Friday, May 31, 2013

Influenza Vaccine Coverage Among Health Care Workers

Each influenza season, health care workers (HCW) become infected with the flu, an infectious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that HCW receive the influenza vaccine annually. All health care facilities in the state are required to report data on influenza vaccine coverage among their employees to Maine CDC annually.

Maine CDC worked in collaboration with hospitals for the past 3-4 years to improve HCW vaccination rates. Each year, Maine CDC analyzes data on flu vaccine rates reported by the hospitals and compares it to the state average. The result of the analysis is illustrated graphically and shared with each hospital.

Over the past three years, the vaccination rate among HCW in Maine has steadily improved from a statewide average of 65.2% in 2011-12 to 77.1% in 2011-12 to 84.2% in the 2012-13 season. We hope that health care facilities will keep working with their staff and continue this upward trend. 

To see the graphical results over the last three years, go to:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Baby Boomers and Hepatitis C

In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month, Maine CDC is featuring a three-part series on viral hepatitis in public health updates released in May.

Part 3: Baby Boomers and Hepatitis C

About 3 million adults in the US are infected with the hepatitis C virus, most are baby boomers. Anyone can get hepatitis C, but adults born from 1945-1965, or baby boomers, are 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C.

US CDC now recommends that baby boomers, or those born during 1945-1965, get tested for hepatitis C virus (HCV).  The reason that baby boomers have high rates of Hepatitis C is not completely understood. Most boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were the highest. Since people with Hepatitis C can live for decades without symptoms, many baby boomers are unknowingly living with an infection they got many years ago.

Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Many baby boomers could have gotten infected from contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992 and universal precautions were adopted. Others may have become infected from injecting drugs, even if only once in the past. Still, many baby boomers do not know how or when they were infected.

Recommendations for the Identification of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Persons Born during 1945–1965
·              Adults born during 1945–1965 should receive one-time testing for HCV without prior ascertainment of HCV risk.
·              All persons with identified HCV infection should receive a brief alcohol screening and intervention as clinically indicated, followed by referral to appropriate care and treatment services for HCV infection and related conditions.

For more information see:  or

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lyme disease

Lyme disease continues to be a growing concern in Maine, with 1,111 cases reported across the state in 2012.

Maine CDC is dedicated to increasing awareness of the disease and is co-sponsoring free, public Lyme disease prevention forums throughout the state this summer. The goal of these forums is to educate Maine residents about prevention and early detection of the disease. Each forum will have a presentation about Lyme disease followed by a Q & A session. 

Lyme disease experts including physicians, epidemiologists, veterinarians, biologists, and pesticide experts will be at the forums to answer specific questions and educate the public on the broader Lyme disease prevention work going on in Maine. Below are the dates of the scheduled Lyme disease forums (more to come). All forums are free and open to the public. Questions? Please email

Free, public Lyme disease forums:
  • 10 a.m. to noon Friday, May 31, LePage Conference Room, St. Mary’s Hospital, 93 Campus Ave., Lewiston
  • 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, June 6, EMA Building, 301 Park Street, Rockland
  • 12:30-2 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square, Portland
  • 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, Ellsworth Town Hall, 1 City Hall Plaza, Ellsworth

Information about Lyme Disease Awareness Month is available at or see Maine CDC’s press release at

For general information about Lyme disease, visit

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stroke Awareness Month

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel leading to the brain (or in the brain) is blocked by a clot, or bursts. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, and it starts to die.

Stroke is a leading cause of death, premature mortality, and serious, long-term disability in Maine and the U.S. It is the fourth leading cause of death in Maine and the U.S.

On average, there was one stroke death every 14 hours in Maine in 2009.  Additionally, Maine had the 35th highest stroke death rate among all 50 states and D.C., but among all New England states, Maine had the highest stroke death rate. (The Burden of Cardiovascular Disease in Maine 2012-

It is important for you to know the symptoms of stroke so you can react quickly if someone has a stroke.

Know the Symptoms, it could save a life
Early recognition of stroke symptoms is critical –Time Lost is Brain Loss.

