Friday, July 22, 2016

State Lab Improves Foodborne Illness Surveillance

Maine CDC's Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) is a member of PulseNet, a national laboratory network that connects foodborne illness cases to detect outbreaks from people eating contaminated food. Since the network began in 1996, PulseNet has improved food safety systems in Maine by identifying outbreaks early and identifying the source of the contaminated food. This network is changing the test methods used to identify outbreaks. 

Through two U.S. CDC grants, the HETL has been able to upgrade its equipment and protocols to allow for the lab to conduct this next-generation DNA fingerprinting, known as ‘whole genome sequencing.’  This method allows the HETL to increase surveillance of antibiotic and antiviral resistance mechanisms, identify rare bacteria and viruses and increase foodborne illness surveillance.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Keep Cool, Drink Fluids and Reduce Activity to Prevent Heat-Related Illness

During these hot summer days we can all use a reminder to keep cool, drink fluids and lie low to prevent heat-related illness.
Older adults, infants, pregnant women, people who have chronic diseases and those who work outside or in hot environments are most at risk for heat-related illnesses. On hot days, people need access to air conditioning or shade and those who are working outside should be sure to drink more fluids to stay hydrated. 
It is also a good idea to check on the elderly and relatives who live alone to make sure they are able to stay cool.
For more on how to recognize and prevent heat illness:
Use the Maine Tracking Network to find data about heat illness in Maine:

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cancer Registry Recognized

Maine CDC's cancer registry has been recognized by U.S. CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) as a Registry of Excellence for 2015.
Maine is one of 22 states to achieve this designation, which reflects the submission of high quality data for cancer prevention and control activities. The data met all of NPCR's standards for data completeness and quality.

In addition, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries has recognized Maine CDC's cancer registry for meeting its Gold Standard on quality, completeness and timeliness of 2013 data.

Friday, July 1, 2016

National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month. U.S. CDC estimates that about 7,000 babies will be born with a cleft in the United States this year, a condition created when tissue in the baby’s upper lip or the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy, leaving an opening in the roof of the mouth.
Clefts are usually repaired surgically in the first year of life, though many children require additional surgeries and treatments through adolescence to correct challenges to breathing, eating, or speech development. Individuals born with cleft lip or palate often need specialized dental or orthodontic care throughout their lives.
For more information, visit 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nutrition Label Changes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized the new nutrition facts label for packaged foods to reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. Among the changes to help consumers is the addition of grams of added sugars below "Total Sugars." Manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018, although manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year.

For more information, go to

Monday, June 27, 2016

Maine Immunization Champion Announced

U.S. CDC has named Jeri Greenwell of Bethel as Maine’s 2016 Childhood Immunization Champion for her outstanding efforts to promote childhood immunizations.
Greenwell has made it her life’s mission to improve awareness about vaccine-preventable diseases. She has developed relationships with political leaders from both sides of the aisle, spoken with many about the importance of vaccination and has met with various groups and individuals to provide education.  In addition, Greenwell has coordinated school-based activities with school nurses, students and parents to support on-time immunizations.
Greenwell’s passion and commitment to children’s health is driven by her family’s personal tragedy.  In 2003, her son, Jerry, awoke with flu-like symptoms and by evening, he was admitted to the hospital in critical condition.  Despite aggressive, round-the-clock care, Jerry died from meningococcal meningitis with this family by his side.  This disease is preventable through immunization.
“Only those who have experienced their child or loved one suffering from the devastating consequences of a vaccine-preventable disease can truly comprehend the impact it has on a family or parent,’’ said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “Jeri has been a tireless advocate for childhood immunization and has turned her grief into positive action.”
Each year during National Infant Immunization Week, the U.S. CDC and its CDC Foundation honor health professionals and community leaders from around the country with the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion awards. These awards acknowledge the outstanding efforts of those individuals who strive to ensure that children in their communities are fully immunized against 14 preventable diseases before age two.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Maine CDC Earns National Public Health Accreditation

