Friday, July 24, 2015

World Hepatitis Day

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, which aims to increase awareness about viral hepatitis on a global level.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 400 million people worldwide have chronic viral hepatitis. A approximately 1 million individuals die  each year from viral hepatitis-related causes. 
Hepatitis A is a liver disease spread by ingestion of contaminated food or water or by direct contact with an infected individual. The hepatitis A virus (HAV) can cause mild to severe illness with symptoms ranging from nausea and fever to jaundice. HAV cannot become chronic. Once a person is infected, he or she cannot become infected again.  There is a vaccine available for HAV, which is recommended for all children at age 1 and any adults at risk of infection.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and can be both acute and chronic. HBV is spread though contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected individual.  HBV infection may be symptomatic, but infected individuals may also go years before symptoms or complications occur.  If left undiagnosed and untreated, HBV may result in serious liver disease, cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease or death in 25 percent of people.  There is an effective vaccine available for HBV prevention, which is recommended for all babies at birth and adults at risk of infection.
Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which can be both acute and chronic. HCV is spread by blood-to-blood contact with an infected individual. It is estimated that only 20 percent of people with acute cases experience symptoms of HCV. It’s  possible that patients may live with HCV infection for years without experiencing symptoms until serious liver damage occurs.  Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplant in the United States. The U.S. CDC estimates that there are 3.2 million people living with chronic hepatitis C nationwide, and most individuals are  unaware of their infection. 
Symptoms of hepatitis C include fever, fatigue and loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, darkened urine, clay-colored stools, joint paint and jaundice.  People who have ever injected drugs, shared needles and equipment or who were born to a hepatitis C-positive mother join Baby Boomers in the highest risk category.
Recent advancement in therapies for treatment of hepatitis C can cure up to 95 percent of infections. Maine CDC recommends that people talk to their health care provider about their risk for hepatitis C testing. There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.
For more information about viral hepatitis resources in Maine, visit:
For more information about hepatitis, visit: 

Are you at risk for viral hepatitis?  Find out if you should get tested: 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Cancer registry awards

Cancer Registry staff pose with awards
L-R: Dr. Molly Schwenn and Katherine Boris of the Maine Cancer Registry and Debra Wigand, Director of Maine CDC's Division of Population Health,  pictured with the two honors from US CDC.

The Maine Cancer Registry has been recognized with two national honors from the US CDC National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR)
Maine was recognized as one of 19 states to receive the Registry of Excellence designation. In addition, the registry was recognized for achieving the highest standards for data completeness, timeliness and quality. According to the NPCR, Maine’s data are so thorough and accurate that they will be included in this year's United States Cancer Statistics report and other analytic data sets. 
Achievement of these standards and certification is important to ensure accurate information is available about cancer in Maine and to monitor trends in cancer diagnosis. Detecting cancer at an earlier stage can improve outcomes. Maine hospitals are partners in this effort, providing up-to-date local information to the Maine Cancer Registry.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Arboviral diseases

Summer is here, which means mosquitoes are here as well.  Arboviral diseases, including eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV), are very serious infections that are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.  Additionally, Powassan virus is an arboviral disease transmitted by the bite of an infected tick.  Although rare, these diseases have potentially severe and even fatal consequences for those who contract them.  Maine CDC reminds clinicians of the potential for human disease activity in Maine and to consider testing for arboviral disease in patients presenting with unexplained encephalitis, meningitis or fever (≥100.4°F or 38°C) during the summer and early fall.
EEE and WNV were first detected in Maine in 2001 in birds.  In 2009, Maine experienced unprecedented EEE activity with 19 animals and two mosquito pools testing positive.  In 2012, Maine reported its first human case of locally-acquired WNV neuroinvasive illness.  In 2014, Maine reported its first human case of locally-acquired EEE neuroinvasive illness. Powassan was first identified in Maine in 2000 but is rarely reported; a confirmed case in 2013 was the first reported case in nearly a decade.  In 2014, Maine reported EEE in an emu from Cumberland County, 22 mosquito pools from York County and one human from York County.
Many people infected with arboviral illness remain asymptomatic. The following groups of people are at higher risk for clinically significant arboviral infection:
  • Residents of and visitors to areas with mosquito or tick activity
  • People who engage in outdoor work and recreational activities
  • People older than 50 and younger than 15 

Additional Information
  • Disease consultation and reporting available through Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821

Friday, June 12, 2015

New State epidemiologist

Maine CDC is pleased to announce that Siiri Bennett, MD, has accepted the position of State epidemiologist. 
Dr. Bennett received her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine and completed her residency in internal medicine at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Massachusetts. 
Dr. Bennett is currently a senior research scientist and medical data consultant in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she is co-principal investigator for an NIH-funded Data Coordinating Center for a multi-study collaboration looking at tuberculosis latency and reactivation and also serves as a project director for a multi-study consortium looking at cardiovascular disease in patients with HIV.

