Friday, January 27, 2012

Cervical Cancer Screening

            January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month, and Maine CDC encourages Maine women to schedule a Pap test, especially if it has been five or more years since the last test.
            “Regularly scheduled Pap tests are critical in preventing cervical cancer,’’ said Dr. Sheila Pinette, Director of Maine CDC. “With the holiday rush over, now may be the perfect time to schedule a test.”
            But going for a routine Pap test can make all the difference - helping medical staff spot potentially cancerous cells growing on the cervix, or neck of the womb, before it’s too late, said Dr. Pinette.
            Women should check with their doctor to find out if they need a Pap test or other cancer screenings, including a mammogram, a FIT test (Fecal Immunochemical Test), or a colonoscopy.
            For more information about breast, cervical, or colorectal cancer, or to learn if you qualify for free screening, women should call 1-800-350-5180 and press 1

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pertussis 2011 Summary

More than 200 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) were reported to Maine CDC during 2011, far exceeding the number of reported cases in 2010 (53) and the 10-year average of 82 cases per year. 

The number of cases reported per week during 2011 peaked at 21 in the second week of November, but decreased to 5 or fewer cases per week during December. The majority of reported pertussis infections occurred in Penobscot County (67%), but sporadic infections occurred in other parts of the state. Clusters of pertussis occurred in schools, camps, sport teams and workplaces. 

Pertussis is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis and is a highly communicable, vaccine-preventable, respiratory disease that can last for many weeks. Pertussis is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory secretions of infected persons who cough or breathe on someone else. Classic pertussis symptoms include paroxysmal cough, whoop, and posttussive vomiting.  Pertussis can cause serious illness and can even be life-threatening, especially in infants.
Maine CDC has worked extensively with schools and communities to implement control measures and prevent disease transmission. These efforts include numerous health communications to inform medical providers, school officials, child care providers, and the public about pertussis and how to prevent infections. Maine CDC collaborated with school officials in two schools that experienced pertussis outbreaks to rapidly organize and stand up pertussis vaccination clinics. Maine CDC also requested assistance from US CDC to better understand the school outbreaks, determine the effectiveness of pertussis booster vaccinations in preventing disease transmission, and the acceptability of providing pertussis vaccine in school settings during an outbreak.
Medical providers should continue to be on the lookout for pertussis.  Providers should also check the vaccination status of their patients and make sure they are up to date for age on pertussis vaccines.

  • General information on pertussis can be found on the Maine CDC website or the US CDC website
  • For information about pertussis vaccine or vaccine schedules please contact the Maine Immunization program at or by calling 1-800-867-4755.
  • Maine CDC epidemiologists are available to answer any questions about pertussis diagnosis or management through the 24/7 disease reporting line at 1-800-821-5821.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tattoo licensing

Maine CDC’s Health Inspection program has seen an increase in tattoo complaints over the past year. Many of these relate to tattoo parties in private homes.

State law prohibits tattooing in a person’s home. Tattoos may only be performed in a state-approved tattoo studio. All tattooing must be practiced with a state-issued license. Unlicensed tattooing is a Class E criminal offense, subject to a fine of between $50 and $500 or up to six months in prison.

Licensing ensures proper safety training, proper sanitary facilities and equipment, proper disposal of sharps and medical waste, and adherence to state rules for tattooing. All licensed tattoo studios are inspected regularly by Maine CDC’s Health Inspection Program.

Receiving a tattoo from an unlicensed tattoo artist increases the risk of skin infection and transmission of diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

State law also prohibits tattoos being place on anyone younger than 18.

For more information related to licensing for tattoo practices, visit

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Birth Defects Prevention

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. Major birth defects are conditions that cause structural changes in one or more parts of the body; are present at birth; and have a serious, adverse effect on health, development, or functional ability.

About one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Birth defects are a leading cause of infant death, accounting for more than 1 of every 5 infant deaths. In addition, babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long term disability than babies without birth defects.  

Not all birth defects can be prevented. But a woman can increase her own chance of having a healthy baby. Many birth defects happen very early in pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Remember that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Here are some steps a woman can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.
  • Keep hands clean by washing them often with soap and water to
  • prevent infections.
  • See a health care professional regularly.
  • Talk with the health care professional about any medical problems and medicine use (both prescription and over-the-counter).
  • Ask about avoiding any substances at work or at home that might be harmful to a developing baby.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.
  • Avoid eating raw or under cooked meat.

While pregnant, keep up these healthy habits, get early prenatal care, and go to every appointment. For more information about preventing birth defects, visit:

January 8-14 is Folic Acid Awareness Week. CDC urges women to take 400 mcg of folic acid every day, starting at least one month before getting pregnant, to help prevent major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine by 50% to 70%. Folic acid is a B vitamin our bodies use to make new cells. Everyone needs folic acid. For more information, visit: