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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is February 7

On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) we celebrate the progress of Black communities in their fight against HIV along with their strength and resilience. The day is observed each year on February 7.

The day also is a time to recognize the challenges that Black communities continue to face reducing HIV cases. Racism, discrimination, and mistrust in the health care system have made it hard for people to seek testing, prevention, and care services. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks in the United States made up 12 percent of the population but accounted for 42 percent (12,827) of the 30,635 new HIV cases diagnosed in 2020.  Black and bisexual men were most affected by HIV, making up 65 percent (8,294) of new HIV diagnosed among Black people in 2020. To learn more, visit the CDCs HIV and African American People page. 

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was first observed in 1999 and each year focuses on four things:  

  • Education 
  • Involvement through community prevention efforts 
  • Testing 
  • Treatment 

The theme of this year’s observance is “Together…We Can Make HIV Black History!” A Live with Leadership webinar will be held from 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on February 7, 2023. To register, visit the HIV.gov blog and follow the Register Now link. The conversation will continue a discussion from 2022 focused on the goal of ending HIV and the “I am a Work of ART” campaign in which a group of people with HIV, who share personal stories about getting into care and using antiretroviral therapy (ART).   

Questions about HIV? Call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline at 1-800-533-4148. To learn more about HIV and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, visit HIV.gov. Want to help spread the word? Use #NBHAAD

New program offers guided activities for American Heart Month

If you’re struggling to keep that New Year’s resolution of improving your health with exercise and diet, we’ve got just the thing: Walk with Ease, a six-week program that provides guided activities and resources through an online portal.

The program, a partnership between the Virginia Department of Health and The Arthritis Foundation, kicks off the annual observance of American Heart Month. 

Walk with Ease, or WWE, is open to all Virginians from Wednesday, February 1, through Monday, March 6. Participants receive tools, including an e-Book that teaches them how to exercise in ways that are safe and comfortable. The activities can be done by yourself or as part of a group. Regular physical activity provides important benefits for your overall health. 

Early data show that heart disease was the leading cause of death for Virginians in 2022. 

What else can you do to reduce your risk? Here are a few tips from VDH:  

  • Choose healthy meals and snacks. Include a lot of fruit and vegetables in your diet, and choose foods lower in sodium and saturated fat. Try some heart healthy recipes and check out the MyPlate resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.    
  • Make physical activity a regular part of your day. Adults should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking, running, bicycling a week. Learn more about ways to increase your physical activity throughout the day on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity page.    
  • Take steps to quit smoking by contacting Quit Now Virginia, which offers free telephone or web-based counseling services and also offers Text2Quit support, self-help materials and referrals to local resources. 1-800- QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or learn more at the Quit Now Virginia Website.  
  • Check your blood pressure. Read more about ways to prevent and manage blood pressure. Here are some helpful tips for talking with a doctor to manage and check your blood pressure.

State Registrar Retires After Nearly a Half Century of Service to the Commonwealth

State Registrar Retires After Nearly a Half Century of Service to the Commonwealth

Janet M. Rainey worked to ensure equity in the issuance of vital records, righting wrongs to Native Americans

Photo of Janet M. RaineyDuring her nearly half century working for Virginia’s Vital Records unit, State Registrar Janet M. Rainey has had a front row seat to historical, cultural, societal and technological change impacting the state’s collection and dissemination of information about births, deaths, marriages and divorces. 

Rainey, 66, is retiring from the Virginia Department of Health on January 31. During her tenure, she helped the agency evolve from a paper-based system to one that makes records accessible electronically at dozens of Local Health Departments and DMV offices. She helped fulfill legislative mandates on genealogical research and death reporting. She assisted hundreds of Native Americans who sought to correct birth certificates which labeled them as “Colored” at the insistence of avowed white supremacist Walter Plecker, Virginia’s first State Registrar of vital records. She made sure marriage reporting forms reflected legalization of same sex marriage, helped citizens navigate the process to record unrecorded and home births and found new ways to simplify processes to record all vital records.    

“Ms. Rainey’s dedication to ensuring the integrity and security of Virginia vital records has benefited all Virginians. Hundreds of thousands of vital records requests are processed every year, and she and her team have worked tirelessly to make that process accessible,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “She has also worked with stakeholder groups and legislators on special initiatives, including a decades-long effort to correct Native American birth certificates. Thank you, Janet, for your service to Virginia, and congratulations and best wishes on your retirement.”  