She will begin her new role at Maine CDC on July 20.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Healthy Maine Works

Healthy Maine Works (HMW) is the Maine CDC’s initiative to support and provide employers of all sizes with tools and resources to develop an evidence-based worksite wellness program.  Many employees spend most of their waking hours at work. Worksite wellness programs give employers a unique opportunity to support the health of their employees.
What is Worksite Wellness?
Worksite wellness programs help to improve the health of employees, leading to a decrease in health-care costs for employees and their employer.  They offer many benefits such as:
  • Lower health care costs
  • Less absenteeism from work
  • Reduced staff turnover
  • More productive employees
  • Healthier employees
Worksite wellness also offers a good return on investment.  According to the 2010 Harvard study Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings, for every dollar that an employer spends on worksite wellness, an average return of $3.27 will be seen.
How HMW Can Help
HMW can provide the tools to help any employer create a worksite wellness program or help improve an already existing program.  When you sign up, you can get access to:
  • Employee health surveys to determine what health topics your employees would find interesting
  • A newsletter that provides information, ideas and resources to help create healthier worksites
  • Healthy Us Score card – an easy to use online assessment and planning tool that helps promote healthy living
Employers interested in developing a worksite wellness program can contact their local Healthy Maine Partnership by visiting They can help you get your worksite wellness program started today.

To learn more about Healthy Maine Works, visit

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Group A strep

Maine CDC is investigating an increase in the number and severity of invasive group A Streptococcal (GAS) infections in the first half of 2015 compared to a similar time frame in previous years.  Maine CDC received reports of 15 cases of invasive GAS in April and the first week of May alone, almost half of the 33 cases reported to date this year.  Of those 15 cases, six resulted in streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS), a more serious presentation in which the disease affects multiple organs.  At this time in 2014, Maine had reports of 23 cases of invasive GAS and nine cases of STSS. 
Most GAS infections are relatively mild such as “strep throat,” scarlet fever or impetigo.  Invasive GAS disease is more severe and includes pneumonia, cellulitis and the least common forms but most severe forms -- necrotizing fasciitis and STSS. 
Invasive GAS infections are seasonal, peaking December through April. The spread of GAS can be prevented by good hand washing, especially after coughing and sneezing.  People with sore throats diagnosed as strep throat should stay home from work, school or day care until 24 hours after taking antibiotics.
Health care providers should consider invasive GAS in any patient who presents with early signs of STSS and should collect culture specimens and consider prompt antibiotic treatment. Because invasive GAS infections can progress rapidly, providers are encouraged to be familiar with early signs of STSS:
  • Fever
  • Abrupt onset of generalized or localized severe pain, often in an arm or leg
  • Dizziness
  • Influenza-like syndrome
  • Confusion
  • A flat red rash over large areas of the body (occurs in 10% of cases)
Reporting requirements:
All cases of suspected invasive GAS and STSS should be reported by phone to the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821, or by fax to 1-800-293-7534.
For more information:
 US CDC’s Group A Strep webpage:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Varicella update

Maine has had four outbreaks of varicella (three or more cases in a single setting) reported in schools or daycares during the 2014-2015 school year, more than any previous year. 
Varicella is a highly contagious, acute viral illness that causes both chickenpox and shingles.  Varicella can be serious, especially in babies, adults and those with weakened immune systems.  It spreads in the air through coughing or sneezing, or by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from the blisters. Infected people are contagious from two days before their rash starts until all blisters have scabbed over.  Vaccination is the best method of protection.
From September 2014 through mid-May 2015, 84 cases of varicella have been reported in children 18 years or younger, compared to 44 cases during the same time period of the 2013-2014 school year. Cases have been reported in all Maine counties except Washington County during the 2014-2015 school year. Of these cases, 57 (68 percent) were non- or under-immunized, including four children who were too young to receive vaccine. 
Key points for health care providers:
  • Report all cases of varicella, including clinically diagnosed cases with no laboratory testing.
  • Providers should ensure all patients are up to date with varicella vaccine and other vaccines. Two doses of varicella vaccine are recommended.
  • Pregnant women exposed to varicella should contact their obstetrician for follow up.
  • Varicella cases should be excluded from school or work until lesions are crusted over.
  • Laboratory testing is available for varicella through Maine CDC’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) as well as other reference laboratories.
Key points for schools and daycares:         
Reporting requirements:
All laboratory and clinically diagnosed cases of varicella should be reported by phone to 1-800-821-5821, or by fax to 1-800-293-7534.
For more information:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Immunization Champion

