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. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

SIM Annual Meeting Progress Report

The annual meeting for the State Innovation Model (SIM) grant was held in Augusta this week.  Maine SIM Partners, SIM evaluator, and Maine's federal project officer from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation were in attendance to share results and successes during year one of the three-year grant. Maine CDC provided an update on initiatives it is leading: National Diabetes Prevention Program, Community Health Workers, and State Population Health Plan. 

National Diabetes Prevention Program is based on a research study that demonstrated adults at high risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the disease by 58 percent (71 percent if over age 60) by making modest lifestyle changes through a structured program. Maine CDC held a lifestyle coach training in May 2014 and a forum that engaged providers, payers, and businesses in November 2014. 

Community Health Workers (CHWs) provide culturally appropriate information and outreach to vulnerable patients. This initiative is two pronged - looking at both infrastructure and pilot sites.  SIM funding is supporting four CHW pilot projects, which have hired nine CHWs. Trainings were held in November 2014 for both CHWs and CHW supervisors.  Pilots are focusing on individuals out of care/in need of medical home and individuals with chronic conditions.

A State Population Health Plan will be developed by September 2016.  The State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) is the cornerstone for the population health plan.  Maine will utilize the annual review and update of the existing SHIP as an opportunity to engage leadership as well as stakeholders in the enhancement of the SHIP to support the population health plan.  Enhancement of the SHIP will support work to improve the health of the entire state population; improve the quality of health care across the state and, reduce health care costs.   

The Maine SIM intends to achieve the Triple Aim goals of improving the health of Maine's population, improving the experience Maine patients have with their care, and reducing the total cost of care. The work extends across a broad spectrum of public and private health partners.  For more information, visit 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Changes to pediatric blood lead testing guidelines

Maine CDC has updated its pediatric blood lead testing guidelines and services. Effective March 2015, for children less than 6 years old, providers should:
  • confirm all capillary blood lead levels > 5 µg/dL with venous samples, and
  • follow-up on all venous blood lead levels > 5 µg/dL.
These changes align Maine CDC's recommendations with the reference value for pediatric blood lead of 5 µg/dL set by the U.S. CDC in 2012. The reference value is the 97.5th percentile of the blood lead distribution in children 1-5 years of age in the U.S., which is currently 5 µg/dL. 

Maine CDC initiates a tiered response on all venous blood lead levels > 5 µg/dL. Services range from providing free home lead dust testing, to comprehensive, professional environmental lead investigations.

Providers are reminded that Maine law requires children who are covered by MaineCare be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2 years. All other children less than 6 years old should be tested unless an annual risk assessment for lead exposure is negative.

Visit to get the complete updated confirmation, follow-up and screening guidelines, including the annual risk assessment questionnaire. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

New Director Appointed at Maine CDC; Department Names Chief Health Officer

On February 25, 2015, Kenneth Albert was appointed to the position of Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention by Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Mary Mayhew. Ken joined State government in March 2012 as the Director of the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services.  Before joining DHHS, he practiced law for several years, specializing in health law, regulatory and compliance law, and professional licensing.  In addition, he led compliance efforts in a large health care organization, developing a new compliance program for several business lines.

Ken's healthcare career began as a traveling nurse before moving on to a variety of management positions, including time as the Manager of Emergency Services at Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC); as the Administrator of a Health Center; and as the Lewiston Site Manager for LifeFlight of Maine.  Ken earned a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing at the University of Southern Maine and a law degree at the University of Maine School of Law.

Kenneth Albert

Dr. Sheila Pinette has been named the Department's Chief Health Officer, a position entirely focused on clinical outcomes in various populations through engagement of key public and private health system participants across the state. Dr. Pinette will continue to build upon her established relationship with the media and the public, providing expert information about various diseases and other public health concerns. In addition, Dr. Pinette will work across the provider community to support the Department's vision of integrated physical and behavioral health care.

Rare Disease Day

In the U.S., any disease affecting fewer than 200,000 people is considered rare. There are nearly 7,000 rare diseases affecting nearly 30 million Americans. In other words, almost one in ten Americans are suffering from rare diseases. 

Recognized annually on the last day of February, Rare Disease Day was established to raise awareness with the public about rare diseases, the challenges encountered by those affected, the importance of research to develop diagnostics and treatments, and the impact of these diseases on patients' lives.
For more information, visit or 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Strep throat and rapid strep tests

People often get sore throats this time of year. Many sore throats are caused by viruses, but it is wise to determine if a sore throat is caused by bacteria. 