Her accomplishments include:

  • Overseeing a contract with Ancestry.com to, in accordance with legislation, make thousands of records available to people researching their family trees.
  • Overseeing the implementation of the issuance of vital records though DMV offices. By the end of 2021, Virginia DMV offices had issued more than a million certified copies of vital records.
  • The creation of the state’s Electronic Death Registration System. Rainey worked with funeral directors’ associations and other stakeholders, including medical certifiers and medical examiners to ensure the system met the needs of all who participate in the filing of death certificates.
  • Oversaw the creation of Virginia’s electronic birth certificate system, created a process for mothers to request a copy of their child’s birth certificate while in the hospital and bypass the ID requirement.

The Office of Vital Records produces nearly 300,000 copies of vital records a year and there are more than one million vital records issued throughout the entire Virginia system of vital records which includes issuance at Local Health Departments and DMV.

Thanks to Rainey’s efforts, nearly all the records are automated and nearly all are available electronically.

As a young and curious newcomer in 1975 to the then Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Rainey worked as a clerk/typist. Her tools were pencils, ink pens and hundreds of record books that had to be searched by hand.

Her curiosity caught the attention of then State Registrar Rusty Booker, who taught her how the office worked. Five years passed before she realized it.

“I didn’t even know it until I got my five-year certificate saying I had been here for five years,” Rainey said. “Knowing myself, if I didn’t have a passion for this job, probably I would have left before five years.”

Rainey eventually went to work in the Special Services Unit, responsible for amending and creating vital records, rising to become the unit’s supervisor. While she was there, she filled in for every other supervisor position in the office.

Rainey went on to become the Assistant State Registrar. In 2004, she became the acting Director and State Registrar and was named State Registrar in 2006. Rainey is only the state’s sixth registrar since 1912.

Thanks to her mentor, Rainey found a passion for the job and advises young people who are seeking a career to do the same. “Know what it is that you want,” Rainey said. “It may take two or three times to find the career you want. But be passionate about it.”

Through the years, Rainey has continued to personally help Virginians find and correct their records, most recently assisting an 88-year-old whose birth was never recorded. She later received a letter of thanks, one of hundreds over the years.

She’s proud of that work and of rising from a low-paid clerk to the title of State Registrar.

“People will chase the dollar more so than the career,” Rainey said. “Sometimes our careers may not pay a top dollar that we want, but it’s something that you can go home saying that you made a difference in somebody’s life.”

A photo of Janet M. Rainey is available upon request by media outlets. Contact Cindy Clayton at cindy.clayton@vdh.virginia.gov

#FoodSafetyFridays

You’re not feeling so great. Your stomach is queasy, your head is pounding, and you feel really tired. Or perhaps you’ve been in the bathroom for the last thirty minutes.

Earlier in the evening, you had leftovers for dinner. Afterwards, you mixed up a cake to bake and licked the spoon. Then you played with your pet lizard.

Which of these activities do you think could have caused you to feel sick?

If you said all of the above, you’re correct!

Leftovers that are too old or not heated properly, raw eggs and flour in cake batter, and even handling lizards without washing your hands afterward could make you sick.

Every Friday, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is sharing these tips and more in social media posts known as Food Safety Fridays.

Topics have included safe food shopping and storage, safe meal prep, risky raw milk, and food safety in restaurants.

The goal of these posts is to share information about how to protect yourself and let you know where you can learn more about the causes of food-related illnesses.

Did you know, for example, that raw (unpasteurized) milk can contain harmful bacteria that can make you very sick? Pasteurizing (heating to a high enough temperature to kill harmful germs) milk reduces the chance of illness such as listeria.

You may have heard of such illnesses as Salmonellosis (Salmonella), Listeriosis (Listeria), Norovirus, and Hepatitis A.  But what about Shigellosis, Campylobacteriosis, Giardiasis and Clostridium Perfringens?

These diseases can be found on pets and even in spills inside your refrigerator. Some can make you sick in a few hours, while you may not feel the effects of others for days. Some can be very serious.

VDH has lots of information on vdh.virginia.gov about the symptoms of foodborne illness, ongoing recalls, outbreaks, and how these illnesses are investigated.

If you suspect something has made you sick, contact your doctor and report it to the Health Department via My Meal Detective. You can also call and report it directly to your Local Health Department.

You can also learn more about dining out safely, food and milk safety, and find links to restaurant reports and regulations.

Remember to check out the VDH Facebook and Twitter on Fridays and share the posts with #FoodSafetyFridays.

Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records Announces Top Fifteen Baby Names of 2022, Other Interesting Virginia Birth Data

Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records Announces Top Fifteen Baby Names of 2022, Other Interesting Virginia Birth Data

Whether inspired by scripture, royalty, a favorite singer, Disney character, or family heritage, parents are choosing diverse names for their newborns. Today, the Office of Vital Records in the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) unveils its lists of Top 15 baby names for children born in the commonwealth in 2022, perhaps providing some inspiration for stressed-out parents-to-be. 

Topping the list of the most popular names for boys in 2022 was Noah while Charlotte was the most popular for girls. In 2021, there were 95,618 babies born; while the numbers for 2022 are still being counted, the Office of Vital Records estimates there were a similar number of births last year.  

“It’s always fascinating to see the top names for babies in any given year,” said Seth Austin, director of VDH’s Office of Vital Records. “We see names from a number of sources: a movie, religious texts, a family’s personal history. They all represent the commonwealth’s wonderfully diverse cultures.”  

Rounding out the Top 15 for boys in 2022 are James, Liam, William, Henry, Theodore, Oliver, Elijah, Levi, Benjamin, Owen, John, Jack, Asher, and Lucas. For girls, after Charlotte, 2022’s top popular names are Olivia, Ava, Amelia, Emma, Harper, Evelyn, Eleanor, Sophia, Elizabeth, Lilly, Abigail, Riley, Nora, and Chloe. 

Office of Vital Records data also indicate the most popular 2022 baby names for the largest ethnic groups in the state: Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White.  

  • Among Asian babies born in 2022, Noah and Sophia were the most popular names. Muhammad, Liam, Kai, and Henry fill out the Top Five list for boys; Chloe, Olivia, Mia, and Charlotte complete the Top Five list for girls.  
  • For Black babies born in Virginia in 2022, Noah and Ava were the most popular names. Elijah, Josiah, Amir, and Micah round out the Top Five for boys, while Naomi, Nova, Zuri, and Leilani fill out the Top Five for girls. 
  • Liam and Mia were the top names for Hispanic boys and girls born in Virginia in 2022. Mateo, Dylan, Noah, and Lucas fill out the Top Five list for Hispanic boys’ names, while Camila, Isabella, Emma, and Genesis complete the Top Five list for girls’ names. 
  • William and Charlotte were the top names for White babies born in 2022, followed by Henry, James, Theodore, and Oliver for boys and Olivia, Amelia, Harper, and Emma for girls. 

Half a century ago in 1972, VDH data shows that Michael and Jennifer were the most popular names for baby boys and girls born that year. James, Christopher, David, Robert, John, William, Brian, Jason, Kevin, Jeffrey, Charles, Richard, Matthew, and Thomas fill out the rest of the Top 15 for boys’ names in 1972. Among girls in 1972, the rest of the Top 15 include Kimberly, Amy, Angela, Melissa, Lisa, Michelle, Tammy, Mary, Stephanie, Elizabeth, Rebecca, Heather, Susan, and Karen. Information about popular names in each of the 50 states going back to 1960 is available from the Social Security Administration by using its Popular Names by Decade tool. 

Office of Vital Records data also reveals other interesting information about 2022 births.  

  • The most births occurred in August with 8,917 babies delivered, with Aug. 17 seeing the most number of babies born – 359.  
  • Fridays are the busiest day of the week in Virginia delivery rooms: 14,429 babies were born on a Friday in 2022; Sundays, on the other hand, are the slowest days of the week, with only 8,746 born on a Sunday in 2022.  
  • There were 1,344 sets of twins born in Virginia in 2022, while there were 19 sets of triplets born in the state.  
  • And on New Year’s Day 2022, 178 new Virginians came into the world. 

The Office of Vital Records is Virginians’ one-stop shop for any number of personal records requests including birth and death certificates, name changes, and marriage and divorce records. 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. 

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. 

January is Radon Action Month. But what exactly is radon?

Radon gas sounds like a weapon in a superhero movie, but it’s a real-life problem that can cause life-threatening damage to human lungs.

Radon is an odorless, colorless, and radioactive gas that is the product of decaying uranium and is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.

The worst part? It could be in your home.

January is National Radon Action Month During this time, VDH emphasizes the dangers of the gas and how to reduce it in water, homes, and other buildings.