Cassandra Cote Grantham and Tonya Philbrick
Cassandra Grantham (L) was recently honored as US CDC's Childhood Immunization Champion for Maine. She is pictured with Tonya Philbrick, Director of the Maine Immunization Program at Maine CDC.

The Maine Immunization Program is proud to announce that Cassandra Cote Grantham, a health communication specialist at MaineHealth in Portland, has been selected as the US CDC Childhood Immunization Champion for Maine.
Cassandra was nominated and selected from a pool of health care professionals, community advocates and other immunization leaders for making a significant contribution to public health in Maine through her work in children’s immunization.
In 2010, Cassandra established MaineHealth’s childhood immunization program, with the goal of increasing Maine’s childhood immunization rates to the highest in New England by 2016. Under this program, she has launched several educational initiatives, such as the Vax Maine Kids website and Kohl’s Vax Kids—a program to increase immunization awareness among parents most likely to delay or skip their child’s vaccinations.

To read her profile on the CDC’s website and to learn more about CDC’s Childhood Immunization Champion Award program, please visit 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lab workers recognized

Heather Dyer and Steve Pierce, chemists at Maine CDC’s Health and Environmental Testing Lab, recently presented on toxicology forensics at the Maine Impaired Driving Summit. They were recognized by AAA Northern New England and Maine Bureau of Highway Safety for their support in organizing the statewide summit. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015


May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month, and Maine CDC urges people to talk with their providers about testing for hepatitis. 
US CDC reports that people born from 1945 through 1965 are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C than other adults.  There are approximately 3.2 million individuals living with hepatitis C in the country, and it is estimated that 75 percent of these individuals are Baby Boomer age (ages 50 to 70). 
Most people living with hepatitis C do not know they are infected and can live with the disease for decades without having symptoms or feeling sick. If left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.  Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplant in the United States. 
Symptoms of hepatitis C include fever, fatigue and loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, darkened urine, clay-colored stools, joint paint and jaundice.  It is estimated that only 20 to 30 percent of individuals who have Hepatitis C experience symptoms. People who have ever injected drugs, shared needles and equipment, or who were born to a Hepatitis C positive mother join Baby Boomers in the highest risk category. 
Recent advancement in therapies for treatment of hepatitis C can cure up to 95 percent of infections. Maine CDC recommends that people talk to their health care provider about their risk for hepatitis C. 
Testing days are scheduled in May for individuals who are uninsured and at high risk for hepatitis C. The dates and locations are:
  • May 18: Waterville Family Planning  18 Silver Street Waterville 207-509-3267
  • May 19: Florence House (women's shelter) via Portland Public Health. 103 India St Portland 207-874-8446
Those who are interested in being tested should call the test site prior to the testing day to find out if they qualify for the free test. 
For more information about hepatitis, visit: 

For more information about viral hepatitis resources in Maine, visit:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lyme and other tickborne diseases

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in Maine. Cases have been increasing each year in Maine, and occur in all 16 counties. More than 1,395 cases of Lyme disease were reported statewide in 2014, a record high for Maine.  Lyme disease is most common among school age children and mature adults over the age of 65. Most infections occur during the summer months. A total of 71 cases have already been reported in 2015.
The most common early symptom of Lyme disease is an expanding red rash that occurs 3-30 days after being bitten. Fever, headache, joint and muscle pains and fatigue are also common during the first several weeks. Later features of Lyme disease can include arthritis in one or more joints (often the knee), Bell's palsy and other cranial nerve palsies, meningitis and carditis (AV block). Lyme disease is treatable, and the majority of patients recover after receiving appropriate therapy.
Lyme disease is a reportable condition in the State of Maine.  Providers should report all diagnosed erythema migrans rashes and all positive lab diagnoses.  Cases can be reported by fax at 1-800-293-7534 or by phone at 1-800-821-5821.
Other tickborne diseases: 
Other diseases that are carried by ticks in Maine include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Powassan and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. They are all reportable in Maine.
In 2014, providers reported 191 cases of anaplasmosis, more the twice the number of cases reported in 2013.  Providers reported 42 cases of babesiosis, a slight increase from 2013.  Four anaplasmosis cases and one babesiosis case have already been reported in 2015.  
For more information:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Six steps to control blood pressure

