Friday, May 27, 2016

Zika virus update

Earlier this month, the Surgeon General’s Office issued a video on the three ways to protect yourself from the Zika virus.  The video clearly illustrates the steps that people can take to protect themselves and their loved ones from Zika.
The video, produced by the media company Attn:, can be found at:
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The types of mosquitoes that can transmit Zika virus are not found in Maine.
Maine CDC is issuing biweekly reports on Zika, which are available at
Health care providers may consider testing for the following individuals for Zika:
  • Symptomatic individuals with travel history to a Zika affected country
  • Pregnant women with travel history to a Zika affected country
  • Partners of pregnant women with travel history to a Zika affected country
If the patient does not meet the submission guidelines above, the sample will be rejected. Testing is not recommended to determine when a couple can begin trying for pregnancy. Couples should consult with their health care providers and follow the updated U.S. CDC guidance on preventing sexual transmission.
For more information:

Thursday, May 26, 2016


May is asthma awareness month.  Asthma is one of the most common lifelong chronic diseases. Asthma affects the lungs, causing repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. There are 146,000 Mainers who currently have asthma and in severe cases, asthma can be deadly.
In Maine, almost 50 percent of adults and 30 percent of children with asthma report their asthma is not well or very poorly controlled. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage the disease successfully. Regular medical monitoring, two visits per year with the treating physician, taking asthma medicine as prescribed and avoiding things that may trigger an attack are all successful management strategies.
Common asthma “triggers” include tobacco and wood smoke, household pets, dust mites and pollen. Limit or avoid exposure to these and other triggers whenever possible.  Many physicians recommend patients with asthma get a seasonal flu shot every year.

For more information about asthma, please visit Maine CDC's Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Program - Asthma Unit’s webpage at:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Tick Watch

Lyme disease:
Lyme disease is transmitted to people when infected deer ticks bite them. The bacterium that causes Lyme disease is called Borrelia burgdorferi, and causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and fatigue, as well as a skin rash. Often a bulls-eye rash is noticed somewhere on an infected person’s body. Doctors will diagnose the disease and prescribe antibiotics. If left untreated there could be more serious symptoms from Lyme disease, affecting the nervous system, heart, or joints.

·         Wear EPA approved repellent
·         Perform daily tick checks
·         Use caution in tick infested areas
·         Wear protective clothing

Lyme disease awareness month:
The month of May is Lyme disease awareness month in Maine. Throughout May, Maine CDC hosts informational tables, presentations, provides information on ticks and diseases for newsletters, and records a tick-borne disease webinar.
See our Lyme Disease Awareness Month page for a list of activities:

Kids in school:
Maine CDC launched a curriculum for children in the 3rd-5th grades to educate them on ticks and mosquitoes. This curriculum highlights these vectors and the diseases they carry and how to avoid them and prevent disease.

Tick-Free ME:
As a part of Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is launching our second annual Tick-Free ME Challenge. This is a month long challenge during t July, where participants monitor their preventive behaviors. The goal of the challenge is to prevent tick-borne diseases through the prevention of tick bites. Enrollment in the challenge began May 1st and continues through June 22ndat participating libraries around the state. The challenge is designed for adults aged 45 years and older as this age group has among the highest rates of Lyme disease in Maine. For a list of libraries and more information visit:

Monday, May 2, 2016

MPHA Call for Abstracts

Maine Public Health Association (MPHA) will hold its annual conference October 18 at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. Abstracts from all areas of public health are now being accepted for breakout sessions during the conference. MPHA encourages abstracts focusing on the conference theme of population, environment and policy.

All abstract and poster forms must be submitted using the 2016 MPHA abstract application form no later than June 10.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Public Health Training

As part of its public health workforce development efforts, Maine CDC and partner organizations have created a website for online public health training.  If you want to learn more about public health, you can access one of the current training modules at:   
Current topics include an Orientation to Public Health in Maine, Lyme Disease, Bedbugs, Drinking Water, Food, Hoarding and Nuisance Control.  Look for new online training modules and other training opportunities in future Public Health Updates or go to and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up for the mailing list.

We have recently added downloadable documents in the “News & Views” section of this site. We encourage you to print the downloadable flyer and double-sided card to share with your colleagues and others who may have an interest in public health.  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Maine Passes Law to Curb Opioid Abuse

Governor Paul LePage signed into law “An Act to Prevent Opiate Abuse by Strengthening the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program” (now PL 2015, c. 488) on April 19, making Maine the second state to pass legislation on the issue this year. 
Beginning January 1, 2017, providers will not be allowed to prescribe more than a seven-day supply of opioids within a seven-day period for acute pain or a 30-day supply within a 30-day period for chronic pain. 
Maine’s 100 morphine milligram equivalent (MME) cap for new patients is slightly higher than the 90 MME called for under U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and lower than the 120 MME cap enacted by Massachusetts and Washington. Patients currently receiving opioid pain medication have a higher, 300 MME cap until July 2017 to ease their transition to a lower dose. 

For more information, see the press release at

Friday, April 15, 2016

Online learning opportunities

U.S. CDC has launched a redesigned and improved CDC Learning Connection website. The site is a source for information about public health training developed by U.S. CDC, its partners and other federal agencies. Many include free continuing education credits. The site is available at

You may also find training of interest on Maine CDC’s public health training site:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

May Health Equity Trainings

The Hanley Center is hosting health equity and culture competence workshops in Ellsworth and Augusta in May.
Positive health outcomes are not evenly distributed across the public. Some populations face much greater challenges in achieving and maintaining good health. Public health leaders can play a crucial role in understanding the reasons for these differences and leading strategies to promote greater health equity. The workshop will explore the concepts of health and health care disparities, build greater insight into unconscious/implicit bias and delve into models for developing individual and organizational cultural competence.
Below are links to the EventBrite pages with additional information and tickets:

Monday, April 4, 2016

Zika virus

As of March 30, 2016, 312 cases of travel-associated Zika have been identified in the U.S.  There have been no locally-acquired cases in U.S. states, but 349 locally-acquired cases in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
U.S. CDC has issued new recommendations for prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus for couples in which a man has traveled to or resides in an area with active Zika virus transmission:
  • Couples in which a woman is pregnant should use condoms consistently and correctly or abstain from sex for the duration of the pregnancy
  • Couples in which a man had confirmed Zika virus infection or clinical illness consistent with Zika virus disease should consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for at least 6 months after onset of illness
  • Couples in which a man traveled to an area with active Zika virus transmission but did not develop symptoms of Zika virus disease should consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for at least 8 weeks after departure from the area
  • Couples in which a man resides in an area with active Zika virus transmission but has not developed symptoms of Zika virus disease might consider using condoms or abstaining from sex while active transmission persists  
Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. Though less common, Zika can be transmitted through sexual contact from a male to his partner. Only one in five people infected with Zika show symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. 
For more information:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lead concerns

Public drinking water has been in the news recently due to the crisis in Flint, Michigan. It is important for the people of Maine to know that their public drinking water is well-regulated and safe to drink. Kenneth Albert, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Maine CDC, recently wrote an op ed about lead in Maine. Read it at

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Maine CDC is investigating several cases of mumps in two college campuses:  University of Southern Maine and University of New England.  Other New England states are seeing similar clusters on college campuses.  As of March 17, Maine has two confirmed and one probable case of mumps.  Maine CDC is working closely with both schools to identify cases and provide recommendations for control. 
Maine CDC issued a Public Health Advisory on March 21 to remind health care providers to test patients who have clinically compatible symptoms for mumps and to encourage vaccination. 
For more information:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Free Continuing Education, Workforce Development Available

Did you know that you can use MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) to further your education or to learn more about areas of interest?   
A list of the courses available can be found at  You can take a course for free or enroll and pay a nominal fee for a certificate.   Most courses can be completed in four to six weeks at your own pace, and you can enroll at any time.  Two examples of public health courses are psychological first aid ( and systems thinking in public health (, both offered by Johns Hopkins University.

Take some time to browse the course offerings and check back periodically as new courses are added regularly.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Preparing for a Cyber Attack

Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA); Data, Research and Vital Statistics (DRVS); Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP); the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the Department of Education (DOE), along with key public information, law enforcement and other officials, participated in Cyber Storm V, an exercise that tests Maine’s ability to respond to an attack on its computer systems and information contained within the system.  

