Monday, June 26, 2017

Maine Cancer Registry Recognized

Maine CDC's cancer registry has again been recognized as a Registry of Excellence by U.S. CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) for its high quality data for cancer prevention and control activities.

The North American Association of Central Cancer Registries has recognized Maine's cancer registry for meeting its Gold Standard on quality, completeness and timeliness of data every year since 2004.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Study Shows Effects of Heat on Health, Prompts Changes to Local Advisories

A new study of heat and health shows that hospital emergency department visits and deaths from all causes in Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island increased significantly, by 7.5 and 5.1 percent respectively, on days when the heat index reached 95 degrees as compared to days with a maximum heat index of 75 degrees.
Based on the study findings, the National Weather Service (NWS) Northeast Region forecast offices will now issue heat advisories when the heat index is forecast to reach 95 degrees on two or more consecutive days or 100 degrees for any amount of time. The previous NWS regional threshold was a maximum daily heat index of 100.
In Maine, the results of the study and the NWS policy change are driving public health officials to develop local heat response plans. In 2015, Cumberland County was the first area in Maine to develop a comprehensive plan to identify what state and local officials will do during different hot weather scenarios. In addition, Maine CDC will begin issuing health warnings for the public at the lower threshold adopted by the NWS.
The study, “Heat-related morbidity and mortality in New England: Evidence for local policy,” was published in the journal Environmental Research and led by Gregory Wellenius of the Brown University School of Public Health, and co-authored by Andrew Smith and Rebecca Lincoln of the Maine CDC, along with colleagues from the state public health agencies in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
For More Information:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Change to Rulemaking Notification

Maine CDC has a new way to communicate about agency rulemaking with its updated Maine CDC Rules webpage.
Interested parties may sign up to receive updates on specific topics:  
  • Disease Management (includes health data and reporting, disease detection and prevention programs, mortality review, etc.)
  • Environmental/Public Health (includes radon, tanning facilities, child lead poisoning prevention, public water systems and health, environmental testing laboratory, etc.)
  • Healthcare Access/Sustainability (includes Certificate of Need, designating underserved areas,  free care guidelines, etc.) 
  • Infectious Diseases (includes immunizations, epidemiology, notifiable diseases, etc.)
  • Licensing, Certification and Professional Standards (includes licensed medical facilities, services and professionals, health inspections, licensed body artists, child care licensing, eating and lodging places, campgrounds, medical marijuana, tobacco licensing, etc.)
  • Maternal Health and Family and Children (includes child/newborn screening and testing, children with special needs, WIC, out-of-home investigations for reports of child abuse and neglect, etc.)
  • Vital Records (includes birth, death, marriage, data release, etc.) 

To subscribe to these and more topics, visit our subscription page

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Poster Contest Winners Selected


Lyme poster
Congratulations to the 2017 Lyme Disease Awareness Month poster contest winners. Winning entries are posted at

The winners from Maine CDC’s 8th annual Lyme Disease Awareness Month poster contest were:
  • Lylah Shanz, 1st grade, Stratton School
  • Allison Hanscom, 3rd grade, Miles Lane School
  • Jayvin Saint Louis, 4/5 grade, Spruce Mountain Elementary School
  • Emily Seavey, 6th grade, Lyman Middle School
2017 Honorable mentions:
  • Kenzi Jo Richards, 4/5 grade, Spruce Mountain Elementary School
  • Noah Koenig, 7th grade, Stratton School
Winning entries are posted at

Thursday, June 1, 2017

News from the Districts - Penquis

The Bangor International Airport conducted its tri-annual airport disaster drill on May 16. The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports across the country to conduct full-scale disaster exercises once every three years. The exercise is usually designed around a mass causality scenario. The Northeastern Maine Regional Healthcare Coalition, 26 health care and behavioral health partners, participated in the drill as well as Maine CDC’s District Public Health Liaisons and the director of Disaster Behavioral Health. Maine CDC staff was assigned in different roles including as observers, evaluators, and debriefing throughout the exercise.

One of the elements of the exercise involved moving behavioral health patients from emergency departments to behavioral health care facilities. This involved new health care partners in the behavioral health care sector that have not participated in a drill of this scale in the past. The long term care and home health partners tested new plans to assist with decompressing hospitals during time of medical surge.

The participants in the exercise then attended a ‘Hot Wash’ that illustrated strengths and weaknesses that were observed by the evaluators. There were many lessons learned and captured to assist in future development of disaster plans.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Syphilis cases on the rise in U.S. and Maine

U.S. CDC has launched a new campaign - Syphilis Strikes Back - to raise awareness about recent increases in the number and rate of syphilis cases. In 2015, the United States experienced the highest number and rate of reported primary and secondary syphilis cases in more than 20 years.
Forty-nine cases of primary, secondary, and early latent syphilis were reported to Maine CDC in 2015, which represents a significant increase over the five-year median of 19 cases.  
In 2015, the statewide syphilis rate was 3.7 per 100,000. Rates were highest in Somerset and Cumberland counties, with rates of 11.7 per 100,000 and 9 per 100,000 respectively.
Of the reported cases, 61 percent were diagnosed in southern Maine (26 cases in Cumberland County, four cases in York County) and 22 percent of cases were diagnosed in central Maine (Kennebec and Somerset counties).
Most of the cases (76 percent) were among 25 – 54-year-olds. Since 2011, the proportion of syphilis cases in people age 40 and older has been increasing steadily from 30 percent in 2011 to 47 percent in 2015.
The majority of syphilis cases identified as male (41 cases or 82 percent). The number of early syphilis cases among females rose from one reported case in 2011 to nine reported cases in 2015. 
The predominant mode of transmission associated with reported syphilis cases was male-to-male sexual contact (32 cases or 65 percent).
There were 48 cases of syphilis reported to Maine CDC in 2016, but analyses of the 2016 data are not yet complete.
For more information about syphilis, visit

Monday, April 3, 2017

News from the districts - Midcoast

The Midcoast Public Health District serves Waldo, Lincoln, Knox, and Sagadahoc counties. The population is as diverse as its geography, which includes farmland, coastal villages, urban centers, and year-round island communities.
The Midcoast District Coordinating Council has developed a District Public Health Improvement Plan (DPHIP) and identified priority areas of focus: lead exposure in one- and two-year-olds, improving youth and adult mental health, and fighting obesity and the impact of chronic disease by increasing public use of existing low or no cost physical activity resources.  Over the last several months, Council members have volunteered innumerable hours developing goals, objectives, and strategies to best address these priorities.

Volunteerism is also a key element as the Midcoast District launches its Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Unit in collaboration with Maine Responds.  MRC unit members are medical and non-medical volunteers who may be called upon in times of a public health emergency for staffing alternate medical care sites, providing vaccinations, or distributing medications at a Point of Dispensing (POD). We look forward to developing the Midcoast MRC Unit in support of public health emergency preparedness in our District.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nutrition is an important part of public health

During National Nutrition Month, we recognize the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which is funded by the USDA Food and Nutrition Services. WIC provides checks for supplemental foods, health care and social service referrals, breastfeeding promotion and support and nutrition education to low-income and nutritionally at risk, pregnant, post-partum and breastfeeding women, and to infants and children up to age five.

Studies have shown the WIC Program has a positive impact in the following health outcomes:
  • Reducing premature births 
  • Reducing low and very low birth-weight babies 
  • Reducing fetal and infant deaths 
  • Reducing the incidence of low-iron anemia 
  • Increasing access to prenatal care earlier in pregnancy 
  • Increasing pregnant women’s consumption of key nutrients such as iron, protein, calcium, and Vitamins A and C 
  • Increasing immunization rates 
  • Improving diet quality 
  • Increasing access to regular health care 
In Maine, WIC local agency clinic services are contracted statewide in each of the eight public health districts. Clinic services include: program eligibility, income verification, nutrition assessment and education, breast feeding education, hemoglobin screening, anthropometrics, referrals, and checks for healthy foods.

