Harmful Algae Bloom Advisory Expanded for Lake Anna

Harmful Algae Bloom Advisory Expanded for Lake Anna to north of Route 208;
In Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania Counties

Public Advised to Avoid Water Contact with Upper, Middle and Lower sections of Lake Anna above Rt. 208

RICHMOND, Va. – All portions of Pamunkey Branch, North Anna Branch, Lake Anna State Park Beach, as well as the Main Branch of Lake Anna from the “Splits” to the confluence of Pigeon Run above Route 208 in Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania counties are experiencing a harmful algae bloom (HAB). The public is advised to avoid contact with specific areas of the lake 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 Harmful Algal Bloom map. A status report containing the updated advisory areas may be viewed at Lake Anna HAB Status Report 8.8.22.

Samples results from collections on August 2 indicated that at eight locations in the North Anna, Pamunkey Branches, and at Lake Anna State Park, swimming advisories are necessary due to unsafe levels of cyanobacteria, which have the potential to produce toxins. 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. Activities such as boating may continue with proper precaution in advisory areas. Follow-up monitoring above Route. 208 on the lake is planned (weather permitting) for the first week of September.

Swimming advisories have been issued for the following areas of the lake:

Pamunkey Branch (contains changes from prior advisory, “Lower” added)

  • Upper – From the upper inundated waters of the Pamunkey arm of the lake downstream to the confluence with Terry’s Run
  • Middle – From the confluence of Terry’s Run with Pamunkey Creek downstream to Rt. 612 (Stubbs Bridge)
  • Terrys Run – from the upper inundated waters of the lake downstream to the confluence with Pamunkey Creek
  • NEW – Lower from the Rt 612 (Stubbs Bridge) downstream to near the confluence with North Anna (at the “Splits”), including the Lake Anna State Park Beach”

North Anna Branch (contains changes from prior advisory, “Lower” added)

  • Upper – From the upper inundated waters of the North Anna arm of the lake downstream to the Rt. 522 Bridge
  • Middle – From the Rt. 522 Bridge downstream to the Lumsden Flats/Rose Valley Cove
  • NEW – Lower from the Lumsden Flats/Rose Valley cove downstream to just before the confluence with Pamunkey Branch (at the “Splits”)

Lake Anna (Main Branch)

  • NEW – Upper from the confluence with the North Anna Branch & Pamunkey Branch (at the “Splits”) downstream to above the confluence with Pigeon Run (tributary along State Park)

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 filets are safe to eat.
  • Contact the Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 1-888-238-6154 if you suspect you experienced health-related effects following exposure to a bloom. Please do not call this number for map or status updates.
  • Visit SwimHealthyVA.com to learn more about harmful algae blooms or to report an algae bloom or fish kill.

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 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 toxin concentrations. 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.

VDH Launches Lead Testing in Drinking Water at Virginia Schools and Child Care Centers

Today, the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Office of Drinking Water (ODW) announced the launch of a statewide voluntary Lead Testing in Drinking Water at Schools and Child Care Centers in Virginia program. This free program will test for lead in drinking water in select Virginia public schools and child care centers.

The purpose of this program, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is to help Virginia public schools and child care centers identify lead occurrences in their drinking water and reduce exposure.  Currently, the program has approximately $1.1 million in funding, which will be able to collect and analyze 40,000 samples.

Virginia public schools (K-12) and child care centers interested in participating in this program should enroll at leadinvawater.org.  Selected schools/child care centers will be notified by the VDH team.

Selection to the program is based on available funding with prioritization based upon the affordability criteria established by the state under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), to include schools with at least 50% of the children receiving free and reduced lunch and head start facilities. Priority will also be given to elementary schools and child care centers that primarily serve children 6 years and under and older facilities that are more likely to contain lead plumbing.

“This program is an amazing opportunity to partner with schools and child care centers to help identify and reduce lead exposure in drinking water in children,” said Dr. Tony Singh, deputy director of the Office of Drinking Water. “Every action we take to reduce lead exposures improves the health of our children.”

Protecting children from lead exposure is important for lifelong health, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the EPA.  Lead is especially harmful to the health of children because it can interfere with brain development.

Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. Lead pipes are more likely to be found in older cities and homes/buildings built before 1986 before the SDWA banned lead in plumbing fixtures.

To learn more about this program visit leadinvawater.org or email info@leadinvawater.org.

VDH Launches Firearm Injuries Data Dashboard

RICHMOND, VA – Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) launched a new data dashboard on firearm injuries in Virginia showing the number and rate of emergency department (ED) visits from 2016 to 2022. The dashboard shows firearm injury data by year, health district, age group, sex, and race/ethnicity across Virginia.

The dashboard is a result of the Firearm Injury Surveillance Through Emergency Rooms (FASTER) funding awarded to VDH by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  VDH is one of 10 recipients funded for three years with the goal to improve public health surveillance of firearm injuries using near-real time ED data.

“The misuse and mishandling of firearms constitute a significant cause of injury in Virginia,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “This data set, obtained from emergency department records, will assist in the assessment of proximate causes of firearm-related injury, with an eye toward prevention of future injuries.”

The dashboard findings show:

  • The number of ED visits for firearm injury increased 72% from 2018 (1,635 visits per year) to 2021 (2,815 visits per year).
  • From January 2016 through May 2022, the majority of firearm injury ED visits in Virginia (86%) were among males.
  • Among racial groups, most ED visits for firearm injury occurred among Black patients. In 2021, 65% of ED visits for firearm injury were among Black patients, compared to 22% among White patients.
  • Young adults bear the highest burden of ED visits for firearm injury with nearly one-third (31%) occurring among adults aged 18-24 years in 2021.

VDH worked with an advisory group of partners, including hospitals, education partners, law enforcement, state agencies and community organizations, to understand data needs and gather feedback about the firearm injury data dashboard.  Hospital and freestanding EDs report data to VDH, a partnership that is key for timely tracking of community health impacts.

This data is an example of syndromic surveillance, a strategy used by public health to detect emerging health issues and monitor community health in near-real time. Learn more about syndromic surveillance at:  www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/syndromic-surveillance/.

In the next year, VDH hopes to expand the firearm injury dashboard to include data on firearm injury hospitalizations and deaths. While intent of injury (assault, intentional self-harm, unintentional) is not available through the ED data at this time, it will be available for hospitalization and death

Virginia Reports Additional Presumed Cases of Monkeypox 

(Richmond, VA) — Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced five additional presumed monkeypox cases in Virginia residents, bringing the total number of monkeypox cases reported in Virginia to eight since May 2022. Testing was conducted at the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services.

Multiple countries, including the United States, are currently experiencing a monkeypox outbreak. To date, most, but not all, cases have occurred in persons who identify as gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men (MSM). Few hospitalizations and one death have been reported globally in this outbreak thus far. As of June 28, CDC had reported 4,769 cases of monkeypox identified in 49 countries; 306 cases were reported in the United States.

The new cases are adult male residents of the northern (3), eastern (1) and southwestern (1) regions of Virginia who were exposed to other people with monkeypox. The Virginia patients are currently isolating.  To protect patient privacy, no further information will be provided. The health department is identifying and monitoring the patients’ close contacts.

Monkeypox is a potentially serious viral illness, characterized by a specific type of rash. Rash lesions can begin on the genitals, perianal region, or oral cavity and might be the first or only sign of illness. Co-infection with sexually transmitted infections have been reported. Some patients also have fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and/or swelling of the lymph nodes before developing a rash. Symptoms generally appear six to 14 days after exposure and, for most people, clear up within two to four weeks.  Person-to-person spread occurs with close contact or with direct contact with body fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or linens.

Although there is no approved treatment for monkeypox in the U.S., some treatment options may be beneficial. As with many viral illnesses, treatment mainly involves supportive care and relief of symptoms. For patients who have severe illness or are at high risk of developing severe illness, treatments can be accessed through the federal government with VDH coordination. Two vaccines are also available through the federal government as postexposure prophylaxis for people who had close contact with a person with monkeypox and are at highest risk of exposure.

