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Food Safety in Virginia

November 19th is the Great American Smokeout

Five Ways to Get Ready to Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking can be hard, so a good plan can help you get past symptoms of withdrawal. Five steps can help.

Set a quit date. Choose the Great American Smokeout or another quit day within the next 2 weeks.

Tell your family and friends about your quit plan. Share your quit date with the important people in your life and ask for support. A daily phone call, e-mail, or text message can help you stay on course and provide moral support. Try SmokefreeTEXT for 24/7 help on your mobile phone.

Be prepared for challenges. The urge to smoke is short—usually only 3 to 5 minutes. Surprised? Those moments can feel intense. Even one puff can feed a craving and make it stronger. Before your quit day, write down healthy ways to cope.

  • Drink water.
  • Take a walk or ride your bike.
  • Listen to a favorite song or play a game.
  • Call or text a friend.

Remove cigarettes and other tobacco from your home, car, and workplace. Throw away your cigarettes, matches, lighters, and ashtrays. Clean and freshen your car, home, and workplace. Old cigarette odors can cause cravings.

Talk to your pharmacist, doctor, or quitline coach about quit options. Nicotine patches, gum, or other approved quit medication can help with cravings

For more information:


Septic Smart Week

Preventing Diabetes in the Prince William Health District


Prince William Health District is bringing the National Diabetes Prevention Program to the Greater Prince William Area.  The program offers people with a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes a process to prevent or delay the onset of the condition by making modest lifestyle changes.

The CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program offers an effective lifestyle change program that is proven to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.  Program participants at high risk for type 2 diabetes meet in a group with a skilled Lifestyle Coach to learn ways to incorporate healthier eating and moderate physical activity into their daily lives.  During the year-long program, participants also work with the Lifestyle Coach and the group to identify and discuss overcoming barriers to making these lifestyle changes.

For more information or to sign up for the program, please contact Kelsey Flutsch at 703-792-6283.

Keeping and Disposing of Drugs Safely:  
Prescription Drug Take-Back Program

Tip card with directions for the proper disposal of prescription drugs 
Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse Tip Card

Virginia’s statewide Drug Take-Back Day is an effort to prevent prescription drug abuse and to keep trace drugs out of our lakes and streams.  In communities all across the commonwealth, it is a day where citizens can drop off their unused, unwanted, or expired medications at their local law enforcement agencies for safe disposal.

The Office of the Attorney General, the Secretary of Public Safety, the Virginia State Police, and local law enforcement agencies are working together to participate in this nationwide U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take-Back Day. 

Drug Take-Back Day is a day where citizens can drop off their unused, unwanted, or expired medications at their local law enforcement agencies for safe disposal.

Drug Take-Back Day is an effort to prevent prescription drug abuse and to keep trace drugs out of our lakes and streams (wastewater treatment plants cannot remove many compounds found in medications; so when flushed or put in a landfill, drugs are discharged into our surface and ground water and consumed by fish and wildlife).

  • It’s anonymous and free
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications will be accepted
  • Please, no intravenous solutions, injectables, or needles

Why are drug take-back programs important?

Take-back programs are the safest method for disposing of prescription drugs because they are organized and closely monitored by local, state, and federal government agencies. These agencies ensure the proper disposal of the drugs in accordance with federal law.

The dangers of not properly disposing of prescription drugs

A growing concern across the commonwealth is prescription medications being taken from medicine cabinets or the trash by those who abuse drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006, nearly seven million Americans over the age of 12 reported abusing prescription medications. In fact, approximately 60 percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers indicate that they obtained the prescription drugs from friends or relatives for free, often taking the drugs without permission.

Children or pets may ingest undisposed or improperly disposed medications. This can lead to overdose, injury, and even death.

Many people believe that flushing or simply throwing away drugs is the best way to dispose of medications, however, if not disposed of properly, the drugs can contaminate the ground and waterways. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove or process many compounds found in medications. Instead, when flushed or put in a landfill, the drugs are discharged into our surface and ground water. 

Pharmaceutical contaminants in water have been shown to cause serious harm to fish and wildlife living in and near rivers and lakes. Humans can also be exposed to these chemicals when they drink water drawn from contaminated bodies of water or eat wild game or fish. The long-term human health risks from exposure to even very small amounts of these chemicals is not yet known.