The average monthly participation in Maine is approximately 20,000. The projected cost of food per participant for federal fiscal year 2016 is $59.45 per month. More than three-quarters of women who accessed the program in federal fiscal year 2016 initiated breastfeeding, with more than one-third breastfeeding longer than three months and more than one-quarter breastfeeding longer than six months. More than 16 percent of WIC children ages two through five who had been overweight are now at a healthy weight.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Maine CDC Coordinator Highlights the Importance of Radon Action Month

January is National Radon Action Month. Bob Stilwell, primary radon contact for the State of Maine since November 1990, answered some questions about radon and the health risks associated with it. 
Why is radon an important public health issue?
Radon is a proven human carcinogen, recognized by the U.S. EPA and U.S. Surgeon General as the number two cause of lung cancer overall and the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. The World Health Organization and International Atomic Energy Agency recognize radon as a serious radiation hazard that causes lung cancer and are taking steps to assist member nations in developing policies and programs to reduce radon exposure.
What are the most important things you do in your role as State Radon Coordinator?
1. Provide technical assistance and training to the radon industry in Maine, so the services they provide are durable and effective at reducing radon exposure to Maine residents.
2. Apply for and manage Federal grants every year that allow the radon effort in Maine to continue. All Maine state radon work has been funded by federal grants since 1990.
What do you wish everybody knew about radon?
I wish everyone knew that the “action level” of 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/l) for radon is not a “safe” or “acceptable” level. The action level for radon was set in the 1970s based on the ability of technology at that time to reduce radon levels in buildings.  At that time, technology could reduce radon to below 4 pCi/l in any building. If radon were treated like all other proven human carcinogens, with the “action” level set based on cancer risk instead of on 1970s mitigation technology, the “action” level would be less than one pCi/l.

For more information about radon, visit

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

News from the districts - Central

An important role of the Central District Coordinating Council (DCC) - and all DCCs - is to develop and implement a district public health improvement plan. District public health improvement plans have three purposes: (1) improve health of district residents, (2) improve the district public health system, and (3) inform the State Health Improvement Plan.
The Central DCC has worked this fall to review data and choose priorities for the 2016-19 plan and asked the hospitals and health systems in the district to present their newly-chosen strategic priorities to see where we can work together.
Priorities selected for 2016-19 are substance use/mental health, adverse childhood experiences, obesity, and oral health.  We are currently forming workgroups for each of these priority areas to review the evidence base for district improvement action and recommend strategies that will make a difference in the health of district residents.
Contact Paula Thomson at with questions or for more information.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Birth defects affect one in every 33 babies born in the United States and are a leading cause of infant mortality. Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at an increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges. 
Although not all birth defects can be prevented, all women who could become pregnant or are pregnant can lower their risk of having babies with birth defects by following some basic health guidelines throughout their reproductive years, such as:
  • Do not eat raw or runny eggs or raw sprouts.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese and other foods made from them.
  • Talk to your health care provider about what you can do to prevent infections like Zika virus.
  • Make sure that you are up-to-date with vaccinations before getting pregnant.
  • Talk to your health care provider about vaccinations that you should receive during pregnancy.
  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles, and do not clean cat litter boxes while pregnant.
  • When mosquitoes and ticks are active, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
The United States Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms (400mcg or .4mg) of folic acid daily to prevent up to 50-70 percent of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
For more information, visit

Monday, November 21, 2016

Know the Risk Factors and Signs of Diabetes

Maine CDC has estimated that 7.8 percent of the adult population in Maine is living with pre-diabetes and 9.5 percent is living with diabetes. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, which serves as a reminder to everyone about the risk factors and cautions related to pre-diabetes and diabetes.

What is Pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is when a person’s blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than normal, but are not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. One in three adults in the U.S. has pre-diabetes and most of them don’t know it. Some of the risk factors for developing pre-diabetes are: adults who are over the age of 45, adults who are not physically active and adults with high blood pressure. Without making lifestyle changes, 15-30 percent will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years. Making some simple lifestyle changes, including: eating healthier, losing weight and being more active make it possible to prevent or delay pre-diabetes from progressing into type 2 diabetes.
For more information visit the Maine National Diabetes Prevention Program information portal at: or speak to your doctor to see if you are at risk of pre-diabetes.

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that causes high levels of glucose in the blood because insulin is not functioning correctly in the body.
  • Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in youth and young adults. The cause is unknown and cannot be prevented, but it can be managed through insulin therapy and living a healthy lifestyle.
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with healthy eating and exercise. 

