National Preparedness Month 2020

Are you Prepared?

Disasters and emergencies can come in many forms and at any time.  It’s important for you to be prepared for such events. September has been designated as National Preparedness Month. Take this month to do the following:

Prepare Your Health

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to maintain childhood immunization when possible. These vaccinations protect your children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity to children who may be exposed to life-threatening diseases. Vaccination is the best protection. You have the power to protect yourself and your family against vaccine-preventable diseases.

For more information on vaccinations and immunizations visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/immunization/ and www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html.

 

National Immunization Awareness Month

Each year in August, National Immunization Awareness Month highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout your life. You have the power to protect yourself and your family against serious diseases, like whooping cough, cancers caused by HPV, and pneumonia, through on-time vaccination.

This year’s National Immunization Awareness Month theme focuses on a national effort, “Catch-Up to Get Ahead” to address the alarming declines in routine childhood immunization that have happened as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) supports families in the community to catch-up children on their recommended vaccines. During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers are taking extra precautions to keep you and your family safe. Don’t delay getting the recommended vaccines.

Remember, vaccines aren’t just for young children. The VDH encourages everyone to talk to their doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional to ensure that they and their loved ones of all ages are up to date on all recommended vaccines.

Specific immunizations are recommended for tweens and teens entering middle school and college, anyone who may be traveling abroad, those with certain underlying health conditions and adults aged 60 and over. Immunization schedules for all stages of life may be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/.

Extreme Heat Safety Tips

Summer temperatures in Virginia normally climb into the upper 90’s and even reach over 100 degrees at times. The hot temperatures and high heat indexes can cause ill health effects.

The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. Prolonged exposure to heat can cause cramping, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death. It is important to stay hydrated and seek cool temperature environments until the heat subsides.

Here are some tips to avoid heat-related illness during the summer:

Drink water. When the temperature rises, it is important to drink plenty of water. Drinks that contain caffeine, large amounts of sugar or alcohol should be avoided because they can cause you to become dehydrated.

Keep cool indoors. On hot days, prevent illness by keeping cool indoors. If your home is not air conditioned, try to spend the hottest hours of the day in a cool public place such as a library, movie theater, or store.

Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella. Always apply sunscreen to exposed skin.

Limit physical activity. Avoid excessive physical exertion in hot temperatures, especially in the middle of the day. If you must work outdoors, stay hydrated by drinking 2-4 glasses of water each hour and take frequent breaks in a cool place. Even a few hours in an air-conditioned environment reduces the danger of heat-related illness.

Do not keep children or pets in cars. Temperatures inside a car with windows up can reach over 150 degrees quickly, resulting in heat stroke and death.

Check on your neighbors. Although anyone can suffer heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. People aged 65 or older are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications that can result during periods of high temperatures and humidity.

Heat-Related Weather Terms:
Understanding heat-related weather terminology can help you and your family prepare for hot weather.

  • Heat Index: is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature.
  • Excessive Heat Outlooks: Issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days.
  • Excessive Heat Watches: Issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning/Advisories: Issued when an excessive heat is expected in the next 36 hours.

Signs & Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness:
Several heat-related health conditions can cause serious health problems. When temperatures are on the rise, watch for the following symptoms:

Dehydration— Dehydration is caused by the excessive loss of water and salts from the body due to illness or from prolonged exposure to heat. Severe dehydration can become a life-threatening condition if not treated.

Heat Cramps— Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy physical activity in hot environments. Muscles most often affected include those of your calves, arms, abdominal wall and back. If you are suffering from heat cramps, rest for several hours and drink clear juice or an electrolyte-containing sports drink.

Heat Exhaustion— Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water and salt from sweating during hot temperatures. The elderly, people who work outside and people with high blood pressure are most at risk of heat exhaustion. Continued exposure may lead to heat stroke, which is life-threatening.

