Virginia Healthcare Community Offers Safety Tips Amid Surge in Flu, Respiratory Virus Cases and Hospitalizations

Patients are Already Flooding into Doctors’ Offices, Hospital Emergency Departments, and Pediatric ICUs During Early Days of Flu and Respiratory Illness Season; Taking Precautions such as Getting a Flu Shot, the COVID-19 Vaccine, and Practicing Basic Health and Safety Behaviors Helps Reduce the Risk of Illness

The Virginia healthcare community is encouraging Virginians who haven’t done so to get vaccinated against flu, get vaccinated or boosted against COVID-19, and to take personal prevention steps as we enter the flu and respiratory illness season. This year’s flu season is already showing early, concerning signs that it may be worse than in recent years. There are also increasing numbers of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases, which may cause serious illness and hospitalization in children and older adults. If these trends continue, this could strain healthcare systems in some communities. 

Some Virginia doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers are already seeing very high volumes of patients with respiratory illnesses seeking care, filling hospital beds, and in many cases requiring longer hospital stays. Emergency department and urgent care clinic visits involving patient diagnoses of RSV have quadrupled since early September and remain significantly elevated. Visits for flu-like illness are also rising – for the week ending November 5, such visits are at least four times as high than in the same week for each of the past four years. Virginia Immunization Information System data from July 1-November 9, 2022 indicates that flu vaccine uptake in children under 12 years old is lower this year as compared to the same time period during the previous three years.

These conditions are occurring even as COVID-19 remains a significant concern – Virginia hospitals continue to treat an average of 486 hospital inpatients each day. The continued presence of COVID-19 combined with the rapid spread of flu and other respiratory illness poses a heightened risk of developing medical complications from COVID-19 or the flu among older Virginians, individuals with weakened immune systems or other medical conditions, and younger children.

The holiday season is just around the corner. To protect yourself and your family against flu,  RSV, and other respiratory illnesses, the healthcare community recommends taking the following steps:

  • Make an appointment to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that “everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women, should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions.” Flu vaccines are available at many doctor’s offices, pharmacies, local health departments, and community health clinics, among other locations. Contact your healthcare provider, local health department or find out where you can get a flu vaccine in your community here.
  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you have not done so already. Get boosted if you have been vaccinated but it has been at least 2 months since your last vaccine dose. Bivalent booster doses are available for vaccinated individuals five years and older. VDH advises parents to discuss this option with their child’s healthcare provider. Find out where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in your community by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or call (877) VAX-IN-VA or (877) 829-4682.
  • Parents of sick children are encouraged to keep them home from school and other activities to help limit the spread of infection. Parents with sick children are also advised to initially contact a pediatrician or family physician for medical guidance unless your child is in medical distress, in which case seeking hospital care may be warranted. Taking this approach helps ensure that hospital beds and emergency departments are open and available to patients with critical medical needs.
  • Adults who become ill are also encouraged to stay home to limit the risk of spreading illness and to contact their healthcare provider for evaluation, testing and/or guidance on the appropriate course of treatment depending on the severity of symptoms and other risk factors. There are some treatment options for both COVID19 and influenza; people are encouraged to seek care quickly and talk to their health care provider about the right treatment options for them. 
  • People are also encouraged to take simple but powerful prevention steps- wash their hands regularly,  avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands,  cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, and  limit the time children spend in large group settings with other contagious individuals when possible.
  • Individuals with symptoms, or those who test positive, are encouraged to contact their healthcare providers to determine the treatment option that is right for them. This is especially true for high-risk individuals. Because treatment is often most effective when taken within five days of the onset of symptoms, people are advised not to delay seeking medical advice and starting prescribed treatment. It is also important to remember that prescriptions such as antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections are typically not appropriate or indicated for treating viral infections like flu and RSV.

Increases in respiratory illnesses and related hospitalizations are a good reminder to Virginians to get vaccinated, take simple prevention steps, and seek appropriate medical care and guidance if you become sick. These actions can help you and your family stay safe and healthy this holiday season.

