Know How to Avoid Heat-Related Illness when the Temperature Spikes This Summer

You’re at the beach on a 92-degree day with a friend when, suddenly, she seems confused. She says her head hurts, she feels dizzy and starts to vomit. Then she faints.  

Would you know what to do?  

Your friend is likely suffering heat exhaustion. If her symptoms don’t improve after moving her to a cool place, loosening her clothes, putting a cool cloth on her head and having her sip water, you should seek medical attention.   

From May through September 2022 in Virginia, 2,861 people went to emergency rooms or urgent care centers for a heat-related illness. Already this May, 75 people have sought medical help.  

Your body cools itself down by sweating, but when temperatures soar above average and you spend a lot of time outside, sweating might not be enough.  

Dehydration can happen if you lose too much water and salt from your body when it’s hot. If you have been sweating a lot or haven’t had any water, you can become dehydrated. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening.  

Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that can happen during heavy physical activity in the heat. You could feel cramps in your calves, arms, abdominal muscles and back. If you have heat cramps, find somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight (preferably inside), rest for several hours and drink clear juice or a sports drink with electrolytes. 

Heat Exhaustion symptoms also can include heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast, weak pulse; muscle cramps and tiredness or weakness.  

Heat stroke is life-threatening and could lead to death. If you’re outside for a long time, doing physical activity in hot weather, you may stop sweating. Your body temperature could reach 106 degrees in as little as 15 minutes.  

You can avoid heat-related illness this summer with the following tips:  

  • Drink plenty of water. 
  • Stay inside an air-conditioned building, if possible. 
  • Wear light-colored, lightweight clothing. 
  • Limit physical activity. 
  • Wear a hat. 
  • Use sunscreen. 
  • Take frequent breaks when working outside. 

It’s helpful to learn the terms that weather forecasters use to talk about how hot it will be. An excessive heat warning means that higher temperatures than normal are expected in the next 36 hours. The heat index is how it feels outside when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. 

Be sure to check the back seat of your car to make sure children and pets are not left behind. A hot car with the windows up can quickly reach more than 150 degrees, leading to heat stroke or death. Leaving the window down is not enough to keep the car cool.  

It’s also a good idea to check on neighbors. People age 65 or older may suffer from heat-related illness and complications when the temperature and humidity are high. 

Infants and children, people with chronic conditions, athletes, people with lower incomes, outdoor workers and pregnant women are also more at risk of becoming sick when the temperature is high. 

Other things that could increase the risk of a heat-related illness:  

  • Obesity 
  • Fever 
  • Prescription drug use 
  • Heart disease 
  • Mental illness 
  • Poor circulation 
  • Sunburn 
  • Alcohol use  

You can have a fun and safe summer with a few simple steps that will help protect you and those around you.    

Learn more on the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC websites about heat-related illness, who is at greater risk and how to stay safe in extreme heat.

Office of Vital Records Staff Knit and Crochet Cuddlies for Preemies

The crafters in the Office of Vital Records (OVR) have been busy! They have made: 

  • 28 hand-knitted and hand-crocheted baby blankets, 
  • 34 darling crocheted octopuses that are more than just plush toys, and, 
  • 15 hand-made incubator covers.

These items are for families of babies in neonatal intensive care units. OVR’s Field Services Team members always cross paths with birth registrars at hospitals. VDH staff train hospital staff on using software to register newborn births with the state properly. 

“We have always been looking for an outreach program for our birthing facilities, said Senior Field Service Representative Denise Cox. 

When Field Services Representative Lisa Cauthorne came across an article about the crocheted octopuses for preemies project, she shared it with her colleagues. 

“We thought it was a great idea because a lot of us are crafters,” Cox said. “We were excited just to give back. In those (neonatal intensive care units), it’s pretty traumatic for many of the mothers… talking with the birth registrars gave us a boost to start this project.” 

“We wanted to participate in something where we can help these children and these families that we affect. And I don’t mean from just a paper perspective, but from a personal perspective,” added Cauthorne. ”To show them we are not just governmental paper pushers.” 

Former OVR staff member Michelle Reid, who has retired, came up with the name “Granny’s Closet.” They kicked the project into gear in August 2022. The blankets and octopuses are made to specifications. The octopuses have a purpose other than being cute – the idea is that the tentacles provide the babies something to grab onto so they don’t grab and dislodge any medical tubing that might be attached to them. 

