Protect Yourself and Your Pets: Rabies Awareness Week is Sept. 25th – Oct. 1st

Why should you be concerned about rabies? Because rabies is a highly fatal yet highly preventable illness that can affect any mammal.  

Rabies Awareness Week, Sept. 26th – Oct. 1st, is a good time to make sure your pet is up to date on vaccines and to review what to do if you or your pets are ever potentially exposed to rabies.  

Here are some tips:

  • If you have been bitten by an animal, don’t panic. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Treat it as any wound with first aid.  
  • Don’t try to pick up the animal. If you can, capture the animal under a large box or identify it before it runs away. Call an animal control or law enforcement officer to come get it.  
  • Report the bite to your healthcare provider. 
  • If your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild animal, report it to your local health department or animal control authorities. Be sure to follow their instructions for how to manage your pet’s health after a rabies exposure, including getting your vaccinated dog, cat, or ferret a booster rabies vaccination.  

Store garbage in tamper proof containers and keep pet food inside so that wild animals are not attracted to your property.  

Keep your pets from roaming off your property to decrease exposure to wild animals that could have rabies.  

Don’t approach wild animals, no matter how tame they may seem. An animal sick with rabies may act tame. If it is acting strangely, call animal control.  

Call your veterinarian or attend a local rabies vaccination clinic to have your pets vaccinated for rabies. Vaccinating domestic animals for rabies is one of the most important things you can do to protect your pets, yourself, and your community.

To learn more, visit the VDH’s Rabies Control webpage or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rabies website.

#NPM2023 Week 4: Stay Ready This Hurricane Season

#NPM2023 Week 4: Stay Ready This Hurricane Season

Storm hit Virginia Beach Fishing Pier, Virginia Beach, VA

Basic Hurricane Preparedness Tips

#NPM2023 Week 3: Build a Kit

Hand completing Emergency Preparation List by Equipment


#NPM2023 Week 3: Build a Kit

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for minutes to several days. Based on your situation you may need an emergency kit. The kit is vital to sustaining you and your family after a disaster. Here is a list of emergency preparedness kits you may want to have ready before facing an emergency or disaster. Preparedness kits should be checked at least every six months or when items expired. Kits may not only include supplies, but it may include items like copies of identification, insurance documents, personal contact information, and list of medications.

Emergency Kit

Being prepared means each family member having their own 3-day supplyfood, water and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Personal Workplace Disaster Supplies Kit

An emergency can happen at any time, such as while you are at work. Just as you have an emergency kit ready at home, so you would want a kit prepared and ready at work.

Pet Kit

Your pets are important part of the family. Just as you prepare enough food, water, and supplies for each member of your family, you would do the same for your pets.

Financial Kit

To prepare financially and help reduce financial impacts after an emergency or disaster for you and your family see Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK).

Emergency Car Kit

Every vehicle should have an emergency supply kit. Kits should be checked every six months, and expired items should be replaced regularly.

VDH Announces Availability of New 2023–2024 COVID-19 Vaccine

On September 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the vaccine recommendations of its independent panel of advisors, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Everyone aged 6 months and older is eligible to receive a 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine, made by Pfizer and Moderna. In the coming days, the vaccine will start to be available at pharmacies and physicians’ offices in addition to federally qualified health centers, free clinics, and local health department offices. Virginians should speak with their healthcare providers about receiving the vaccine.

Persons aged 65 years and older and people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization and death associated with COVID-19. Therefore, it is especially important for older adults to consider this vaccine and discuss it with their healthcare provider. The 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccines are designed to target the Omicron variant XBB.1.5. Studies have shown that these vaccines can also protect against severe outcomes from other Omicron variants, such as BA.2.86 and EG.5.

Additionally, COVID-19 vaccines will now be available on the commercial market. According to CDC, most Americans will still get a COVID-19 vaccine with no out-of-pocket cost. People with insurance will likely pay nothing out of pocket for the vaccine. Those who are uninsured or underinsured can access free COVID-19 vaccines through two federal programs, the Bridge Access Program for adults and the Vaccines for Children program. These vaccines will be available to eligible persons at local health departments and participating pharmacies and healthcare providers. To find vaccine locations participating in the Bridge Access Program, visit To find a Vaccine for Children program provider, visit

VDH remains dedicated to preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, particularly for people at higher risk, and will continue working to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in the state. Vaccination is one of many strategies to prevent COVID-19. Other important steps in combatting the virus are frequent handwashing, good respiratory hygiene that includes coughing and sneezing into your elbow, getting tested if you’re feeling sick, staying home if you are sick, and consulting with your healthcare provider to see if you are eligible for treatment. The VDH COVID-19 dashboards allow Virginians to stay abreast of the current state of COVID-19 trends in their community; the dashboards are available on the VDH website.

If you are interested in obtaining more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, check the Vaccinate Virginia website or contact the VDH Call Center. Call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1), 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.

During National Recovery Month, Learn About Treatment, Recovery and What You Can Do

If you or someone you know is in immediate distress:

A son lost his 58-year-old father to prescription opioid addiction. A college athlete became addicted after surgery, stopped playing sports and dropped out of classes. A mother who was prescribed opioids to manage headaches lost her career, her home, and much of her retirement savings.

Addiction is a medical condition.  A person who seeks help and those who care about them shouldn’t feel ashamed. Many people are affected by SUD.

It can happen to anyone.

The good news is recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD) is possible. There is hope.

You may wonder why someone with an SUD can’t just stop using a certain substance. Did you know that drugs affect the brain, making it more difficult to stop using? The way a person feels about spending time with other people and how much they enjoy food also can be affected.

Treatment can work. It may include medications that can help with cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Rehabilitation and counseling also are options, depending on the type of SUD.

September is National Recovery Month, a time to learn about treatment, recovery and what you can do to support someone who may be struggling.

To learn more about substance use disorders, prevention, treatment, and recovery, visit the following sites:

To get help with treatment or locate a Community Services Board, visit Substance Use Disorder Services – Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

To find support: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

To learn about naloxone: Virginia Department of Health

To find naloxone training: Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

To learn about Comprehensive Harm Reduction, visit Comprehensive Harm Reduction – Disease Prevention (

To learn about how to end the stigma: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention\

To learn about prevention: Injury and Violence Prevention – Injury and Violence Prevention (

#NPM2023 Week 2: Pet and Animal Preparedness

Happy woman playing with her dog on the couch at home. Dog licking middle aged woman in the living room


#NPM2023 Week 2: Pet and Animal Preparedness

Your pet is an important member of your household. Unfortunately, animals are also affected by disaster. Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for your pets if you are unable to do so. If you evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind! It is your responsibility as a pet owner to find out what type of shelters and assistance are available in your area to accommodate pets, and to include pets in your disaster plan to keep them safe during an emergency.

What you should know about Pet Preparedness

  • Include your pets in your emergency plans.
  • Build a separate emergency kit for your pets.
  • Make sure and keep digital records and/or pictures to identify your pet after a disaster in case you become separated.
  • Create a list of places that accept pets if an emergency happens.

Make a Pet Emergency Plan

  • ID your pet. Make sure your pet’s tags are up-to-date and securely fastened to your pet’s collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home. Also consider microchipping your pets.
  • Make sure you have a current photo and description of your pet for identification purposes.
  • Make a pet emergency kit:
    • 5 gallons of water and sufficient food and medicine for at least three days per pet
    • Medications
    • Immunization and medical records
    • Manual can opener
    • Serving dishes
    • First aid kit and other supplies
    • Pet toys and bedding
  • Identify shelters. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to allow pets well in advance of needing them. There are also a number of guides that list hotels/motels that permit pets and could serve as a starting point. Include your local animal shelter’s number in your list of emergency numbers.
  • Make sure you have a secure pet carrier, leash or harness for your pet so that if he panics, he can’t escape.
  • Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information.
  • If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located. Be sure to research some outside your local area in case local facilities close.
  • Some animal shelters will provide temporary foster care for owned pets in times of disaster but this should be considered only as a last resort.
  • If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place your animal in great danger! Confine your pet to a safe area inside – NEVER leave your pet chained outside! Leave them loose inside your home with food and plenty of water. Remove the toilet tank lid, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they can drink. Place a notice outside in a visible area, advising what pets are in the house and where they are located. Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached as well as the name and number of your vet.

Tips for Large Animals

If you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your property, be sure to prepare before a disaster.

  • Ensure all animals have some form of identification.
  • Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.
  • Make available vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal. Also make available experienced handlers and drivers. Note: It is best to allow animals a chance to become accustomed to vehicular travel so they are less frightened and easier to move.
  • Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care and handling equipment.
  • If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to shelter or turn them outside.

Training Opportunities:

Additional Resources: Your Pets for Disasters Brochure

Animal Poison Control

Pet First Aid Mobile Apps

Anyone Can Help Prevent Suicide. Learn the Signs During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

If you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. Trained staff are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year.

Suicide is a public health issue, a leading cause of death across the nation and across the Commonwealth, and can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. Mental health well-being, which affects how someone feels, thinks, and acts can be associated with suicide, but other factors play a role as well. These factors can include a history of trauma, relationship problems, substance use, physical health challenges, job stressors, and financial and legal problems.

Anyone can help prevent suicide. While many situations are different, there are often key signs that a friend, family member, or coworker is thinking about suicide and could use help.

Each September, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is observed across the nation and in Virginia. This is a time to raise awareness about suicide prevention, educate the public about everyone’s part in preventing it, and to help individuals, families, and communities stay connected.

Warning signs for suicide may include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or behaving in a reckless way.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Extreme mood swings.

What should you do if you have one or more of these concerns for someone?

  • While it can be difficult, talk to the person without judging them.
  • Ask them if they are thinking about suicide.
  • Make sure you know where to find help.

What is the Virginia Department of Health doing to help prevention suicide?

  • Identifying and helping people at risk.
  • Increasing help seeking behaviors.
  • Making sure someone can get treatment.
  • Supporting safe care and the ability to receive treatment.
  • Helping those in crisis in the best possible way.
  • Making sure help is available long-term after someone dies from suicide.
  • Enhancing life skills and resilience.
  • Promoting connectedness.

To learn more about Virginia’s and national suicide prevention programs, or to find training and resources, visit the following websites:

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

Veterans Crisis Line

Resources – Suicide Prevention (

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM) | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Suicide Prevention | Suicide | CDC

If you are someone with lived experience or are interested in joining suicide prevention work throughout the state, send your information and request to the Suicide Prevention Interagency Advisory Group (SPIAG), by completing the form on the VDH SPIAG page.

#NPM2023 Week 1: Preparing for Older Adults & People with Disabilities

Multi-Generation Family Sitting On Sofa At Home Reading Book With Baby Granddaughters


#NPM2023 Week 1: Preparing for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

We know older adults can face greater risks when it comes to the multitude of extreme weather events and emergencies we now face, especially if they are living alone, are low-income, have a disability, or live in rural areas. As an older adult, you may have specific needs after a disaster. Use the information below to assess your needs and take simple, low-cost steps that help you and your loved ones get better prepared.

  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio tuned to local emergency station or TV for warnings about disasters and emergencies near your area. 
  • Plan how you will communicate if you have special communication needs (deaf or hard of hearing, Blind or have low vision, speech disability). 
  • Communication cards to say you are deaf, deaf/blind or hard of hearing (Card can be located at Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division) 
  • Notebook and pens for writing notes. 
  • Plan for food, water, and essentials for you and pets or service animals. 
  • Plan for your transportation if you may need help evacuating. 
  • Plan how you will evacuate with any assistive devices (wheelchairs, walkers).
  • Include medicines, medical supplies, batteries, and chargers. 
  • Make copies of ID, Medicaid, Medicare, and other insurance cards. 
  • Phone and/or tablet and chargers. 
  • If have service animal or pet, pet supplies such as food, leashes, and medications. 

Consider adding to Emergency Preparedness Kit: 

  • Plan to have contact information for important people and care providers. 
  • Hearing aids, assistive listening devices, braille display, glasses (extra batteries). 
  • A list of medicines you need, dosage instructions, and any allergies. 
  • Contact information for your durable medical provider. 
  • Communication apps on your phone or tablet (speech-to-text apps, video relay service apps, captioned telephone apps, IP Relay or real-time text apps).
  • List need-to-know information for first responders and others who might need to help you during this emergency. 

Additional Resources: 

OK-WARN Weather alert remote notification for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 

ARC Being Prepared Means Planning Ahead 

FEMA/ARC Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs 

VDEM Individuals with Disabilities 

Health Care Organizations Encourage the Public to Get Informed, Make an Emergency Plan During National Preparedness Month

Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, Virginia Department of Health, and Regional Healthcare Coalitions Encourage the Public to Prepare for Emergency Situations Including Natural Disasters, Infectious Outbreaks, and Manmade Threats


September is National Preparedness Month, an annual observance that serves as a reminder of the importance for families and organizations to develop response plans to prepare for unexpected emergencies or disaster situations.

Emergency situations that have widespread impact can take many forms: natural disasters such as major storms that cause flooding, wind damage, property destruction, or power outages; biological hazards such as infectious disease outbreaks that spread across a population causing serious illness and strain on the health care system; or manmade events including acts of violence or other catastrophes that cause mass injuries and casualties.

During National Preparedness Month, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Commonwealth’s four Regional Healthcare Coalitions urge Virginians to develop plans for emergency situations. A family plan means preparation and discussion ahead of catastrophic events so everyone understands how they will communicate during an emergency and how they will reconnect when danger has passed. It also involves having a family list or form with information including important phone numbers, insurance contacts and other key medical and essential information needed for emergency response, as well as on-hand emergency supplies (water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, and a portable radio to access emergency alerts and warnings, and more). Learn more about building an emergency supply kit here. Emergency plans should contemplate what supplies, information, and documents families will need during shelter-in-place events, situations warranting evacuation to a safer location, or the need to search for loved ones after an emergency. Learn more about preparing at

“Our experiences from recent years have demonstrated the critical importance of being ready to respond when emergencies happen,” said VHHA President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “Emergency situations can occur at any time. Virginians across the Commonwealth have witnessed this in the form of major flooding in Hampton Roads and Southwest Virginia, a snowstorm that stranded motorists on the interstate in Northern Virginia, and the COVID-19 outbreak beginning in 2020. In each case, those emergencies developed quickly and presented serious health and public safety concerns for people impacted by them. When emergencies happen, hospitals are part of the critical infrastructure engaged in response efforts. Because of this, hospitals and other health care organizations partner with state and federal government agencies to conduct ongoing emergency preparation and planning efforts. Just as these organizations plan for the worst, it is vital for families and private sector firms to also have regularly updated plans that can be activated when an emergency happens.”

“I urge Virginians to take time during National Preparedness Month to assess how prepared they and their families are for coping with disasters and emergencies,” said State Health Commissioner Karen Shelton, MD. “Do you have enough water and non-perishable food on hand to last for several days if everything shut down? Do you have your mobile phone set up to receive emergency alerts? If you had to evacuate, where would you go and how would you get there? Have you made plans for your pet if you had to evacuate to a shelter? These are some of the questions we all should be thinking about year-round as disasters come in all forms and can happen anytime. VDH and its Local Health Districts provide oversight of many emergency response functions, including monitoring for disease outbreaks, insuring food and water safety, and mass casualty management.”

This year, the theme of National Preparedness Month is “Take Control in 1, 2, 3.” Its focus is on helping elderly individuals, including those from communities that are disproportionally impacted by the all-hazard events and threats, prepare for emergencies. Additional information and resources about emergency preparation and planning are available through and the Red Cross.