Home disposal:  What to do on other days of the year when there is no take-back program available

If a take-back program is not available, home disposal, when completed correctly per the instructions below, is another option to dispose of prescription drugs:

  • Step 1- Remove medications from their original containers. If the medication is solid, crush it or add water to dissolve it and then mix the medication with an undesirable substance, such as kitty litter or coffee grounds. This makes the mixture unattractive to children and pets and unrecognizable to potential abusers who may go through your trash.
  • Step 2- Place the mixture in a container with a lid or in a sealable baggie to prevent the medication from leaking, and throw it into the trash.
  • Step 3- When discarding the original containers, scratch out or remove identifiers on the bottle and/or packaging.


  • DO NOT dispose of medications in the toilet or sink, unless specifically instructed to on the label.
  • DO NOT give medicine to friends or family. This is not only potentially illegal, but a drug that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.
  • When in doubt, consult your pharmacist.

Manual for localities:  “Hosting a Successful Prescription Drug Take-Back Event”

In 2010, the Office of the Attorney General created a task force to create a model practice aimed at helping localities hold successful drug take-back events on their own. 

Learn about Hosting a Successful Prescription Drug Take-Back Event.

Tip card with directions for the proper disposal of prescription drugs

View the attorney general’s “Tips for the Proper Disposal of Prescription Drugs.”

To request tip cards for distribution, email

Tips for Eating Healthy When Eating out

  • As a beverage choice, ask for water or order fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or other drinks without added sugars.
  • Ask for whole-wheat bread for sandwiches.
  • In a restaurant, start your meal with a salad packed with veggies, to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner.
  • Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side. Then use only as much as you want.
  • Choose main dishes that include vegetables, such as stir fries, kebobs, or pasta with a tomato sauce.
  • Order steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed.
  • Choose a small" or "medium" portion. This includes main dishes, side dishes, and beverages.
  • Order an item from the menu instead heading for the "all-you-can-eat" buffet.
  • If main portions at a restaurant are larger than you want, try one of these strategies to keep from overeating:
          • Order an appetizer-sized portion or a side dish instead of an entrée.
          • Share a main dish with a friend.
          • If you can chill the extra food right away, take leftovers home in a "doggy bag."
          • When your food is delivered, set aside or pack half of it to go immediately.
          • Resign from the "clean your plate club" - when you've eaten enough, leave the rest.
  • To keep your meal moderate in calories, fat, and sugars:
          • Ask for salad dressing to be served "on the side" so you can add only as much as you want.
          • Order foods that do not have creamy sauces or gravies
          • Add little or no butter to your food.
          • Choose fruits for dessert most often.
  • On long commutes or shopping trips, pack some fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, low-fat string cheese sticks, or a handful of unsalted nuts to help you avoid stopping for sweet or fatty snacks.

Source: USDA Choose My Plate -

Protect You and Your Family from Food borne Illness

Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs each year. Many people don’t realize that produce can also be the culprit in outbreaks of food borne illness.

FDA says to choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged, and make sure that pre-cut items—such as bags of lettuce or watermelon slices—are either refrigerated or on ice both in the store and at home.

In addition, follow these recommendations:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
  • Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
  • Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  • Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  • Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
  • Store perishable produce in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below.

From the US HHS website


Of course, when facing a major storm or hurricane, your first priorities are to assure the safety of your family.  Included in those priorities are concerns about safe drinking water and proper sewage disposal.  Below are some concerns about private wells and onsite sewage systems when Virginia faces major storms or flooding followed by links to other sources of information.  If you have specific questions before or after the storm, call your local health department.  While the emergency is in progress, Virginia Department of Health personnel will be working in Emergency Operation Centers at state and local levels.

Power outages

Power outages can cause problems for homeowners with wells and/or certain onsite sewage systems.  If your home is served by a well, the well pump will not work when the power goes out.  Keep sufficient potable water on hand for drinking and cooking.  Toilets can be flushed by pouring a bucketful of water either into the tank and using the handle, or by pouring a bucketful into the bowl.  Many well pumps operate on a 240 volt circuit, so if you plan to use a generator to run your well pump during a power outage, have the connections established by a licensed electrician.  Remember – water and electricity are very dangerous together!

Some onsite sewage systems may also fail to operate properly during a power outage.  The pump won’t work without power in systems with pumps, but most onsite sewage systems with a pump should have 100-200 gallons storage capacity above the high level alarm.  Exceeding this storage capacity could cause the pump chamber to overflow, spilling raw sewage on the ground.  Use water sparingly.