Meanwhile, Cauthorne reached out to area hospitals about donating the items. On May 10, they donated their first collection of hand-mades to the neonatal intensive care units at Bon Secours Southside Medical Center in Petersburg and to HCA Johnston-Willis Hospital in Chesterfield County. 

They hoped to make Mother’s Day a little brighter for families with babies in the NICUs. 

“We are already involved in these people’s lives through the registration of their birth certificate,” said OVR Director Seth Austin. “This is a way to drill down more of a tangible, personal way to help our staff connect with the work and people we are impacting every day.”


May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Don’t Let the Tick Get You Sick

It could start with a headache, fever, joint or muscle pain or fatigue.  

And then there’s the bull’s-eye rash, the tell-tale sign that a tick bite could have infected you with Lyme disease.  

Lyme Disease is a very serious disease in Virginia. It spreads to humans through a bite by the blacklegged tick, which is found in suburban areas in the northern and western regions of Virginia and in the higher mountain areas.  

May is Lyme disease awareness month, a time to learn about the seriousness of the disease. If Lyme is left untreated, it can lead to the following conditions:  

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness 
  • Pain in the tendons, muscles, joints and bones 
  • Additional rashes on other areas of the body 
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, especially in the knees and other large joints
  • Facial palsy (face drooping on one side)
  • Irregular heartbeat, dizziness and shortness of breath 
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord 
  • Nerve pain and shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet  

Not all blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease and it’s possible to avoid infection if you find a tick right away and remove it from your body. If you do have symptoms right after the bite, it’s possible to cure the infection and avoid long-lasting conditions if it’s treated right away with antibiotics. 

It’s a good idea to check yourself over when coming inside from outdoors. If you find a tick on your body remove it right away. If you think the tick has been on you for more than two days, save the tick in rubbing alcohol (or clear alcohol like vodka). Watch for those early symptoms that include headache, fever, joint or muscle pain, fatigue or the bull’s-eye rash.  

If you notice these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider right away and bring the tick with you so that it can be identified. If your healthcare provider cannot identify the tick, you are welcome to send it to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) through the Virginia Tick Survey. Please note that testing is not always the best indicator of the likelihood that you may develop Lyme or other tick diseases. 

To learn more about ticks, how to avoid them and the diseases they can carry, visit the VDH Tick Page. 

Here’s What You Need to Know for National Fentanyl Awareness Day

Every Virginian is affected on some level by the opioid crisis. You could know someone who has overdosed or know of someone whose life has been affected.  “We all know someone who has been devastatingly impacted by it,” State Health Commissioner Karen Shelton told Virginia Department of Health (VDH) staff last week. 

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of unnatural deaths in Virginia and illicit fentanyl is the driving force behind that. In 2022, more than 2,500 people died across the Commonwealth from drug overdoses. 

Illicitly – or illegally – manufactured fentanyl (IMF), a synthetic opioid, is a growing problem in Virginia and across the country. Fentanyl, whether it is made illegally or in a factory for medical purposes, is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 

Virginia was making strides against drug overdose deaths, Shelton said. And then came COVID-19, which brought isolation, loneliness and fewer programs available to the people who needed them. 

And while some ground was lost during the pandemic, Shelton stressed that now is the time to gain it back by getting to work.  

Tuesday, May 9, is National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a time to learn more about opioids, overdoses and what you can do to help if you believe someone has overdosed.  

And there’s more that you can do.  

Learn the street names for illicit fentanyl:  

  • Apache  
  • Dance Fever 
  • Friend 
  • Goodfellas 
  • Jackpot 
  • Murder 8  
  • Tango & Cash 

Know the signs and symptoms of someone who has overdosed:  

  • Slow or no breathing 
  • Pale  
  • Clammy skin 
  • Unresponsive 

And learn what to do if you believe someone has overdosed:  

  • Call 911 
  • Give naloxone 
  • Provide rescue breathing  

Naloxone is a drug that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose – especially slow or no breathing. You may have heard of Narcan, a brand name for naloxone.    

You can learn how to give naloxone through the REVIVE training program, a Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services program taught by local health departments, and other public and private entities across the state.     

You can get naloxone without a prescription, but it may not be free. Contact your local health department to find out where to get naloxone free. You can also talk to your insurance company, your doctor and pharmacist to learn more.  

Shelton, a native Virginian and former health director for the Mount Rogers Health District, said her goal is to help give people the resources and tools they need to be able to combat the problem on a personal, local and state level. “Public health,” she said, “is a community effort.”  