Heat Stroke— Heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by doing physical activity in hot weather. Sweating has usually stopped and your body temperature becomes too high; body temperatures can reach as high as 106 degrees in 15 minutes. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and you should seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know is suffering from heat stroke.

For more information:

Preparing for Hurricane Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While we are all still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also time to prepare for the possibility of hurricanes affecting the Commonwealth. Hurricane season started June 1 and continues through the summer and fall until November 30. Planning for hurricane season may be different this year. To protect ourselves and our loved ones, we will need to pack some new items in our preparedness kits, including cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces. Visit the following sites to learn more:

Stay Safe and Healthy in Your Backyard Pool #swimhealthyva

girl in poolHappy Healthy and Safe Swimming Week May 18 – 24, 2020! Public and private pools around Virginia begin to open in late May, making this the ideal time to talk about ways to reduce the risk of recreational water-associated illness, drowning, and injury in our communities. Water is not only fun to play and cool off in, but just a few hours of water-based physical activity per week can offer low-impact health benefits for everyone!

At pools, spas, and waterparks:

  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Every hour take kids on bathroom breaks. Change diapers in the restroom, not poolside, to keep germs away from the pool.
  • Read and follow directions on pool chemical product labels.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment (goggles, for example) when handling pool chemicals.
  • Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly children and animals, from accidental exposure.
  • NEVER add pool chemicals when the pool is in use, and only add them poolside when directed by the product label.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Proper operation and disinfection of pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes COVID-19. Operators of aquatic venues should ensure that patrons can safely enjoy the facilities while maintaining social distancing practices. For CDC guidance for aquatic venues during COVID-19, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/parks-rec/aquatic-venues.html

It is also important to remember that drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 1-4 years. To keep swimmers safe in the water:

  • Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
  • Use life jackets and wear them appropriately.
  • Provide continuous attentive supervision near swimmers.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
  • Use locks or alarms for pool access points.

To learn more about staying safe in pools and natural waters, visit swimhealthyva.com.

Virginia’s natural streams, rivers, and lakes offer opportunities for fun exercise and fishing but also pose the risk for illness, injury and drowning. Follow these tips to stay safe:

  • Look for beach advisory signs along public access points or along the beach. Many public beaches in Virginia are monitored for bacteria levels. An advisory is posted if these levels are too high. If the beach is under advisory, stay out of the water.
  • All natural bodies of water contain bacteria, including salt water. Salty water will not disinfect wounds. If you have broken skin, stay out of the water.
  • Avoid swimming in natural waters for at least three days after heavy rain.
  • Don’t swim when you are sick. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Avoid getting water up your nose. Use a nose clip or plug your nose before going under the water.
  • If you become sick after being in the water, report your water activities to your doctor.
  • Shower with soap and water before and after swimming.
  • Keep children and pets from swimming in scummy water. If you see mats of algae or discolored green, red, or brown water, an algae bloom may be present.
  • Report harmful algal blooms or dead animals in the water to the HAB Hotline at:

National Infant Immunization Week

The Virginia Department of Health observes National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 25 – May 2, 2020. NIIW is a yearly observance that highlights the importance of protecting children two-years-old and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). 

On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. Fortunately in Virginia, most children are routinely vaccinated on time. However, due to COVID-19, we are starting to see immunization services declining and parents opting to not take their child to the pediatrician to get vaccines they are due for. 

Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers across the state are working hard to ensure that children can still receive the well visits and immunizations they need. Some ways they are doing this include:

  • Scheduling well visits in the morning and sick visits in the afternoon.
  • Separating patients spatially, such as placing patients with sick visits in different areas of the clinic or another location from patients with well visits.
  • Collaborating with providers in the community to identify separate locations for holding well visits for children.
  • Parents, especially those with children under 2-years-old, should call ahead to check with their provider and determine if their child is due for any vaccinations.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The VDH Cancer Prevention and Control Program works to decrease the burden of colorectal and other cancers through helping to develop and promote evidence-based strategies shown to prevent and control cancer. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer death. However, CRC screening makes dying from this disease preventable. During this month, VDH wants to continue to spread the message that CRC is “Preventable. Treatable. Beatable!”

