Tuesday, September 2, 2014

World Rabies Day

Maine will recognized the eighth annual World Rabies Day on September 28.

Rabies is a virus found in the saliva, brain and spinal cord of infected mammals. Rabies is spread most commonly through a bite from an infected animal. Rabies can also be spread from transfer of infected tissue or saliva into an open wound or mucous membrane, such as eyes, nose and mouth. Rabies is not transmitted through urine, feces, blood or any bodily fluid other than spinal cord fluid and saliva.

Rabies is a very serious and fatal disease if not treated. Rabies kills approximately 55,000 people each year worldwide. Though the last human case of rabies in Maine was documented in 1937, rabies is still a public health concern in Maine. Due to the availability of rabies post-exposure treatment, many potential human rabies deaths have been avoided. In Maine, 81 people were recommended for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in 2013. The best way to stay rabies-free is to avoid wildlife and any animal that you don’t know. Report all exposures to your healthcare provider or Maine CDC right away.

In 2013, the State of Maine diagnosed 51 cases of animal rabies at the Health Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL). As of August 15, 2014, there were 26 animal rabies cases in 2014 diagnosed in the following species: raccoon, skunk, fox, cat, cow, and woodchuck. Rabies is endemic in wildlife in Maine. The majority of animal rabies cases occur in wildlife, including in raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats.

All Mainers are encouraged to consider ways in which they can prevent the spread of rabies. These include:
  • Vaccinate your pet cats and dogs against rabies; it is the law.
  • Avoid contact with wild animals or other animals that you do not know.
  • Bat proof your home. Wildlife biologists can provide tips on how to bat proof your home without harming bats but preventing them from entering your home. 

In 2006, the Alliance for Rabies Control, a U.K. charity, formed to promote rabies prevention worldwide. The Alliance, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, declared September 28 World Rabies Day. All partners, including international health organizations, national, state and local public health partners, professional organizations, commercial pharmaceutical companies and foundations are called upon to plan events throughout the world to increase awareness about rabies and to raise support and funding towards its control and prevention.

For more information, visit our website at www.mainepublichealth.gov/rabies.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Suicide Prevention

As news spreads of the death of actor Robin Williams by suspected suicide, the Maine Suicide Prevention Program at Maine CDC takes a moment to share the following information.

Depression is a leading risk factor for suicide. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your job is, depression can touch anyone. Signs of depression include:
  • Mood – sad, irritable, angry
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, activities
  • Changes in sleep, appetite or weight
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Not able to think or focus
  • Hopelessness – seeing no chance of improvement
The sense of hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain. Thoughts of death or suicide are a serious cry for help.

Depression is a treatable medical illness. Help is available, please reach out.

If you are concerned about yourself or about somebody else, call the Maine suicide crisis hotline at 1-888-568-1112. If you need immediate help, dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

If you are not in Maine, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tick-Borne Diseases Update

Summer is in full swing and the increase in tick-borne diseases demonstrates that. Maine CDC is receiving reports of multiple tick-borne diseases, some in record numbers. Physicians have already reported more Anaplasmosis cases so far this year than all of last year, and Babesiosis and Lyme numbers are steadily increasing as well. Providers should be aware of the risk and prevalence of these diseases and consider them in their diagnoses.

