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VDH Provides Update about the Lake Anna Area Outbreak Associated with Memorial Day Weekend

Versión en español

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is providing an update on the outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in people who were in the Lake Anna area around Memorial Day weekend. The number of STEC cases (25) has not changed.

People who have been exposed to STEC typically develop symptoms within 3-4 days, but it can take up to 10 days. Among the 25 cases, 23 patients reported visiting the lake between May 24 and May 27 and the most recent illness onset date is June 4. Two patients did not visit the lake but had close contact with a person with STEC infection. VDH continues to investigate reports of ill patients and closely monitor the situation. It is possible that more outbreak cases will be identified.

As part of this investigation, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) collected water samples at six priority locations in Lake Anna on June 11 and June 17 that were tested at Virginia’s Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS). The purpose of this testing was to determine if there was fecal contamination (human or animal waste) in the water. Water test results for samples collected on both June 11 and June 17 indicated that fecal bacteria concentrations were well below a level of public health concern. This type of testing has some limitations. Water testing can provide clues about the water environment and level of general fecal contamination at a point in time, but they are not specific to all types of bacteria that can cause illness.

The timeline of illnesses and reported exposures, combined with water testing results, is reassuring; it suggests (but does not confirm) that the reported illnesses were associated with a lake exposure that occurred over the Memorial Day weekend. However, at this time, it is not known whether the type of E. coli that causes severe illness, STEC, is present in Lake Anna. VDH emphasizes that exposure to any natural body of water, including swallowing untreated water or swimming with open wounds, represents a possible health risk. Children under the age of five, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems) are at higher risk of contracting illness from natural bodies of water.

To prevent illness when swimming, boating, wading, or recreating in natural bodies of water, people should:

  • Never swallow untreated water, and don’t swim if the skin has cuts or open wounds. Natural waters, such as rivers, lakes, and oceans contain germs and contaminants, which can cause illness.
  • Avoid splashing water in faces and mouths.
  • Keep sand away from their mouth and children’s mouths. Sand contains germs that can cause illness if swallowed.
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom and before preparing and eating food.
  • Avoid swimming near storm drains (pipes that drain polluted water from streets).
  • Avoid swimming near livestock. Farm animals can carry germs that can cause a variety of illnesses in people.
  • Avoid swimming if they are vomiting or have diarrhea.
  • Avoid going in water if there is a green film on the water and keep pets out as well. This film might indicate an algal bloom and some algae produce toxins that can make people and pets sick.
  • Avoid going in the water if it is cloudier than usual. Cloudy water can be a warning that more germs are in the water than normal.
  • Shower or bathe after swimming to wash off possible germs and contaminants.
  • Avoid swimming for three days after a heavy rain. Heavy rain picks up anything it comes in contact with, including germs from overflowing sewage, polluted storm water, and runoff from land.
  • Properly dispose of human waste by discharging boat sewage at marinas with a pump-out unit or dump station.
  • Check with your healthcare provider before swimming in oceans, lakes, rivers, and other natural bodies of water if your body’s ability to fight germs is already affected by other health problems or medicines.

For the most current information about this outbreak, visit VDH’s website or call the VDH Call Center at 877-829-4682 (option 2). The VDH Call Center is open Monday–Friday (except holidays) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more healthy and safe swimming tips, visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.


Versión en español

 Aviso de precaución para el baño en la sección superior del North Anna Branch
de Lake Anna en Louisa County, debido a la proliferación de algas nocivas
Se aconseja al público que evite el contacto con el agua en la sección de Lake Anna por encima de Route 522  

El Departamento de Salud de Virginia (VDH) está emitiendo un aviso de precaución para el baño en la sección superior de North Anna Branch de Lake Anna en Louisa County. Esta sección del lago está experimentando una proliferación de algas nocivas (FAN, por sus siglas en inglés). Se aconseja al público que evite entrar en contacto con esta zona específica del lago hasta que las concentraciones de algas vuelvan a niveles aceptables.  

La sección del lago que se encuentra actualmente bajo advertencia para el baño debido a niveles peligrosos de cianobacterias es: 

  • North Anna Branch (aviso publicado) — Desde las aguas inundadas superiores del North Anna Branch, incluyendo el “Sandbar” del lago y la corriente hacia abajo hasta el puente de Route 522. 

Algunas algas nocivas, llamadas cianobacterias, pueden causar erupciones en la piel y enfermedades gastrointestinales, como malestar en el estómago, náuseas, vómitos y diarrea. La zona a evitar puede verse en el mapa interactivo de proliferación de algas nocivas. Se puede consultar un informe actualizado de las zonas con advertencia en Lake Anna HAB Status Report 6.21.2024. 

Las cianobacterias pueden producir toxinas. Se detectó una cianotoxina tanto en Upper North Anna como en Pamunkey Branch, pero por debajo de niveles peligrosos para la salud. Se recomienda que las personas y las mascotas eviten nadar, hacer windsurf y paddle board y otras actividades que supongan riesgo de tragar agua. Otras actividades, como la navegación, pueden continuar siempre que se tomen las debidas precauciones en las zonas con aviso. 

 El control del agua en la zona del lago por encima de Route 208 está previsto (siempre que el tiempo lo permita) para la semana del 15 de julio. La proliferación de algas puede producirse cuando el agua caliente y los fertilizantes se combinan y crean condiciones favorables para su crecimiento. La mayoría de las especies de algas son inofensivas, pero algunas pueden producir sustancias irritantes o toxinas. Evite el agua descolorida o los residuos de color verde o verde azulado, ya que es muy probable que contengan toxinas. 

 Para prevenir enfermedades, debe: 

  • Evitar el contacto con cualquier zona del lago donde el agua esté verde o haya una señal de advertencia, EN CASO DE DUDA, ¡QUÉDESE FUERA! 
  • Nunca permita que los niños o las mascotas beban de cuerpos de agua naturales. 
  • Mantenga a los niños y a las mascotas alejados de las zonas en las que haya proliferación de algas nocivas y lávelos rápidamente con abundante agua limpia después de entrar en contacto con la espuma o el agua de las algas. 
  • Busque atención médica/veterinaria si usted o sus animales experimentan síntomas después de nadar en o cerca de una proliferación de algas. 
  • Limpie correctamente el pescado, retirando la piel y desechando todos los órganos internos, y cocínelo a la temperatura adecuada para garantizar que sea seguro para el consumo. 
  • Póngase en contacto con la línea directa Harmful Algal Bloom, llamando al 1-888-238-6154, si piensa que tiene síntomas relacionados con la exposición a las algas nocivas. 
  • Visite www.SwimHealthyVA.com para obtener más información sobre la proliferación de algas nocivas o para notificar una proliferación de algas o la muerte de peces. 

 Esta proliferación de algas nocivas no está vinculada con el brote de Escherichia coli productora de toxina Shiga (STEC, por sus siglas en inglés) en la zona de Lake Anna, ya que ese patógeno no está relacionado con las algas nocivas.   

VDH y el Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force (Equipo de trabajo para el control de proliferaciones de algas nocivas de Virginia), que incluye VDH, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (Departamento de Calidad Medioambiental de Virginia) y Old Dominion University Phytoplankton Laboratory (Laboratorio de Fitoplancton de Old Dominion University), seguirán vigilando la calidad del agua del lago. En general, las advertencias se retiran después de dos pruebas consecutivas con niveles aceptables de recuento de células de algas y/o concentración de toxinas. 

Para más información, visite: www.SwimHealthyVA.com 

Swimming Advisory Issued for Upper North Anna Branch of Lake Anna in Louisa County due to Harmful Algae Bloom

Public Advised to Avoid Water Contact with Section of Lake Anna Above Route 522

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is issuing a swimming advisory for the Upper section of North Anna Branch of Lake Anna in Louisa County. This section of the lake is experiencing a harmful algae bloom (HAB). The public is advised to avoid contact with this specific area of the lake until algae concentrations return to acceptable levels.