Maine CDC has earned public health accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB).  Maine CDC joins 18 other state health departments that have achieved this distinction.  Fewer than 200 health departments across the nation are accredited.
The PHAB’s goal is to improve and protect public health by transforming the quality and performance of public health departments.  This national program, jointly supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation establishes rigorous standards that foster continuous quality improvement and excellence.  To earn accreditation, a health department must undergo a multi-faceted, peer-reviewed assessment process to ensure it meets or exceeds these quality standards and measures.   Maine CDC has been working toward accreditation over the last several years.
The PHAB standards cover a dozen different domains including public health assessments, investigation and surveillance, communication and education, community collaboration, policies and planning, enforcement of public health laws, workforce capacity, leadership and process improvement.  A full list of the domains and the multiple standards associated with them can be found at
Maine’s accreditation is in effect for five years.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maine CDC Announces New Leadership

Last month, Maine CDC announced a change in leadership that will provide both strong operational leadership and clinical expertise to the CDC and position it for continued success.
Sheryl Peavey has been appointed the Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Dr. Christopher Pezzullo has been named the State Health Officer.  The COO will be responsible for day-to-day operational decision-making, while the State Health Officer’s clinical expertise will inform decisions affecting public health for the Maine CDC and the DHHS.  Both positions will report directly to DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew.  Former Maine CDC Director Kenneth Albert resigned to take a job in the private sector.
Prior to this appointment, Peavey served as DHHS’ Director of Strategic Reform. She has played an integral role in budget development, contract evaluation, competitive procurement, Request for Proposal review and development, performance measurement, grant approval and quality improvement for the Maine CDC and other DHHS offices since 2013. While in this role, she represented Maine at the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget’s Achieving Results in State Government Summit in Utah.
Peavey is a graduate of Brandeis University as well as a member of the Phi Class of Leadership Maine, a program of the Maine Development Foundation.  Since 2009, she has served continuous terms as an elected member of her town’s Budget Committee.   Her experience over a 12-year career in State government that focused on developing coordinated and integrated programs and systems across all of DHHS has positioned her to provide strong stewardship of public funds as we seek to achieve measurable outcomes that preserve, promote and protect the health of all Maine people.
Dr. Pezzullo has been practicing medicine for nearly 20 years in Maine as a pediatrician He’s a graduate of the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine and has been recognized as a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics and the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners. 
He became DHHS’ Chief Health Officer in 2014. During the last year, Dr. Pezzullo has been a driving force behind the Department’s efforts to address the public health epidemic of opioid and opiate use.  He has informed new laws that lower prescribing duration and prescription strength, supported the required use of the Prescription Monitoring Program and assisted in the development and creation of a new pilot project to test Vivitrol to combat addiction.
Dr. Pezzullo joined Maine CDC as the Medical Director of the Division of Population Health in 2012.  Prior to joining State government, he was the Chief Medical Officer for University Health Care from 2008 to 2012.
Dr. Pezzullo was also recently named the Maine Osteopathic Association’s Physician of the Year.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Health Risk from Browntail Moths

