Prince William Health District Offers Tips for a Safe and Healthy Independence Day

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Health District Urges Health and Safety Precautions as Residents Gather to Celebrate

Virginia Department of Health(MANASSAS, Va.) — The Prince William Health District urges health and safety precautions as residents gather to celebrate Independence Day. Outdoor picnics and barbecues present an opportunity for foodborne illnesses to occur and increase the potential of residents to experience heat-related illnesses or be affected by severe weather.

Handle Food Safely While Eating Outdoors

Dining outdoors during warm weather is fun, but it also presents an opportunity for foodborne bacteria to thrive. The proper handling and preparation of food is important in preventing foodborne illnesses.  Most foodborne illnesses result from food being contaminated when it’s being prepared or served. Follow these tips to protect your family and friends:

  • Properly clean your hands and all surfaces. Food safety begins before you even set up your picnic or barbecue.
  • o   Keep cold food cold. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth.
    • Once you’ve served it, don’t let it sit out for longer than 2 hours or 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90° F. When in doubt, throw it out.
    • Foods like chicken salad and desserts in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.
  • o   Cook food thoroughly. Keep your food thermometer ready, and use it to ensure your food is safe to eat.
    • Hamburgers and ground meat should be cooked to 160 F.
    • Poultry should be cooked to 170 F.
    • Roasts, steaks and other large cuts of beef should be cooked to 145 F (rare) and 160 F (medium).
    • Fish should be cooked until the meat is opaque and flakes easily.
  • Keep hot food hot. Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140° F.
    • Wrap it well and place it in an insulated container until serving.
    • §  Just as with cold food – these foods should not sit out more than 2 hours, or 1 hour in temperatures above 90° F. If food is left out longer, throw it away to be safe.
  •    Clean your produce under running tap water before you pack them in your cooler.
  •    Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry and seafood securely wrapped.
    • Never reuse a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood for serving — unless they’ve been washed first in hot, soapy water.
  • Properly store and consume leftovers.
    • Refrigerate cooked leftovers within 2 hours and ensure the temperature in the refrigerator is at 40 °F or below.
    • Divide leftovers into smaller portions and store in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
    • Leftovers should be eaten, frozen or discarded within 3 to 4 days.

Reheat cooked leftovers to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Sauces, soups and gravies should be reheated by bringing them to a boil.

  • When microwaving leftovers, make sure there are no cold spots in food (where bacteria can survive.)

For additional food safety information from the Virginia Department of Health, visit 

Avoid Heat-related Illnesses

Each year heat-related illnesses and deaths occur in Virginia. Staying cool, hydrated and informed can save lives. Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme conditions, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.  Here are some tips to avoid heat-related illness:

  • Drink water. When the temperature rises, it’s important to drink plenty of water. Drinks that contain caffeine, large amounts of sugar or alcohol should be avoided because they can cause you to become dehydrated.
  • Keep cool indoors. On hot days, prevent illness by keeping cool indoors. If your home is not air conditioned, try to spend the hottest hours of the day in a cool public place such as a library, movie theater or store.
  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella. Always apply sunscreen to exposed skin.
  • Limit physical activity. Avoid excessive physical exertion in hot temperatures, especially in the middle of the day. If you must work outdoors, stay hydrated by drinking 2-4 glasses of water each hour and take frequent breaks in a cool place. Even a few hours in an air-conditioned environment reduces the danger of heat-related illness.
  • Do not keep children or pets in cars. Temperatures inside a car with windows up can reach over 150 degrees quickly, resulting in heat stroke and death.
  • Check on your neighbors. Although anyone can suffer heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. People aged 65 or older are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications that can result during periods of high temperatures and humidity.

Additional information on heat-related illnesses from the Virginia Department of Health is available at

Be Prepared for Severe Weather

Warm, humid conditions during the summer are favorable for the development of thunderstorms. By knowing what to do during thunderstorms, you can greatly increase your safety and the safety of those around you.

  • Be aware of the weather forecast and pay attention to changing weather conditions.
  • Go indoors immediately if you hear the sound of thunder. Don’t wait for the rain to begin.
  • Seeking shelter indoors during a thunderstorm is the best protection from lightning.
    • While inside, stay away from windows and refrain from running water, using landline telephones or electrical equipment. Even though you are inside, lightning can follow conductors such as electrical wiring, plumbing and telephone lines that are in the ground. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
    • Avoid going near water, stay away from tall trees and do not seek shelter near metal objects such as fences or bleachers, if you cannot seek shelter indoors.

The Prince William Health District encourages residents to be prepared year-round. For additional health and safety tips, and information on emergency preparedness, visit You can also follow the Health District on Twitter @PrinceWilliamHD or on Facebook at


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