Representing the nation’s most extensive cybersecurity exercise effort, Cyber Storm V supports strategy to assess cybersecurity preparedness; examine incident response processes, procedures and information sharing mechanisms; and identify areas for improvement.  Maine’s customized scenario included data breaches of Vital Records and other issues related to security impacting Maine’s students.  Members of the planning team from Maine CDC included Patrick Furey from PHEP and Sarah Hicks and Marty Henson from DRVS. Other planning team members were: Bruce Fitzgerald, Kevin Rousseau, Cameron Wellman, Mark Hyland and Kathleen Rusley from MEMA; Pat Hinkley from DOE and  Victor Chakravarty from OIT.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Flu update 3/17/16

U.S. CDC reports that the flu vaccine has been 59 percent effective so far in the current 2015-16 season. That's more than twice the effectiveness of the 2014-15 season, which was found to be only 23 percent effective. 
Flu activity in Maine is still increasing and is expected to continue.  Diagnostic testing is available for influenza-like illness (defined as fever greater than 100° F with cough or sore throat, in the absence of another known cause). Treatment with antiviral medication can decrease the duration and severity of illness but should be started as soon as possible. 

Flu is preventable, so always follow the “No Flu 4 You” guidelines (wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when you’re sick and get vaccinated) to stay healthy.  For more information visit 

Friday, March 4, 2016

March is National Nutrition Month

The theme for National Nutrition Month 2016 is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right," which encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives. How, when, why and where we eat are just as important as what we eat. Develop a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods. That's the best way to savor the flavor of eating right!
Try some of these tips to introduce mindful eating into your routine.
  • Ask yourself why you are eating
  • Eat more slowly
  • Savor the silence and focus on the food
  • Pay attention to flavor and texture
  • Reconnect to food by knowing how was it grown, where it came from and how it got here
National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created to focus America’s attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
For more information:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Maine CDC, DEP Lead Training Exercise to Respond to Chemical Spill Impacting Drinking Water

In early February, 43 people participated in a full-scale tabletop training exercise where the scenario was a chemical spill Into the Androscoggin River. The event took place at the Topsham Public Safety Building. 
Participants included: Maine CDC Drinking Water Program; Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Maine Emergency Management Agency; Cumberland and Sagadahoc County Emergency Management Agencies; the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection; the Brunswick/Topsham Water District; the Maine Rural Water Association; the Brunswick and Topsham Fire Departments; the Brunswick Sewer Department; Topsham Public Works; the Bath Water District; the Topsham Police Department; the U.S. Coast Guard and Mid Coast Hospital.
In this scenario, a fuel tanker and a truck containing compressed natural gas cylinders were involved in a traffic accident and spilled diesel fuel into a small stream near water supply wells of the Brunswick/Topsham Water District, threatening the wells and the nearby Androscoggin River.  Release of propane gas created a dangerous situation at the crash scene, delaying cleanup of the spilled fuel.  Later in the day, another hypothetical traffic accident occurred in a different part of town, which resulted in a water main break near Mid Coast Hospital.  This combination of unexpected events created challenges to protect public safety, maintain service to water customers and mitigate impacts to the environment.
The origin and planning of these exercises resulted from collaboration between the Maine CDC Drinking Water Program and Maine DEP’s Division of Technical Services and Division of Response Services following the January 9, 2014 Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia.  The recent Flint, Michigan water supply lead contamination incident was also highlighted at the training to emphasize the importance of risk communications during any incident that may threaten drinking water quality.

For more information on this training, contact or

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Zika virus

Maine CDC announced last week that a mature adult (age 65 or older) from Hancock County has tested positive for the Zika virus. The individual traveled to a Zika-affected country and experienced symptoms after returning home. Hospitalization was not required and recovery continues at home. 
Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. Though less common, Zika can be transmitted through sexual contact from a male to his partner. The World Health Organization and U.S. CDC are investigating a potential link between Zika virus and an increase in microcephaly, a birth defect in which the size of a baby’s head is smaller than expected. This link is not well understood, and out of an abundance of caution Maine CDC is recommending that all pregnant women and men who are sexually active with a woman who is pregnant or trying to become pregnant who have traveled to a Zika-affected area be tested for the virus.
Only one in five people infected with Zika show symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. 
U.S. CDC has issued travel alerts for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. The most recent guidance and guidelines are available at:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Study of Arsenic in Well Water Answers Important Questions about Bathing and Treatment

Showering and taking a bath in well water high in arsenic are not significant arsenic exposure sources for children and adults, according to a new study by the Maine CDC and US CDC.

