Between the COVID-19 pandemic and growing concerns about monkeypox, a recent, national surge in salmonella cases linked to live poultry has flown relatively under the radar.
However, the bacteria has spread to 48 states since early February, infecting 572 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Northern Virginia hasn’t been immune.
As of last Tuesday (July 19), there have been 11 cases reported in Virginia, including two in the state’s northern region, the Virginia Department of Health said. Eight of the cases have been tied to exposure to live poultry, and one resulted in a hospitalization.
It’s unclear whether either of the Northern Virginia cases occurred in Fairfax County, since the data typically isn’t released on a local or county level, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.
For the three cases not linked to poultry exposure, VDH says it’s unsure how the illness was contracted.
“Those cases could be either lost to follow-up (unable to contact them for interview/investigation) or we have not received their exposure information from the local health district that conducted the investigation for that case,” wrote Kelsey Holloman, who manages VDH’s Foodborne Disease Epidemiology program.
Overall, the U.S. poultry salmonella outbreak has led to 92 hospitalizations and two deaths. It has been more than a month since the last recorded case on June 22, though the CDC says the actual case numbers are likely higher since many people recover without medical care and don’t get tested.
Caused by a bacteria that lives in the intestines of people and animals, salmonella can be spread through contact with contaminated food or drink as well as infected animals and their environment. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.
While most people recover without treatment in four to seven days, the illness can be more severe for young children, adults over 65, and immunocompromised individuals, according to the CDC.
Per VDH, tips for avoiding infection include:
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after touching live poultry/backyard flocks, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam.
- Keep backyard flocks and flock supplies outside.
- Do not let young children (under 5) handle backyard flocks, including chicks and ducklings
Earlier this year, salmonella outbreak tied to Jif peanut butter led to 21 total cases in 17 states, including four hospitalizations, VDH says. The CDC closed its investigation into that outbreak earlier in July.
The CDC estimates salmonella cause about 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the U.S. annually.
Photo via James Wainscoat/Unsplash
A fourth vaccine has entered the fight against COVID-19.
The Gaithersburg-based company Novavax received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month for a two-dose vaccination designated for unvaccinated people 18 and older.
The Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County and cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, will get a portion of the 20,800 doses allocated to Virginia, the Fairfax County Health Department confirmed to FFXnow.
Supplies are expected to arrive in mid-August, the Virginia Department of Health said on Friday (July 22) after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the new vaccine its recommendation.
Novavax’s vaccine functions differently than the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines that have emerged as the favored options for inoculation against Covid over the past year.
“The Novavax vaccine contains a very small amount of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which elicits an immune response, in combination with an adjuvant, which boosts the immune system response to the vaccine,” VDH said. “…The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine offers an option to individuals who may have an allergic reaction to mRNA vaccines or who have a personal preference for receiving a vaccine other than one based on the mRNA technology.”
According to the FDA, trial data showed that the vaccine is 90.4% effective at preventing illness from the coronavirus.
Possible side effects included pain or tenderness, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, joint pain, nausea or vomiting, and fever. There was also evidence for increased risks of the same heart inflammation issues that have been reported with the mRNA vaccines.
The vaccine’s two doses will be delivered three weeks apart. It will only be available to people who haven’t gotten any shots yet, since it hasn’t been authorized for third or booster doses.
“When it becomes available, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to find an appointment for the Novavax vaccine,” the county health department said. “The vaccine will be free and available to everyone aged 18 years or older who is eligible.” Read More
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Monkeypox hasn’t established a huge presence in Virginia, but it’s starting to make a little bit of noise, as the U.S. moves to contain an outbreak.
With five additional infections identified Wednesday (June 29), the Commonwealth has now reported a total of eight cases of the disease, six of them in the Northern region. The first case was confirmed in a Northern Virginia woman on May 27.
The Fairfax County Health Department declined to confirm whether any of the cases so far have been in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
“At this time, the Virginia Department of Health is limiting the sharing of geographic case data to the regional level to ensure patient confidentiality,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said by email. “However, the FCHD is committed to providing up-to-date information on this virus on our county website and will continue to share information as the situation evolves.”
A rare disease caused by a virus in the same family as the smallpox virus, monkeypox poses a low risk of infection to the general public, and a full-blown pandemic like COVID-19 is considered extremely unlikely, according to health experts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970, and since then, the disease has been almost exclusively found in central and west Africa — until this year, when it has spread to Europe, South America, and other areas that don’t typically see cases.
The first confirmed U.S. case in the outbreak was announced on May 18. Officials are investigating the source of the infections, including why a high number of cases so far have been among men who have sex with men, though anyone who is exposed is at risk.
Per the Fairfax County Health Department, the monkeypox virus spreads through broken skin, respiratory tracts and “mucous membranes,” such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. Exposure can come from close contact with an infected person or animal as well as objects and surfaces they have touched.