Steps to Encourage Diabetes Management
  1. Managing diabetes is not easy, but it can be done with proper education and support. Take small steps to stay healthy. You don’t have to make big lifestyle changes all at once. Set realistic goals on what’s important to you.
  2. Early self-management education and support is important to prevent diabetes-related health problems.  When blood glucose is not in control, it can lead to serious complications.  
  3. Managing diabetes is a team effort. Diabetes can be overwhelming. Having a network of support from family, friends and your health care team, can help you stay on track.
To find a Diabetes Self-Management Training program in Maine to help support you in your self-management planning visit:

For More Information

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

News from the Districts - Western

The Western District Coordinating Council recently brought together district partners from a variety of sectors (law enforcement, legislature, health care, community providers, etc.) to share ideas and solutions to address this growing opioid problem.

One of the highlights of this forum was a back to work program that has been implemented in Oxford County. A significant part of the Western Maine Addiction Recovery Initiative is Project Save ME, where people who are in active substance use can go to any police department in Oxford County and ask for help.

Many aspects of Project Save ME have contributed to its success, including trained recovery coaches, area social service agencies and a partnership with C.N. Brown. Early on, C.N. Brown noticed that substance use disorder was affecting their business and employees and decided to be a part of the solution. Those who enter into Project Save ME and get into recovery have the potential to be an employee of C. N. Brown. Individuals who have reached six months of recovery and received a letter of recommendation from their counseling can get help with getting a job at a local Big Apple store.

The liaison between the Western Maine Addiction Recovery Initiative and C. N. Brown has talked about how positive the partnership has been and a willingness to reach out to other businesses to bring more potential employment options to Project Save ME. The Western DCC is looking forward to extending the project to the other two counties in the district as well.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Changes to Maine's Childhood Lead Poisoning Law

In September, Maine CDC began implementing changes to Maine’s law that requires lead hazard inspections in the homes of children with lead poisoning. The amendments changed the State’s definition of lead poisoning to a blood lead level of five micrograms per deciliter (5 ug/dL) or higher for children younger than age six, which is also U.S. CDC’s definition of an elevated blood lead level.
With the changes, Maine CDC expects to inspect about 500 rental units for lead hazards each year—a five-fold increase in the number of units over previous years. These inspections, along with a primary prevention strategy underway in Maine communities with the highest burdens of lead poisoning, make up Maine CDC’s efforts to eradicate childhood lead poisoning.
What can you do to prevent lead poisoning?
  • Public Health Professionals: Learn about lead poisoning in your community on the Maine Tracking Network. Work with municipalities to address lead hazards in rental properties through code enforcement or outreach to property owners. Promote screening and home lead dust testing among parents.
  • Providers: Make sure your practice is following Maine CDC’s screening and confirmation testing guidelines – Maine CDC initiates an inspection of a child’s home environment for venous blood lead test results of 5 ug/dL or higher.
  • Property Owners: Regularly maintain painted surfaces in properties built before 1978 – find out more.
  • Parents: Talk to your child’s doctor about a blood lead test and find out if you have lead dust in your home with a free kit from the Maine CDC – order online at
FYI: October 23-29 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week – see our webpage for resources you can use to promote lead poisoning prevention.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

News from the Districts - Cumberland

Whether it’s about levels of lead in drinking water at Yarmouth schools or concerns about well water levels on Long Island, Local Health Officers in Cumberland Public Health District are fielding questions about water quality and safety in their communities. Cumberland County was also recently included in the areas in Maine affected by drought, according to assessments of the State Drought Task Force.

Maine CDC and the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency partnered to organize an information and outreach session on water issues for Local Health Officers on Tuesday. David Braley, Senior Environmental Hydrogeologist with the Maine CDC Drinking Water Program, and Mike Koza from the Portland Water District, presented.

The event was the first in a series of information and networking meetings aimed at strengthening relationships and support between Maine CDC, Cumberland Emergency Management Agency and Local Health Officers in Cumberland, many of whom are volunteers.

Monday, September 19, 2016

News from the Districts - York

Public Health Emergency Preparedness has been a focus of the York District Coordinating Council, District Liaison and other interested parties for some time. Over the course of the last few years, events designed to recruit Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) members and tabletop exercises to showcase, educate and enhance overall preparedness have been led by this group.
Beginning in late 2015, stakeholders from across York Public Health District have been planning a full- scale public health emergency preparedness exercise. The culmination of this planning will be a Point of Dispensing exercise, also known as a POD. The term POD refers to an organized method to distribute medicine to the public during an emergency. This exercise will take place on October 19 at the University of New England’s Harold Alfond Forum.
This event will feature two POD distribution models. One will be administering “live” flu vaccine; the other will be handing out the mock bottles of ciprofloxacin or doxycycline needed to provide “post-exposure” medication based on the circumstances of the individuals presenting for triage. This multifaceted event has an overall objective of exercising and evaluating the University of New England as a new POD location as well as determining the capacity to deliver public health services on a challenging scale.

