Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lyme disease data

The Maine Tracking Network now includes Lyme disease data.

As the third most commonly reported infectious disease in Maine, Lyme disease poses a significant health risk to people in all parts of Maine. The availability of Lyme disease data on the Maine Tracking Network will raise awareness of the disease and help promote primary prevention of the disease and recognition of the signs of early-stage Lyme disease.

The Maine Tracking Network is a web-based data portal that lets users explore some of Maine's public health data and create customized reports, by geographic area, time period, age group, etc., using analysis and visualization tools.

Maine Tracking Network now has data for 10 public health topics, including asthma, childhood lead poisoning, heart attack, carbon monoxide poisoning, and birth outcomes. Lyme disease data were made available on the network after many months of work and collaboration between members of Maine CDC’s Divisions of Environmental Health, Public Health Systems, and Infectious Disease.

These data can be accessed at: For direct access to the Maine Tracking Network:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Folic Acid Awareness

January 6-12 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Adequate folic acid intake is important for the prevention of birth defects.

Facts About Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin. Our bodies use it to make new cells. Everyone needs folic acid.

US 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.

Why folic acid is so important

Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine (anencephaly and spina bifida).

When to start taking folic acid

For folic acid to help prevent some major birth defects, a woman needs to start taking it at least one month before she becomes pregnant and while she is pregnant.

Every woman needs folic acid every day, whether she’s planning to get pregnant or not, for the healthy new cells the body makes daily. Think about the skin, hair, and nails. These – and other parts of the body – make new cells each day.

How a woman can get enough folic acid

There are two easy ways to be sure to get enough folic acid each day:

1. Take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day.

Most multivitamins sold in the United States have the amount of folic acid women need each day. Women can also choose to take a small pill (supplement) that has only folic acid in it each day.

Multivitamins and folic acid pills can be found at most local pharmacy, grocery, or discount stores. Check the label to be sure it contains 100% of the daily value (DV) of folic acid, which is 400 micrograms (mcg).

2. Eat a bowl of breakfast cereal that has 100% of the daily value of folic acid every day.

Not every cereal has this amount. Check the label on the side of the box, and look for one that has “100%” next to folic acid.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Birth Defects Prevention

January 2013 is National Birth Defects Prevention Month! The theme is "Birth defects are common, costly, and critical.”

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States and are a leading cause of infant mortality. Put another way, Every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect. Major birth defects are conditions present at birth that cause structural changes in one or more parts of the body. They can have a serious, adverse effect on health, development, or functional ability. Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges. Medical care and support services only scrape the surface of the financial and emotional impact of living with birth defects.

Not all birth defects can be prevented. But, a woman can increase her own chances of having a healthy baby, by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant. This is important because many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Here are some steps a woman can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy The good news is awareness efforts offer hope for reducing the number of birth defects in the future:
  • consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily
  • manage chronic maternal illnesses such as diabetes, seizure disorders, or phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • talk to a health care provider about taking any medications, both prescription and over-the-counter
  • avoid alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs
  • see a health care provider regularly
  • avoid toxic substances at work or at home
  • ensure protection against domestic violence
  • know their family history and seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate
Research and Tracking:
Accurately tracking birth defects is the first step in preventing them and reducing their effect. Birth defects tracking systems are vital to help us find out where and when birth defects occur and who they affect. This gives us important clues about preventing birth defects and allows us to evaluate our efforts. We base our research on what we learn from tracking. By analyzing the data collected, we can identify factors that increase or decrease the risk of birth defects and identify community or environmental concerns that need more study. In addition, research helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) answer critical questions about the causes of many of these birth defects.