Symptoms typically emerge six to 14 days after exposure, sometimes in the form of a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, or exhaustion. Patients then develop a rash that generally lasts for two to four weeks.
There are no existing treatments specifically for monkeypox, but the county health department advises anyone who is sick or has symptoms to seek medical care from a health care provider.
There are two licensed smallpox vaccines in the U.S. that data indicates are effective at preventing monkeypox infections, according to the CDC.
The FCHD says it has gotten “a handful of requests” for vaccinations, but in Virginia, their availability through local health departments is currently limited to individuals who know they have been exposed to a confirmed case.
“We do have a small amount in order to provide it to individuals with known exposure to cases if/when we need to,” Caldwell wrote.
Fairfax Health District residents can call the county health department at 703-246-2433 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if they think they have been exposed or are seeking more information about the vaccines.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this week that it will deliver 296,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine in the coming weeks, using a tiered system to allocate supplies to areas with the highest levels of transmission and need.
The national vaccination campaign is expected to make 1.6 million doses available this year.
The Virginia Department of Health said in this week’s news release that it is “actively working with our federal partners to make these services more accessible for Virginians.”
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People who were at Inova Fairfax Hospital’s emergency department earlier this week may have been exposed to measles, the Virginia Department of Health reported today (Wednesday).
According to VDH, an unvaccinated child who contracted measles while traveling abroad had visited the hospital at 3300 Gallows Road during the following times:
- May 15: 5:30 p.m. to May 16 at 2 a.m.
- May 16: 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
The individual was also present at the Kaiser Permanente Ashburn Medical Center in Loudoun County from 2-5 p.m. on May 13.
“Outside of these specific locations and times, it is currently believed that the risk to the community is low,” the department said in a news release.
Individuals who may have been exposed at Inova can contact VDH’s Fairfax call center at 202-851-9616.
VDH says anyone who has gotten two doses of a vaccine against measles is protected and doesn’t need to take any action.
Those who have only gotten one dose of vaccine are likely protected, but the department advises contacting a health care provider and scheduling a second dose to ensure full protection.
Anyone who has not been vaccinated against measles or contracted the disease should contact the Fairfax County Health Department at 703-246-2411 or a health care provider.
“If you notice the symptoms of measles, stay home and away from others, and immediately call your primary health care provider or health department to discuss further care,” VDH said. “Call ahead before going to the medical office or the emergency room and tell them that you were exposed to measles.”
Symptoms of the highly contagious disease typically emerge in two stages:
Measles is a highly contagious illness that is spread through coughing, sneezing, and contact with droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of an infected individual. Measles symptoms usually appear in two stages. In the first stage, most people have a fever of greater than 101 degrees, runny nose, watery red eyes, and a cough. The second stage begins around the third to seventh day when a rash begins to appear on the face and spreads over the entire body.
According to the department, measles are “easily preventable” with a vaccination, and children should get two doses, first between the ages of 12-15 months and a second one before they’re 4-6. VDH also recommends that everyone get evaluated for measles immunity and vaccinated before traveling internationally.
A previous potential exposure to measles was reported at Inova Fairfax in February. The Fairfax Health District, which includes the county and cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, also recorded 12 cases last fall as part of an outbreak among people who came from Afghanistan during the U.S.’s evacuation efforts.
Photo via Google Maps
Fairfax County saw a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases this past week, but the overall level of community transmission remains low.
After seeing mostly double-digit daily caseloads during the previous week, the Fairfax Health District — including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church — reported 157 new cases on Wednesday (March 23), 154 cases on Friday (March 25), and a total of 249 cases over the weekend, including 75 new cases today (Monday).
On its data dashboard, the Virginia Department of Health reported all of this weekend’s cases today, pushing the district’s rolling seven-day average up to 117 cases — the highest it’s been since March 9.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still classifies the county’s community transmission level as low based the case rate per 100,000 residents (52.55), new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 residents (1.6) and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds used by patients with confirmed COVID-19 (1.5%).
Overall, the district has recorded 179,419 total COVID-19 cases, 4,446 hospitalizations, and 1,485 deaths during the pandemic. The four most recent confirmed deaths, based on the date of death, came during the week of March 5.
The omicron variant is still responsible for majority of cases in the area, but a subvariant known as BA.2 has been gaining ground. It is behind 34.9% of infections in the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Virginia, according to the CDC.
The subvariant is more transmissible than the original omicron variant and triggered a new surge in cases across Europe this month.
However, scientists say it does not appear to cause more severe illnesses. Vaccinations remain effective at preventing severe illness and death, and the similarities between the variants means that people who were infected with omicron may have some immunity to BA.2.
According to the Fairfax County Health Department, vaccinations in the district have slowed to a crawl, with only about 200 more residents obtaining a first dose since last Monday (March 21).
As of today, 965,535 district residents, or 81.6%, have received at least one vaccine dose, including:
- 90.6% of people 18 and older
- 96.8% of 16-17 year olds
- 92.5% of 12-15 year olds
- 52.9% of 5-11 year olds
There are 873,032 fully vaccinated residents, which is 73.8% of the population, including 82.5% of adults.