Anaplasmosis:
  • Caused by the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacteria, carried by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis)
  • Signs and symptoms include: fever, headache, malaise, and body aches. Encephalitis/ meningitis may occur but is rare
  • 98 cases have been reported to date in 2014, compared to 94 in all of 2013
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is the preferred testing method
Babesiosis:
  • Caused by the Babesia parasite, carried by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis)
  • Signs and symptoms include: extreme fatigue, aches, fever, chills, sweating, dark urine, and anemia
  • 17 cases have been reported to date in 2014, compared to 36 in all of 2013
  • PCR or identification of the parasite in a blood smear are the preferred testing methods
Lyme disease:
  • Caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, carried by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis)
  • Signs and symptoms include: erythema migrans rash, fever, headache, joint and muscle pains, fatigue, arthritis, Bell’s palsy, meningitis, and carditis
  • 526 cases have been reported to date in 2014, compared to 1,376 in all of 2013
  • Lyme disease cases take several months to be entered and classified, so although these numbers may seem low they will increase dramatically as reports are received and processed
  • Two tier testing (ELISA or EIA, followed by Western blot) is the preferred testing method
Powassan:
  • Caused by the Powassan virus, carried by the woodchuck tick (Ixodes cookei) and potentially by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis)
  • Signs and symptoms include: fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss
  • 0 cases have been reported to date in 2014, compared to 1 in all of 2013
  • Testing is performed by federal CDC, samples should be sent to Maine’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) to be forwarded to CDC Fort Collins
Co-infections: Because all of these diseases are carried by the same tick (Ixodes scapularis), a patient may be infected with more than one disease.
  • To date in 2014, three co-infections have been reported: two co-infections with anaplasmosis and Lyme disease, and one co-infection with babesiosis and Lyme disease
  • In 2013, 16 co-infections were reported: nine co-infections of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, four co-infections of Lyme disease and babesiosis, two co-infections of anaplasmosis and babesiosis, and one co-infection of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.
Uncommon illnesses:
  • Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease, carried by the Lone Star tick which is unusual in Maine, but very common in the southern United States. PCR is the preferred testing method.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a bacterial disease carried by multiple ticks. Maine has a tick that is a potential carrier (the dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis), but they are not known to be infected in Maine.
Recommendations for Providers:
  • Consider tick-borne illnesses in your differential, particularly for individuals with “summer flu” symptoms
  • Submit samples for testing 
  • Treat patients appropriately – recommendations for treatment are available from http://www.idsociety.org/uploadedfiles/idsa/guidelines-patient_care/pdf_library/lyme%20disease.pdf
  • Report cases. All tick-borne illnesses are reportable in Maine, including the erythema migrans rash which is confirmatory. To ease the reporting burden of EM rashes, a registry report option is available (see page 3). All cases should be reported by phone to 1-800-821-5821 or by fax to 1-800-293-7534.
For more information:

This information originally appeared in a health alert, which is available at http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=625757&an=2 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Whooping cough update

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a cyclical disease that continues to affect a significant number of Maine residents.

Maine CDC issued a health alert with an update on pertussis on Aug. 4. It is available here: http://go.usa.gov/NEG4

As of August 4, providers reported a total of 254 pertussis cases from 15 Maine counties. Washington county has the highest rate in the state of 114.94 cases per 100,000 persons compared to the state's case rate of 19.12 cases per 100,000 persons. Seven Maine counties have rates higher than the state rate (Aroostook, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, Waldo, and Washington counties).

Maine CDC encourages providers continue to test and treat patients. DTaP vaccine is recommended for all infants and children. Tdap vaccine is recommended for all preteens, teens, and adults.

For more guidance and information, visit http://go.usa.gov/dCO

Friday, August 1, 2014

Breastfeeding

August is National Breastfeeding Month. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective steps a mother can take to protect the health of her baby. 

US CDC's 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card, which provides state and national data on breastfeeding rates as well as information on supports for breastfeeding, is now available at http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm

All of Maine's breastfeeding rates increased in the 2014 report compared to the 2013 report.

For more information on breastfeeding and its health benefits, visit http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.htm 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Public Health Update 7/24/14

Mosquito-borne diseases

EEE and WNV
 
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. Although rare, these diseases have potentially severe and even fatal consequences for those who contract them.  Other New England states have already detected both EEE and WNV this summer.   
 
Clinicians should be aware 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.
 
For more information, see the Health Alert from July 2: http://go.usa.gov/X9MV 
 
Weekly arboviral surveillance reports will be posted to the following website through October: http://go.usa.gov/55u3 


Chikungunya

Chikungunya virus is also transmitted to people by mosquitoes. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. The first locally acquired case of chikungunya in the US was reported July 17 in Florida. For case information on chikungunya in the US, seehttp://go.usa.gov/55uA.

The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection.

Although US CDC does not expect widespread cases of chikungunya in the United States this summer, American travelers infected overseas may continue to return and bring the virus with them. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.

For more information, visit
http://go.usa.gov/55hP or http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/ 
 
Tick-borne diseases

Ticks are generally found in brushy or wooded areas, near the ground; they cannot jump or fly. Ticks are attracted to a variety of host factors, including body heat and carbon dioxide. They will transfer to a potential host when one brushes directly against them and then seek a site for attachment.
Ticks cause a variety of diseases in Maine, including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Powassan.