In addition to the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, the following organizations and institutions endorse this statement: Access Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics – Virginia Chapter, Ballad Health, Bon Secours Richmond and Hampton Roads, Carilion Clinic, Centra Health System, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, HCA Virginia, LewisGale Hospital – Alleghany, LewisGale Medical Center, LewisGale Hospital – Montgomery, LewisGale Hospital – Pulaski, Mary Washington Healthcare, the Medical Society of Virginia, the Richmond Academy of Medicine, the Richmond Ambulance Authority, Riverside Health System, Sentara Healthcare, UVA Health, Valley Health System, the Virginia Academy of Physician Assistants, the Virginia Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, the Virginia Association of Community-Based Providers, the Virginia Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners, VCU Health, the Virginia Health Care Association-Virginia Center for Assisted Living, the Virginia Health Care Foundation, VHC Health, the Virginia Network of Private Providers, the Virginia Nurses Association, the Virginia Orthopaedic Society, the Virginia Pharmacists Association, the Virginia Podiatric Medical Association, the Virginia Public Health Association, Virginia Rural Health Association, and the Virginia Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

2022 Governor’s EMS Award Recipients Announced at 42nd Annual Virginia EMS Symposium

On Saturday, November 12, the 2022 Governor’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Award recipients were announced during the 42nd Annual Virginia EMS Symposium and Governor’s EMS Awards ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia. These awards, given in Governor Glenn Youngkin’s name, recognize EMS providers and organizations from across the Commonwealth for their outstanding level of excellence and dedication to the EMS system.

Presented in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Emergency Medical Services’ Annual EMS Symposium, the awards ceremony caps off the week-long training event. The symposium offers attendees the opportunity to earn up to 26 hours of continuing education credits for recertification as an EMS provider via more than 300 class sessions and various course tracks. 

“Each year, many talented and dedicated EMS providers and organizations are recognized for their exceptional contributions to Virginia’s EMS System,” said Gary Brown, director, Virginia Office of EMS. “It’s an incredible honor to be recognized at this level, and we greatly appreciate all of the nominees and award recipients for their hard work and dedication to responding to the call for help and providing the best prehospital emergency care in Virginia.”

“Virginia is blessed to have an outstanding network of highly-skilled EMS providers and organizations, who stand ready 24/7 to provide life-saving care within minutes of a 911 call,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “My congratulations to the individuals and organizations being recognized this year, and a sincere thanks to those who strive every day to make emergency medical services in Virginia the example for others to follow.”

The 2022 Governor’s EMS Award winners are:

  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Excellence in EMS – Gary Samuels, Bon Secours, Rappahannock General and Mary Immaculate Hospitals
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to Leadership in EMS (The Kent J. Weber Trophy) – Jon Henschel, Winchester Fire and Rescue Department
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Physician with Outstanding Contribution to EMS (The Frank M. Yeiser Trophy) – Michel Aboutanos, M.D., VCU Health
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Nurse with Outstanding Contribution to EMS – Lou Ann Miller, R.N., Riverside Regional Medical Center
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Prehospital Educator – Penny Kelly, Fairfax County Schools
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Prehospital Provider – Tyler Reid, York County Department of Fire and Life Safety
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Health and Safety – Jennifer Collins, Lynchburg Fire Department
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS for Children – Peninsulas EMS Council Pediatric Care Committee
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Agency – Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Telecommunication – Adriane Heiden, Loudoun County Fire and Rescue
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Emergency Preparedness and Response (The James A. Nogle, Jr. Trophy) – Kenneth Smith, CJW Medical Center
  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Innovation Excellence in EMS – Old Dominion EMS Alliance

An additional award is presented at the ceremony to recognize the outstanding contributions to EMS by a high school senior. This is a scholarship award provided by the Virginia Office of EMS in conjunction with the State EMS Advisory Board.

  • The Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS by a High School Senior (The Dr. Carol Gilbert $5,000 Scholarship) – Michael Lansing, Tuckahoe Volunteer Rescue Squad

Virginia Department Of Health Announces Novavax Covid-19 Booster Vaccines Are Now Available In The Commonwealth

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has announced the immediate availability of a free booster dose of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, following authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on October 19.