Many alternative systems also have electrical components such as aerators, flow control switches and other equipment.  Many alternative systems also include a pump and therefore should have a limited amount of storage capacity as noted above.  Alternative system owners should call their licensed Alternative Onsite Sewage System Operator as soon as possible once the power returns if some components do not seem to be functioning properly.


People who rely on private wells for their water should consider their well contaminated if it was submerged or they believe it is possible the well became submerged during the hurricane.

If the well was flooded and underwater, do not turn on the pump until you are sure the electrical system is completely dried out.  See the EPA link below – What to do After the Flood.  Consider a well that has been submerged  contaminated and disinfect the well and the water system using this procedure once you are sure the electrical system is safe:  The water should not be consumed until bacteriological testing indicates the well is not contaminated. Two satisfactory bacteriological tests performed on samples taken at least 24 hours apart will indicate your water supply has been properly disinfected.  Labs certified to test drinking water are available at this website:

If you are unsure if the well was flooded, assume that it was and use another water source until the the water supply is disinfected.

A satisfactory water test following disinfection indicates that the water supply has been disinfected initially.  The second water test, taken at least 24 hours later, indicates that there is no ongoing contamination of the water supply.  Be sure to follow the instructions from the lab carefully when collecting your water samples.  Exposing the water or container to a source of bacteriological contamination (fingers, breath, etc.) could give a false positive result.

Onsite Sewage Systems

For any type of onsite sewage system, conventional or alternative, a hurricane or flood could submerge the system, causing a backup of sewage into the house.  Look for sewage backups in the plumbing fixtures at the lowest elevations in your house. The wax seal between the toilet and the floor and the first floor or basement bathtub.  Wear gloves and other protective gear when cleaning up sewage.
Flooding can wash soil away from the septic tank, drainfield lines or other components, causing damage to the components or introducing raw or partially treated sewage into the yard.  Flooding may also just cause the onsite sewage system to operate sluggishly because the soil in the dispersal area is saturated, preventing effluent from the tank from seeping into the ground.  Hurricane Isabel in September 2003, left Virginia with acres of fallen trees from high winds combined with saturated soil.  Some homeowners found that the roots of falling trees pulled up some shallow drainfield lines and damaged some other components such as septic tanks and distribution boxes.

If your septic tank/drainfield system is damaged by the storm or if the soil is saturated, minimize water use within the house to prevent raw sewage from discharging to the ground surface.  Minimize contact with sewage contaminated waters.  Use gloves and protective gear and wash any exposed skin with soap and water as soon as possible.  Disinfect any exposed human contact surfaces with diluted bleach water.

Following the storm, saturated soils should begin to drain and restore function to many sluggish systems.  If your system has been damaged or remains sluggish, you will need to complete an application to repair your damaged system with the local health department or contact your Alternative Onsite Sewage System Operator to inspect your alternative system.

Here are some links you may find helpful:

Tap Water

Tap Water is Best

More than 144 million United States residents in more than 10,000 communities drink fluoridated tap water, providing an automatic defense against the harmful ingredients that cause such a preventable oral health disease.

"Instead of drilling holes to fix cavities, dentists would rather educate the public on how to avoid developing tooth decay in the first place," said Cynthia Sherwood, DDS, FAGD, spokesperson for the AGD. "Drinking tap water to receive fluoride is safe, and it's easier on your wallet than going to the dentist for a filling."

The second-most effective source of fluoride is varnish. Varnish, applied quickly and easily by a dentist, is one of the most concentrated products available commercially. Varnishes that contain sodium fluoride adhere to tooth surfaces when saliva is present, providing an excellent fluoride treatment.

Keeping fluoride in the mouth enhances its ability to arrest demineralization and promote remineralization, and varnishes are better for this purpose than fluoridated drinking water or toothpaste. Fluoride varnishes are typically used for patients who don't receive enough fluoride from other sources.

Fitness for less: Low-cost ways to shape up

Want to work out but think you can't afford it? Think again. Consider these low-cost alternatives to a pricey gym membership.
By Mayo Clinic staff

If the only thing keeping you from starting a fitness program is the cost of a gym membership, here's good news. You don't need to join a gym to take physical activity seriously. Plenty of low-cost alternatives can help you get fit without breaking your budget. These tips can help you get started.
Take advantage of everyday opportunities

You don't need a gym or special equipment for an aerobic workout. With a little foresight, activities you may take for granted can become part of your fitness routine.