The browntail moth caterpillar has tiny poisonous hairs that cause a rash similar to poison ivy on sensitive individuals that will usually last for a few hours up to several days. On some sensitive individuals, the rash can be severe and last for several weeks. People may develop a rash from direct contact with the caterpillar or indirectly from contact with airborne hairs. The rash results from both a chemical reaction to a toxin in the hairs and a physical irritation as the barbed hairs become embedded in the skin. Respiratory distress from inhaling the hairs can be serious. 
Caterpillars are active from April to late June. Hairs remain toxic throughout the summer but get washed into the soil and are less of a problem over time. 
The Maine Forest Service is receiving increased reports of caterpillars and their webs. Maine has known populations of browntail moths in Bowdoinham, Bath, Topsham, West Bath, Woolwich (Sagadahoc County) Brunswick, Freeport and Harpswell (Cumberland County) this year. The infestation is expanding south into Yarmouth and Cumberland (Cumberland County) and east into Wiscasset, Edgecomb and Boothbay (Lincoln County) and beyond. 
The Maine Forest Service has seen pockets of infestation, some of them heavy, in other locations from Turner (Androscoggin County) to Waterville (Kennebec County) to Bristol (Lincoln County) to Kittery (York County). 
Browntail moth control may be occurring in certain areas, but the risk to the public remains high in affected areas. 
Recommendations to reduce exposure: 
  • Avoid places heavily infested by caterpillars.
  • Take a cool shower and change clothes after any activity that might involve contact with browntail moth hairs.
  • Dry laundry inside during June and July to avoid having the hair become impregnated in clothing.
  • Wear respirator, goggles and coveralls tightly closed at neck, wrists and ankles when performing activities that stir up caterpillar hairs such as mowing, raking, weed whacking and removing pupal webbing from eaves and boats. Perform these tasks on damp days or wet down material with a hose to help keep the hairs from becoming airborne. 
For more information:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

New Asthma Action Plan Available for EMR

The Maine CDC Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Program has two new Asthma Action Plans available on its website – a pediatric and an adult plan. These plans were developed as a collaborative effort by clinical staff (primary and specialty care) at MaineHealth and incorporates feedback from the Maine Asthma Coalition, the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Maine Association of School Nurses. 
The plans comply with Meaningful Use reporting requirements and Maine’s statute “An Act To Authorize Certain School Children To Carry Emergency Medication On Their Persons.” School nurses utilize Asthma Action Plans as an important tool to help their students with asthma.  A uniform plan will improve ease of use for providers, parents and school nurses.  
The plans are available by clicking here. They can be scanned or imported into the electronic medical record or printed.
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute states that a written Asthma Action Plan is one of the most effective methods to help patients manage their disease. Utilizing one form across practices and hospitals to treat people with asthma will improve coordination and quality of care.
The Maine CDC Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Program continues to provide paper copies of the Maine Asthma Coalition’s pediatric Asthma Action Plan. 

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:

Monday, May 16, 2016

Acute Hepatitis B Outbreak in Maine

Maine CDC has noted a sharp increase in the number of acute hepatitis B cases reported so far in 2016.  There were 15 confirmed cases of acute hepatitis B cases confirmed in Maine between January 1 and May 16, a rate of 1.1 cases per 100,000 persons.  There were no cases of acute hepatitis B during the same time period in 2015.  Maine CDC urges people who are at risk to be vaccinated for hepatitis B, and practice preventative measures to decrease risk of transmission.
The primary risk factor for new cases of acute hepatitis B in Maine in 2016 is injection drug use. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is 100 times more infectious than HIV and 10 times more infectious than hepatitis C virus.  In addition, HBV can survive on open air surfaces for up to seven days and in sealed containers for up to three months.  If individuals are injecting drugs, it is important that they maintain their own injection kit and do not:
  • Share injection equipment
  • Inject others and then inject self
  • Inject on contaminated surfaces
Other persons at risk are:
  • Infants born to infected mothers
  • Sex partners of infected persons
  • Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (e.g., more than one sex partner during the previous 6 months)
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Household contacts of persons with chronic hepatitis B health care and public safety workers at risk for occupational exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
  • Hemodialysis patients
  • Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons
  • Travelers to countries with intermediate or high prevalence of hepatitis B
  1. Persons at high risk for hepatitis B should be screened and vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, if susceptible.
  2. Patients diagnosed with hepatitis C should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.
Vaccine resources:  
No cost hepatitis A and B vaccine is available for high risk patients through the Maine CDC Adult Viral Hepatitis Program in 13 counties.  Please contact the Viral Hepatitis Coordinator for more information: 207-287-3817.
Health care providers should report all cases of acute hepatitis B to Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821 immediately on recognition or strong suspicion of disease. Cases of chronic hepatitis B (conventional and rapid tests) should be reported within 48 hours of recognition or strong suspicion of disease.
For more information

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: