guesswork out of preparation:

  1. Thawing: Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (changed every 30 minutes), or in a microwave. Frozen turkeys are safe indefinitely, but thawing turkeys must defrost at a safe temperature. Turkeys left out for more than two hours at room temperature can creep into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly.
  1. Handling: It’s flu season! Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands 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. Don’t forget to also thoroughly wash utensils and work surfaces to protect your food and family!
  1. Stuffing: If you stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and possibly cause food poisoning, so use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches this temperature. For optimum safety, cook your stuffing in a casserole dish for even cooking.
  1. Cooking: Set your oven to at least 325°F, and place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a 2 to 2-1/2 inch deep roasting pan. Cooking times will vary depending on weight, so use a food thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint to make sure the bird has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

Dining out? Follow these four tips from CDC to prevent food poisoning:

  1. Check inspection s 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 cooked thoroughly, and send back any undercooked food as it may contain harmful bacteria if not cooked adequately.
  4. Properly handle leftovers by refrigerating within 4 hours of eating. Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days from purchase.

For more information, check out CDC’s blog for more Holiday Food Safety Tips and Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday Turkey.