Oct 17

Health Department Encourages Residents to Take Action to Prevent Respiratory Illnesses

Posted on October 17, 2023 at 2:06 PM by Nancy McCormick

Loudoun County health officials encourage residents to stay current on the latest recommendations for preventing respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, seasonal flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). As colder weather arrives and Loudoun residents increase indoor activities, the potential for the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses also increases. Health officials advise that getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent illness due to viruses. 

“We recommend that Loudoun residents talk to their health care providers about receiving the 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the flu and RSV vaccines,” said Loudoun County Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend. “COVID-19 and flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older and is especially important for people who are 65 and older and for people with compromised immune systems because they are at higher risk for severe illness and hospitalization.”

COVID-19 Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 vaccine recommendation in September. The updated COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax have been approved by the federal government for use this season.

The new COVID-19 vaccine is now available at many pharmacies and physicians’ offices. Visit vaccines.gov or text your zip code to GETVAX (438829) to find available vaccination appointments at nearby medical offices and pharmacies. 

While the federal program that made COVID-19 vaccines free for everyone during the pandemic is no long in effect, the CDC states that most residents can still get a COVID-19 vaccine for free to them. For people with health insurance, most plans will cover COVID-19 vaccine at no cost. Adults who do not have health insurance or  have health plans that do not cover the cost can get a free vaccine from local pharmacies participating in the CDC’s Bridge Access Program.

This year, Loudoun County will not be a provider of COVID-19 vaccine to the general public as the county was during the earlier stages of the pandemic. The Loudoun County Health Department is prepared to provide vaccine to income-eligible residents and to residents who do not have health insurance.

Free COVID-19 Tests

If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, consider getting tested. The federal government is once again offering residents four free COVID-19 rapid test kits. Residents can order the free test kits online at covid.gov/tests

Flu and RSV Vaccines

Residents also can take action to protect themselves against other respiratory illnesses, including the seasonal flu and RSV. Health officials recommend that residents protect themselves against the seasonal flu virus by getting a flu vaccine, which can be administered at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine. Residents can find flu vaccine providers in our community online at vaccines.gov

Vaccines also are available to protect infants and older adults from severe RSV. RSV vaccine is recommended for those under 8 months and over 60 years of age, as well as for pregnant women to help protect their babies. To learn more about RSV, visit cdc.gov/rsv

Stop the Spread of Germs

In addition to getting vaccinated, there are a few simple steps that everyone in the community can follow to help prevent the spread of the germs that cause all types of respiratory illnesses. Health officials encourage everyone to practice these prevention measures throughout the year:

  • Stay home when sick. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Also consider getting tested for COVID-19 or the flu.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your nose and mouth with your inside of your elbow, or with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands properly and often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects. Surfaces may be contaminated with viruses that cause flu.

More Information

In addition to taking action to help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses in the Loudoun community this fall and winter, public health officials encourage everyone to learn more about these illnesses, including the symptoms, how to care for yourself and your family should anyone get sick, and when to seek medical attention. All of the information Loudoun residents need is posted on the CDC’s website:

For more information about the Loudoun County Health Department, visit loudoun.gov/health.

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Dec 14

Northern Virginians Urged to Prevent Flu, COVID-19, Other Respiratory Viruses

Posted on December 14, 2022 at 12:10 PM by Nancy McCormick

Northern Virginia’s hospitals are experiencing severe capacity shortages due to the spread of respiratory illnesses such as the seasonal flu, COVID-19 and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Just as communities across the country have experienced, local emergency rooms continue to be inundated with sick patients, leading to longer wait times. This trend is expected to persist throughout the winter season, adding further strain to local care sites and health care workers.

The members of the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System (NVERS) are asking residents, particularly vulnerable populations such as young children and older adults, to continue to practice health safety and, if medical attention is needed, seek it from the most appropriate provider. 