The booster dose is authorized for persons aged 18 years and older who, for medical or accessibility issues, cannot take one of the mRNA bivalent COVID-19 vaccines or who would not take a booster otherwise. The Novavax vaccine is based on a technology different from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

The Novavax booster vaccine may only be used as a first booster, meaning that anyone who has already had one or multiple booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and/or Moderna vaccines may not receive the Novavax booster at this time. It is to be administered at least six months after a person has completed a primary COVID-19 vaccine series.

The Novavax monovalent booster targets the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, while the bivalent boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna also target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant that emerged in the United States in November 2021. Novavax has a bivalent booster in testing.

Free vaccination opportunities may be found at Vaccinate.Virginia.gov. Information about all the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for administration in the U.S. is available at the VDH COVID-19 vaccine website. The Vaccinate Virginia Call Center is an additional source of information; call (877) VAX-IN-VA – (877)-829-4682 – Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information is available in English, Spanish and more than 100 other languages.

State Health Officials Urge Virginians to Ready for Increase in Respiratory Illnesses through Vaccination and Practicing Preventive Healthy Habits

Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that this year’s flu season is already showing concerning, early signs that it may be worse than in recent years. More people are seeking care in hospitals and urgent care centers for influenza-like illness than at this point in previous years, particularly young children aged 0-4 years. Virginia health officials encourage everyone aged six months and older to get a flu vaccine this fall, with rare exception.

“The best way to reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “This is why I am encouraging Virginians to receive their annual flu shot and practice preventive healthy habits. These include staying home when sick, using your elbow to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and frequently washing your hands. Parents should help their children learn healthy habits and discuss vaccination with their children’s pediatric caregiver.”

The 2022-2023 seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common. For most people, September and October are generally good times to be vaccinated against flu. However, even if you are not able to get vaccinated until November or later, vaccination is still valuable because flu most commonly peaks in February and significant activity can continue into May.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports it is safe to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time, if you are eligible and the timing coincides. The updated COVID-19 bivalent boosters provide targeted protection against the original virus strain and the circulating Omicron sub variants (BA.4 and BA.5).

Another respiratory illness circulating in Virginia is the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Emergency department and urgent care visits with diagnosed RSV have quadrupled and have been rapidly increasing in Virginia’s syndromic surveillance system since early September. RSV is common and usually causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people but can be very dangerous for young infants or those who are immunocompromised. Practice preventive health habits to reduce chance of infection and call your healthcare provider if you or your child is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms.

Both the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in Virginia at many different locations, including pharmacies and health departments. To learn more and to get help finding vaccines, contact the Call Center at 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages. Visit www.vaccinate.virginia.gov or www.vaccines.gov to find a vaccine near you.

Contact your healthcare provider or your local health department for additional information on how to prevent fluCOVID-19 and RSV. Weekly reports on influenza activity in Virginia are posted on the VDH influenza surveillance webpage.

VDH and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association Launch Community Health Data Portal

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) have launched a new portal that will dramatically improve access to health data for public health, health care providers, and community partners.

VDH and VHHA partnered with the Center for Applied Research and Engagement (CARES) to develop this portal. The Virginia Community Health Improvement Data Portal is a tool that provides users with comprehensive information on the health status of their communities.

“The key to obtaining meaningful results is starting with meaningful, measurable data,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin Greene. “The new portal allows access to a broad array of such information, spanning the spectrum of social determinants of health, along with crucial health outcomes. I look forward to the portal’s role in improving health outcomes and reducing disparities.”

The portal allows users to track health-related data and analyze specific areas of concern, such as infant mortality, chronic disease or injuries. Users can identify trends and analyze data at a granular level and can visualize data on maps that meet the specific needs of a project. The portal can be accessed at vdh.virginia.gov/data/ and phvi.wpengine.com/data-portal/.

“Improving health in Virginia begins with communities coming together to review health data and identifying concerning trends and disparities,” said Dr. Lilian Peake, Virginia’s state epidemiologist. “I am excited about this new resource that will make that exponentially easier. It will allow local health departments, hospitals and community partners to spend more of their time developing local interventions rather than data gathering.”