For businesses, recommends conducting a risk assessment to identify potential emergency scenarios as part of the development of an emergency response plan consistent with organizational objectives and focused on protecting staff, visitors, contractors and others on premises if an emergency occurs.

In Virginia, critical public and private sector organizations collaborate to conduct ongoing planning preparation activities to be ready when disaster strikes. This includes VHHA, its member hospitals and health system, and VDH. These organizations partner on the Virginia Healthcare Emergency Management Program (VHEMP), an initiative supported with grant funding from the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Hospital Preparedness Program under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). VHHA and VDH work through VHEMP to address gaps in the health care delivery system regarding the ability to respond to disaster situations. This work is facilitated by a network of four regional healthcare coalitions (the Central Virginia Healthcare Coalition, the Eastern Virginia Healthcare Coalition, the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System, and the Southwest Virginia Healthcare Coalition) that work with health care facilities and response organizations to help prepare for emergency response situations. Each regional healthcare coalition maintains a Regional Healthcare Coordination Center (RHCC) to support response activities during a disaster affecting health care facilities.

The extent of meaningful cooperation between government agencies, health systems, and regional coalitions is reflected in the effectiveness of Virginia’s emergency response apparatus. The Commonwealth has been recognized several times in recent years for its high level of preparation for public health emergencies. That includes the latest report by Trust for America’s Health, Ready or Not 2023: Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism, which again places Virginia in the top tier of states for emergency readiness. The report measures state levels of preparedness to respond to a wide range of health emergencies including infectious outbreaks, natural disasters, and manmade events. Previous annual reports from Trust for America’s Health – including those compiled during the lengthy response to the COVID-19 pandemic – also ranked Virginia in the top tier of states in 2022, 2021, and 2020. Virginia has also been ranked among the top states in the National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHPSI) report that evaluates state readiness to respond to public health emergencies.

Safe Swimming Also Means Protecting Yourself from Vibrio

If you work or play in the ocean, Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that empty into them, it’s important to learn how to avoid Vibrio. There are about a dozen Vibrio bacteria that can cause illness that can be severe.  

While wound infections are not common in Virginia, it’s good to protect yourself. You can also get sick from Vibrio if you eat raw oysters that have the bacteria.  

Anyone can get sick from Vibrio. People with weakened immune systems and pre-existing conditions are at greater risk for severe illness and even death.  

You can protect yourself by staying out of the water if you have an open wound. If you have a cut or wound that is splashed by salt or brackish water, wash it immediately with soap and clean water. Follow up with an antibiotic ointment and watch for signs of infection.  

If you handle raw shellfish or other items such as fishhooks, crab pots or fish with sharp spines that have been exposed to salt or brackish water, wear protective items such as gloves. Water shoes can protect your feet in areas with shells or creatures such as crabs that can pinch.   

If you eat raw oysters that have the bacteria on them, you could have diarrhea and vomiting. People with pre-existing conditions could have more severe symptoms.   

People who handle fish for a living or as pets in home aquariums also can get sick from Fish-Handler’s disease. Handling shellfish, tropical fish, cleaning aquariums, swimming pools, fishing, catching lobsters, and similar activities with a cut or scrape can allow bacteria to make you sick.  

Almost any creature that lives in salt, fresh or brackish water can spread this disease. Look for fish or other creatures with visible surface lesions and don’t pick them up with bare hands or eat them.   

Cooked fish and other seafood are not believed to cause Fish-Handler’s disease.  

To learn more about Vibrio, Fish-Handler’s disease and healthy and safe swimming, visit the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) website.  

VDH also monitors beaches by sampling the water from May to September for the bacteria enterococci. By itself, enterococci won’t harm you. If it’s found in the water at high levels, it could mean that there are also other harmful bacteria that can make you sick. Swimming advisories are issued when the levels are high. To see a list of swimming advisories, visit the VDH Swimming Advisories and Monitored Beaches Map.