Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records Announces Top Baby Names of 2023, Other Interesting Virginia Birth Data

What to name the newest member of the family? It can be a nerve-wracking decision for new parents. Something out of scripture? A favorite singer or film star? A sports player or a Disney character? Virginia parents are choosing diverse names for their newborns. Today, the Office of Vital Records in the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) unveils its lists of Top 15 baby names for children born in the commonwealth in 2023, perhaps providing some inspiration for stressed-out parents-to-be.

Topping the list of the most popular names for boys in 2023 was Liam, while Charlotte was the most popular for girls, as it was in 2022. In 2022, there were 95,583 babies born; while the numbers for 2023 are still being counted, the Office of Vital Records estimates there were a similar number of births last year.

“It’s always fun to see what the most popular baby names will be in Virginia,” said Seth Austin, state registrar and director of VDH’s Office of Vital Records. “The inspiration for a name can come from so many different places, and no matter the inspiration, these new babies’ names will be central to their identity as they grow up and do great things in the world.”

Following Liam in popularity among Virginia parents in 2023 were Noah, James, Oliver, William, Lucas, Henry, Theodore, Benjamin, Levi, Elijah, Luke, John, Michael, Gabriel. Charlotte was followed by Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Amelia, Evelyn, Ava, Isabella, Elizabeth, Mia, Eleanor, Harper, Sofia, Luna, Abigail for girls in Virginia in 2023. And for your consideration, may we suggest “Virginia” as a suggestion as a little girl’s name if you’re expecting in 2024?

Office of Vital Records data also indicate the most popular 2023 baby names for the largest ethnic groups in the state: Asian, Black, Hispanic and White.

  • Among Asian babies born in 2023, Noah and Olivia were the most popular names. Lucas, Muhammad, Ethan and Alexander fill out the Top Five list for boys; Ava, Sophia, Sophie and Charlotte complete the Top Five list for girls.
  • For Black babies born in Virginia in 2023, Noah and Ava remained the most popular names from 2022. Amir, Josiah, Elijah and Legend round out the Top Five for boys, while Naomi, Nova, Serenity and Autumn fill out the Top Five for girls.
  • Liam and Mia remain the top names for Hispanic boys and girls born in Virginia in 2023, as they were in 2022. Lucas, Muhammad, Ethan and Alexander fill out the Top Five list for Hispanic boys’ names, while Ava, Sophia, Sophie and Charlotte complete the Top Five list for girls’ names.
  • James and Charlotte were the top names for White babies born in 2023, followed by William, Oliver, Henry and Liam for boys and Olivia, Emma, Amelia and Sophia for girls.

Half a century ago in 1973, VDH data shows that Michael and Jennifer were the most popular names for baby boys and girls born that year, retaining their top spots from 1972. James, Christopher, John, Robert, David, William, Brian, Jason, Kevin, Charles, Matthew, Richard, Thomas and Mark complete the Top 15 for boys’ names in 1973. Among girls in 1973, the rest of the Top 15 include Angela, Kimberly, Melissa, Amy, Michelle, Stephanie, Lisa, Heather, Mary, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Tammy, Crystal and Karen. Information about popular names in each of the 50 states going back to 1960 is available from the Social Security Administration by using its Popular Names by Decade tool.

Office of Vital Records data also reveals other interesting information about 2023 births.

  • The most births occurred in August with 8,426 babies delivered, but July 7 saw the greatest number of babies born on a single day – 332.
  • Fridays are the busiest day of the week in Virginia delivery rooms: 14,231 babies were born on a Friday in 2023; Sundays, on the other hand, are the slowest days of the week, with only 8,768 born on a Sunday in 2023.
  • There were 2,620 sets of twins born in Virginia in 2023, while there were 76 sets of triplets born in the state.
  • And on New Year’s Day 2023, 178 new Virginians came into the world.

The Office of Vital Records is Virginians’ one-stop shop for any number of personal records requests including birth and death certificates, and marriage and divorce records. The Office’s headquarters is located in Richmond at 2001 Maywill Street, Suite #101, Richmond, VA 23230; it is open to the public Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The vital records call center — (804) 662-6200 — is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The public may also apply for a vital record, pay for it, and receive updates on the request’s fulfillment online using this tracking tool.