This is good news for the tens of thousands of Maine residents who likely have too much arsenic in their well water. Bathing in contaminated well water is one of the top concerns voiced by the more than 700 Mainers who seek well water advice from Maine CDC experts each year.

The study also shows that switching to bottled water or installing an arsenic treatment system at the kitchen sink—real-world solutions used by many Maine residents—effectively reduce arsenic exposure when arsenic levels are below 40 micrograms per liter. This is more good news because these strategies may be less expensive than systems that treat all of the water used in the house.

Reducing exposure is more complicated for people when their well has an arsenic level above 40 micrograms per liter, especially if there are young children in the home. For these residents, the study confirms the importance of using bottled or treated water not only for drinking, but for all beverage and food preparation as well.

Less than 2 percent of Maine wells have arsenic levels above 40 micrograms per liter.

The study examined the amount of arsenic in individuals’ urine in relation to their untreated water arsenic concentration, daily water and food consumption and time spent bathing. Participants were children and adult volunteers from 167 Maine households with well water arsenic levels greater than 10 micrograms per liter, and where residents drank bottled water or water treated at the kitchen sink.

Authored by Maine’s State Toxicologist, Andrew Smith, and colleagues, the study appears in the February 15 edition of Science of the Total Environment.

The Maine CDC thanks all of the study volunteers for their participation and contribution to public health.

Learn More

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Maine Earns More Recognition For Its Success in Vaccination

There’s no disputing that 2015 was the best year in Maine’s history when it comes to vaccination rates. 

In August, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention tapped Maine as number one in the nation for vaccination rates for children age 19 to 35 months and recently, the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases presented the Maine Immunization Program with six additional awards for its high level of vaccination coverage for virtually all ages. 

Maine reached the Healthy People 2020 goals for vaccination in children age 19-35 months, adolescents age 13 to 17 and for influenza vaccine for children from age 6 months to 17 years. 

In addition, Maine was cited for having the highest pneumococcal vaccination coverage among high-risk adults age 18 to 64, and earned Most Improved honors for that same population, as well as children 19-35 months. 

“This recognition means that the hard work of our staff , medical providers, school personnel and our many partners from Kittery to Fort Kent is paying off,’’ said Maine Immunization Program Manager Tonya Philbrick. “Parents are receiving the information they need to make informed decisions, and people are taking action to protect themselves against the flu, pneumonia and other diseases. Maine’s intense effort through many different initiatives has made a difference. While there’s more work to be done, I could not be happier with the results.” 

A key to the success has been communication with the more than 400 providers who are registered with the Maine Immunization Program and offering free vaccine to their eligible patients. Many receive practice-level data around vaccination rates and all have access to county-level data for comparison. The program also partners with more than with more than 130 schools and school districts to hold on-site influenza vaccination clinics. 

“While these awards are presented to our program, the credit must be shared with many other partners within state government and in the private sector,’’ said Kenneth Albert, Director and Chief Operating Officer for the Maine CDC. “This success serves as striking example of how a coordinated public health effort can yield amazing results.” 

The mission of the Maine Immunization Program is to reduce or eliminate all vaccine preventable diseases, and immunizations are the single most important way to protect against serious and sometimes deadly diseases. 

To learn more about how to receive free vaccine for your child, ask your health care provider, contact the Maine Immunization Program at 1-800-867-4775 or visit

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lyme disease prevention poster contest

This year will be the 7th annual statewide Lyme disease prevention poster contest in schools for students K-8. Children this age have high rates of Lyme disease, which is why increasing their knowledge of prevention is important.

The topic of this year’s contest is “Tick Watch” to emphasize awareness and prevention of ticks. Posters should be creative, colorful and express the importance of being informed about ticks and mindful of good prevention habits. Along with this theme, students should try to illustrate at least one specific preventative method on the poster, such as:  use an EPA-approved repellent, wearing protective clothing, performing daily tick checks or using caution in tick infested areas.

Two more examples of last year’s winning designs and general Lyme disease information are available at:

For questions about the poster contest, email the Public Health Corps at