High blood pressure, often referred to as the “silent killer,” does not have any symptoms, but can cause serious damage to arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke. Nearly one in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure and many people remain unaware of this condition because there are no symptoms. 
A routine doctor’s appointment often involves a health professional checking your blood pressure. The results of this simple test may identify a condition that, when managed, could help reduce your chances for stroke or heart attack.
The national high blood pressure campaign, Measure Up/Pressure Down®, encourages adults to get in control by making simple lifestyle changes, including:
1. Know your numbers – Understanding what blood pressure is, and what your numbers are, is an important first step. Work with your health care provider to determine your individual blood pressure goals and treatment plan if your numbers are too high.
2. Eat right – A diet with excessive sodium (salt) can lead to higher blood pressure. Check food labels before you buy and choose foods with less than 400 mgs of sodium per serving.
3. Stay active – By being active at least 30 minutes a day at least 5 times a week, you can help reduce your blood pressure.  
4. Reduce stress – A stressful situation can increase blood pressure for a short period of time. Try to reduce the occurrence of these situations and look for healthy ways - like meditation or walking - to help you deal with stress.
5. Set alcohol limits and eliminate tobacco – Over time, consuming a high amount of alcohol can damage the heart. Tobacco use and secondhand smoke can immediately raise blood pressure levels and cause damage to the lining of arteries. If you’re interested in quitting tobacco, call the Maine Tobacco HelpLine 1-800-207-1230. 
6. Take medication – Your doctor may recommend taking a blood pressure medication to keep levels steady. Be sure to follow the directions provided for taking the medications to ensure you’re getting the most benefit from them.
Through Measure Up/Pressure Down®, you are encouraged to measure, monitor and maintain your blood pressure level to stay in control of this health condition. If you don’t know your blood pressure and want more information to determine if you might be at risk for high blood pressure, visit

Monday, May 11, 2015

Suicide Prevention Conference

Maine Suicide Prevention Program’s CAL ME Award Presentation
From left to right-Ken Albert, Director and Chief Operating Officer, Maine CDC; Kyle Poissonnier, founder of Katalyst; MaKayla Reed, volunteer for The Trevor Project; Jodi Beck, Director of Clinical Integration and Physician Practice Improvement for Kennebec Regional Health Alliance, MaineGeneral Health; Anthony Ronzio, Director of news for the Bangor Daily News; Kristen McAuley, Team Lead, Healthy and Safe Living, Division of Population Health, Maine CDC; Brian Walsh, Principal of Hermon High School. CAL ME Award recipients not pictured- Ethel Jalbert and Tonya Bailey-Curry, community volunteers.

More than 200 people attended the Maine Suicide Prevention Program’s conferece, 2015 Beyond the Basics: Pathway to Suicide Prevention, last week. Ken Albert, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Maine CDC, presented the Caring About Lives in Maine Awards to seven Individuals and agencies for their leadership and dedication to suicide prevention. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April is National STD Awareness Month

Maine CDC is joining the nation in recognizing April as Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month. This year’s theme is Know the Facts and GYT: Get Yourself Tested.
STDs occur mostly among younger populations, but can affect anyone. According to US CDC, many people make false assumptions about how STD tests are performed, who should get tested, and the treatment of STDs. This may prevent people from seeking the testing and treatment they need.

In the U.S., there are approximately 20 million STDs diagnosed annually, with nearly half occurring in teenagers and young adults. For example, in 2014, Maine had 3,538 cases of Chlamydia reported, with 68 percent of the cases occurring in 15 to 24 year-olds. Gonorrhea accounted for 243 cases with 53 percent of the cases being diagnosed in 20 to 29 year-olds.

All STDs are preventable and can be treated. Most have no physical signs or symptoms, so the only way to know with certainty is to be tested. Left untreated, some STDs can have significant long-term health consequences, like being unable to have children or long-term pelvic pain for example.

