World AIDS Day #WorldAIDSDay

World Aids Day logo

World AIDS Day takes place December 1 of each year.  It is a time when people across the world can take the opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS, show support for those living with HIV, and remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses.  Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

You can read more about World AIDS Day on HIV.gov.  Shareable images can be found on the HIV.gov website as well as through Greater Than AIDS.

Show your support this World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon or sharing web resources.  Get tested and update your HIV status.  Learn about advances in HIV prevention and care.  There are many ways to get involved.  The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has expanded the availability of our in-home HIV testing program during COVID-19 to meet the needs of Virginians.  If you are interested in receiving a test kit mailed directly to you, visit the program REDCap page.

Virginia’s Comprehensive Harm Reduction (CHR) program provides new syringes and needles, disposes of used syringes, refers participants to drug treatment and medical care, distributes Naloxone (to reverse overdoses), provides education and counseling, provides testing for HIV, hepatitis and other diseases, and provides referrals to social services and insurance.  The program has found previously-identified HIV-positive persons and re-engaged them into medical care.  For more information on the Virginia CHR program or to find locations, visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/disease-prevention/chr/.

For Virginia Medication Assistance Program clients:  remember that open enrollment for 2022 has started.  Be sure to visit www.myvamap.com and take action before January 15 to make sure you have health coverage for the 2022 year.

The Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline is available to answer questions and provide resources Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  You can reach a counselor at (800) 533-4148.

First Death in Virginia from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) Associated with COVID-19 Reported

(Richmond, Va.) —The Virginia Department of Health has confirmed a death from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. This is the first death from MIS-C reported in Virginia. The child was between 10 and 19 years old and resided in the Prince William Health District. To protect privacy, and out of respect for the family, no other patient information will be disclosed.

MIS-C, previously called Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, is a health condition associated with COVID-19. The first reports of this syndrome came from the United Kingdom in late April 2020. U.S. cases were first reported in New York City in early May of 2020. Virginia has reported 111 cases to date.

“We are devastated by this sad news, and our hearts go out to the family and friends of this child,” said Virginia Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “COVID-19 continues to cause illness, hospitalizations and deaths across Virginia and the U.S.  As we enter a time of year when families are traveling and gathering for holidays, we urge all Virginians to take steps to protect themselves and their families. Please get vaccinated if you are eligible. Practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing face coverings, as appropriate. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and available to anyone age 5 and older at multiple locations across the Commonwealth.”

Dr. Oliver provided information and guidance on the syndrome to health care providers in Virginia in a May 15, 2020 Clinician Letter which urges all health care providers in Virginia to immediately report any patient who meets the MIS-C criteria to the local health department.

MIS-C may cause problems with a child’s heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs. Most children with MIS-C have ongoing fever, plus more than one of the following: stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, skin rash, bloodshot eyes, and dizziness or lightheadedness.

Parents should go to the nearest hospital/emergency room for medical care if a child is showing any severe MIS-C warning signs such as trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that does not go away; confusion or unusual behavior; severe abdominal pain; inability to wake or stay awake; or pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

The CDC issued a Health Advisory on May 14, 2020 about the syndrome. It is not currently known how common it may be for children to experience these symptoms. For more information on MIS-C visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/mis/.

VDH Awards $6M Grant to VCU Health System to Strengthen Infection Prevention and Control Capacity in Virginia

Media Contact:
Brookie Crawford, VDH,  brookie.crawford@vdh.virginia.gov
Laura Rossacher, VCU Health, (347) 835-7775, lrossacher@vcu.edu

 

VDH Awards $6M Grant to VCU Health System to Strengthen Infection Prevention and Control Capacity in Virginia

A new Virginia Infection Prevention Training Center will be established to build and strengthen the state’s infection prevention and control workforce and reduce infections in all types of healthcare settings.

(RICHMOND, Va.)  — Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) awarded a $6 million grant to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health System to establish a statewide infection prevention training center. The new Virginia Infection Prevention Training Center, to be designed and implemented by VCU, will work in tandem with healthcare facilities and public health to strengthen infection prevention and control expertise and provide universal infection prevention and control training to frontline providers.