The Partnering for a Healthy Virginia (PHV) Initiative coordinates efforts between VHHA and its member hospitals and health systems, VDH, local health departments, local jurisdictions, the medical community, and other stakeholders to address community health improvement. VDH and VHHA worked together to develop a core set of indicators that can be readily accessed via the Virginia Community Health Improvement Data Portal. Additional data indicators will be added as the project continues.

“Our approach to strengthening public health and wellbeing in Virginia takes many forms, including the Partnering for a Healthy Virginia Initiative. On projects such as PHV, we work with our member hospitals and health systems along with other partners and stakeholders as part of our ongoing effort to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation,” said VHHA President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “No matter the project, our efforts are informed by data and what the metrics tell us because that information helps us understand the scope of particular health challenges and identify optimal improvement strategies. This new Virginia Community Health Improvement Data Portal is a prime example of pursuing a data-informed approach to enhancing public health and we are delighted to partner with VDH on this worthwhile project.”

CARES is an affiliate of the University of Missouri, with more than 200 years of combined experience in geographic information systems, programming, and data analysis and visualization.

For more information about community health improvement in Virginia, visit virginiawellbeing.com/. For more information about the Partnering for a Health Virginia Initiative, visit phvi.wpengine.com/. For more information about CARES, visit careshq.org/about/.

VDH Announces Availability of Bivalent COVID-19 Booster Vaccines for Pediatric Patients

Parents of young children in Virginia are now able to seek a free bivalent pediatric COVID-19 booster vaccine for their children aged five years and older, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today, following the recommendation of the booster vaccines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on October 12.

The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster, currently available for persons aged 12 years and older who have completed their primary series or received their last monovalent booster at least two months ago, is now available for children aged 5 years to 11 years with a dosing of a third of the adult dose. The Moderna bivalent booster, currently available for persons aged 18 years and older who have completed their primary series or received their last monovalent booster at least two months ago, is now available for children aged 6 years to 11 years with a dosing of a half of the adult dose and for children and adolescents aged 12 years through 17 years with a dosing identical to Moderna’s adult vaccine.

Both bivalent boosters are targeted at the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, and at the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant that emerged in the United States in November 2021.

VDH advises parents to discuss this option with their child’s healthcare provider. Vaccination opportunities may be found at Vaccinate.Virginia.gov. Information about all the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for administration in the U.S. is available at the VDH COVID-19 vaccine website. The Vaccinate Virginia Call Center is an additional source of information; call (877) VAX-IN-VA – (877)-829-4682 – Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information is available in English, Spanish and more than 100 other languages.

VDH Urges Caution In Advance of Severe Weather

RICHMOND, VA — The remnants of Tropical Storm Ian are expected to impact areas of the state beginning Friday, September 30 through the weekend. This storm could create dangerous conditions in creeks, rivers, and low lying areas along the coast. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reminds people to take precautions to be prepared for severe weather and once the sun comes out, be aware of potential health risks before you participate in recreational water activities.

“I encourage everyone, especially those with travel plans, to pay close attention to storm updates, plan appropriately, and take proper precautions as the storm arrives,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “Be safe; stay safe.”

Heavy rains can increase the risk of animal waste and the potential release of inadequately treated wastewater from sewage treatment plants. Bacteria, debris, and other pollutants in rainwater runoff end up in rivers, lakes and streams, which can pose risks to human health and safety. Rain events also cause flooding and fast-moving waters, especially in low-lying areas.

The most common illnesses from contaminated water are gastrointestinal illnesses. These illnesses may cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever and are a result from swallowing water contaminated by disease-causing microbiological organisms. Additionally, contact with contaminated water has the potential to cause upper respiratory (ear, nose, throat) and skin infections.

VDH recommends avoiding swimming in fast-moving water as there is a drowning risk. Boaters, kayakers, canoeists, etc. face an elevated risk in high waters and should not try to navigate in fast-moving waters.