If you have symptoms consistent with monkeypox, seek medical care from your healthcare provider immediately, especially if you are in one of the following groups:

  • Those who have had contact with someone who had a rash that looks like monkeypox or someone who was diagnosed with monkeypox
  • Those who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity, this includes men who have sex with men
  • Those who traveled to places or attended events where monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the month before symptoms appeared
  • Those who have had contact with household items, such as towels, bedding or clothing, used by a person with suspected or known orthopox or monkeypox virus infection
  • Those who have had contact with a dead or live wild animal or exotic pet from Africa or used a product derived from such animals (e.g., game meat, creams, lotions, powders, etc.)

If you need to seek care, call your healthcare provider first. Let them know you are concerned about possible monkeypox infection so they can take precautions to ensure that others are not exposed.  Healthcare providers are reminded to report any suspected cases of monkeypox to their local health department as soon as possible and implement appropriate infection prevention precautions.

The federal government is expanding monkeypox vaccination access for individuals at risk and working to make testing more convenient for healthcare providers and patients across the country. VDH is actively working with our federal partners to make these services more accessible for Virginians.

For more information, visit the VDH websiteCDC website, and the World Health Organization website.

Virginia Reports First Presumed Case of Monkeypox

UPDATE May 27, 2022: The CDC has confirmed that the Virginia patient tested positive for monkeypox. For more information, visit VDH’s Monkeypox Surveillance and Investigation webpage, here.

(Richmond, VA) — Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced the first presumed monkeypox case in a Virginia resident. The initial testing was completed at the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. VDH is awaiting confirmatory test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The patient is an adult female resident of the Northern region of Virginia with recent international travel history to an African country where the disease is known to occur. She was not infectious during travel. She did not require hospitalization and is isolating at home to monitor her health. To protect patient privacy, no further information will be provided. The health department is identifying and monitoring the patient’s close contacts.  No additional cases have been detected in Virginia at this time.

“Monkeypox is a very rare disease in the United States.  The patient is currently isolating and does not pose a risk to the public.” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “Transmission requires close contact with someone with symptomatic monkeypox, and this virus has not shown the ability to spread rapidly in the general population. VDH is monitoring national and international trends and has notified medical providers in Virginia to watch for monkeypox cases and report them to their local health district as soon as possible. Based on the limited information currently available about the evolving multi-country outbreak, the risk to the public appears to be very low.”

Although rare, monkeypox is a potentially serious viral illness that is transmitted when someone has close contact with an infected person or animal. Person-to-person spread occurs with prolonged close contact or with direct contact with body fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or linens. Illness typically begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swelling of the lymph nodes. After a few days, a specific type of rash appears, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body. Symptoms generally appear seven to 14 days after exposure and, for most people, clear up within two to four weeks. Some people can have severe illness and die. As with many viral illnesses, treatment mainly involves supportive care and relief of symptoms.

If you are sick and have symptoms consistent with monkeypox, seek medical care from your healthcare provider, especially if you are in one of the following groups:

  • Those who traveled to central or west African countries, parts of Europe where monkeypox cases have been reported, or other areas with confirmed cases of monkeypox during the month before their symptoms began,
  • Those who have had contact with a person with confirmed or suspected monkeypox, or
  • Men who regularly have close or intimate contact with other men.

If you need to seek care, call your healthcare provider first. Let them know you are concerned about possible monkeypox infection so they can take precautions to ensure that others are not exposed.

On May 20, 2022, VDH distributed a Clinician Letter to medical professionals reminding them to report any suspected cases of monkeypox to their local health department as soon as possible and implement appropriate infection prevention precautions.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websitethe World Health Organization website and the VDH website.

 

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The Virginia Department of Health in Collaboration with ESO Launches First-Ever Virginia Stroke Registry – Statewide View of Stroke Data will Improve Care for all People in Virginia

(RICHMOND, Va.) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in partnership with ESO, today announced the launch of the first-ever Virginia Stroke Registry. ESO is the leading data and software company serving emergency medical services, fire departments, hospitals, state and federal agencies.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death, and stroke-related death rates have risen in recent years. This new Registry will allow stroke centers across Virginia to securely submit stroke data to one central location. The data will be used to identify evidence-based trends and patterns to help stroke patients transition with intent and proper treatment through the entire spectrum of care – from the 911 call to the hospital to rehabilitation to post-acute care. All hospitals and emergency medical services (EMS) agencies in the Commonwealth will be able to participate.