The public may also access Office of Vital Records services through their local health district offices and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices. Use this Health Department locator tool to find your local health department office; please call ahead to ensure your local office offers the services you need to access. Use this DMV office locator tool to find a DMV office near you; DMV offices are open for walk-ins and appointments.

Virginia Health Officials Investigating Potential Measles Exposures in Northern Virginia

January 13, 2024

VIRGINIA HEALTH OFFICIALS INVESTIGATING POTENTIAL MEASLES EXPOSURES IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA
Virginia Department of Health is Working to Identify People Who Are at Risk

(Richmond, Va.) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) was notified of a confirmed case of measles in a person who traveled through Northern Virginia when returning from international travel. Out of an abundance of caution, VDH is informing people who were at various locations, including Dulles International Airport on January 3, 2024, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on January 4, 2024, that they may have been exposed. Health officials are coordinating an effort to identify people who might have been exposed, including contacting potentially exposed passengers on specific flights. more>>

Governor Glenn Youngkin Unveils Youth Mental Health Strategy on the One Year Anniversary of Right Help, Right Now Initiative

Announcing $500 million in additional Right Help, Right Now funding

Governor Glenn Youngkin joined behavioral health leaders, community partners and families who have struggled with behavioral health challenges in Richmond this afternoon to mark the accomplishments of the first year of the Right Help, Right Now (RHRN) behavioral health transformation plan in Virginia, outline next steps and funding for RHRN, and announce his Youth Mental Health Strategy.

On the one-year anniversary of the Right Help, Right Now plan, the Governor announced $500 million in new funding for the continued transformation of our behavioral health system, including the expansion of school-based mental health services. Additionally, the Governor outlined a Youth Mental Health Strategy and legislative package that would limit the addictive elements of social media platforms to protect children and empower parents with information and resources to best care for their children

“After a year of implementing critical changes in our mental and behavioral health system through my Right Help, Right Now plan, we are forging ahead with additional RHRN funding and a Youth Mental Health strategy to assist and support our next generation of Virginians,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. It’s clear that young Virginians face a myriad of challenges ranging from addictive social media platforms to an increasingly dangerous opioid epidemic to mental health challenges and we need to offer support. Our new Youth Mental Health Strategy will work to protect and support our young people from predatory practices online while also empowering families with new tools to support their children’s mental health.”

“The goal of Right Help, Right Now is to support Virginians before, during, and after a behavioral health crisis occurs. During the first year of this initiative, we have advanced key elements of the infrastructure needed to ensure that there is someone to call, someone to respond and somewhere to go in a mental health or substance use crisis,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel. “Year two of this transformation aims to ensure that families have more information about threats to children’s mental health as well as tools to support their children.”

After a year of the Right Help, Right Now plan, some of the incredible progress includes: the continued growth of the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline system through a marketing campaign, the launch of a behavioral health reserve corps of volunteers, awarded funding to build emergency room alternatives, expanded waiver slots for individuals with developmental disabilities on the priority one waitlist, and additional compensation for targeted state hospital staff.

“This is just the start of the work we are doing to transform our behavioral health care system,” said Nelson Smith, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. “We’ve seen tremendous progress over the last year as we have continued to build our crisis continuum of care, expand community-based services, strengthen our workforce, and modernize our systems. This was the result of a lot of hard work and creative and collaborative thinking by staff from across our system and state government.”

Youth Mental Health Strategy

To better equip parents and support our young people, Governor Youngkin is taking immediate action in year two of Right Help, Right Now. In 2023, according to Mental Health America, Virginia ranked 48th in the nation for youth mental health, which demands a collective and comprehensive approach to prioritize the health of the Commonwealth’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. Children spend on average nearly five hours daily on social media; recent studies have suggested that children who spend more than a few hours per day on social media have double the risk of poor mental health. Through budget proposals, legislation and executive action the youth mental health strategy will address critical components and harmful aspects of social media on our youth.

To address addictive and harmful aspects of social media on youth:

  • We will protect minors from TikTok’s predatory influence in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • We will protect the privacy of all children under 18 years of age from social media companies by banning targeted advertising to children, selling children’s data, or creating a marketing profile of a child without parental consent.
  • We will prohibit social media companies from using addictive practices, designs, or features, such as auto-playing videos, gamification, and virtual gifts, on children.
  • We will give parents the ability to implement guardrails on minor’s social media use and limit social media companies from disrupting teens’ sleep by knowingly or intentionally keeping children on their phones.