More than 1,375 cases of Lyme disease were reported statewide in 2013, a record high for Maine. So far in 2014, there have been 246 reported cases of Lyme disease. 

Other case counts for tickborne diseases reported in Maine so far in 2014 include:
  • 80 cases of Anaplasmosis, compared to 94 for all of 2013
  • 9 cases of Babesiosis, compared to 36 cases for all of 2013
  • 5 cases of Ehrlichiosis, compared to 3 for all of 2013
  • No cases of Powassan, compared to 1 in 2013 
 
 For more information:
Cyclosporiasis
  
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite. Cases are usually reported from May to August. Five cases have been reported in Maine between June 24 and July 21.

Maine CDC issued a Health Alert on July 8 to increase awareness among clinicians about cyclosporiasis and the need to specifically request testing for Cyclospora in patients with prolonged diarrheal illness. The Health Alert is available at http://go.usa.gov/XXDR 

Cyclosporiasis is not a reportable condition in Maine due to the low number of cases in previous years (last known case in Maine resident in 2010). However, due to large numbers of cases in the United States in 2013, Maine CDC is requesting providers report cyclosporiasis cases as an unusual condition, 
since it is not commonly seen in Maine residents.  
  
For more information, visit http://go.usa.gov/X9tF
  
  
Pertussis (whooping cough)
  
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a cyclical disease that continues to affect a significant number of Maine residents.  

There have been 230 reported cases of pertussis so far in 2014, an increase of 43 cases from two weeks ago. 

Maine CDC encourages providers continue to test and treat patients. DTaP vaccine is recommended for all infants and children. Tdap vaccine is recommended for all preteens, teens, and adults.

For more guidance and information, visit http://go.usa.gov/dCO 


TB Hero

Dr. Shulamith Bonham, former medical director for Health Care for the Homeless in Portland, has been named 2014 TB Hero by the New England Tuberculosis Consortium. 

Dr. Bonham was recognized for creating a low-barrier system for screening and treatment of latent TB infection (LTBI) within the Health Care for the Homeless clinic. 
  
Hepatitis
  
Health IT and telemedicine are important tools to help early diagnosis and treatment of the growing problem of hepatitis C (HCV) infection in the United States. 

US CDC has launched a new pilot program to help use telemedicine to fight HCV, develop new treatment tools, and get them in the hands of providers to try to stem the tide of HCV infections.  

  


Heat-related illness

Here in Maine, we don't have very hot weather too often. So when it does get really hot, we are more likely to become sick from heat. This is because our bodies are not used to high heat, and many of our homes and buildings do not have air conditioning.  

Certain people like older adults, infants, pregnant women, and people who have chronic diseases or who are sick already may feel much worse or have serious problems in extreme heat.
Heat-related illnesses happen when your body cannot cool itself. Some heat illnesses are mild, like heat rash, sunburn, and heat cramps. Others like heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heat stroke can be severe or even life-threatening.

To find out how to keep cool and healthy as the weather gets hotter this summer, go to http://go.usa.gov/X9uw 
  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tick-borne diseases

Ticks are generally found in brushy or wooded areas, near the ground; they cannot jump or fly. Ticks are attracted to a variety of host factors, including body heat and carbon dioxide. They will transfer to a potential host when one brushes directly against them and then seek a site for attachment.
Ticks cause a variety of diseases in Maine, including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Powassan. 

More than 1,375 cases of Lyme disease were reported statewide in 2013, a record high for Maine. So far in 2014, there have been 202 reported cases of Lyme disease. 

In 2013, providers reported 94 cases of Anaplasmosis, 36 cases of Babesiosis, and 1 case of Powassan. So far in 2014, there have been 52 cases of Anaplasmosis and four cases of  Babesiosis reported. 

  For more information:
 The winners of Maine CDC's annual Lyme Disease Awareness Poster Contest have been announced. The press release is available at http://go.usa.gov/XPHB 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mosquito-borne diseases

EEE and WNV
 
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. Although rare, these diseases have potentially severe and even fatal consequences for those who contract them.  Vermont has already detected EEE.  
 
