Healthy Starts Here

Another winter has arrived! As life moves indoors, illnesses in our community are on the rise. But you have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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Stop Germs in Their Tracks 

Sore throat. Aching muscles. Irritating cough. Don’t let germs ruin your day. Here are a few ways to keep them at bay — and protect those around you.

Stay up to date on your vaccines

It’s not too late to get your flu shot! Everyone age 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually against the flu. Remember to stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines as well. Updated boosters now offer protection against recent variants.
Find vaccines here.

Wash your hands often 

The simple act of washing your hands regularly can spare you from germs. Wash them for 20 seconds each time. Pro tip: Sing a verse of your favorite song as you go so you don’t end early. It’s also a good idea to disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home. Learn more about disinfecting surfaces.

Consider a mask

There are a lot of germs out there right now. One way to keep yourself healthy is to wear a mask in crowded, indoor, public settings.

Stay home when you’re sick 

Avoid going out when you don’t feel well. If you can’t avoid leaving your home, wear a well-fitting mask.

Cover your mouth with a tissue — or your elbow 

When you have to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue. If you don’t have one, use your elbow. This helps keep germs out of the air and off your hands.

Let the fresh air in 

If you’re gathering indoors, increasing air ventilation and circulation helps keep everyone healthier. It can be as easy as opening a nearby window. Learn more about improving ventilation.

Illness Insider


Influenza, also known as the flu, is a highly contagious infection that affects your nose, throat, and lungs. Flu season typically runs from late fall into early spring. Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications. This year is proving to be particularly bad. 

How It Spreads:

Flu mainly spreads through droplets that are released when someone coughs, sneezes, or talks. Less commonly, people can also become infected by touching something with flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Know the Symptoms: 

Common symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, and extreme fatigue.

Keep in Mind: 

If you or your child is sick, it’s best to stay home. You should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school. Contact your health care provider to learn more about treatment options.


Respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, commonly causes mild, cold-like symptoms. However, the virus can be serious, particularly for infants and older adults.

How It Spreads:

Like the flu, RSV spreads through droplets from a cough or sneeze. You can also get the virus by touching an infected surface (such as a door handle) and then touching your face.

Know the Symptoms: 

RSV symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, decrease in appetite, fever, and wheezing.

Keep in Mind: 

Call a health care provider if you or your child has difficulty breathing, isn’t drinking enough fluids, or experiences worsening symptoms.

Parents Corner

Is your child up to date with their vaccines?

This is a good time to ensure your child is up to date with their vaccinations and wellness check-ups. Vaccines are safe and effective, and they help provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.

Learn more
Asian American mother with her son

COVID-19 Vaccines and Resources

Stay Up to Date With Vaccines

Prevent serious illness and protect yourself and your loved ones. Updated boosters are now available with special protection against new variants. 

Check if it's time for your next booster.

Have questions? Need to talk in another language?
Call the Virginia Department of Health: 


Do I need a COVID-19 booster?


Boosters are an important part of protecting yourself from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. They are recommended for most people. The updated COVID-19 boosters — also called bivalent boosters — help restore protection that has decreased since previous vaccination, as well as provide broad protection against more recent variants. Learn more about COVID-19 boosters and find out if you need one.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?


Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending the COVID-19 vaccine for children only after thoroughly testing its safety in thousands of kids. Children 6 months and older receive a kid-sized dose of the vaccine that’s right for their age group. Vaccinating children can prevent them from getting seriously sick if they do get COVID-19. Vaccination also gives parents greater confidence for children to participate in child care, activities, and school. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for children.

What is "long COVID," and how is it diagnosed?


Some people can experience long-term effects from a COVID-19 infection, which are known as “post-COVID conditions” or “long COVID.” Post-COVID conditions include a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems, and can last weeks, months, or longer. Anyone who was infected can experience post-COVID conditions. People who are not vaccinated for COVID-19 and become infected might be at higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions compared with people who are vaccinated. 

There is no test to diagnose post-COVID conditions, and people may have symptoms that come from other health problems. This can make it difficult for health care providers to recognize post-COVID conditions. Health care providers consider a diagnosis of post-COVID conditions based on a health examination and the person’s health history, including whether they had a diagnosis of COVID-19 either by a positive test or by symptoms or exposure. Learn more about post-COVID conditions.

If I’m pregnant or breastfeeding, is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine?


Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant people get the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC analyzed new data from pregnant people who have been vaccinated and found no increased risk of miscarriage or harm to the baby. In fact, reports show that the mRNA vaccines might also help protect breastfeeding babies. Furthermore, pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 and, if they are infected, for their babies to be born prematurely — so getting vaccinated can protect both you and your baby.

If you are pregnant and have questions, talk with your health care provider.

For more information, check out the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccination FAQ.

Mpox Vaccines and Resources

If you have recently been exposed to the mpox virus (previously known as the monkeypox virus) or are at high risk for exposure, getting vaccinated is an important way to protect yourself. People living with HIV/AIDS and people who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection in the past three months are also encouraged to get vaccinated. 

Consult your local health department to learn if you’re eligible:

Mpox FAQ

How does it spread?


Mpox spreads most commonly through close contact with an infected person, particularly direct contact with the person's rash or bodily fluids. It can also spread through touching objects or fabrics (such as clothing, towels, and bedding) used by someone infected. Additionally, mpox can spread through contact with an infected person's respiratory secretions. A person is contagious from the time that symptoms start to the time that all sores have healed and a new layer of skin has formed. This typically takes two to four weeks.

What are the symptoms?


Symptoms typically start within one to two weeks of exposure to the virus, but they may begin as late as three weeks after exposure. Often, people first develop flu-like symptoms. These initial symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle and back aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and respiratory symptoms like sore throat, cough, and nasal congestion.

Within one to four days of these initial symptoms, an infected person typically also develops a rash. For some people, this rash is their only symptom. It can look like pimples, bumps, or blisters, and it may be painful or itchy. The rash goes through several stages, including scabbing, before it heals. Learn more about the symptoms.

Monkeypox lesions
Photo credit: UK Health Security Agency

Who is at risk of getting mpox?


Anyone can get mpox, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. The most common way that mpox has spread so far has been through sexual activity among people who have recently had sex with multiple or anonymous partners. In addition, most cases in the 2022 outbreak to date have occurred in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Learn more about reducing your risk at social gatherings and through safe sex.

Should I get an mpox vaccine?


Vaccination is recommended for people who:

  • Have recently been exposed to mpox.
  • Are at high risk for exposure to mpox. This includes people who identify with any of the following groups: people of any sexual orientation and gender who had anonymous or multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks; sex workers of any sexual orientation and gender; staff of any sexual orientation and gender at establishments where sexual activity occurs.
  • Are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection in the past three months.

Learn the basics about mpox vaccines.

How can I protect myself?


There are several steps you can take to protect yourself, including avoiding skin-to-skin contact with someone who has been infected with mpox and getting vaccinated if you are eligible. The most common way that mpox has spread so far has been through sexual activity among people who have recently had sex with multiple or anonymous partners, so changing sexual behaviors to reduce risks — such as decreasing the number of partners and anonymous sex encounters — is also a protective measure. Frequent hand-washing is always a good public health practice for disease prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides additional guidance on lowering your risk.

Getting vaccinated is another important way to protect yourself if you have recently been exposed to mpox or are at high risk of being exposed.