Inside our schools:

  • We will expand eligibility for school-based mental health services to students across Virginia using a waiver and provide technical assistance and support to localities that provide matching funds and wish to utilize these services.
  • We will require school divisions who monitor student Internet use to disclose what activity is tracked and monitored, obtain parental consent, and notify parents when a safety alert is issued.
  • We will expand the behavioral health workforce in schools and other community settings.
  • We will increase access to care by providing funds for tele-behavioral health for children in grades 6-12, with their parents’ permission, as well as in our public colleges.

In behavioral health care settings:

  • We will ensure that Virginia families have the right to be in close physical proximity to a relative during a medical, mental health or substance use emergency and provide the relative with previously prescribed medications.
  • We will empower parents with the right to consent for their child to receive inpatient psychiatric care and choose where their child receives inpatient psychiatric care, and exclude minors from code-mandated state psychiatric treatment.

Year 2 Right Help, Right Now Budget Priorities

Governor Youngkin proposed $500 million in new funding for his biennium budget. This is a giant step forward when combined with the funding appropriated in the last budget—bringing the commitment to nearly $1.4 billion, including:

  • $307 million to provide 3,440 waiver slots, a slot per person on the Priority 1 Waitlist.
  • $23 million to expand access to school-based mental health services for children, including telehealth.
  • $46 million to meet the three-year target of emergency room alternatives, such as crisis receiving centers and crisis stabilization units, and publicly funded mobile crisis response teams to ensure that people have someone to respond and somewhere to go in a crisis.
  • $10 million for partnerships with hospitals to build specialized emergency rooms for psychiatric patients called comprehensive psychiatric emergency programs.
  • $23 million to ease law enforcement burden, including expanding alternative transportation.
  • $58 million for building a best-in-class behavioral health workforce through salary increases in state hospitals, behavioral health loan repayment, and more clinical training sites and residency slots.
  • $28 million in opioid abatement and response initiatives including a campaign to reduce youth fentanyl poisoning, wastewater monitoring, naloxone availability, and services for those with substance use disorder.

We will continue to transform our behavioral health system in a way that will positively affect generations to come. The Youngkin administration is committed to doing our part to make Virginia an even better place to live, work and raise a healthy family.

VDH Announces New Syphilis Webpage

Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announces the unveiling of a new syphilis webpage, including a data dashboard tracking the number of reported syphilis cases, to help bring attention to the rising number of cases in Virginia.

Reported total early syphilis (TES) cases in Virginia increased 14% from 2018 to 2022. To date in 2023, syphilis case reports are 21% higher than for the equivalent period in 2022. Most TES cases are diagnosed among men (84% in 2022); however, cases among women are on the rise (70% increase from 2018-2022). Syphilis diagnoses among persons who misuse substances (such as opioids, methamphetamine, and cocaine) are also increasing. Cases of congenital syphilis, which occurs when a mother with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy, have similarly increased dramatically in the last decade. National data show comparable trends.

The new syphilis webpage summarizes important information about syphilis infections, including common symptoms, risk factors, testing and treatment recommendations. Virginians can use this information to better protect themselves and their communities from syphilis. Additional resources specifically for healthcare providers are also available. Provider resources are designed to assist with identifying, staging, treating, reporting, and preventing syphilis.

For more information on sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing, visit the VDH testing page.  For testing or other health services, consult your local health department.  For specific questions about STDs or testing locations, you may call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline at (800) 533-4148.

The syphilis data dashboard includes up-to-date information on annual and monthly TES case counts by patient residence and demographics.  Cases are reported by the local health district of the patient’s residence at diagnosis with standard VDH data suppression rules in place to protect patient privacy. Data on congenital syphilis diagnoses are also presented by year and health region. The dashboard data will be updated weekly on Tuesdays.

The public may learn more about syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases at the VDH website for STDs.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney Join with Health Care Leaders to Encourage Public to Get Flu Shots

Millions of Americans Contract the Flu Each Year, Leading to Millions of Medical Visits and Serious Health Challenges for Many Individuals; Annual Flu Shots Help Reduce the Risk of Illness During Flu Season

Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, and other leaders gathered today at the Bon Secours Sarah Jones Garland Center for Healthy Living to encourage Virginians young and old to receive a seasonal flu shot if they have not already done so to protect themselves and others from illness.