Stroke symptoms include sudden:
·         Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg
·         Slurred speech
·         Blurred vision
·         Dizziness or loss of balance
·         Severe headache

Rapid treatment by emergency medical providers is important to survival and recovery.

At any sign of stroke: Call 911 immediately

Lower your risk of having a Stroke
You can help protect yourself and loved ones from stroke by knowing the risks and taking these steps:
  • 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       
  • Be physically active at least 30 minutes on most days
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and other foods low in sodium and trans fat
  • Take medicine as prescribed by your doctor

For more information:
Million Hearts Program- Help us prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over five years:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Asthma can be controlled - Tips offered during asthma awareness month

Originally posted at

AUGUSTA – Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs, leading to breathing problems including coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and trouble sleeping. In most cases, the cause is unknown and there is no known cure.

In Maine, more than 22,000 children and over 100,000 adults currently have asthma, which places Maine in the top 10 states when comparing adult asthma rates. In 2009,there were 14 deaths, 1,169 hospitalizations and 8,482 emergency department visits due to asthma, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics.

Asthma attacks occur when something bothers the lungs and causes sudden breathing problems. These are known as ‘asthma triggers’ and some of the more common ones are tobacco smoke, outdoor air pollution, mold, cleaning agents, dust mites and strong smells from perfumes and colognes.
Asthma can be controlled and treated. National guidelines include using medication as prescribed – not just when experiencing symptoms; knowing how to avoid asthma triggers; working with a physician or healthcare provider to design a written asthma action plan; making two visits to a physician each year for routine asthma care; and getting an annual flu shot.

An asthma action plan gives instructions on what medicine to use and how often, as wells as what to do if symptoms get worse. The plan is especially important for children to have a plan available at home and at school. School nurses, coaches and school administrators rely on the asthma action plan when a student has an asthma attack. Following these treatment guidelines will help avoid unnecessary and costly emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and missed work or school days.

There is evidence that adults with asthma are more susceptible to invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD), which includes pneumonia, meningitis and other diseases. Vaccines for children and adults are available which are effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death from IPD. Ask your health care provider for information about these vaccines.

The Maine CDC Asthma Prevention and Control Program has asthma action plan forms and other information available at their web site:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Think Healthy. Swim Healthy. Be Healthy!

Recreational Water Illness and Injury Awareness Week (May 20–26) is a time to raise awareness about healthy and safe swimming. Every year, thousands of Americans get sick with recreational water illnesses (RWIs), which are caused by germs found in places where we swim. Poor swimmer hygiene leads to the contamination of recreational water and threatens swimmer health.

Here are simple and effective steps swimmers can take to practice good hygiene:
  • Keep the poop and pee out of the water.
  • Check the chlorine and pH levels before getting into pools.
  • Don’t swallow the water you swim in.
  • Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30–60 minutes.
For additional information: 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hepatitis B Vaccination for Adults with Diabetes

In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month, Maine CDC is featuring a three-part series on viral hepatitis in public health updates released in May.

Part 2: Hepatitis B Vaccination for Adults with Diabetes Mellitus

CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) now recommends hepatitis B vaccination for all unvaccinated adults with diabetes who are younger than 60 years of age. Vaccination should occur as soon as possible after diagnosis of diabetes, and vaccination should also be given to adults diagnosed with diabetes in the past.

Vaccination requires 3 doses at 0, 1, and 6 months, although other schedules are available. Longer intervals between doses are possible so that it is not necessary for patients to make extra medical visits for vaccination. However, longer intervals will leave adults with diabetes at risk for hepatitis B infection until the vaccination series is completed.

On the basis of available information about hepatitis B virus (HBV) risk, morbidity and mortality, available vaccines, age at diagnosis of diabetes, and cost-effectiveness, ACIP recommends the following:

  • Hepatitis B vaccination should be administered to unvaccinated adults with diabetes mellitus who are aged 19 through 59 years (recommendation category A; evidence type 2).
  • Hepatitis B vaccination may be administered at the discretion of the treating clinician to unvaccinated adults with diabetes mellitus who are aged ≥60 years (recommendation category B; evidence type 2).

For more information: