Monday, December 20, 2010

New plans for Commissioner Harvey and Dr. Mills

After 5 years as Commissioner of Maine DHHS, Brenda Harvey recently announced her plans to become the Executive Director of the New England States Consortium Systems Organization (NESCSO). NESCSO is a non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School whose mission is to foster communication and collaboration among the New England States through information-sharing and joint projects, with the goal of maximizing policy, program and cost effectiveness of Medicaid programs and other human services.

After 14 and a half years as Maine’s public health director (Director of Maine Bureau of Health or of Maine CDC), Dr. Dora Anne Mills announced her plans to become the Medical Director of MaineCare. As such, she will be responsible for overseeing the quality of health care delivered to MaineCare members as well as overseeing their health status. Dr. Rod Prior will continue his work in federally-funded health information technology initiatives at MaineCare. Dr. Stephen Sears, our State Epidemiologist, will become Acting Director of Maine CDC.

Both Commissioner Harvey and Dr. Mills plan to start their new jobs in January.

Healthy People


Healthy People 2020 (HP2020), the decade’s public health plan for the country, was released last week. Maine, along with all other states, is expected to start creating its version of this plan in the coming months. Maine has the added perspective of 2020 being our bicentennial. The HP2020 website can be found at:


As we approach the Healthy Maine 2020 planning process, you may be wondering how we did with the Healthy Maine 2010 goals and objectives. We have just posted graphs showing progress on these. They are in both PDF and Power Point format. There were a total of about 140 Healthy Maine 2010 objectives. Although some could not be tracked throughout the decade, most can be found on this updated website:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quick Guide to Holiday Health

Already stressed about the holidays? Check these quick tips to make sure you stay safe and enjoy the season:

Did you know it’s not safe to leave raw or cooked turkey (or any perishable food) at room temperature for more than two hours? Otherwise, you’re creating the perfect conditions for dangerous bacteria to multiply rapidly. A woman in Missouri recently died and several others got sick from E. coli apparently contracted from a Thanksgiving meal. Check out these food safety tips to keep you and your guests healthy this holiday season.

Looking for last-minute gifts? This Massachusetts Department of Health blog has some fitness-related gift ideas, especially for those who want to be more healthy and active in the new year.

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. There have also been a lot of car accidents in recent storms. Whether you’re traveling for the holidays or not, drive safely this holiday season.

Remember that winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous. Prepare your home and cars. Keep emergency kits stocked. Be ready for power outages. Wear appropriate clothing. Check on children, the elderly and pets.

Follow these steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Don't use a gas-powered generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gas or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window or door. Generators should be more than 15 feet from your home when running.
  • Don't run a car, truck or any other motor inside a garage or other enclosed space, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don't try to heat your house with a gas oven.
  • Make sure you have a CO detector with a battery back-up in your home near where people sleep. Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. You can buy an alarm at most hardware stores or stores that sell smoke detectors. By law, all rental units must have a CO alarm—talk to your landlord if you don’t have one in your apartment or rental house.
  • If your CO alarm goes off, get out of the house right away and call 911. Get prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.

US CDC has lots of other tips for staying healthy this holiday season, including a song.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Public Health Updates 12/13/10


Maine CDC has recently investigated five reports of gastroenteritis outbreaks from Cumberland, Oxford, Kennebec, and Hancock counties. Four outbreaks occurred in long-term care facilities and one occurred in a school setting. Norovirus infections typically increase during the winter months, and Maine CDC routinely receives numerous reports of suspected outbreaks each year. Last winter season, December 2009-March 2010, there were 12 suspect and confirmed norovirus outbreaks reported, compared to 56 reported during the same time period the year before. Public health partners are encouraged to consider norovirus when assessing clusters of gastroenteritis and to act promptly to prevent the spread of illness. All of the above facilities have implemented preventive measures to control further spread of illness.

For more information, see this Health Alert:


This 9-minute non-partisan animated video produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation explains health reform – what it does, what it proposes to do in the coming years, its challenges and opportunities:

Funding Opportunities

Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship ( applications are due by Dec. 22.

Teaching Health Center (THC) Graduate Medical Education (GME) Payment Program ( applications are due by Dec. 30.

Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) Program ( applications are due by Jan. 21.


· The Federal Plain Language Guidelines have been updated and are available at

· Beware of lead hazards in some toys when holiday shopping:

New report on smoking from the Surgeon General

The US Surgeon General has released a new report titled How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease, which finds that even occasional smoking or secondhand smoke causes immediate damage to the body that can lead to serious illness or death. The report is available at

For more information about the report, see this US HHS press release:

For information and resources to quit smoking, visit

Friday, December 10, 2010

Food Safety

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 has passed the U.S. senate.

The bill focuses on preventing illnesses, by ensuring safety through the entire food production process. Under this legislation, food processors are required to identify potential hazards in their production processes and put in place programs to eliminate those hazards. The bill also requires the FDA to inspect all food facilities more frequently and allows them to recall contaminated food.

For more information, see this press release from the Trust for America’s Health

In addition, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has posted materials online from its webinar on Melamine, the cause of pet food and infant formula recalls:

Influenza Update

December 6-10 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. For more information, see this Maine CDC press release:

There was no significant flu activity reported in Maine for the week ending Dec. 4. Weekly updates on flu activity in Maine are available at

Weekly updates for the US are available at and international updates are available at

Monday, December 6, 2010

Getting a flu vaccine is a safe way to prevent serious illness

For millions of people each year, the flu can bring a runny nose, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, fever, chills, and miserable days spent in bed instead of at work or school. However, you may not realize that it’s estimated that more than 200,000 people end up in the hospital from flu complications each year. And while unpredictable, the flu can be deadly. Between 1976 and 2007, US CDC estimates that annual flu-associated deaths in the United States have ranged from between about 3,000 people to about 49,000 people.

But there’s a safe alternative to getting the flu—getting the flu vaccine. The vaccine is a safe way to protect yourself from the flu and its potentially serious complications.

This season, health experts across the country are recommending that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. This “universal” flu vaccine recommendation was adopted by the CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent group of physicians and health advocates that sets recommendations for all adult and childhood immunizations in the United States.

Over the years, the number of people recommended for flu vaccination has grown as experts learned more about who was at highest risk for flu complications or who was bearing the greatest burden of illness and possibly playing a role in spreading flu in the community. With the official universal vaccination recommendation, ACIP and the medical community are acknowledging the risk that everyone faces from the flu.

This year’s flu vaccines are being made using the same production and safety methods that have been standard for decades, during which hundreds of millions of flu vaccines have been given safely. The most common side effects from flu shots have been soreness, redness, or tenderness where the shot was given; fever; and aches. Some people who have gotten the nasal-spray flu vaccine, in use over the past seven years, have had runny nose, cough, or nasal congestion. Neither the flu shot nor the nasal-spray vaccine can give you the flu.

Every year, US CDC works closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), health care providers, state and local health departments, and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for all flu vaccines. CDC and FDA both share responsibility for monitoring the safety of vaccines and ensuring systems are in place to promptly detect unexpected health problems following vaccination.

For more information, visit or