“Flu vaccine is plentiful, and I urge everyone eligible to get vaccinated. I get a flu shot every year because it’s easy and effective protection during a time of year when respiratory viruses are circulating,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton, MD. “Nobody wants to be sidelined with the flu, and while most healthy people get over the flu, people with underlying health issues are at greater risk for serious flu complications.”

Now is the time to get a flu shot as the colder months approach when people spend more time indoors, which is often associated with elevated rates of cold, flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19 infection. Dr. Shelton and Mayor Stoney were among the public officials who participated in an event today to promote the flu shot at the Bon Secours Sarah Garland Jones Center for Healthy Living on the campus of Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital. During the event, flu shots were made available to participants. Dr. Shelton was among those who rolled up her sleeve to receive a vaccine dose. A video recording of the event can be viewed online here.

“Getting a flu shot makes sense for so many reasons,” added Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “Not only does it offer personal protection against illness, it is also a way to be considerate of our communities and the people around us. That’s because a case of the flu for medically vulnerable people, seniors, young children, can be very serious and potentially even fatal. Annual flu shots are important for public health and they are readily available in pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and through community clinics.”

The annual flu season lasts from the fall through the spring, with the greatest intensity in illness often seen in the fall and winter. Influenza is a viral condition that can infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Its symptoms may include fever, chills, congestion, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, and body aches. Each year, tens of millions of Americans contract the flu, resulting in millions of doctor visits, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of fatalities. During the 2022-2023 flu season, the flu shot rate was 57.4 percent among children ages 6 months to 17 (the 2020-2021 rate was 57.8 percent) while the adult flu vaccination rate was 46.9 percent (a 2.5 percent decrease from the 49.4 percent rate the previous year), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Bon Secours is committed to improving the health status of patients in our community,” said Mike Lutes, President, Bon Secours Richmond. “We encourage members of the community to talk with their primary care providers about protecting themselves against the flu, which hospitalizes thousands of people every year.”

“Getting an annual flu shot is a simple and effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness” added Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “Taking that precautionary step can help keep children healthy and in school and people going about their lives without interruption due to sickness. It can also help reduce burden on the health care delivery system during the winter months when flu, RSV, and COVID-19 cases tend to increase, leading to more visits to the doctor and hospital stays.”

The CDC recommends that most Americans 6 months and older receive an annual flu shot, which can reduce a person’s risk for becoming ill and can help reduce the severity of illness in people who contact the virus. This year, it is projected that vaccine manufacturers will supply as many as 170 million doses in the U.S. Flu shots are covered by many commercial insurance plans and Medicare and Medicaid. They are available at many medical practices and pharmacies. Anyone looking for a flu shot is encouraged to visit this website and enter their zip code to find a nearby flu shot location. The flu shot and COVID-19 booster can be received at the same time. People who need more information about COVID-19 boosters can visit this link.

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Dr. Karen Shelton gets her flu shot.
Photo by Tammie Smith

VDH Announces Availability of New 2023–2024 COVID-19 Vaccine

On September 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the vaccine recommendations of its independent panel of advisors, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Everyone aged 6 months and older is eligible to receive a 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine, made by Pfizer and Moderna. In the coming days, the vaccine will start to be available at pharmacies and physicians’ offices in addition to federally qualified health centers, free clinics, and local health department offices. Virginians should speak with their healthcare providers about receiving the vaccine.

Persons aged 65 years and older and people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization and death associated with COVID-19. Therefore, it is especially important for older adults to consider this vaccine and discuss it with their healthcare provider. The 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccines are designed to target the Omicron variant XBB.1.5. Studies have shown that these vaccines can also protect against severe outcomes from other Omicron variants, such as BA.2.86 and EG.5.

Additionally, COVID-19 vaccines will now be available on the commercial market. According to CDC, most Americans will still get a COVID-19 vaccine with no out-of-pocket cost. People with insurance will likely pay nothing out of pocket for the vaccine. Those who are uninsured or underinsured can access free COVID-19 vaccines through two federal programs, the Bridge Access Program for adults and the Vaccines for Children program. These vaccines will be available to eligible persons at local health departments and participating pharmacies and healthcare providers. To find vaccine locations participating in the Bridge Access Program, visit Vaccines.gov. To find a Vaccine for Children program provider, visit vdh.virginia.gov/immunization/vvfc.