For more information about where to get testing, treatment, or disease reporting in Maine, please visit 

Friday, April 3, 2015

New e-cigarette campaign

In the coming months, youth and young adults will see something they have already been seeing on TV, in magazines, and certainly on the internet: electronic cigarettes. This time, though, it will not be glamorous images and messages portrayed by an industry which has seen tremendous growth in the past few years.
In 2014, the Monitoring the Future Study showed more teens used e-cigarettes than traditional, tobacco cigarettes or any other tobacco product – the first time a U.S. national study showed that teen use of e-cigarettes surpassed use of tobacco cigarettes.
Maine CDC is getting ready to launch a new campaign which will educate youth and young adults about the vastly unregulated, untested e-cigarette industry and encourage them to question what they are NOT being told. 
Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Suicide Prevention Conference

The Maine Suicide Prevention Program will sponsor Beyond the Basics of Suicide Prevention 2015: Pathway to Prevention: Working Toward Zero Suicide in Maine on from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 7 at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.
This event serves as a best practices conference offering participants in-depth and progressive information and the latest research in the field of suicide and suicide prevention. It is designed for an adult audience who has attained basic training and knowledge in suicide and suicide prevention, and wishes to expand its knowledge and ability to engage in suicide prevention in Maine. 
The program includes the most up-to-date research on suicidology and evidence-based tools and provides participants with information to use in everyday practical applications. 
The target audience for this conference is primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health professionals, alcohol and drug counselors, social workers, public safety professionals, military personnel, public health professionals, educators, families, and community members.
For more information and to register: 

Monday, March 23, 2015


Research shows that for every month a baby is breastfed there is a 4 percent lifetime risk reduction for obesity. Breastfed babies also have a lower risk of chronic disease, specifically Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and asthma over their lifespan. The Maine CDC maternal and child health and chronic disease programs are working together to prevent obesity and the subsequent health complications by increasing breastfeeding rates in Maine. 
6 for ME is an educational quality improvement initiative focused on supporting Maine birth hospitals to adopt at least six of the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding”. The Ten Steps are internationally recognized breastfeeding best practices that improve breastfeeding outcomes.  To learn more about the 10 steps, visit
The intent is that mothers and babies in Maine will have experienced at least six of the ten breastfeeding best practices by 2018. The goal is that breastfeeding outcomes, duration and exclusivity rates will improve for Maine mothers and babies moving Maine breastfeeding rates closer to the Healthy People 2020 objectives for breastfeeding.
Maine birth hospitals are encouraged to attend the 6 for ME Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative training on March 27, 2015, at Eastern Maine Health System, Professional Center, Cianchette Building in Brewer.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cancer documentary

An educational three-part documentary about the history of cancer, produced and directed by legendary filmmaker Ken Burns, will begin airing on the public broadcasting network on Monday, March 30, at 9 p.m. The documentary is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book:  Cancer: The Emperor of all Maladies by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee.   More information on this film can be found at:
Although cancer remains the leading cause of death in Maine and the burden of cancer remains high, cancer death rates have declined steadily since 2000 across the nation.  Here in Maine, incidence rates are declining at a faster pace than the United States.  Continued promotion of cancer screening according to guidelines, collective efforts to reduce high-risk health behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use, and promotion of a healthy diet and regular exercise are some of the steps that have been taken to decrease the rate of cancer. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New communication tool

Maine CDC is streamlining its newsletters and listservs through GovDelivery, a communication tool used by numerous Federal and State government offices. 
Those who receive these Public Health Updates have automatically been subscribed through GovDelivery. 
By managing your GovDelivery online account, you can select what news you’d like to receive by topic area.  You can select as many subscriber options as you want! To subscribe and manage your areas of interest, click here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Updated carbon monoxide poisoning data

The Maine Tracking Network, Maine CDC's online, queryable data portal, now includes updated carbon monoxide poisoning data for hospitalizations, emergency department visits, mortality, and homes with detectors.

The new data show that as of 2013, 65% of Maine homes have a carbon monoxide detector-that's up from 35% in 2004. Driving this upward trend is a dramatic increase among rental units with a detector, which rose from 34% in 2009, to 69% in 2013. This is most likely due to a 2009 State law requiring detectors in all rental units.

Using interactive query tools, you can explore these trends, as well as data for 11 other public health topics, including Lyme disease, private well water quality, cancer, asthma, and childhood lead poisoning.