“VDH is excited to utilize COVID-19 federal funding to address a previously recognized need for comprehensive and sustainable infection prevention and control training in Virginia,” said Laurie Forlano, D.O., MPH, deputy director of the VDH’s Office of Epidemiology. “Partnership with VCU, a nationally recognized leader in infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship, will ensure the success and longevity of this initiative.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed major gaps in knowledge around infection prevention nationally, particularly in nursing homes and other long-term care settings,” said Michael Stevens, M.D., interim hospital epidemiologist at VCU Medical Center and co-principal investigator of the VDH grant. “Our goal is to give practitioners in Virginia the knowledge and skills to prevent as many infections as possible. This means better, safer care for patients throughout the Commonwealth.”

The Virginia Infection Prevention Training Center will provide in-person and interactive online training to thousands of healthcare providers and learners across Virginia.  The training courses will include evidence-based infection prevention and control practices that can be applied across the healthcare continuum.

“Everyone plays a role in infection prevention, especially with highly transmissible COVID-19 variants on the rise,” said Michelle Doll, M.D., associate hospital epidemiologist at VCU Medical Center and co-principal investigator of the VDH grant. “We will teach beginner-, intermediate- and advanced-level courses and the introductory classes will be open to anyone working in a healthcare setting interested in infection prevention.”

By establishing the Virginia Infection Prevention Training Center, VDH and VCU aim to create a sustainable resource for training and education for all frontline healthcare workers in the Commonwealth for years to come.

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About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls nearly 30,000 students in 238 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-three of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Tappahannock Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and MCV Physicians. The clinical enterprise includes a collaboration with Sheltering Arms Institute for physical rehabilitation services. For more, please visit vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.

Harmful Algae Bloom Advisories Remain in place for North Anna and Upper Pamunkey Branches of Lake Anna; In Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania Counties

Media Contact: Brookie Crawford, Brookie.Crawford@vdh.virginia.gov

Harmful Algae Bloom Advisories Remain in place for North Anna and Upper Pamunkey Branches of Lake Anna; In Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania Counties
Public Advised to Avoid Water Contact within these Locations of the Lake

Richmond, Va. – The North Anna and Upper Pamunkey Branches, including Terry’s Run, of Lake Anna in Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania counties are continuing to experience a harmful algae bloom (HAB). The public is advised to avoid contact with the lake in this area. Some harmful algae, called cyanobacteria, can cause skin rash and gastrointestinal illnesses, such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The area to avoid can be seen on an interactive map at the Algal Bloom Surveillance Map. A status report containing the updated advisory areas may be viewed at Lake Anna Status Report 10.18.21.

Results of samples collected October 12 indicated that swimming advisories continue to be necessary due to unsafe levels of potential toxin producing cyanobacteria segments of the North Anna and Pamunkey Branches. 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.

The samples collected downstream at the confluence of the two branches, at the Lake Anna State Park beach, and at the 208 bridge indicated cyanobacteria densities were at acceptable levels and do not necessitate a swimming advisory.

The sections of the lake currently under advisory (no change in advisory extents compared to September):

Pamunkey Branch

  • From the upper inundated waters of the Pamunkey arm of the lake downstream to the 612 Bridge. Includes Terry’s Run.

North Anna Branch

  • From the upper inundated waters of the North Anna arm of the lake downstream to above the confluence with Pamunkey Branch above Goodwins Point. Does not include “the Splits.”

While overall cyanobacteria densities and detectable levels of cyanotoxins were lower, requirements to lift advisories within these areas of Lake Anna could not be met from the October 12 sample event. The HAB Task Force discontinues response sampling in October, when the recreational (swimming) season concludes as temperatures begin cooling in natural waters.

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:

  • Avoid contact with any area of the lake where water is green or an advisory sign is posted,

WHEN IN DOUBT, STAY OUT!

  • Not 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 Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 1-888-238-6154 if you suspect you experienced health-related effects following exposure to a bloom.

The blooms which are present in the lake may persist into the fall and possibly winter months. While the current cyanobacteria bloom could reach safe levels at some point during the fall and winter months, resources are not available for the Task Force to continue the monitoring in off-season months in order to formally lift the advisories in the 2021 year. Activities where full body submersion is not likely to occur, such as fishing, boating, flat-water kayaking, can continue with appropriate caution.

The Virginia Department of Health (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 resume response monitoring efforts in May 2022, weather permitting.

For more information visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

Statement from Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula on CDC Recommendation of Pfizer-BioNTech Booster Doses

(Richmond, Va.) – The following statement is from Virginia’s state vaccination coordinator Dr. Danny Avula, MD, MPH.