Step it up. Take a brisk walk every day, whether it's in your neighborhood or a local mall. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or make a full workout of climbing the stairs. Sneak in extra steps whenever you can by parking farther away from your destination.

Make housework a workout. Mow the lawn, weed the garden, rake the leaves or shovel the snow. Even indoor activities such as vacuuming and scrubbing count as a workout if you increase your heart rate.

Play with your kids. If you have children, don't just watch them play. Join them for a game of tag or kickball. Walk them to the park. Dance. Take a family bike ride. Go to a community pool. Even if you don't swim, you can enjoy time in the water or walk in the shallow end. Do your kids play video games? If so, plug in with them and swing a virtual tennis racket or do a little boxing.

Improvise with household items

If you'd rather not spend a penny on exercise equipment, use ordinary household items for various upper and lower body exercises:
Canned goods. Many canned goods can serve double duty as hand weights.

Chair or step stool. Use a chair for support when doing exercises such as leg curls. A low, sturdy step stool can become exercise equipment if you use it for step training — an aerobic exercise resembling stair climbing.

Consider a modest investment
If you're able to spend a little, you can find inexpensive products to add variety to your fitness routine:

Dumbbells. Use these small, hand-held weights to strengthen your upper body. They're available in many sizes.

Exercise DVDs and apps. Create the feel of a health club aerobics class in your own living room — or choose a program that'll help you improve your strength and flexibility.

Fitness ball. A fitness ball looks like a large beach ball. You can do many core exercises, including abdominal crunches, with a fitness ball. You can also use a fitness ball to improve your flexibility and balance.

Jump-ropes. Skipping rope can be a great cardiovascular workout.

Resistance tubing. These stretchy tubes offer weight-like resistance when you pull on them. Use the tubes to build strength in your arms and other muscles. Choose from varying degrees of resistance, depending on your fitness level.

Be a savvy shopper
If you're interested in a specific exercise class or piece of equipment, shop around to find the best deal.

Check out your local recreation department. Many recreation departments offer discounted fitness classes to local residents. If you live near a high school or college with a fitness center, ask if the facility is available to community members.

Buy used equipment. Some sporting goods stores specialize in used equipment — or you can check out listings for exercise equipment in the local newspaper. You may also find great deals on used exercise equipment online. Just make sure the cost of shipping won't put the item out of your budget.

Share costs with a friend. Trade exercise videos or DVDs with a friend so that neither of you gets bored doing the same workout over and over again. Find a personal trainer who'll let you share the cost of a session with a friend or two.

Remember, getting in shape doesn't need to be expensive. Don't get caught up in memberships or purchases you can't afford. Instead, concentrate on your fitness goals — and how to achieve them without breaking your budget.

"Above all do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday I walk myself into a state of well being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill ... if one keeps on walking everything will be alright."
- Soren Kierkegaard
Get up, get out and go for a walk!

Infectious diseases remain one of the greatest threats to public health in the United States and across the world. Despite key advances in medicine and science, infectious diseases still rank among the greatest causes for illness, disability, and death. The burden of infectious diseases is both a national and global challenge to population health.

A quote from the committee that developed the Healthy People 2020 measures. This demonstrates how important Prince William Health District’s communicable disease and immunization program is to protect the health of the community.

Bottled Water and Tooth Decay

Drinking water with fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay. If you only drink bottled water, you may not be getting an adequate amount of fluoride to prevent tooth decay.

  • Fluorinating public water began in the 1940s, and is one of the most effective public health oral health preventive measures that helped to improve oral health. 
  • An increase in drinking of bottled water without fluoride among children and adolescents may contribute to the decline in adolescent oral health.
  • Some bottled waters have fluoride, which can help to reduce tooth decay along with adequate brushing, improved diets, and less sugary drinks.
  • Some water filters remove the fluoride from water. You can ask the water filter manufacturer for information regarding your particular filter.

Behaviors to Improve Cardiovascular Health

  • No tobacco exposure
  • Healthy dietary practices: Increase fruits and vegetable intake, whole grain intake
  • Decrease saturated fat and trans fat intake
  • Decrease sugar intake: decrease sugar beverages
  • Physically active lifestyle
  • Adhere to health care recommendations
  • Increase risk factor screening: BP, total cholesterol, fasting blood glucose

Information from the American Heart Association

Last Updated: 11-24-2015

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