“As we observe National Stroke Awareness Month in May, we are also recognizing this milestone in the evolution of health care in the Commonwealth,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “The ability to collect and share stroke data and collaborate with other organizations across the Commonwealth is a major step forward in our ability to improve the care and well-being of all the people of Virginia.”

“Hospitals, EMS agencies and VDH will collaborate through the Virginia Stroke Registry’s Health Data Exchange to better track, assess and improve the quality of care for acute stroke patients across the Commonwealth,” said Stroke Registry Coordinator of the Division of Prevention and Health Promotion Kathryn Funk, AGACNP-BC, MSN, SCRN, CNRN. “The Virginia Stroke Registry will provide the Commonwealth a greater picture of Virginia’s Stroke burden, highlight our successes in stroke care, and allow the VDH to assist hospitals towards better allocation of resources to raise stroke awareness and improve patient outcomes for all Virginians.”

Key Benefits of the Virginia Stroke Registry Include: 

  • Data: Collection of stroke data using a nationally-recognized data set from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program.
  • Collaboration: Partnership across the Commonwealth to identify key trends to improve stroke patient care and response.
  • Evidence-based Decision-making: Keen, data-driven insights to make informed decisions and drive quality improvement across all stages of the continuum of stroke care.
  • Research: Ability to produce and deliver research papers and studies based on aggregate data, state-wide data.

“We’re proud to partner with Virginia on this initiative,” said Dr. Brent Myers, Chief Medical Officer for ESO. “This innovative registry will serve as a best practice for collecting and analyzing critical healthcare data that can have a profound impact on the treatment and care of stroke patients.”

The Virginia Stroke Registry project rollout and training began on May 10. For more information, visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/stroke.

EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES WEEK RECOGNIZES VIRGINIA’S EMS PROVIDERS COMMITMENT TO PROTECTING THE HEALTH OF ALL PEOPLE IN VIRGINIA – May 15–21 is National EMS Week; May 18 is EMS for Children Day

(RICHMOND, Va.) – During the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers have been challenged beyond measure and continue to provide emergency care with the utmost expertise and professionalism. Last year, EMS providers responded to more than 1.59 million calls for help in Virginia, which represents approximately 4,360 incidents per day.

As proclaimed by Governor Glenn Youngkin, May 15-21 is EMS Week in Virginia. This special week honors EMS responders’ commitment to administering the best prehospital emergency medical care to all people in Virginia. EMS for Children Day, May 18, emphasizes the pediatric patient and their required specialized treatment. This year’s EMS Week theme is “Rising to the Challenge,” and Virginia’s first responders have proven time and again their ability to deliver quality lifesaving emergency care to people in need of help.

“The finest hospital facilities in the world don’t help if you can’t get to them,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “Emergency Medical Service providers bring that access to all, through their dedication, courage and selfless service to their communities. We owe them recognition not just this week, but every week.”

“These past few years have demonstrated Virginia’s EMS providers determination and ability to adapt and respond to various emergency situations presented by the ongoing pandemic,” said Gary Brown, director of the Virginia Department of Health Office of EMS. “I am always so impressed and proud of our well-trained and educated EMS providers, and commend their perseverance and commitment to saving lives during these challenging times.”

During EMS Week, Virginia EMS agencies may host community activities, including first aid classes, health and safety fairs, open houses and more. These family-friendly events encourage citizens to meet and greet the first responders in their neighborhoods. Due to the pandemic, EMS Week community activities may be limited. Please check their websites or social media pages for additional information.

In recognition of Virginia’s fallen fire and EMS personnel, the Virginia Fallen Firefighters and EMS Memorial Service honors fire and EMS responders who died in the line of duty and those who risk their lives daily to serve and protect Virginians. The Annual Fallen Firefighters and EMS Memorial Service will be held June 4 at noon at the Richmond International Raceway.

To learn more about the Virginia Department of Health Office of EMS, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/emergency-medical-services/.

Virginia Department of Health To Retire Several COVID-19 Dashboards – Goal is to Streamline Data Presentation, Conform to CDC Data Reporting

(RICHMOND, VA) — On Thursday, May 19, four Virginia Department of Health (VDH) COVID-19 dashboards will be retired from public view, along with two data landing pages.

These retirements will streamline the dashboards available, align better with the data presentation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and allow focus on actionable data. The dashboards and landing pages that will be retired include the following:

The CDC dashboard is considered the standard when it comes to cases by vaccination status, as the definition of vaccination status is rapidly changing nationwide. To stay in alignment with CDC data and keeping in sync with what other states have done, VDH will link to the CDC dashboard when the Cases by Vaccination Status dashboard is retired. Virginia’s vaccination data is expected to be included in the CDC dashboard this summer, and the dataset also will be archived on the Virginia Open Data Portal,

Reasons for the retirement for the Federal Vaccine Doses and Vaccines Received dashboards include the following: vaccines now are widely available; there is reduced interest in these data; and the rate of change is small. The Vaccines Received accompanying dataset will be archived on the Virginia Open Data Portal. There is no accompanying dataset on the Data Portal for the Federal Vaccine Doses dashboard.

The Cases and Deaths by Date Reported dashboard is redundant with the Cases Dashboard and of less interest as date of illness onset and death date are the focus at this time. These changes are in alignment with the changes made in March 2022. There is no accompanying dataset specific to this dashboard on the Virginia Open Data Portal.

VDH also plans to entirely retire the dashboard landing pages for the Level of Community Transmission and Locality dashboards since these were retired in early March 2022. The pages already point to the CDC COVID-19 Community Levels and the VDH Cases dashboards.

2022 County Health Rankings Show How Virginia Continues to Improve – Report ranks localities in Virginia by health outcomes and health factors

(Richmond, Va.) — Falls Church city ranks as the healthiest locality in Virginia and Petersburg city ranks as the least, according to new County Health Rankings data published today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The report ranks localities in Virginia by health outcomes and the underlying factors that influence health. The health rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

This year’s report focuses on the importance of economic security for all communities, especially as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a result, six new measures were introduced. One is childcare cost burden, which can pose a threat to economic security for families.  In Virginia’s counties, it ranges from 14 to 36 percent. According to the report, the typical cost burden of childcare among U.S. counties is about 25 percent of household income, higher than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ benchmark of seven percent.

Another new health measure included in the report is COVID-19 deaths in 2020.  Virginia’s rate, 56 deaths per 100,000 people, is lower than the national rate of 85 per 100,000. Only 79 percent (103) of Virginia’s localities were included in this measure; 26 percent of them exceeded the national average.

An additional measure that is important as Virginia recovers from the pandemic is the average number of “mentally unhealthy days” people reported in the past 30 days. At 4.2 days, Virginia is slightly better than the national average of 4.5 days. Virginia’s counties ranged from 3.3 to 5.8 days. Mental health outcomes are an important measure because untreated mental health disorders have a serious impact on physical health and are associated with the prevalence, progression, and outcome of some of today’s most pressing chronic diseases.

“The results of the study make it clear that health disparities and inequities occur, not only between regions of the Commonwealth, but also within localities, even the wealthy ones,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “While change in health-influencing factors takes time, the Virginia Department of Health is committed to supporting its local health departments and focusing on improving the health and well-being of all people in Virginia. We will be taking an analytical, evidence-based look at all of these factors, and incorporating them into the next state health improvement plan, Virginia’s Plan for Well-Being, with the intent of improving measurable health outcomes that truly matter to Virginians.”

For more information on the 2022 County Health Rankings, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org. For more information on public health resources throughout Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts.

Governor Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Health Recognize April 4-10 as National Public Health Week

Governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin has released a proclamation recognizing April 4-10, 2022 as National Public Health Week. This week allows us time to formally recognize the amazing efforts that the staff of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the citizens of Virginia perform to keep themselves and others safe and healthy.

The American Public Health Association’s national theme, “Public Health is Where You Are”, focuses on how our interactions as a community are the foundation for building a healthy population. The VDH regularly collaborates with both public and private sector partners to build strong healthy communities in Virginia.

During this week the VDH has launched its “I Am Public Health Campaign” which showcases how each person is instrumental in creating and maintaining a healthy population. The campaign seeks to inform the general public that VDH performs a wide array of functions including and beyond COVID prevention, while celebrating the role of the public health worker.