Health Briefs

Health Briefs

Pfiesteria Not Cause of Fish Deaths

Scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Old Dominion University have determined that dead fish found on the Back River, the Poquoson River, and the East River in late March were not related to Pfiesteria. From March 25 to March 30, a series of dead fish were reported by the public and investigated by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Around the same time, Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) scientists also discovered and tested an algal bloom on the York River at the mouth of Taskinas Creek. Water samples from the algal bloom revealed high levels of Pfiesteria shumwayae at that time. Subsequent tests on water samples from the York River detected little or no concentration of the Pfiesteria organism.

Pfiesteria shumwayae is one of several different species of Pfiesteria. Pfiesteria organisms are dinoflagellates, or microscopic organisms that sometimes behave like a plant and sometimes like an animal.

When dinoflagellates reproduce to huge numbers they can cause a discoloration of the water, often referred to as a "red tide." Most red tides do not harm humans or fish, however they can cause a nuisance when they die and reduce the oxygen in the water to a point where large numbers of fish die.

The reddish water found in the York River, indicative of algal bloom activity, dissipated in less than a week after it was discovered and has not returned. No additional algal blooms or dead fish have been reported or discovered since that time.

The findings from the dead fish and the algal bloom were reported to the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force, the interagency group in Virginia responsible for responding to harmful algal blooms in the state's waters. The task force includes representatives from Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Health, the Marine Resources Commission, VIMS and Old Dominion University.

People should take the following precautions to avoid exposure to harmful algal blooms and dead fish:

* Do not swim in or drink water from areas where an algal bloom has been identified, even if the water looks clear.

* Keep pets and livestock away from bloom areas. Algal blooms may contain a toxin harmful to pets and livestock, although these effects have not been found in association with Pfiesteria.

* Internal organs of fish and crabs caught in bloom waters should not be eaten. After cleaning fish taken from affected waters, thoroughly wash any skin that has come into contact with the fish.

For more information about harmful algal blooms, log onto: .

Nurturing Parenting Program Needs Partners

The Nurturing Parenting Program, offered by Fairfax County ’s Department of Family Services with volunteer support from local community organizations, businesses and faith-based groups, is currently seeking additional support to continue and expand its classes.

The program assists the county by providing parenting classes to promote the strengthening of families and the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Community volunteers support the program by preparing dinners for participating families, helping with child care, or assisting with facilitation of groups.

The Nurturing Parenting Program is based on the philosophy that parenting is learned and that the way parents were raised directly influences the way they raise their children. The program helps parents learn new, nurturing behaviors in place of other behaviors that may be harmful to children. Classes are offered in English and Spanish.

Classes are being held at the following locations:

* Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.

* Springfield: Grace Presbyterian Church and First Baptist Church of Springfield.

* Herndon/Reston: St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

* Fairfax: Fairfax United Methodist Church.

For more information, please contact Krissa Slone, with Fairfax County ’s Department of Family Services, by phone at 703-324-7745 (TTY: 703-222-9452) or by e-mail at Information is available online at

State Water System Protected

As part of National Drinking Water Week the Virginia Department of Health recognized Virginia water supply systems statewide that have surpassed state and federal regulations for the protection of community drinking water.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Drinking Water's Waterworks Recognition Program rewards water systems that have demonstrated excellence in performance and operations and for the treatment and distribution of drinking water to the public.

To ensure that all Virginians have access to an adequate supply of affordable, safe drinking water that meets federal and state standards, VDH regulates approximately 1,310 community waterworks which serve about 6 million Virginians. The health department also monitors more than 1,650 non-community waterworks that serve facilities such as schools, factories and restaurants.

Excellent performance and operation involve setting and achieving goals well beyond the established regulations and making a commitment to customer satisfaction.

Today, standards exist for 100 different drinking water contaminants and the list will continue to grow as technology and customer demands increase.