Clinicians should be aware 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.
 
For more information, see the Health Alert from July 2: http://go.usa.gov/X9MV 


Chikungunya

Chikungunya virus is also transmitted to people by mosquitoes. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. This week, New Hampshire reported two cases of chikungunya in people who traveled to the Caribbean.

The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection.

Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.

For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/ 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cyclosporiasis

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite. Cases are usually reported from May to August. Four cases have been reported in Maine between June 24 and July 7.

Maine CDC issued a Health Alert on July 8 to increase awareness among clinicians about cyclosporiasis and the need to specifically request testing for Cyclospora in patients with prolonged diarrheal illness. The Health Alert is available at http://go.usa.gov/XXDR 

Cyclosporiasis is not a reportable condition in Maine due to the low number of cases in previous years (last known case in Maine resident in 2010). However, due to large numbers of cases in the United States in 2013, Maine CDC is requesting providers report cyclosporiasis cases as an unusual condition, 
since it is not commonly seen in Maine residents.  
  
For more information, visit http://go.usa.gov/X9tF

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month

Cleft lip and/or palate is the second most common birth defect in the United States with between 20 and 30 infants born in Maine each year. The Maine Cleft Lip & Palate Program provides hospital and home visits to families who have infants born with the birth defect of a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. The program completes feeding assessments and supplies special bottle systems. The program provides information and referrals for services and medical/dental treatment until the age of 21. Care coordination, clinical team care through two monthly clinics at Eastern Maine Medical Center and Maine Medical Center, parent to parent support and outreach education are included in the program’s services.

For more information: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/cshn/cleftlip-palate/index.html

Friday, June 13, 2014

Alzheimer's disease and other dementias

June is Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month - an opportunity to hold a global conversation about the brain, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Everyone is at risk to develop Alzheimer's, the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. During the month of June, the Alzheimer's Association® asks people around the world to wear purple and join in the fight to end Alzheimer's disease.

Often thought of as minor memory loss, Alzheimer's is a fatal disease that kills nerve cells and tissue in the brain, affecting an individual's ability to remember, think and plan. As the disease advances, the brain shrinks dramatically due to cell death. Individuals lose their ability to communicate, recognize family and friends and care for themselves. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms. Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

For more information visit http://alz.org/maine/

The Alzheimer's Association, Maine Chapter offers a 24/7 Helpline that provides reliable information and support to all those who need assistance. Call toll-free anytime day or night at 800-272-3900. 

For more information about Alzheimer's & Public Health:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Go local, get seasonal with new public health data

The Maine Tracking Network recently released a suite of local data related to private well water quality and testing. 

Now, anyone can query summary measures for arsenic, uranium, fluoride, and other chemicals commonly found in excess of public health standards in Maine private wells.
  
These data are the first on the Maine Tracking Network to be presented for Healthy Maine Partnership service areas and towns, making it easy to identify areas at high-risk for private well water concerns and focus local interventions.
  
And, in time for summer, the Maine Tracking Network has data about heat illness and Lyme disease-data that help describe who may be at-risk for these seasonal conditions.
  
Go to https://data.mainepublichealth.gov/tracking/  to create your own customized maps, tables, and charts for these topics and many more, such as asthma, childhood lead poisoning, cancer, and birth outcomes.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Public health accreditation

Maine CDC submitted an application to become accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) on May 28. Several Maine CDC staff were present to celebrate this milestone. The application for Public Health Accreditation is the formal notification to PHAB of a health department's official commitment to initiate the accreditation process.

Public Health Accreditation is the measurement of Maine CDC's performance against a set of nationally recognized, practice-focused and evidence-based standards. These standards emphasize process improvements, quality assurance, and effective stewardship of public health resources. Currently, two state health departments and 29 local health departments have achieved accreditation.

Throughout the summer, Maine CDC staff will continue preparations, and will receive training from PHAB. This fall, the Maine CDC will begin to finalize the documents that will serve as evidence to the Accreditation Board that the agency is meeting the national standards. Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to move through this process!