This collaboration has yielded additional benefit for Maine CDC, district stakeholders and the University of New England.  For example, the University of New England has incorporated aspects of planning and staffing the event into their established curriculum for public health and medical students. This opportunity provides tangible, real-world experience for students to participate and understand an emergency response within the Maine Public Health structure.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Maine CDC Coordinator Honored at Patient Safety Academy

ritaRita Owsiak, Maine CDC’s Healthcare Associated Infections Coordinator, was recently recognized as a recipient of the Rising Tide Award for 2016.  The award was presented at the annual Patient Safety Academy at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on September 8.
The Rising Tide Award is presented to individuals or organizations who are demonstrating outstanding achievement and commitment to best practices in patient safety in Maine. 
Oswiak was also a presenter at the Patient Safety Academy, which brings together healthcare professionals for knowledge- and skill-building workshops. Public health, physician practices, pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, advocates and other agencies participate in the annual event. 
Congratulations, Rita.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

National Cholesterol Month

September is a good time to get your cholesterol checked and take steps to get it under control.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in blood and is found in foods we eat including eggs, meats, fish and whole-fat dairy products. Foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain none. Our body also makes cholesterol.  Risk factors that can lead to high cholesterol include being overweight/obese, poor eating habits, family history, age or gender.
Know your numbers:

U.S. CDC recommends that adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol checked every five years.  This can be done with a simple blood test.
Reduce your risk:
By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your cholesterol in a healthy range and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.  A healthy lifestyle includes:
  • Eating a healthy diet. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Polyunsaturated fats can actually lower cholesterol levels. Eating fiber also can help lower cholesterol.
  • Exercising regularly. The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for two hours and 30 minutes every week.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. 
  • Not smoking. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible.
For more information on cholesterol:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Suicide Prevention Month

Each year, Maine joins the United States and the international community in recognizing World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. Suicide continues to be a public health concern, with 689 deaths by suicide between 2011 and 2013 in Maine. In addition, between 2011 and 2013, suicide was the first leading cause of death for Maine adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14, second among Maine residents between 15 and 34 years of age, and fourth among Maine residents between the ages of 35 and 54. Suicide is preventable and knowledge, understanding and support can save lives
If you suspect someone you know may be at risk of suicide, follow these steps:
  1. Show you care by listening carefully and without judgment.
  2. Ask them if they are thinking about suicide. Be direct and empathetic. (Asking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide.)
  3. Stay with them (or have another caring person stay with them) while you locate help.
  4. Call the Maine Crisis Hotline (1-888-568-1112) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
  5. If the person is at immediate risk of harming themselves, call 911.
For more information on how you can help prevent suicide in your community or workplace, contact Amy Ouellette at the Maine Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Maine), 622-5767, extension 2318. NAMI Maine hosts many training opportunities throughout the year.
Remember: Suicide is preventable.  Knowledge, understanding, and support can save lives.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Antimicrobial-resistant Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in the United States. National concerns about increasing rates of gonorrhea and increasing antimicrobial resistant strains of N. gonorrhoeae are prompting increased efforts to ensure adherence to the revised 2015 Sexually Transmitted Disease Treatment Guidelines.
U.S. CDC now recommends treating gonorrhea with ceftriaxone 250 mg as a single intramuscular dose and azithromycin 1 g orally.
Clinicians need to use dual therapy and stay up to date with treatment recommendations: 
  • Data show that resistance decreases when the correct dual therapy is used.
  • Using azithromycin as a monotherapy to treat gonorrhea might promote the emergence of azithromycin resistance.
  • Patients with cephalosporin allergies should be treated with azithromycin 2 g plus either gentamicin or gemifloxacin.

There has been a steady increase in the number of reported gonorrhea cases in Maine. As of June 30, 2016, 251 cases of gonorrhea have been reported to the Maine CDC. The five-year median for this time period is 116 cases. The increase in gonorrhea in Maine mirrors a national trend reported by U.S. CDC.