Arlington, VA

With the Virginia Health Department investigating a second possible case of coronavirus in Northern Virginia, Arlington County is preparing for the worst-case scenario: a local outbreak.

Kurt Larrick, assistant director of the Arlington County Department of Human Services, said in an email that the Arlington County Public Health Department is taking several steps to monitor the disease.

Per an email from Larrick:

  • ACPHD staff continue to update hospital and healthcare communities with guidance on how to identify and respond to possible cases.
  • ACPHD will arrange appropriate lab testing
  • If there are any cases in Arlington, ACPHD staff will follow CDC guidance about identifying and monitoring close contacts of a case.
  • Staff are available 24/7 to provide this support.

Larrick said the department has a new page on the coronavirus outbreak that includes the latest info, who’s at risk, and what people should do to protect themselves and others.

“The Virginia Department of Health is a good resource,” Larrick said. “They plan to provide updates every Thursday and/or as warranted.”

Several health tips are available on the County website, mostly the usual of “wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds” and to stay home if you’re feeling sick. Also, you should probably avoid traveling to China.

While coronavirus is in the spotlight, the truth is that standard influenza is likely to kill more Americans this year.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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Arlington Public Schools logoThere are 100 students in Arlington Public Schools who are exempted from vaccinations, the school system tells ARLnow.com.

The number represents only 0.4 percent of the 24,529 students currently enrolled in APS. There are only two reasons a student is allowed to attend school without receiving proper immunizations: medical or religious reasons.

“For a medical exemption, a letter must be written from a licensed medical provider stating specifically from which immunizations a child is exempt,” Arlington School Health Bureau Chief Marian Harmon said in an email. “For a religious exemption, the parent must complete the religious exemption form for immunizations and have it notarized.”

Childhood vaccinations have been thrust into the national spotlight after a measles outbreak started at Disneyland in California and has spread to at least 94 people in eight states, according to NBC News. The disease had been largely eradicated in the U.S., but since the Centers for Disease Control reported the disease was brought from overseas, children whose parents declined vaccinations have fallen victim to the highly contagious infection.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle have urged parents to vaccinate their children, shooting down controversial reports from years back that linked vaccinations to autism. Those studies have since been debunked, but the anti-vaccination movement is still prevalent enough in the U.S. to contribute to the largest number of measles cases in 20 years.

Harmon says APS tracks which students have vaccination exemptions, and makes sure to notify parents when there is a disease outbreak at the child’s school.

“School Health works with Arlington Public Schools and Arlington County Communicable Disease staff to determine the needs for that student and their exposure risk,” she said.

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said there are no suspected cases of measles in the county.

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Morning Notes

Wakefield Advances to ‘It’s Academic’ Championship — The Wakefield High School ‘It’s Academic’ team was a runner-up in the Northern Region tournament and is advancing to the state championship later this month. [Sun Gazette]

Norovirus Outbreak in Arlington Schools — A minor norovirus outbreak has been reported in two Arlington County public schools. So far, none of the norovirus cases have required hospitalization. [Arlington Connection]

New Capital Bikeshare Station Near Rosslyn — A new Capital Bikeshare station is coming to North Meade Street Park, near Rosslyn. [Ode Street Tribune]

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Arlington County’s health department is investigating a possible Norovirus outbreak at an assisted living facility.

The county issued a short statement to ARLnow.com last night confirming they’re “currently investigating reports of gastrointestinal (GI) illness at a long-term care facility.”

Citing “confidentiality rules,” a Department of Human Services spokesman refused to identify the facility. A source, however, tells us the facility is the Sunrise at Bluemont Park (5910 Wilson Blvd) senior living community.

The source says paramedics were called to the building on Wednesday. Medics then called the health department.

“We have not yet identified the cause of the illness; however, it is not uncommon to have GI illness due to Norovirus this time of year,” DHS spokesman Kurt Larrick said. “We are working with the facility on ways to control the spread of illness.”

The county said members of the public can help stop the spread of Norovirus and other gastrointestinal illnesses by washing one’s hands frequently with warm water and soap for 20 seconds and by staying at home if you feel sick.

“Please postpone visiting an assisted living facility, nursing home or hospital” if you’re sick and “keep your sick children home from school,” the county advised.

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