VDH remains dedicated to preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, particularly for people at higher risk, and will continue working to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in the state. Vaccination is one of many strategies to prevent COVID-19. Other important steps in combatting the virus are frequent handwashing, good respiratory hygiene that includes coughing and sneezing into your elbow, getting tested if you’re feeling sick, staying home if you are sick, and consulting with your healthcare provider to see if you are eligible for treatment. The VDH COVID-19 dashboards allow Virginians to stay abreast of the current state of COVID-19 trends in their community; the dashboards are available on the VDH website.

If you are interested in obtaining more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, check the Vaccinate Virginia website or contact the VDH Call Center. Call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1), 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.

Health Care Organizations Encourage the Public to Get Informed, Make an Emergency Plan During National Preparedness Month

Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, Virginia Department of Health, and Regional Healthcare Coalitions Encourage the Public to Prepare for Emergency Situations Including Natural Disasters, Infectious Outbreaks, and Manmade Threats

 

September is National Preparedness Month, an annual observance that serves as a reminder of the importance for families and organizations to develop response plans to prepare for unexpected emergencies or disaster situations.

Emergency situations that have widespread impact can take many forms: natural disasters such as major storms that cause flooding, wind damage, property destruction, or power outages; biological hazards such as infectious disease outbreaks that spread across a population causing serious illness and strain on the health care system; or manmade events including acts of violence or other catastrophes that cause mass injuries and casualties.

During National Preparedness Month, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Commonwealth’s four Regional Healthcare Coalitions urge Virginians to develop plans for emergency situations. A family plan means preparation and discussion ahead of catastrophic events so everyone understands how they will communicate during an emergency and how they will reconnect when danger has passed. It also involves having a family list or form with information including important phone numbers, insurance contacts and other key medical and essential information needed for emergency response, as well as on-hand emergency supplies (water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, and a portable radio to access emergency alerts and warnings, and more). Learn more about building an emergency supply kit here. Emergency plans should contemplate what supplies, information, and documents families will need during shelter-in-place events, situations warranting evacuation to a safer location, or the need to search for loved ones after an emergency. Learn more about preparing at vaemergency.gov/prepare.

“Our experiences from recent years have demonstrated the critical importance of being ready to respond when emergencies happen,” said VHHA President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “Emergency situations can occur at any time. Virginians across the Commonwealth have witnessed this in the form of major flooding in Hampton Roads and Southwest Virginia, a snowstorm that stranded motorists on the interstate in Northern Virginia, and the COVID-19 outbreak beginning in 2020. In each case, those emergencies developed quickly and presented serious health and public safety concerns for people impacted by them. When emergencies happen, hospitals are part of the critical infrastructure engaged in response efforts. Because of this, hospitals and other health care organizations partner with state and federal government agencies to conduct ongoing emergency preparation and planning efforts. Just as these organizations plan for the worst, it is vital for families and private sector firms to also have regularly updated plans that can be activated when an emergency happens.”

“I urge Virginians to take time during National Preparedness Month to assess how prepared they and their families are for coping with disasters and emergencies,” said State Health Commissioner Karen Shelton, MD. “Do you have enough water and non-perishable food on hand to last for several days if everything shut down? Do you have your mobile phone set up to receive emergency alerts? If you had to evacuate, where would you go and how would you get there? Have you made plans for your pet if you had to evacuate to a shelter? These are some of the questions we all should be thinking about year-round as disasters come in all forms and can happen anytime. VDH and its Local Health Districts provide oversight of many emergency response functions, including monitoring for disease outbreaks, insuring food and water safety, and mass casualty management.”

This year, the theme of National Preparedness Month is “Take Control in 1, 2, 3.” Its focus is on helping elderly individuals, including those from communities that are disproportionally impacted by the all-hazard events and threats, prepare for emergencies. Additional information and resources about emergency preparation and planning are available through Ready.gov and the Red Cross.

For businesses, Ready.gov recommends conducting a risk assessment to identify potential emergency scenarios as part of the development of an emergency response plan consistent with organizational objectives and focused on protecting staff, visitors, contractors and others on premises if an emergency occurs.