The section of the lake currently under a swimming advisory due to unsafe levels of cyanobacteria is:

  • North Anna Branch (advisory issued) — From the upper inundated waters of the North Anna arm, to include the “Sandbar” of the lake and downstream to the Route 522 Bridge.

Some harmful algae, called cyanobacteria, can cause skin rash and gastrointestinal illnesses, such as an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The area to avoid can be seen on an interactive Harmful Algal Bloom map. A status report containing the updated advisory areas may be viewed at Lake Anna HAB Status Report 6.21.2024.

Cyanobacteria have the potential to produce toxins. One cyanotoxin was detected at both Upper North Anna and Pamunkey Branch sites, but below levels of health concern. People and pets are advised to avoid swimming, windsurfing and stand-up-paddle-boarding, as well as other activities that pose a risk of ingesting water. Activities such as boating may continue with proper precaution in advisory areas.

Follow-up monitoring above Route 208 on the lake is planned (weather permitting) for the week of July 15.   Algae blooms can occur when warm water and nutrients combine to make conditions favorable for algae growth. Most algae species are harmless; however, some species may produce irritating compounds or toxins. Avoid discolored water or scums that are green or bluish-green because they are more likely to contain toxins.

To prevent illness, people should:

  • Avoid contact with any area of the lake where water is green or an advisory sign is posted,
    • WHEN IN DOUBT, STAY OUT!
  • Never allow children or pets to drink from natural bodies of water.
  • Keep children and pets out of the areas experiencing a harmful algae bloom and quickly wash them off with plenty of fresh, clean water after coming into contact with algae scum or bloom water.
  • Seek medical/veterinarian care if you or your animals experience symptoms after swimming in or near an algal bloom.
  • Properly clean fish by removing skin and discarding all internal organs and cooking fish to the proper temperature to ensure fish fillets are safe to eat.
  • Contact the Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 1-888-238-6154 if they suspect they experienced health-related effects following exposure to a bloom.
  • Visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com to learn more about harmful algae blooms or to report an algae bloom or fish kill.

This HAB is not associated with the outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) at Lake Anna area, as that pathogen is not associated with HABs.

VDH and the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force, which includes the VDH, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Old Dominion University Phytoplankton Laboratory, will continue to monitor water quality in the lake. In general, advisories will be lifted following two consecutive test results with acceptable levels for algal cell counts and/or toxin concentration.

For more information visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

World Sickle Cell Day Shines a Light on the Disease and the Need for a Cure

The Virginia Department of Health is joining organizations around the globe in bringing more awareness to sickle cell disease (SCD). Sickle cell disease is an inherited lifelong condition that primarily affects people of African descent. SCD gets its name from sickle-shaped red blood cells. Unlike normal blood cells that are shaped like round discs, sickle cells are stiff and do not move through blood vessels easily. This causes painful blockages, referred to as a “pain crisis.” A crisis can last a few hours, a few days or longer. The blockages can result in tissue damage, strokes, organ damage and other serious medical complications.

Recently, the FDA approved two milestone treatments for SCD. The cell-based gene therapies treat SCD in patients 12 years and older.

In Virginia, all babies are screened for sickle cell disease. Newborns diagnosed with the condition, or a similar inherited blood disorder are referred to a Care Connection for Children Center.

The Virginia Department of Health funds three initiatives related to SCD.

  1.  Virginia Sickle Cell Awareness Program
  2. the Pediatric Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinic Network
  3. the Adult Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinic Network.

Each of the programs focuses on a certain area of need, such as screening, financial support, education, or health care. For more information about SCD, including resources visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records Announces Customer Services Benchmark Achievements

The Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Office of Vital Records (OVR) is a one-stop shop for any number of personal records requests, including birth and death certificates, name amendments, and marriage and divorce records. The Office of Vital Records was created by the 1912 Acts of Assembly and on June 14, 2024, celebrated 112 years of serving Virginia. Today, more Virginians can access the Office’s services from the comfort of their own homes seven days a week, 24 hours a day. 