“Virginia welcomes the decision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support booster shots for certain people who previously received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has been working with its vaccination partners — pharmacies, healthcare providers, hospitals and other institutions — to prepare for this rollout. We are confident that we will have enough supply, and that access will be widely available.

“VDH is also establishing other vaccination sites to ensure eligible Virginians will be able to access a booster dose when it’s recommended. There is no need to rush to get your booster at six months and one day. VDH will provide information about accessing a booster dose on vaccinate.virginia.gov where you can search for and schedule a booster vaccination appointment.”

VDH’s top priority remains increasing vaccination rates in Virginia because those who are unvaccinated remain at the highest risk of severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19. Everyone 12 or older is eligible to be vaccinated. To find free vaccines nearby, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.

Rabies Awareness Week

Rabies is a virus that is commonly found in Virginia’s wildlife, especially in certain wild animals such as raccoons, skunks and foxes. It’s important to remember though that any mammal can get rabies and so it’s helpful to take some basic precautions to protect you and your pets from being infected. World Rabies Day is September 28, and it is a global health observance to raise awareness about rabies and bring together partners to enhance prevention and control efforts worldwide.

Remember to protect yourself and your pets from rabies exposures by following these simple steps:

  • Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and selected livestock. Remember to  keep their vaccinations up-to-date. 
  • Contact your local health department or animal control authorities if your pet is attacked or  bitten by a wild animal. Depending on the situation, keep in mind that your pet may need a  rabies booster vaccination and be restricted to your property for a period of time after the  wildlife exposure.  
  • Wash animal bite wounds thoroughly and report the bite to your local health department.  
  • Limit the possibility of exposure to rabies by keeping your animals on your property. Don’t let  pets roam free. 
  • Keep garbage or pet food inside. Leaving garbage or food outside may attract wild or stray  animals. 
  • Enjoy all wild animals from a distance, even if they seem friendly, and NEVER keep wild animals  as pets. A rabid animal sometimes acts tame. If you see an animal acting strangely, especially if  rabies exposures may have occurred, report it to your local animal control department and do  not approach it. 
  • Contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for  guidance if you think a wild animal needs help. DO NOT take matters into your own hands. 
  • Bring stray domestic animals, especially if they appear ill or injured, to the attention of local  animal control authorities. If you think a stray animal needs help, contact your local animal  control office for guidance.

 

Rabies Awareness Week is September 21 through October 3

VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PROMOTING SEPTICSMART WEEK, SEPTEMBER 20-26, 2021

(RICHMOND, VA) – Governor Northam and the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Office of Environmental Health Services are promoting SepticSmart Week again this year.  The Governor has issued a proclamation recognizing September 20th to the 26th as Septic Smart Week in the Commonwealth. SepticSmart Week is an annual event focused on educating homeowners and communities on the proper care and maintenance of their septic systems.

“VDH understands how septic systems can be out of sight out of mind for some Virginians.  However, proper use and maintenance of your system is vital to protecting the health of your family, your community, and the environment.  We encourage owners to follow the simple Septic Smart tips year round to protect their investment and their health,” said Lance Gregory, Director, Division of Onsite Sewage and Water Services.

There are approximately 1.1 million households in Virginia served by onsite sewage (septic) systems to treat their wastewater. Septic systems provide a cost-effective, long-term option for treating wastewater, particularly in sparsely populated areas. When properly installed, operated, and maintained, these systems help protect public health, preserve valuable water resources, and maintain a community’s economic vitality.

Here are some helpful tips on how to be SepticSmart:

  • Think at the Sink! What goes down the drain has a big impact on your septic system. Fats, grease, and solids can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
  • Don’t Overload the Commode! A toilet is not a trash can. Disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, and cat litter can damage a septic system.
  • Don’t Strain Your Drain! Use water efficiently and stagger use of water-based appliances. Too much water use at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently.
  • Shield Your Field! Tree and shrub roots, cars, and livestock can damage your septic drainfield.
  • Keep It Clean! Contamination can occur when a septic system leaks due to improper maintenance. Be sure your drinking water is safe to drink by testing it regularly.
  • Protect It and Inspect It! Regular septic system maintenance can save homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs and protect public health.
  • Pump Your Tank! Ensure your septic tank is pumped at regular intervals as recommended by a professional and/or local permitting authority.