The most common bacteria that can cause a sore throat is Group A strep.  Strep throat can lead to inflamed kidneys, neurologic symptoms, scarlet fever, or rheumatic heart disease if left untreated (i.e. painful, inflamed joints, a rash, bloody urine, abnormal involuntary movements, and possible damage to the heart valves). 

Health care providers should consider the following clinical questions:
  1. Is there a fever (typically greater than 102)?
  2. Does the patient have tender anterior cervical adenopathy?
  3. Does the patient have no cough or a dry cough and/or mild upper respiratory symptoms?
  4. Does the patient have a red, painful throat, with enlarged tonsils with or without white exudates or red spots on the roof of the mouth?
  5. Has the patient been exposed to anyone known to be positive for strep throat?
Physical exam and history alone are not enough to determine if a sore throat is caused by a bacteria or a virus.  While a rapid strep test administered at the point of care can detect Group A strep in 5 minutes, rapid tests do not detect every case of Group A strep or other strains of strep throat. A negative rapid strep test does not guarantee strep throat is not present.  

A throat culture should be the next step, which will take approximately 48 hours for a result.  In the meantime, health care providers may choose to treat empirically with antibiotics for those who have more than 3 out of 5 risk factors or to monitor until the culture returns for those who have 2 or fewer risk factors. If the culture returns negative, then antibiotics can be stopped.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Heart attack and stroke: Do you know what to do?

A heart attack or a stroke can happen to anyone at any time.  1,145 Maine people died from a heart attack and stroke in 2011.  The best thing you can do for someone having a heart attack or stroke is call 911 immediately.

Heart Attack 
A heart attack happens when the blood flow to the heart is greatly reduced or completely blocked.  On average, there is a death caused by heart attack about every minute in the United States.  Most people do not know the symptoms of a heart attack and know to call 911.  These symptoms include:
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest, jaw, neck, back, arms or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak, lightheaded, faint or sweaty
A stroke happens when the blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked.  This year almost 800,000 Americans of all ages will suffer stroke, which is the fourth leading cause of death in the country.  Most people do not know the symptoms of a stroke and to call 911.  These symptoms include sudden:
  • Numbness in the face, arm or leg
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Severe headache
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
SCA happens when the heart stops beating without any warning.  When this happens, blood flow stops to the brain and other body organs.  If not treated within minutes, the person will die. 

The best way to get the heart pumping again quickly before help arrives is to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).  It works by sending an electric shock to the heart to try and restore its normal rhythm.  They are safe, easy to use, and can be lifesaving. 

Be Prepared
Only skilled medical professionals can determine if someone is having a heart attack, stroke or sudden cardiac arrest.  Your responsibility is to recognize the symptoms and act quickly.  You can help to prepare yourself by taking a CPR/AED course that can teach you critical skills needed to respond and manage these medical emergencies until emergency medical services arrive.  These courses are offered by Maine Adult EducationAmerican Heart Association, and American Red Cross.

For more information about heart attack and stroke visit:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Public health workforce

Maine CDC and the Hanley Center for Health Leadership have been working together and with many organizations statewide and across the New England region to focus on improving the capacity, knowledge, and performance of Maine's current and future public health workforce. The goal is to develop highly engaged and skilled workforce to lead Maine's efforts to accomplish its public health goals.

Shifting priorities in public health, changes in the delivery of health care, and rapidly evolving technology have driven the need for workforce and capacity development. A comprehensive Public Health Workforce Development Plan has been drafted for Maine CDC. The final version of the plan is expected to be available by April 2015. One element of this plan is the creation and sharing of a series of online educational training sessions. The first four trainings are now available; the topics are: Foundations of Public Health,Bedbugs; Drinking Water and Public Wells; and Lyme Disease. Many additional trainings will be made available over the next year and ongoing.

Public health and other health professionals are encouraged to participate in this program. To access the trainings, go to, choose Create a New Account and follow the simple instructions on how to register. Along with the presentation and quiz questions, an evaluation form and certificate of completion are also available online. Feedback is welcome and encouraged, as it will be used to inform future trainings and to ensure that all trainings are as useful and as effective as possible.

For more information about this program, please e-mail We look forward to your participation and feedback.