“Thanks to the collaboration, leadership and customer focus of the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records, Virginians are provided needed documents efficiently and effectively,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “These benchmark achievements are an excellent example of state government working together to address ongoing challenges and efficiently serve eight million Virginians.”  

“We are always seeking to improve how the Office of Vital Records interacts with the residents of the Commonwealth,” said Seth Austin, State Registrar and Director of VDH’s Office of Vital Records. “Our goal is to respond as quickly and as efficiently as possible when our customers need us.”  

The Office of Vital Records has made the below program enhancements and, as a result, has experienced the following: 

  • Online applications went live in April 2022, and since then, the Office has processed more than 300,000 applications for vital records.  
  • An online e-amendment portal for funeral homes was unveiled in 2023. This portal helps grieving families amend death certificates quickly. Previously, such transactions took place by U.S. mail and frequently took weeks to complete. Funeral homes can now complete these amendments in a matter of days. 
  • The customer experience has been considerably enhanced with call center and lobby wait times being significantly reduced. The average wait time for customers to speak with an OVR call center representative has decreased from an average of 43 minutes to 30 seconds.  
  • Application processing times which were previously 46 days in 2021 are now three to five business days. Amendment processing times, previously an average of 55 days, are now finished in five to ten business days. 
  • Marriage and divorce certificates previously required 60+ days before they were available for issuance. The Office set a goal of 30 days to have these certificates available to the public; now, the public can obtain these records in 27 days. 

“The staff at the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records work tirelessly to ensure that Virginians can efficiently access their vital records the moment they need it.” said Karen Shelton, MD, State Health Commissioner.  “These latest benchmark achievements are symbolic of the work Virginia’s state government does to serve Virginians.” 

The Office’s headquarters is located in Richmond at 2001 Maywill Street, Suite #101, Richmond, VA 23230; it is open to the public Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The vital records call center — (804) 662-6200 — is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The public may also apply for a vital record, pay for it, and receive updates on the request’s fulfillment online using this tracking tool. For more information, please visit the Office of Vital Records’ website, including frequently asked questions and other resources 

The public may also access Office of Vital Records services through their local health district offices and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices. Use this Health Department locator tool to find your local health department office; please call ahead to ensure your local office offers the services you need to access. Use this DMV office locator tool to find a DMV office near you; DMV offices are open for walk-ins and appointments.

Virginia Department of Health Provides Update about the Lake Anna Area Outbreak Associated with Memorial Day Weekend

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is providing an update on the outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in people who were in the Lake Anna area on and after the Memorial Day weekend. To date, 25 STEC probable and confirmed cases have been reported to VDH: 21 in Virginia residents from the Central, Northern, and Northwest regions of the state and four in residents of other states. Most cases (76%) have occurred in children younger than 18 years of age. Severe STEC infections can progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can be particularly serious. To date, five HUS cases have been reported to VDH, all in children who required hospitalization.

VDH has been partnering with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in the collection of water samples at six priority locations in Lake Anna. There was an increase of STEC cases in the Rappahannock Health District during the first week of June. Soon after, the Office of Environmental Health Services initiated an investigation and began tracking the results. The first sampling event occurred on June 11 and the second event is planned for June 17. Water column samples were analyzed for bacteria, including E. coli, by the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS), the state laboratory. Results for samples collected June 11 indicate all fecal bacteria concentrations were well below a public health level of concern. A map of the six sampled areas and the test results is available on the VDH outbreak website that was launched today.

VDH’s investigation is ongoing. No single cause of the outbreak has been identified, and it is possible we might not be able to identify the source. There is no indication that contaminated food was the source of the outbreak. Environmental pollution from heavy rains, livestock, failing septic systems, boating discharge, and swimmers are potential sources of illness when swimming in natural waters. Avoid swimming where livestock are present.

If you were in the Lake Anna area on Memorial Day weekend (May 24–27, 2024) or since and you experienced gastrointestinal illness (such as stomach cramps and diarrhea), contact your local health department and seek medical care if you are still experiencing symptoms.

To prevent illness when swimming and boating in natural waters, people should:

  • Never drink untreated water, and don’t swim if skin has cuts or open wounds. Natural waters such as rivers, lakes, and oceans contain germs and contaminants, which can cause illness.
  • Wash their hands after using the bathroom and before preparing and eating food.
  • Avoid swimming near storm drains (pipes that drain polluted water from streets).
  • Avoid swimming if they are vomiting or have diarrhea.
  • Avoid going in water if there is a green film on the water and keep pets out as well. This may indicate an algal bloom and some algae produce toxins that can make people sick.
  • Shower or bathe after swimming to wash off possible germs and contaminants.
  • Avoid swimming for three days after a heavy rain. Germs can come from overflowing sewage, polluted storm water & runoff from land.
  • Properly dispose of human waste by discharging boat sewage at marinas with a pump-out unit or dump station.
  • If your body’s ability to fight germs is already affected by other health problems or medicines, check with your healthcare provider before swimming in oceans, lakes, rivers, and other natural bodies of water.

VDH will provide future updates on our outbreak website on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com for more healthy and safe swimming tips.

VDH Reminds Men to Take Charge of Their Health

June is National Men’s Health Month. The Virginia Department of Health encourages men to take action when it comes to their health. It’s a step that can have widespread benefits — since men’s health can impact everyone. Some of the actions that men should consider include.

  • Eating healthy – Eat more fruits and vegetables and eat food with less salt, fat, sugar, and high calories.
  • Physical activity – Make a plan to participate in physical activities regularly. Pick something that is enjoyable, which will help in staying motivated.
  • Get a checkup – Schedule yearly checkups. Regular health screenings can prevent serious illness.

A major health concern for men living in Virginia and the nation is prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer for men living in the Commonwealth. In 2020, more than 5,200 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 880 Virginians died from the disease. The risk factors include:

  • Age – the older the man, the greater their chance of prostate cancer.
  • Race/Ethnicity – African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and twice is likely to die from the disease.
  • Family history
  • Obesity

For more information on making healthy choices and health screenings, visit Cancer and Men on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

50th Anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act

More often than not, when we go to grab a glass of ice-cold water, we are not always considering the source and safety of the water; we just know that it’s about to quench our thirst.

Fortunately for us, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was established to protect the quality of drinking water in the U.S. and set strong water quality standards. This law focuses on all waters designed for drinking use.

Established in 1974, the SDWA has provided protection against hazards that threaten our water supply and our health.

In accordance with the SDWA, the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water (ODW) works to protect public health and ensure all Virginians have a safe and adequate supply of drinking water.

As outlined in the Code of Virginia, § 32.1-167

  • The Office of Drinking Water provides a simple and effective regulatory program for waterworks.
  • Adapts to new health concerns in drinking water treatment and distribution systems
  • Provides a means to improve inadequate waterworks.
  • Provides 24/7 oversight and emergency response services to the Commonwealth.

ODW oversees 2,828 public systems that serve approximately 7.75 million consumers. Public water systems can also be privately owned but are regulated in the same way. Water from regulated water systems is regularly tested for over 90 different contaminants.

The capacity to live, make food, and maintain hygiene is dependent on a supply of safe water. In Virginia, not everyone is on a water supply regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some are on private wells and are responsible for testing their own water and maintaining their own systems.

Check out the Drinking Water Viewer, which is an application that lets any community member view data that ODW maintains about a regulated public water system or waterworks. This application does not apply to private wells or other water systems not regulated as a waterworks. The information that can be retrieved typically includes:

  • Size and type of population served
  • Water system facilities (e.g., wells, intakes, treatment plant, etc.)
  • Sampling requirements
  • Sampling results reported to VDH-ODW
  • Violations
  • Inspections

To deliver safe, trusted, affordable, sufficient, and accessible drinking water, a multitude of experts collaborate seamlessly, drawing upon their understanding of engineering, environmental science, toxicology, epidemiology, hydrology, biology, chemistry, physics, climatology, meteorology, project and construction management, law, watershed management, emergency preparedness, technology, water and wastewater treatment, communication, marketing, scientific inquiry, and contaminants.