Dr. Sheila Pinette, surrounded by some Accreditation champions and staff, electronically submitted the Maine CDC's application for Public Health Accreditation

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Know your numbers: Blood pressure

About 1 in 3 Mainers are told they have high blood pressure, also called hypertension.  Many people do not know they have it because there are usually no symptoms.  High blood pressure is like having high pressure in a pipe.  It damages the pipe, but you often don't see a problem until it bursts.

What is a normal blood pressure?

A normal blood pressure is less than 120 (top number) over 80 (bottom number).  After that, the higher the numbers, the more at risk you are for health problems.

Blood Pressure Category
Top Number
(Systolic)
Bottom Number
(Diastolic)

Normal

Less than 120

and

Less than 80

Prehypertension

120-139

or

80-89

Hypertension

140 or higher

or

90 or higher


What can you do to prevent high blood pressure?

There are risk factors that you cannot change like age and family history.  Below are risk factors that you can control:
  • Have your blood pressure checked.  It should be checked at least every two years since there are often no symptoms. Talk with your health care provider to see if you need to have it checked more often. 
  • Prevent and manage diabetes.  60% of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthy diet.  Add lots of fruits and vegetables.  Limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Avoid sodium (salt).  Limit the amount of salt you add to your food.  Many processed foods/restaurant meals are high in sodium.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  Being overweight can raise your blood pressure.
  • Be physically active.  Exercise for 30 minutes each day.
  • Do not use tobacco products.  It injures blood vessels and speeds up hardening of the arteries.
  • Limit alcohol use.  If you drink alcohol, try to consume less.
  • If you have high blood pressure, treat it.  Your healthcare provider can make a plan that is right for you.

Million Hearts Initiative

Million Hearts® is a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Million Hearts® brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke.  To learn more about the initiative or to make the commitment visit: www.millionhearts.hhs.gov.

For more information about heart disease visit:http://mainehearthealth.org/.

Monday, May 19, 2014

May is Asthma Awareness Month

Maine continues to have some of the highest asthma rates in the nation. Emergency departments deal with almost 8,500 visits a year for asthma, and there are more than 1,100 hospitalizations annually. These visits can be avoided, and while asthma cannot be cured, it can be managed. Proper medication, avoiding triggers, and seeing a medical provider on a routine basis, are simple steps that anyone can take to avoid costly visits to the ER or hospital.

Here at the Maine CDC, the Asthma Prevention and Control Program works to raise awareness about the dangers and costs associated with asthma, and also to provide resources that can help Maine people manage their condition and live happy and productive lives.

For more information on asthma and the Maine CDC Asthma Prevention and Control Program click here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hepatitis B

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. One in in 12 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is common worldwide, especially in many parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. In the US, Hepatitis B disproportionately affects Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). While AAPIs make up less than 5% of the U.S. population, they account for more than 50% of Americans living with Hepatitis B. 

Hepatitis B is serious, but treatments are available.

Left untreated, nearly 1 in 4 people living with hepatitis B develop serious liver problems, even liver cancer. In fact, Hepatitis B-related liver cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths among Asian Americans. Getting tested for Hepatitis B can help many people access lifesaving treatments that can prevent serious liver damage.

Two in three Asian Americans with Hepatitis B don't know they are infected.

People can live with Hepatitis B for decades without having any symptoms or feeling sick. Hepatitis B is spread when blood or other body fluid infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. This can happen through multiple ways, including getting Hepatitis B from an infected mother at birth or from a family member as a young child. Many AAPIs living with Hepatitis B got infected as infants or young children. Testing is the only way to know if someone has Hepatitis B.

Who should get tested for Hepatitis B?
  • Anyone born in Asia or the Pacific Islands (except New Zealand and Australia)
  • Anyone born in the United States, who was not vaccinated at birth, and has at least one parent born in East or Southeast Asia (except Japan) or the Pacific Islands (except New Zealand and Australia).
Hepatitis B testing identifies people living with Hepatitis B so they can get medical care to help prevent serious liver damage. Talk to a health care provider about getting tested for Hepatitis B. 

For more information, see:http://www.cdc.gov/knowhepatitisb/FAQs.htm or 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

American Stroke Month

A stroke happens when part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs and starts to die.  This is due to a blocked or ruptured blood vessel leading to or in the brain.  Stroke is the 4th leading cause of death in Maine and is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in Maine and the U.S. 

What can you do to prevent a stroke?