In Fairfax County, 477,892 people — or 41.5% of residents — have gotten a booster or third dose, including 50.7% of adults and 32.6% of people aged 12 to 17, VDH’s data dashboard shows.
About eight months after the delta variant revived face masks, Fairfax County’s COVID-19 case rate has dropped back into double digits.
With 53 new cases today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is now averaging 87 cases reported a day for the past week — its lowest seven-day average since Aug. 1, 2021, when it was seeing 86 cases per day.
Case levels have declined precipitously since peaking at a weekly average of 2,590 cases on Jan. 13. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still classifies community transmission levels as low based on its current hospitalization-focused metrics.
As of Friday (March 18), there had been 21 county residents newly admitted into a hospital with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The county’s seven-day average of 1.9 per 100,000 residents represented a 35% drop from the previous week, according to CDC data.
In total, 4,440 Fairfax Health District residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 during the pandemic. There have been 178,716 cases and 1,476 deaths.
With cases continuing to fall, demand for vaccinations has slowed to the point where the Virginia and Fairfax County health departments are preparing to close two mass vaccine sites at the end of this week, citing “a diminished need” for that approach.
Since the first supplies arrived in December 2020, more than 2.2 million vaccine doses have been administered in the Fairfax Health District. 965,319 residents — 81.6% of the population — have gotten at least one dose.
According to Fairfax County Health Department data, that includes:
- 90.6% of people aged 18 and older
- 96.8% of 16-17 year olds
- 92.4% of 12-15 year olds
- 52.7% of 5-11 year olds
Fairfax County’s vaccination rates for the 5-11 and 12-17 age groups (58.4% and 94%, respectively) are among the highest in the state, the Virginia Department of Health says.
In addition, 41.2% of county residents have gotten a booster shot or third dose, including 50.2% of adults and 32.2% of youth aged 12-17.
However, the future of Virginia’s vaccination campaign could become hazier, as federal health officials warn that funding for COVID-19 response efforts, including vaccines and tests, is running out — even as a highly transmissible omicron subvariant takes hold in the U.S.
Brought about after Congress eliminated a $15 billion coronavirus aid package from its budget bill last week, the White House says the funding collapse could affect everything from the availability of antibody treatments to vaccine and testing reimbursements for uninsured individuals.
The Virginia Department of Health says it’s not clear yet how the federal funding shortfall will affect the state’s vaccination program, but testing efforts are safe for now.
“VDH’s COVID testing programs are funded through a grant that will not be impacted by the federal government’s funding challenges,” the department’s central office said in a statement.
The COVID-19 testing site at the Fairfax County Government Center has closed less than a month after its launch.
The Virginia Department of Health shut down the Community Testing Center yesterday (Wednesday) as part of a statewide shift away from mass test sites in favor of a mobile “CTC+” initiative focused on communities with accessibility barriers.
“As the community response has decreased at the large-tent, fixed testing sites, the Virginia Department of Health is transitioning to a flexible response where the testing van can be moved and located in areas with low access to testing,” VDH COVID-19 Testing Co-Lead Suzie Trotter said by email.
The Fairfax County CTC opened on Jan. 15 in response to the omicron variant’s arrival in December, which pushed local Covid caseloads to record heights and triggered soaring demand for testing that strained limited supplies.
Trotter says the number of tests conducted at VDH’s nine CTCs “dropped off significantly over the past week,” as the latest surge in the pandemic has started to recede. The supply shortage has also eased with an increased availability of testing kits through pharmacies and other retail sites, along with the launch of a federal program that mails free at-home kits.
The Fairfax CTC conducted tests for 4,394 people over its 19 days of operations, according to Trotter, who says the closure date was determined far enough in advance to cut off appointments.
“VDH has a role to continue to support the safety net and support testing to those that either have difficulty getting to a test site or have low access to testing in their community,” Trotter said. “Mobile vans will allow access to testing in areas that have never had the opportunity to have testing nearby.”
Set to begin operations on Tuesday (Feb. 15), the CTC+ initiative consists of vans that will travel to different locations with no-cost PCR diagnostic tests based on community need, as requested by local health departments.
There will be just one van to serve the entire Northern Virginia region, but Trotter says it will “maintain a weekly presence” in the Fairfax Health District, though an official schedule has not been determined yet.
The Fairfax County Health Department will evaluate a variety of factors when choosing testing sites, such as case levels and positivity rates, the availability of existing testing resources, and accessibility, spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told FFXnow.
“This resource joins other FCHD testing resources that will continue to target communities most in need of testing,” Caldwell said by email.
Other testing options include health care providers, retail pharmacies, and FCHD clinics. The county has also restarted its mobile laboratory, which tests people with symptoms and is next scheduled to appear at the Safeway at Engleside Plaza in Mount Vernon.