To learn more about fentanyl and opioids, visit the VDH Opioid Homepage. To learn more about REVIVE training, visit the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services REVIVE page. Visit to learn more about National Fentanyl Awareness Day and how you can help.

Think you know about vaccines and childhood diseases? Test your knowledge with our latest quiz.

True or false: Children still receive the polio vaccine in the United States?  

If you said true, give yourself a gold star! In fact, the polio vaccine is on the Virginia list of School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements

Polio is a disease that was eliminated in the United States with the vaccine, but still is a threat in other countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Last week was World Immunization Week and National Infant Immunization Week. But it’s always a good time to talk to your healthcare provider and your child’s pediatrician about vaccines.  

It’s also a good time to test your knowledge of required vaccines for school and day care settings and diseases with associated vaccines that you may have forgotten about.

Take our quiz below to find out how much you know about the following diseases and vaccines, then check your answers below the quiz:


  1. Tetanus can be fatal without a vaccine.
    1. True
    2. False
  2. The Hepatitis A vaccine is not one of the school minimum immunization requirements in Virginia.
    1. True
    2. False
  3. What does DTaP stand for?
    1. Diptheria, Tetanus & Pertussis
    2. Diptheria, Tetanus & Polio
    3. Diptheria, Tetanus & Pneumococcal
  4. Hepatitis _____ is spread through blood or other bodily fluids and can be spread from an infected mother to child during birth.
    1. A (Hepatitis A)
    2. B (Hepatitis B)
  5. Rubella was once also called ______ measles. 
    1. Traveling measles
    2. German measles
    3. Eastern measles
  6. Pertussis is also known as:
    1. Ear, Nose and Throat Disease
    2. Breathing Fever 
    3. Whooping Cough
  7. Pneumococcal disease can infect the following parts of the body:
    1. Brain
    2. Lungs
    3. Ears
    4. Blood
    5. All of the above
  8. The MMR vaccine stands for Malaria, Meningitis and Rabies.
    1. True
    2. False
  9. Hib Haemophilus influenzae type b – can cause:
    1. Brain damage
    2. Deafness
    3. All of the above
  10. Chickenpox is also known as:
    1. Varicella
    2. Legionella
    3. Tarantella




1. True. The disease also can cause lockjaw and muscle stiffness. A vaccine for tetanus is included in the DTap vaccine.

2. False. Effective July 1, 2021, a minimum of two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine is required at Kindergarten entry. The first dose should be administered at age 12 months or older. 

3. A. It stands for Diptheria, Tetanus & Pertussis

4. B. The answer is hepatitis B. The Hepatitis B vaccine is part of the Virginia School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements.

5. B. German measles. The vaccine for rubella is included in the MMR vaccine.

6. C. Whooping Cough. The DTaP vaccine includes pertussis and is part of the Virginia School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements.

7. E. The vaccine is part of the Virginia School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements.

8. False. MMR stands for Measles, Mumps & Rubella. The MMR is part of the Virginia School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements.

9. C. The most common type of Hib disease is meningitis. The vaccine is part of the Virginia School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements.

10. A. The vaccine is part of the Virginia School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements.


Harmful Algal Blooms

What’s that stuff in the water? It could be harmful algae.

On warm days when the sun lights up those nearby ponds, lakes and streams, you may see a lovely blue-green tint on the surface of the water. In some bodies of water or along the water’s edge, you may see a brown or red tint.  

Is it OK to jump right in?

It all depends.

If you see clumpy mats that appear along the water’s edge or surface and it’s a little opaque, there could be harmful algae.

What’s the big deal? While not all algae are harmful, some can release toxins that can make you and your pet sick. Not only should you not swim in water with harmful algae, but you also shouldn’t touch it or allow your pet to drink it or eat anything along the water’s edge. It could be a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB).

Algae are microscopic organisms found in coastal and fresh water. They are major producers of oxygen and food for many of the animals that live in the water. When conditions are right for their development, they may multiply quickly; this is called an algal bloom. A bloom often will change the color of the water. Algal blooms in coastal waters are usually red or brown, while in freshwater they tend to be green, blue-green, and less often red.  

The symptoms you could have if you are in contact with water that has harmful algae include:   

  • Rashes
  • Eye, nose, mouth or throat irritation
  • Allergic reactions
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

Here’s are some helpful tips on what to look for when approaching water that looks like it could have algae that’s harmful:

Color:  The color can be blue-green, brown or red. Don’t just rely on the color to decide whether you’re looking at harmful algae.