You cannot control risk factors like age and family history.  Here are steps you can take for the risk factors you can control:
  • Know Your ABCS:
    • Ask your doctor if you should take Aspirin every day.
    • Find out if you have high Blood Pressure or Cholesterol.  If you do, work with your doctor to treat it.
    • If you Smoke, get help to quit.  Call the Maine Tobacco Help Line at 1-800-207-1230.
  • Be physically active at least 30 minutes on most days
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Be sure other foods are low in sodium and trans fat
  • Take medication as prescribed by your doctor
What are the warning signs of stroke?

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke:

Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is numb?  Ask the person to smile.  Is the smile uneven?
Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb?  Ask the person to raise both arms.  Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred?  Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand?  Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.  Is it repeated correctly?
Time to Call 9-1-1: If someone shows any of these signs, even if the signs go away, call 9-1-1.  Check the time so you will know when the first signs appeared.

Other warning signs of stroke include blurred vision, dizziness or loss of balance, and severe headache.

Million Hearts Initiative

Million Hearts® is a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Million Hearts® brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke.  To learn more about the initiative or to make the commitment visit:www.millionhearts.hhs.gov
  
For more information about heart disease visit:http://mainehearthealth.org/

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme disease is the most common vectorborne disease in Maine. Cases have already been reported in 2014, and the number will rise as the weather continues to get warmer.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by the deer tick. Cases have been increasing each year in Maine, and occur in all 16 counties. More than 1,375 cases of Lyme disease were reported statewide in 2013, a record high for Maine. Lyme disease is most common among school age children and adults older than 65. Most infections occur during the summer months.

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.

What to do after a tick bite:
  • Remove the tick properly, ideally using tweezers or a tick spoon. 
  • Clean the area around the bite, and watch for signs and symptoms for 30 days. 
  • Testing of the tick is not routinely recommended. 
  • Prophylactic treatment after a tick bite is not routinely recommended, but can be considered under specific circumstances including. 
  • If you suspect Lyme disease, contact your health care provider for laboratory testing. The IDSA guidelines for assessment, treatment, and prevention of Lyme disease are available at http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/43/9/1089.full

Other tickborne diseases:
Other diseases that are carried by ticks in Maine include Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Powassan. Symptoms of Anaplasma include: fever, headache, malaise, and body aches. Symptoms of Babesia include: extreme fatigue, aches, fever, chills, sweating, dark urine, and possibly anemia. Symptoms of Powassan include: fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, seizures, and encephalitis and meningitis.

In 2013, providers reported 94 cases of Anaplasmosis, 36 cases of Babesiosis, and 1 case of Powassan. Five anaplasmosis cases and two babesiosis cases have already been reported in 2014.

For more information:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP)

The 2013-2017 State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) has been finalized, and implementation will begin soon.

Implementation teams for each of the six priorities will be recruited in the next two months. Partners who were identified in the planning process will receive an invitation to join the implementation teams, but we are also welcoming other interested parties.

The six priorities in the 2013-2017 SHIP are:
  • Immunization 
  • Obesity 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health 
  • Tobacco Use 
  • Educate, Inform and Empower the Public 
  • Mobilize Community Partnerships 
The implementation teams will be asked to focus on one or more of the objectives, and strategies in the plan, and may choose to work on all or part of those strategies.

Team members will help develop a work plan, identify commitments that they or their organization can make towards implementation, and then meet quarterly to provide progress updates and suggest new partnerships and or revisions to the work plan.

The plan can be found at: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/ship/index.shtml. If you are interested in participating in an implementation team, please contact Nancy Birkhimer at nancy.birkhimer@maine.govor 287-5716.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Viral hepatitis plan

On April 3, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Justice (DOJ), and Veterans Affairs (VA) released a 3-year update of Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis: Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, which builds on the success of the nation's first comprehensive cross-agency action plan, released in 2011.   The updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan builds on the foundation of and momentum generated by the original action plan and seeks to harness:
  • New recommendations for health care providers regarding screening for hepatitis C;
  • Promising new developments in treatments for hepatitis C;
  • Mounting public awareness of and concern about hepatitis B and hepatitis C; and
  • The expansion of access to viral hepatitis prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment offered by the Affordable Care Act.