In Virginia, critical public and private sector organizations collaborate to conduct ongoing planning preparation activities to be ready when disaster strikes. This includes VHHA, its member hospitals and health system, and VDH. These organizations partner on the Virginia Healthcare Emergency Management Program (VHEMP), an initiative supported with grant funding from the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Hospital Preparedness Program under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). VHHA and VDH work through VHEMP to address gaps in the health care delivery system regarding the ability to respond to disaster situations. This work is facilitated by a network of four regional healthcare coalitions (the Central Virginia Healthcare Coalition, the Eastern Virginia Healthcare Coalition, the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System, and the Southwest Virginia Healthcare Coalition) that work with health care facilities and response organizations to help prepare for emergency response situations. Each regional healthcare coalition maintains a Regional Healthcare Coordination Center (RHCC) to support response activities during a disaster affecting health care facilities.

The extent of meaningful cooperation between government agencies, health systems, and regional coalitions is reflected in the effectiveness of Virginia’s emergency response apparatus. The Commonwealth has been recognized several times in recent years for its high level of preparation for public health emergencies. That includes the latest report by Trust for America’s Health, Ready or Not 2023: Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism, which again places Virginia in the top tier of states for emergency readiness. The report measures state levels of preparedness to respond to a wide range of health emergencies including infectious outbreaks, natural disasters, and manmade events. Previous annual reports from Trust for America’s Health – including those compiled during the lengthy response to the COVID-19 pandemic – also ranked Virginia in the top tier of states in 2022, 2021, and 2020. Virginia has also been ranked among the top states in the National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHPSI) report that evaluates state readiness to respond to public health emergencies.

Virginia Department of Health Announces Statewide Outbreak of Meningococcal Disease

(RICHMOND, Va.) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is announcing a statewide outbreak of meningococcal disease. Twenty-seven cases of meningococcal disease, caused by the bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis type Y, have been reported in eastern, central, and southwest Virginia since June 2022. This development is three times the expected number of cases during this time period. Most cases are residents of eastern Virginia, where a regional outbreak was first announced in September 2022. The most recent notice to the public was shared in March 2023. Five patients have died from complications associated with this disease. The strain associated with this outbreak is known to be circulating more widely in the United States. Risk to Virginia’s population is low.

Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious illness. It takes close or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria. The bacteria spread from person to person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., kissing, coughing or sneezing directly into the face of others, or sharing cups, water bottles, eating utensils, and cigarettes). In general, and while this outbreak continues, VDH recommends:

  • Don’t share personal items (e.g., vapes, lipsticks, toothbrushes).
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Do not delay seeking care if you experience symptoms of meningococcal disease.
  • Ensure adolescents and teenagers receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) on schedule at 11 or 12 years of age and then a booster dose at 15-16 years of age.
  • Speak to your healthcare provider if you are at increased risk for meningococcal disease to ensure you are up to date on the MenACWY vaccine.

This bacterium can be commonly found in the nose and throat of people without causing disease. Rarely, people can develop serious forms of illness, such as meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or septicemia (a bloodstream infection). Symptoms can first appear flu-like and may quickly become more severe. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important. You should not delay seeking care if you or a loved one experience the following symptoms: fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright light, and possibly a rash.

VDH has not identified a common risk factor; however, genetic sequencing of available specimens has confirmed that the cases are highly genetically related. Most case-patients are Black or African American adults between 30-60 years of age. Twenty-six case-patients were not vaccinated for Neisseria meningitidis type Y.

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) can provide protection against Neisseria meningitidis type Y. VDH encourages parents and healthcare providers to make sure that children receive all recommended vaccines. Teenagers should receive their first dose of MenACWY vaccine prior to entering 7th grade, and a booster dose before 12th grade. If you are a part of a group that is at increased risk for meningococcal disease, including people living with HIV, those whose spleen is damaged or removed, people with sickle cell disease, anyone with a rare immune condition called “complement deficiency” or anyone taking a type of drug called a “complement inhibitor,” you should talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you are up to date on the MenACWY vaccine. Contact your local health department if you have questions about your options for accessing the MenACWY vaccine. For additional help contacting your local health department, call 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.

The latest information is available on the VDH meningococcal disease outbreak response website. Data are updated monthly (first Tuesday).