If Sick, Seek the Appropriate level of Medical Care

“We want to ensure all Northern Virginians are informed on seeking the right care at the right time at the right place,” said NVERS Executive Director Kristin Nickerson. “For example, seeking care from your primary care provider, a community clinic or an urgent care may be less time consuming and less costly than going straight to the emergency room.”

Northern Virginia public health officials encourage everyone to take precautions to avoid getting sick, and, if sick, to seek the appropriate level of care (PDF) to avoid overwhelming hospitals and to ensure everyone can access the care they need. 

Take Steps to Protect Yourself and Others

“COVID mitigation strategies taken over the past few years were also helpful at reducing infections from other common respiratory viruses. These viruses are now able to spread more easily,” said Loudoun County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend. “We recommend taking all precautions to prevent illness, starting with vaccines for the flu and COVID-19 — including all boosters available — and incorporating steps like hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home and keeping children out of school when they are sick, and other mitigation strategies.”

Residents are urged to take these protective actions to prevent illness and avoid spreading illness to others:

  • Get a flu vaccine as soon as possible. Everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women, should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions. Many pharmacies, doctor’s offices, community health clinics and local health departments offer vaccines. Find a location near you to get a flu vaccine at vaccinate.virginia.gov
  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you have not done so already. Get boosted if you have been vaccinated and it has been at least two months since your last vaccine dose. Updated bivalent booster doses are available for vaccinated individuals 6 months and older. Health officials advise parents to discuss this option with their child’s health care provider. Visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider.
  • Because there is no vaccine to protect against RSV or many of the other common winter viruses, it is important to take these simple and effective prevention steps: 
    • Wash your hands regularly. 
    • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid or limit time around others who are sick or may be sick.
    • Consider maintaining social distancing or wearing a mask, particularly if you are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, influenza or other respiratory infections.
  • If you are sick, stay home from work and away from others to avoid spreading illness. This includes keeping children out of school when they are sick and not taking them to events or activities. 
  • Consider avoiding crowded and indoor areas where distancing is not possible, or where you will be in close contact with anyone who is not a member of your household, or whose vaccination and illness status may be unknown. 

Northern Virginia hospitals and health districts will continue to closely monitor respiratory illnesses in Northern Virginia and disease trends locally. While no one can predict the full effect of these diseases on the community, practicing preventive actions to the greatest extent possible will help protect the community from illness.

For More Information

For more information on health issues in Northern Virginia, visit staywellnova.com. To find a COVID-19 or flu vaccination location, visit vaccinate.virginia.govvaccines.gov or email the Loudoun County Health Department.

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The Northern Virginia Emergency Response System (NVERS) is a collaboration of the region’s health care and public safety systems and comprises 16 acute care hospitals and 29 counties, cities, and towns. NVERS coordinates a regional approach to emergency preparedness, response, and recovery activities.

About Northern Region Health Districts

The Northern Virginia region includes health districts representing Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties, including all towns and municipalities, and the City of Alexandria.

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Sep 08

Bivalent COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Now Available at Pharmacies, Other Providers

Posted on September 8, 2022 at 10:17 AM by Nancy McCormick

Loudoun County encourages eligible individuals to consider getting a single dose of the new COVID-19 bivalent booster at least two months following a completed primary series or booster vaccination, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bivalent vaccines, also known as “updated boosters,” contain messenger RNA (mRNA) components of the original strain and the omicron variant. 

The bivalent Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals aged 18 years and older and the bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals aged 12 years and older. 

Monovalent COVID-19 vaccines (based on the original strain of the virus), whether Moderna, Pfizer, Novavax or Johnson & Johnson Janssen, are no longer authorized as booster doses for individuals aged 12 years and older. 

Where Can I Get a Booster?

The bivalent vaccine booster is now available at many local pharmacies and some private medical offices. To find a provider, go to vaccines.gov. Loudoun County encourages eligible individuals to consider getting the bivalent booster at the same time they receive their annual flu shot. September and October are the best times to get vaccinated for protection throughout the expected winter surge.

For More Information

More information about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters is posted on the CDC’s website. Anyone with questions may call the Health Department's information line at 703-737-8300 or send an email.

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