SepticSmart Week 2021 encourages homeowners, wastewater professionals, and state, tribal, and local officials to design and maintain effective systems to safeguard your family’s health, protect the environment, and save money. Be part of the solution by visiting VDH’s Water and Wastewater Services webpage and www.epa.gov/septic for more resources and information.

Statement from Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula on FDA Advisory Committee Vote on Pfizer-BioNTech Booster Doses

(Richmond, Va.) – The following statement is from state vaccination coordinator Dr. Danny Avula, MD, MPH.

“Today, an advisory committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted in favor of recommending booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Virginians 65 years and up and those at high risk for severe COVID-19.  This is simply a recommendation at this point, and booster doses will not be available in Virginia until the FDA issues an updated authorization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues new guidance. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice is scheduled to meet September 22-23, and we do not expect CDC to release recommendations before late next week at the earliest.

“VDH will continue its planning efforts with pharmacies, providers, hospitals and other partners as well as efforts to establish other vaccination sites to ensure that once the CDC issues guidance, eligible Virginians will be able to access a booster dose.  VDH will provide information about accessing a booster dose on vaccinate.virginia.gov when more guidance is available.

“Those who are unvaccinated remain at the highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. Everyone 12 or older who lives or works in Virginia is eligible to be vaccinated. To find free vaccines nearby, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.”

VDH’s Harmful Algae Bloom Advisories Remain in place for North Anna and Upper Pamunkey Branches of Lake Anna; In Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania Counties – Public Advised to Avoid Water Contact within these Locations of the Lake

(RICHMOND, Va.) – The North Anna and Upper Pamunkey Branches, including Terry’s Run, of Lake Anna in Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania counties are continuing to experience a harmful algae bloom (HAB). The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) advises the public to avoid contact with the lake in this area until algae concentrations return to acceptable levels. Some harmful algae, called cyanobacteria, can cause skin rash and gastrointestinal illnesses, such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The area to avoid can be seen on an interactive map at the Algal Bloom Surveillance Map. A status report containing the updated advisory areas may be viewed at Lake Anna Status Report 9.17.21.

Samples results from collections on September 9 indicated that at seven locations in the North Anna and Pamunkey Branches, swimming advisories continue to be necessary due to unsafe levels of potential toxin producing cyanobacteria. People and pets are advised to avoid swimming, windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding, as well as other activities that pose a risk of ingesting water.

The samples collected downstream at the confluence of the two branches, at the Lake Anna State Park beach and at the Route 208 bridge, indicated cyanobacteria densities were at acceptable levels and do not necessitate a swimming advisory. Cyanotoxins were detected at each of these sites, but were well below safe swimming levels.

Follow-up monitoring above Route 208 on the lake is planned (weather permitting) the second week of October and will be the final round of follow-up sampling conducted in 2021 for Lake Anna.

The sections of the lake currently under advisory (no change in advisory extents compared to August):

Pamunkey Branch 

  • From the upper inundated waters of the Pamunkey arm of the lake downstream to the 612 Bridge, includes Terry’s Run.

North Anna Branch 

  • From the upper inundated waters of the North Anna arm of the lake downstream to above the confluence with Pamunkey Branch above Goodwins Point.  Does not include “the Splits”.

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!

  • Not 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 Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at (888) 238-6154 if you suspect you experienced health-related effects following exposure to a bloom.

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. An advisory may be lifted or maintained at the discretion of the health department. For example, after one test an advisory may be lifted if results are within safe levels for swimming if other information indicates exposure or human health risk is low.

For more information visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

Virginia Department of Health Incorporates Vaccination Data from Jurisdictions in Maryland

(RICHMOND, Va.) — Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has incorporated vaccination data from jurisdictions in Maryland. Virginians who received vaccinations in Maryland that were not reported through the Virginia Immunization Information System are now included in the locality and statewide dashboards.

The updated data reflects an increase in COVID-19 vaccine first dose rates of 0.33% Alexandria, 0.46% Arlington, and 0.39% Eastern Shore. The fully vaccinated rate increased 0.28% Alexandria, 0.25% Arlington, and 0.91% Eastern Shore. Providing this additional information into the VDH COVID-19 dashboard will present a more accurate picture of the vaccination campaign in the state.

In the coming weeks, VDH is working to incorporate vaccination data from other neighboring jurisdictions such as North Carolina and the District of Columbia. Data from Tennessee was added in August. Due to these data quality efforts, changes to doses and rates may be affected. The updates may also impact the locality listings on VDH COVID-19 dashboards.