Texture and shape or structure: The algae may look like spilled paint on the water’s surface. It may be oily and can coat objects on the water’s edge like sticks and rocks.  When the water is stirred up they can separate into chunks. They can be thin and easily broken apart when disturbed. They can be slippery and look like gelatin. They also could be full of bubbles.

Smell: The algae could have an earthy or fishy smell that is different from a rotten egg smell.

To see examples and watch videos about harmful algae blooms, visit the Harmful Algal Blooms page on the Virginia Department of Health website. You can also learn more about HABs by visiting the Harmful Algal Blooms Frequently Asked Questions page.

If you believe you are sick because of harmful algae, call your healthcare provider and report the location of the possible algal bloom to your local health department. You may report the incident to the HAB Hotline at (888) 238-6154 or online using the Harmful Algal Bloom Report Form.

To report fish kills and other dead animals in or near the water, call the Virginia Emergency Operations Center (VEOC) at 1-800-468-8892.

STI Awareness Week (April 9 – 15th)

STI Awareness Week

Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Awareness Week is April 9th through 15th each year.  During this week we take the time to raise awareness about STIs, and how they impact our lives.  This reduces STI-related stigma, fear, and discrimination.  It ensures that people have the tools and information to prevent, test, and treat.

STIs have become more common and rates are increasing.  One in five people in the United States have an STI.  Virginia, and the rest of the U.S., has seen a sharp increase in cases of mothers passing syphilis to their children during pregnancy.

Many people may be unaware that they have an STI.  Having an STI does not mean that you will always have symptoms.  It is important to talk to your sexual partners about your health and engage in safer sex behaviors, such as using condoms correctly and consistently.  Talk to your partners about protecting yourselves from STIs before you have sex.  Make STI testing a part of your routine healthcare.  If you do find out that you have an STI, it is important that you start and complete the treatment prescribed.  Protect yourself and your loved ones with three easy steps: talk, test, treat.

Find a location near you that provides free or low-cost STI testing using Resource Connections.  You can find more information about common STIs on our STI page.  You can also call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline to talk to a counselor at (800) 533-4148.  Counselors are ready to answer any questions you may have or connect you to services you may need.

Mpox Update: Preventing Another Outbreak

Nearly a year ago mpox was a hot health topic in the news and in some communities. Mpox particularly affected the LGBTQ+ community. Today, however, VDH data from late March shows that our state has averaged 0 to 2 cases per week since November 2022.

So you may ask yourselves, “why should I think about getting vaccinated.” You could also ask, “why would I go back for the second vaccination?” Currently, only 1 in 4 of those at risk for mpox has been fully vaccinated.  A recent CDC report says without continued vaccination efforts another resurgence of mpox is likely over time.

We need your help to prevent future outbreaks of mpox.  If you are sexually active, and have not received a first or second dose of vaccine, find out about the vaccine recommendations.  If you do not qualify for the vaccine, please review the basics of mpox and how to prevent it.

To learn more about:

  • mpox general info,
  • vaccination recommendations, and
  • to find an mpox vaccination site near you, visit

the VDH mpox webpage at

VDH Celebrates Public Health Week

Public Health Week is April 3rd – 9th.

Did you know that Virginia’s history of improving public health goes right back to the first colonists?   

In 1610, three years after Jamestown was founded, the first sanitation law was passed. By the mid-1630s and beyond, colonists were thinking about collecting vital statistics and regulating the practice of medicine.  

Since those early days, public health in Virginia has evolved with the establishment of the state Board of Health, in the tracking and treatment of diseases, discovery of vaccines, oversight of public water supplies, oral and maternal health, sewage treatment and so much more. 

Public Health Week begins Monday. During Public Health week, we recognize the efforts of public health workers to protect and promote the health of all Virginians. 

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has over 3,000 employees across 35 health districts and 119 local health departments.  

The VDH vision is for Virginia to become the healthiest state in the nation. Public health workers promote healthy lifestyle choices, educate the public to prepare for emergencies and other threats to health, and track disease outbreaks in the state, just to name a few. 

Employees use data-driven approaches to stay informed about diseases, drug overdoses, vaccinations and many social determinants of health such as poverty.   

Data dashboards posted on the VDH website help the public learn about how widespread some issues and diseases are in the state. Information is also available on programs, offices and topics such as substance abuse and mental health.  

VDH employees aren’t the only ones who can play a role in promoting health in the state. You can get involved by volunteering for the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps or the COVID Community Ambassadors program.  

Want to learn more about what VDH does, the history of public health and Public Health Week in Virginia? Visit the VDH website and and watch for posts throughout the week on VDH social media sites. VDH also invites you to upload photos of you and your community participating in public health activities, like cleaning up a green space, helping someone in need, and more. Use the hashtag #IAmPublicHealth when posting your pictures.

Keep Yourself and Your Pets Safe from Rabies

When you’re out enjoying the warm weather, keep yourself and your pets safe from rabies.

The weather is getting warmer and if you find yourself enjoying more time outdoors, it’s a good time for a reminder to know how to protect yourself and your pets from animals that could carry rabies 

Most people have heard of rabies, a disease that is usually fatal for humans if it isn’t treated. Our pets – dogs and cats – are required to be vaccinated against rabies. While you are outdoors, though, you could find yourself face-to-face with a fox, raccoon, skunk, or bat that may have the disease. That’s why it’s important to take some basic precautions to help protect you and your pets from being infected. 

One of the best ways you can protect yourself and your animals is having your veterinarian vaccinate your pets for rabies and keeping their vaccinations up to date. Vaccinating domestic animals like dogs, cats, and horses, creates a protective barrier between wildlife and humans. If we protect them, we protect ourselves.

You can also protect yourself and your pets by: 

  • Appreciating wildlife from a distance 
  • Never adopting wild animals as pets 
  • Keeping your animals on your property 
  • Keeping garbage and pet food inside 

What should you do if you are bitten or think an animal may have exposed you to rabies?  

  • Don’t panic…but don’t ignore the situation either.  
  • If it can be done safely, capture or confine the animal or at least identify it before it runs away.
  • Wash the wound with soap and water and seek first aid.  
  • Call your healthcare provider. Your doctor can treat you for possible infections that a bite could cause and help determine if rabies vaccinations are needed.   
  • Report the bite to your local health department. 

You’re less likely to be exposed to rabies by staying away from wildlife. It’s not a good idea to feed or approach wild animals or to try to pet or handle them. If you think a wild animal needs help, call the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources or contact a licensed rehabilitator. Stray domestic animals, especially if they appear sick or injured, should be brought to the attention of local animal control officers. If you think a stray animal needs help, call your local animal control office for help.

Here are a few more tips on approaching dogs and understanding animal behavior and preventing bites:  

  • Do not approach a dog while they may feel threatened, protective, or territorial (sleeping, eating, playing with a toy, caring for puppies or injured). 
  • Pay attention to the animal’s body language and look for signs that the animal is tense, or its tail is stiff. Watch for a drawn back head or ears, furrowed brow, yawning, flicking the tongue, backing away, an intense stare or the eyes rolled so the whites are visible. 
  • If you see these signs or feel uncomfortable, do not scream or run away. Try to put something such as a purse, backpack or a jacket between yourself and the animal or dog.

World Tuberculosis Day

Tuberculosis (TB) hasn’t left us. While the world has come a long way from the days when one in every seven people died from the disease, it’s still important to recognize that TB can sicken and kill people in the U.S. and beyond. TB is the 13th leading cause of death worldwide. 

On March 24, we recognize World TB Day, the day in 1882 that Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of the bacteria that cause TB: Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Antibiotics to treat TB were developed in 1943.  

TB can be found in all 50 states, including Virginia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 13 million people in the U.S. have latent TB infection (LTBI). That means they don’t have any symptoms but do carry the bacteria in their bodies. And while they can’t spread it to others, they could develop TB disease in their lifetimes.  

Anyone can get TB. It can be spread through the air when someone with active TB disease coughs, speaks or sings. Testing and treatment are available and can save lives.  

Here are a few more interesting facts about TB:  

  • In the early 1800s, some people in New England believed TB could be caused by vampires. 
  • Archeologists found TB in the remains of people who died 9,000 years ago in Atlit Yam, a city off the coast of Israel now under the Mediterranean Sea. 
  • TB also can be found in animals in the U.S., including cattle and deer. 
  • The TB skin test used today to diagnose the disease is basically the same one that has been used for almost 80 years. Blood tests also are available. 
  • Before antibiotics, isolation in a sanitorium and proper nutrition were the best treatment for TB. 

To learn more, visit the CDC’s TB History page.  

Testing and treatment are critical to preventing TB disease and ending TB in our lifetimes.