VDH recommends the following safety tips for people planning to swim, wade, kayak, canoe or go rafting in Virginia natural waters after heavy rains:

  • Everyone should wear a life vest at all times on the water.
  • Avoid getting water in your mouth. Never swallow water from an untreated water source.
  • Don’t swim if you have broken skin. Bacteria, viruses and other organisms can infect wounds causing more serious illness.
  • Shower with soap and water after recreating in natural waters.
  • Don’t swim when you are ill.
  • Avoid swimming if dead fish are present.
  • Use extreme caution and avoid unnecessary risks if you encounter covered roads or fast-moving waters. The water may be deeper and moving faster than you think.

Residents or facilities that provide water to the public including campgrounds, restaurants, or daycares with private wells or septic systems submerged by flood waters should also take extra precautions.

For more information and safety tips regarding private wells and septic systems visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/responding-to-an-emergency-affecting-your-private-well/.

To contact your local health department, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts/ or call 877-ASK-VDH3 (1-877-275-8343).

To contact your local health department, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts/.

For more information regarding recreation water safety tips, including the Virginia Department of Health’s “Safely Enjoy Virginia’s Natural Waters” brochure, visit: www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

VDH Further Expands Eligibility for Those Seeking Monkeypox Vaccination

Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced a further expansion of eligibility for JYNNEOS, the monkeypox vaccine. Newly eligible for vaccination in Virginia are persons of any gender or sexual orientation living with HIV/AIDS or who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection in the past three months.

“VDH is taking this step to expand eligibility for the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine to ensure as many people at high risk of contracting this disease who want to get vaccinated can do so if they choose,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “Maximizing effectiveness of prevention and treatment against monkeypox now is our best chance to keep it from becoming entrenched in the United States.”

In Virginia, as of Monday, September 26, there were 464 cases of monkeypox, 249 of those Northern Health Region consisting of the Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Health Districts. Across the state, 21 cases have required hospitalization.

The newly expanded eligibility criteria for vaccination now include additional populations in Virginia. Those who meet one or more of the following are eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine:

  • Any person, of any sexual orientation or gender, who have had anonymous or multiple (more than one) sexual partners in the past two weeks; or
  • Sex workers of any sexual orientation or gender; or
  • Staff, of any sexual orientation or gender, at establishments or events where sexual activity occurs; or
  • Any person, of any sexual orientation or gender, who is living with HIV/AIDS; or
  • Any person, of any sexual orientation or gender, diagnosed with any sexually transmitted infection in the past three months.

Virginia has received a limited supply of JYNNEOS vaccine. If you are eligible, visit your local health district website to learn about how you can access the vaccine. You may use this locator tool to determine which local health district you reside in.

As of September 26, VDH has overseen administration of 9,860 first doses of the two-dose JYNNEOS series and 4,948 second doses.

Monkeypox is a contagious rash illness caused by the monkeypox virus. In most cases, it resolves without treatment. It is spread by close contact with an infected person. Close contact includes touching skin lesions, bodily fluids, or clothing or linens that have been in contact with an infected person. Spread can also occur during prolonged, face-to-face contact.

While anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone with monkeypox, many of those affected in the current global outbreak are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men. While this level of monkeypox activity is unexpected, the risk to the general population is low. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained contact with other people who have monkeypox.

The highest risk activity currently is having sex with multiple or anonymous partners; avoiding these activities greatly reduces one’s risk of catching or spreading monkeypox. Monkeypox does not spread from person to person from walking past someone who is infected or through casual conversation with someone who is infected. Because we are still learning about the vaccine’s effectiveness in the current outbreak, vaccinated individuals should continue to take steps to protect themselves from infection.

Initial symptoms of the disease often include flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes, followed by skin lesions. However, some people have a rash without other symptoms. Although the majority of cases don’t require hospitalization, the rash can be painful. If you have a rash that resembles monkeypox, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to get tested. Treatment is available for those at risk of severe illness.

For the latest information about monkeypox from VDH, visit our monkeypox information webpage: www.vdh.virginia.gov/monkeypox/.

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.