Today, the Safe Drinking Water Act continues to provide a framework for monitoring and responding to hazards that threaten our water supply and public health.

Sources:

 Celebrating Cancer Survivors on June 2nd

Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is joining people and organizations around the nation who are celebrating cancer survivors on National Cancer Survivors Day. This is the 37th annual observance, which is held on the first Sunday of June. According to the American Cancer Society, as of 2022, more than 432,500 cancer survivors living in Virginia.

More people are surviving and living longer after cancer. A person is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their life. Even after treatment has ended, cancer survivors may experience long term physical and emotional side effects, financial hardships, increased risk for secondary cancers and other health problems as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

There are a number of resources available to cancer survivors and their caretakers to help address needs they may experience during their survivorship journey.

  1. CDC Cancer Survivors: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivors/index.htm
  2. National Cancer Institute: Cancer Survivorship: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/survivorship
  3. American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/
  4. Patient Advocate Foundation: https://www.patientadvocate.org/
  5. Cancer LINC: https://cancerlinc.org/
  6. ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation: https://www.askccf.org/

To learn more about what VDH is doing to address the burden of cancer in Virginia and ways you can get involved, see the Virginia Cancer Plan.

Look Out for Lyme Disease Awareness Month

May is here and June is fast approaching, and we’re getting outside to enjoy the spring weather. But as we get outdoors, the risk of encountering ticks increases and with increased tick exposure, the risk of Lyme disease increases.

Lyme disease is a serious disease in Virginia and is prevalent in suburban regions of the northern and western parts of Virginia. This includes higher mountainous areas of the state and areas along the coast where temperatures are mild. It is spread by the bite of the blacklegged tick (aka deer tick), which is common in these parts of Virginia.

To draw the public’s attention to the disease, May is designated as Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

Ticks thrive in suburban forests where there are domestic and wild animals. Deer are the most important animal contributing to tick reproduction as adult male and female ticks meet and mate on the deer. Deer also serve as the last meal for female ticks and the blood they consume is necessary for egg production. Leaf packs and yard debris make excellent wildlife habitats, and pressure from hunting and predators is minimal.

Blacklegged ticks can be found primarily in:

  • Forests
  • Along the forest edge
  • Shaded grassy areas
  • Tall brush

Lyme disease cannot be transferred from one animal to another; the only way an animal can get the disease is from a tick bite. Blacklegged nymphs, which are about the size of a poppy seed, are the life stage most likely to bite people and transmit this disease. The potential for infection exists year-round but is most common in the spring and summer months when the climate is warm and humid. The earliest sign of possible infection is a “bulls-eye” rash around the site of the tick bite. Other early symptoms include a constant headache, a fever, joint or muscle pain, and fatigue.

If it’s left untreated, Lyme disease can cause the following symptoms:

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Pain in the tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
  • Rashes on other areas of the body
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, especially in the knees and other large joints
  • Facial palsy with the facial muscles drooping on one side
  • Nerve pain and shooting paints, numbness, or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Irregular heartbeat, dizziness, and/or shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord

If you’ve been outside, hiking or camping, it’s important to check yourself for ticks and remove any you find immediately. If you find a tick and are unsure how long it has been on your body, preserve the tick in rubbing alcohol. If you notice any of the early symptoms of infection, consult with your healthcare provide as soon as possible. If you have symptoms, it’s possible with early treatment to avoid any long-term affects of Lyme disease. The Virginia Department of Health offers tick identification through the Virginia Tick Survey.

Learn more about ticks and the diseases they’re associated with, check out the VDH tick resource page.

Governor Glenn Youngkin Honors Emergency Medical Services Award Recipients During EMS Week Celebration at the Governor’s Mansion

RICHMOND, Va. – On Monday, May 20, Governor Glenn Youngkin recognized the Governor’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Award recipients from 2023 during a special EMS Week ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion. The Governor’s EMS Awards honor the outstanding contributions of individuals, agencies, community organizations and businesses that provide or help support emergency medical care in Virginia. These awards are the highest honor an EMS provider or organization can receive at the state level, and they are administered by the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Office of Emergency Medical Services.

Governor Glenn Youngkin also proclaimed EMS Week in Virginia, May 19-25. This special week honored EMS providers’ commitment to respond to emergencies and provide critical care. EMS for Children Day, May 22, emphasized the pediatric patient and their required specialized treatment. This year’s EMS Week theme was, “Honoring Our Past. Forging Our Future,” and it acknowledges the foundational work of those who came before us, while also striving to build and lead the EMS System we envision for our future.

“During EMS Week, I had the honor of recognizing the 2023 Governor’s EMS Award recipients and thanked them for their incredible contributions to Virginia’s EMS System,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Virginia’s EMS providers rush in to save Virginians who are sick or injured by providing the best prehospital care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Thank you for your heroic efforts and for protecting the well-being of all Virginians.”

“I join Governor Youngkin in honoring the recipients of these awards that recognize individual and organizational commitment and dedication to providing excellent emergency medical care. It is reassuring to know that throughout the Commonwealth when someone dials 911, there is a network of care ready to assist them, whether the call is for a stroke, a vehicle wreck, a severe allergic reaction, or some other emergency. Our EMS providers save lives every day, and we salute them,” said State Health Commissioner Karen Shelton, M.D.

Last year, EMS providers responded to more than 1.72 million calls for help in Virginia, which represents approximately 4,712 incidents per day. Virginia’s EMS providers respond to emergencies during our citizens critical moments from the time a 911 call is received to the arrival at the hospital.

“It is such an honor to recognize the dedication and contributions of the Governor’s EMS Award recipients,” said VDH Chief Operating Officer Christopher Lindsay. “It is so important to thank Virginia’s EMS providers for their life-saving efforts, not just during this special EMS Week, but every day! I have had the distinct privilege of serving as a volunteer EMS provider myself for the last 15 years alongside many amazing providers at my local rescue squad and I am honored to be able to recognize their outstanding contributions to Virginia’s EMS System.”

During EMS Week, Virginia EMS agencies hosted community activities, including first aid classes, health and safety fairs, open houses and more. These family-friendly events encouraged citizens to meet and greet the first responders in their neighborhoods.

Congratulations to the 2023 Governor’s EMS Award recipients:

  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Excellence in EMS – William “Bill” Akers, Jr., Southwest Virginia Paramedic Program, Lebanon Lifesaving Crew
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to Leadership in EMS (The Kent J. Weber Trophy) – Beverly G. Harris, VCU Health System Critical Care Transport Network/LifeEvac
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Physician with Outstanding Contribution to EMS (The Frank M. Yeiser Trophy) – Benjamin D. Nicholson, M.D., VCU Health Department of Emergency Medicine & LifeEvac
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Nurse with Outstanding Contribution to EMS – Matthew J. Jensen, R.N., VCU Health System Critical Care Transport Network/LifeEvac
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Prehospital Educator – Michael Garnett, New River Valley Training Center
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Prehospital Provider – John “Jack” Kelley, Lake of the Woods Fire and Rescue
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Health and Safety – James City County Fire Department
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS for Children – Jennifer S. Farmer, Lakeside Volunteer Rescue Squad
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Agency – James City County Fire Department
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Telecommunication Amanda Echevarria, Chesapeake Police Department
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Emergency Preparedness and Response (The James A. Nogle, Jr. Trophy) – City of Alexandria Community Emergency Response Team
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Innovation Excellence in EMS – Northern Virginia Emergency Response System

An additional recognition is presented in conjunction with these awards for the outstanding contributions to EMS by a high school senior. This is a scholarship award provided by the Virginia Office of EMS in collaboration with the State EMS Advisory Board.

  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS by a High School Senior (The Dr. Carol Gilbert $5,000 Scholarship) – Kelsey Cone, Cave Spring Rescue Squad

To learn more about the VDH’s Office of EMS, visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/emergency-medical-services/.