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.

#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.

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:   

 

This Holiday Season, Make Sure Your Gift List Includes Good Health

This holiday season, make sure your gift list includes one more thing for yourself and those around you: good health. 

Respiratory illnesses such as flu and COVID-19 continue to circulate and the best protection you can give yourself ahead of gathering with friends and relatives is the flu or COVID-19 vaccine. Everyone 6 months and older can be vaccinated for these two viruses. 

The flu vaccine is particularly important for pregnant women and vaccines for respiratory illnesses help protect people who are at higher risk for becoming severely ill. 

In Virginia, the flu season arrived early and has been severe with very high activity reported during the week ending December 3. 

Find a vaccine near you at vaccines.gov or vaccinate.virginia.gov. To learn what vaccines are available for COVID-19 and who is eligible, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccination Response page. 

In addition to vaccines, the following healthy habits can help protect you from respiratory illnesses: 

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Stay home if you are sick

If you test positive for COVID-19, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider and seek treatment, especially if you are at greater risk for severe illness. Treatment is often most effective when taken within a few days. 

If you need a copy of your COVID-19 vaccine record, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccination Record Request Portal 

National Influenza Vaccination Week

 

It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week, December 5-9

If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine, this is the time because it’s National Influenza Vaccination Week.

The annual observance, December 5-9, serves as a reminder for everyone six months and older that there is still time to get vaccinated against flu. This year’s flu season began early and has been more severe. During the week ending November 19, Virginia had a very high level of influenza-like illness. Nationwide, more than 6.2 million illnesses have been reported along with 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths.

Vaccination is the best protection against the flu and is particularly important for pregnant women and people who are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications, including young children and people with chronic illness.

Flu viruses are constantly changing and protection from vaccination decreases over time. The vaccine has been proven to reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and dehydration. Chronic medical conditions such as asthma, congestive heart failure and diabetes could get worse. Flu vaccines can still be beneficial after flu infection to protect against other strains circulating during the flu season.

What are the symptoms of flu to watch for?

  • Fever or chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Some children may have vomiting and diarrhea

In addition to a flu vaccine, don’t forget that healthy habits such as covering a cough or sneeze, washing your hands and avoiding others who are sick can help keep you from getting the flu. If you are sick, stay home to help keep the virus from spreading. 

Check with your healthcare provider, pharmacy or Vaccines.gov today to schedule your vaccine appointment. Vaccines may also be available at your local health department.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is December 1 of every year.  On this day, we show support for people living with HIV and we remember those we lost in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  We also strengthen our resolve to end HIV.

Equity

The 2022 theme for World AIDS Day is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.”  Many still experience inequalities when accessing basic health services.  Not everyone has the same opportunity for HIV testing, treatment, and even condoms.  This is even truer for newer technologies, such as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).  PrEP for HIV is medicine given that prevents HIV.

We identified the first cases of HIV more than 40 years ago.  Yet, there are many who do not know basic facts about HIV.  Many do not know how to protect themselves and others from HIV.  Stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many living with HIV.

World AIDS Day is important because we must always remind each other that HIV has not gone away.  We must increase awareness, fight prejudice and stigma, and improve education.

What Can I Do?

There are many events occurring nationally for World AIDS Day.  If you are looking to register an event to the public or looking to attend an event, please visit www.worldaidsday.org/events/.

Additionally, the website includes a memorial space where you can create a tribute to a loved one: www.worldaidsday.org/memorials/.

Find and share resources from national campaigns on your social media:

Visit a local community-based organization and volunteer your services.  Wear a red ribbon proudly while helping them.  To find a local organization that provides HIV services, visit Resource Connections (https://bit.ly/vdhconnections), or call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline at (800) 533-4148.

What about the rest of the year?

World AIDS Day is just one day of the year.  The other 364 days of the year are as important in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

We must always combat inequalities and stigma.  Share information for awareness and educational purposes.  Volunteer at local agencies that may need help.  Continue to help in the fight against HIV so we can live in a world where HIV is a thing of the past.

Got Questions?

If you have questions or need help for yourself or a loved one, call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline.  You can reach a counselor toll free at (800) 533-4148.  The Hotline operates Monday through Friday from 8am until 5pm.  They are closed for Virginia state holidays.

Gather Around the Table this Thanksgiving and Discuss Your Family Health History

Vector illustration on the theme of National Family health history day observed each year on Thanksgiving day in November.

When you gather around the table this Thanksgiving Day to share turkey and dressing, be sure you also share some important family health history.

The U.S. Surgeon General in 2004 declared Thanksgiving National Family History Day to encourage families to talk about and write down their health histories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This history can help family members learn who may be at greater risk for heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other illnesses

Once you have the information, discuss it with your healthcare provider. Your provider can help with testing, genetic counseling, and reducing your risk for developing disease.

Although it may not be easy to talk with your relatives about diseases that they or other relatives have had, it’s important for you and everyone in your family to start the conversation.

Don’t know where to start? Check out the Family Health History page to learn what questions to ask and the steps to take to lower your risk for certain diseases.

You can record your family’s health history and learn about your own risk for some conditions at My Family Health Portrait. You can print and save your information. The tool is free, and you can use it to share your information with your family and healthcare provider.

Learn more about ways to talk with your family members about their health history at the Let’s Talk, Sharing Info About Your Family Cancer Risk site.

Learning your family’s health history is an important way to protect your health.