Colorectal cancer occurs in the colon or rectum. It is also called colon cancer. Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps form in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps may turn into cancer. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment works best.

Colorectal cancer screening saves lives.

Regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. If you’re 50 to 75 years old, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. If you’re younger than 50 and think you may be at high risk of getting colorectal cancer, or if you’re older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened. Learn about other ways to lower your risk.

To learn more about decreasing CRC risks, visit this page at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): http://bit.ly/2Fjfs7t.

Coming Soon to “This Week in Richmond” with Host David Bailey

Coming soon to This Week in Richmond with David Bailey, featuring State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA; Chief Medical Officer Chethan Bachireddy, MD, DMAS; Gena Berger, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

This episode will feature topics, including maternal health initiatives, Medicaid expansion, home visiting and doula budget proposals and the Governor’s five-year plan to reduce racial disparities in maternal mortality. Dr. Norm Oliver also briefly addressed the state’s response to COVID-19, as well as VDH preparedness and response activities.

This episode will air the week of March 1, and will available online at: https://vpm.org/watch/this-week-in-richmond.

World TB Day is March 24

It's Time to End TB. World TB Day. March 24

World TB Day is a day to educate the public about the impact of tuberculosis (TB) around the world. For many decades, death was likely for people with tuberculosis (TB). World TB Day celebrates the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch discovered the cause of tuberculosis. At the time of Koch’s announcement, TB was raging through both Europe and the Americas. It caused the death of one out of every seven people. Dr. Koch’s discovery was an important step toward the control and elimination of this deadly disease.

Scientists later learned that there are two types of TB Conditions:

  • TB disease – People with TB Disease are sick from active TB bacteria.  They usually have symptoms such as cough, fever, tiredness, or weight loss.  They may spread the bacteria to others.
  • TB infection – People with latent (or inactive) TB infection do not feel sick, Do not have symptoms and cannot spread TB bacteria to others. If left untreated, the inactive, non-contagious form of TB can become an infectious form of the disease.

TB in Virginia

TB was the first disease that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) addressed when it was formed in 1908.  At that time, VDH had a staff of four and a budget of $40,000. At least half of the budget was used to help the 12,100 Virginians living with TB at that time.  Today, TB remains an important preventable disease in Virginia.  Treating cases of infectious TB disease is important, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.  We will never end TB without screening people for latent TB infection and treating it to prevent its progression.   Treatment for LTBI can be as short as one dose of medicine a week for 12 weeks!

Should you be screened for latent (or inactive) TB Infection?  You may want to contact your health provider or local health department if you:

  • Have close contact (in your home or workplace) with a person with infectious TB disease;
  • Have lived or visited for 3 months or more in a country where tuberculosis is common;
  • Have been homeless and lived in a shelter or other setting where many people live together;
  • Have a medical condition that makes it hard for your body to fight infections, such as diabetes mellitus, severe kidney disease or HIV infection;
  • Take medical treatments such as steroids on a regular basis or take special medicines for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s Disease.

Want more information about Latent Tuberculosis Infections?  Please visit:

Patients Come First Podcast with Dr. Lilian Peake

– This episode of the Patients Come First podcast features an interview with Virginia Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake, MD, MPH. During the conversation, Dr. Peake discusses the work of epidemiology and the fight against infectious diseases, including the current coronavirus threat. The podcast is available on Apple PodcastSpotifyStitcherTuneInSoundCloudBlubrryPodbayOvercast, and Pocket Casts. You can also view the podcast by visit: https://www.vhha.com/communications/patients-come-first-podcast-dr-lilian-peake/. Send questions, comments, or feedback to pcfpodcast@vhha.com.