The naturally-occurring gas can get into your home through cracks, crevices, and small holes. Radon gas can be inhaled and can cause cancer – especially if you are exposed to it for many years.

Smoking can increase radon risk by as much as 10 times.

Radon also can be found in private wells but is not usually found in public water sources. Systems can be installed to reduce the amount of radon in well water.

So how do you know if radon is a problem in your home? You can buy a test kit or call a professional. Testing is affordable and depending on the findings, radon can be reduced or prevented from entering your home. The average cost for a professional to lower levels of radon in a home is about $1,200, according to the National Radon Program.

Here are some tips for testing your home for radon:

  • You can buy and test your home yourself or hire someone certified by the National Radon Safety Board or the National Radon Proficiency Program.
  • If you buy a test yourself, avoid testing in closets, storerooms, kitchens, bathrooms and crawlspaces. Test on the lowest level of your home that can be lived in. Bedrooms or family rooms are the best places to test.
  • Don’t place your test kit against building materials made of natural rock. Make sure the kit is at least 20 inches off the floor.
  • A test should be done in a space that has breathable air. About 3-6 feet off the floor is best. It should not be too close to walls, windows or other areas where you think radon could get into your home.
  • Try not to test during long lasting severe storms that cause heavy rain, high sustained winds or abnormally low atmospheric pressure.

Want to learn more about radon? Visit the Virginia Department of Health’s Frequently Asked Questions about Radon and explore more related topics.

National Pharmacist Day is January 12th

On January 12, thank your local pharmacist!

National Pharmacist Day. January 12.Anyone who has ever filled a prescription has a reason on January 12 to be thankful: it’s National Pharmacist Day.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 320,000 pharmacist jobs in the United States in 2021.

It’s a good idea to talk with your pharmacist. Pharmacists can talk with you about taking medicines safety and can work with your healthcare provider. They can suggest ways to take medicine and help to manage health conditions. They also give flu shots and other vaccines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a list of questions that consumers ask pharmacists. The questions cover topics such as medicine side effects, how medicines affect health, and generic brands.

Most people are familiar with community pharmacists who work in retail and chain drug stores. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, other types of pharmacists include:

  • Pharmacists who work in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare settings.
  • Consultant pharmacists who tell healthcare facilities and insurance providers and provide other services. They also may talk with patients.
  • Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists who work in marketing, sales or research and development. They may design or conduct clinical drug trials or help to develop new drugs. They also help establish safety regulations and ensure quality control of drugs.

Interested in more facts about pharmacists? Learn more about what they do at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

VDH would like to thank Virginia’s pharmacists for helping address public health priorities.

Respiratory Illness Quiz

If your eyes are red and swollen, could you have RSV or the flu? 

It’s more likely that you have seasonal allergies. If you have a sore throat, though, it could be a sign of allergies or several other respiratory illnesses circulating this time of year.  Respiratory illnesses can have some symptoms in common.   

Do you know the differences? Take our quiz below to find out how much you know about these illnesses and their symptoms, then check your answers below the quiz:


 

  1. A fever is a symptom of:
    1. The flu
    2. RSV
    3. COVID-19
    4. Strep throat
    5. All of the above
  2. A runny nose is not usually a symptom of:
    1. Strep throat
    2. RSV
    3. A cold
    4. Seasonal allergies
  3. Loss of taste or smell is usually associated with:
    1. A cold
    2. The flu
    3. Strep throat
    4. Seasonal allergies
    5. None of the above
  4. Is fatigue usually or sometimes associated with seasonal allergies?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  5. Which three illnesses can include shortness of breath or trouble breathing?
    1. A cold, flu and RSV
    2. COVID-19, RSV and seasonal allergies
    3. Strep throat, RSV and flu
    4. Flu, strep throat and RSV
  6. Which illness can include a rash?
    1. Flu
    2. COVID-19
    3. Strep throat
    4. RSV
    5. A cold
  7. A headache can be associated with which illness?
    1. A cold
    2. Strep throat
    3. Flu
    4. COVID-19
    5. All of the above
  8. Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) or Adults (MIS-A) is a rare condition associated with:
    1. RSV
    2. The flu
    3. Strep Throat
    4. COVID-19
  9. Diarrhea, nausea or vomiting can sometimes or rarely be symptoms of:
    1. Strep throat
    2. COVID-19
    3. The flu
    4. All of the above
  10. Aches are not usually associated with:
    1. The flu
    2. COVID-19
    3. Seasonal allergies
    4. Strep throat

 


 

Answers:  

1. E

2. A

3. E

4. A

5. B

6. C

7. E

8. D

9. D

10. C 

 


How did you do?  To learn more about the symptoms of common respiratory illnesses, visit the links below:   

 

Virginia Department of Health Updates Reporting Schedule for COVID-19 Dashboards and Other Retirements

Virginia Department of Health Updates Reporting Schedule for COVID-19 Dashboards and Other Retirements

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) continues to streamline information on its COVID-19 data dashboards to better highlight current COVID-19 trends in Virginia and inform action. As of December 27, 2022, VDH will report weekly to align with the CDC’s current reporting frequency. The COVID-19 Cases Summary page was updated to better display trends in Virginia. Access to currently available data will be maintained in the Virginia Open Data Portal 

 The COVID-19 Cases Summary dashboard has been updated as follows: 

  • Created an overview page for the data dashboards that best shows the impact of COVID-19 in Virginia. 
  • Graphs will replace the numbers currently listed for each metric. Each dashboard and dataset will be linked to more data to further explore the metric. 
  • Data will be categorized by the trend (indicator) they represent. The categories are: 
    • Incidence Indicators: understand the current trend of disease.
    • Severity Indicators: understand the burden of disease.
    • COVID-19 in Virginia: understand community transmission and who is affected
    • Vaccination: level of immunity in the community.
    • Surveillance of Variants: track changes in the virus that may impact how the disease spreads or responds to treatments and vaccines.

 The following dashboards have been retired or moved from the main landing page: 

  • PCR Percent Positivity: The PCR Percent Positivity dashboard will be retired because this measure no longer captures what is happening in the community. While the testing encounters PCR only results are accurate, it is not fully representative of all testing in Virginia. The associated dataset on the Virginia Open Data Portal will continue to be updated weekly. 
  • Testing data: Testing data will no longer be available on the COVID-19 Cases Summary dashboard. The associated dataset on the Virginia Open Data Portal will continue to be updated weekly. The Testing dashboard was retired on October 24, 2022. 
  • Outbreaks: Outbreaks will no longer be available on the COVID-19 Cases Summary dashboard. The Outbreaks dashboard will still be available and updated weekly. 
  • MIS-C cases and MIS-C deaths: MIS-C cases and deaths will no longer be available on the COVID-19 Cases Summary dashboard. The associated dataset on the Virginia Open Data Portal will continue to be updated weekly. The MIS-C dashboard was retired on October 24, 2022. 

 The changes are intended to streamline the information that is most helpful in tracking COVID-19 and its impacts on Virginia at this point in the pandemic. The VDH COVID-19 dashboards are available here. 

Oysters and Holiday Safety

Lots of Virginians will be eating oysters and making dishes that include them this holiday season. Whether you steam them or stuff them into your turkey, make sure you follow some simple safety tips.

Oysters may contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Purchasing oysters from retail stores is one good way to make sure you and others can enjoy oysters safely.

It’s also a good idea to keep oysters refrigerated or on ice in a cooler.

Before cooking the oysters, throw away any that have open shells. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shellfish should be cooked as follows:

  • Oysters will open when cooked. Steam them for 4 to 9 minutes or boil them after they open for another 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Shucked oysters look opaque.
  • Don’t eat any oysters that didn’t open fully during cooking.

If you’re stuffing the turkey with oyster dressing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends the following:

  • Cook the turkey and dressing to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees. The safest way to cook dressing is to bake it in a casserole dish.
  • Prepare the stuffing right before it is put into the oven. The wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing should be prepared separately and mixed right before they are used.
  • Stuff the turkey loosely, about ¾ cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. Extra stuffing should be cooked in a greased casserole dish.

What if the oysters you plan to eat already have been shucked?

  • Boil them for at least 3 minutes.
  • Fry them in oil for at least 3 minutes at 375 degrees.
  • Broil them 3 inches from direct heat for 3 minutes.
  • Bake them for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Oysters are frequently eaten raw this time of year, however some people with chronic illness or who have cancer are at an increased risk for serious illness or even death and should not eat them.

After preparing oysters and other seafood for the holiday season, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water and clean your surfaces.

Don’t forget to refrigerate your leftovers in shallow containers within 2 hours.