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Health Briefs

Free Cab Rides

Free cab rides will be offered to would-be drunk drivers throughout Northern Virginia for the July 3 and 4 holiday weekend.

Offered by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the Independence Day SoberRide program will operate Sunday, July 3 and Monday, July 4, from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. both days. During the two-day, campaign area residents celebrating with alcohol may call the toll-free number, 1-800-200-TAXI, for a free cab ride up to a $50 fare.

Residents using the service must be 21 years or older. Cingular Wireless phone users can dial #-TAXI for the same service.

Lightning Awareness

Lightning kills more people in the United States annually than any other weather event, except for flash floods, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Because of this and because summer is the peak season for lightning, the Fairfax County Department of Health created an awareness campaign to remind residents about lightning safety.

Before a projected thunder storm residents should check the weather forecast before going outdoors. Residents should also watch for signs of an approaching storm. Those include distant lightning and darkening, towering clouds and strong winds, according to the health department. If golfing or anywhere else outside with little protection people should make sure they have a NOAA weather radio.

When thunder is heard people should immediately move inside a sturdy building or an automobile for greater protection. Avoid picnic or rain shelters. Once inside a building close all windows and doors and stay off the telephone and away from electrical outlets and metal pipes.

If no shelter is available, find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles. If in the woods, take shelter under the shorter tress or low brush. If in the water, move to land immediately and find a low spot.

If skin begins to tingle or hair stands on its ends, squat low to the ground with only the balls of your feet touching. Place hands on knees and put your head between them. Try to make yourself as small as possible, while minimizing contact with the ground.

Resume to outdoor activities at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder. For more information call 703-324-2362 or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency.

Mosquito Awareness Week

Fairfax County Health Department officials announced the week of June 26 to July 2 as mosquito awareness week.

While slated as a one-week event, the Department of Health has been actively campaigning to increase awareness about West Nile Virus — a disease transmitted to humans and animals by infected mosquitoes.

First appearing in Fairfax County in 2002, there have been 17 human cases reported of West Nile Virus and two deaths, according to the Department of Health.

Through the county's surveillance program, health officials work to prevent the spread of West Nile by treating mosquito breeding sites with environmentally friendly larvicide; track and monitor the disease in mosquito and bird populations; and educate residents about the disease, how to manage mosquitoes and protect from bites using approved insect repellents.

Residents are also asked to report any dead birds to the Health Department to help with the ongoing surveillance. Infected mosquitoes are known to spread the virus to wild birds, other animals and sometimes humans during mosquito season — May to October. If a dead bird is found, call 703-246-2300 or send an e-mail to fightthebite@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Humans contract West Nile Virus most often from the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people bitten do not get sick, according to the Health Department. Those who do get sick experience mild flu-like symptoms and recover without treatment, according to the Health Department. Most often in people older than 50 years the virus causes serious illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. Only supportive treatment is available for this serious form of the disease, according to the health department. Visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fitethebite for more information.

National HIV Testing Day

National HIV testing day was scheduled for Monday, June 27. HIV is one of the most crippling illnesses facing the world today, according to the Health Department, and is a virus that is preventable.

The testing day to place to raise awareness and encourage residents to get tested regularly if they feel they may be at risk. Although the day has passed, Fairfax County Deparmtent of Health officials encourage residents to get tested regularly.

The Fairfax County Department of Health offers free HIV testing year-round at all five of its district clinics. Clinic walk-in-hours are available for immunizations, TB testing, HIV testing and pregnancy testing. Hours are Mondays and Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Fridays, 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Clinics are located in Falls Church, 703-534-8343; Herndon-Reston, 703-481-4242; Mount Vernon, 703-704-5203; Springfield, 703-569-1031; and Fairfax City, 703-246-7100.