Friday, February 27, 2015

New Director Appointed at Maine CDC; Department Names Chief Health Officer

On February 25, 2015, Kenneth Albert was appointed to the position of Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention by Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Mary Mayhew. Ken joined State government in March 2012 as the Director of the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services.  Before joining DHHS, he practiced law for several years, specializing in health law, regulatory and compliance law, and professional licensing.  In addition, he led compliance efforts in a large health care organization, developing a new compliance program for several business lines.

Ken's healthcare career began as a traveling nurse before moving on to a variety of management positions, including time as the Manager of Emergency Services at Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC); as the Administrator of a Health Center; and as the Lewiston Site Manager for LifeFlight of Maine.  Ken earned a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing at the University of Southern Maine and a law degree at the University of Maine School of Law.

Kenneth Albert

Dr. Sheila Pinette has been named the Department's Chief Health Officer, a position entirely focused on clinical outcomes in various populations through engagement of key public and private health system participants across the state. Dr. Pinette will continue to build upon her established relationship with the media and the public, providing expert information about various diseases and other public health concerns. In addition, Dr. Pinette will work across the provider community to support the Department's vision of integrated physical and behavioral health care.

Rare Disease Day

In the U.S., any disease affecting fewer than 200,000 people is considered rare. There are nearly 7,000 rare diseases affecting nearly 30 million Americans. In other words, almost one in ten Americans are suffering from rare diseases. 

Recognized annually on the last day of February, Rare Disease Day was established to raise awareness with the public about rare diseases, the challenges encountered by those affected, the importance of research to develop diagnostics and treatments, and the impact of these diseases on patients' lives.
For more information, visit or 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Strep throat and rapid strep tests

People often get sore throats this time of year. Many sore throats are caused by viruses, but it is wise to determine if a sore throat is caused by bacteria. 

The most common bacteria that can cause a sore throat is Group A strep.  Strep throat can lead to inflamed kidneys, neurologic symptoms, scarlet fever, or rheumatic heart disease if left untreated (i.e. painful, inflamed joints, a rash, bloody urine, abnormal involuntary movements, and possible damage to the heart valves). 

Health care providers should consider the following clinical questions:
  1. Is there a fever (typically greater than 102)?
  2. Does the patient have tender anterior cervical adenopathy?
  3. Does the patient have no cough or a dry cough and/or mild upper respiratory symptoms?
  4. Does the patient have a red, painful throat, with enlarged tonsils with or without white exudates or red spots on the roof of the mouth?
  5. Has the patient been exposed to anyone known to be positive for strep throat?
Physical exam and history alone are not enough to determine if a sore throat is caused by a bacteria or a virus.  While a rapid strep test administered at the point of care can detect Group A strep in 5 minutes, rapid tests do not detect every case of Group A strep or other strains of strep throat. A negative rapid strep test does not guarantee strep throat is not present.  

A throat culture should be the next step, which will take approximately 48 hours for a result.  In the meantime, health care providers may choose to treat empirically with antibiotics for those who have more than 3 out of 5 risk factors or to monitor until the culture returns for those who have 2 or fewer risk factors. If the culture returns negative, then antibiotics can be stopped.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Heart attack and stroke: Do you know what to do?

A heart attack or a stroke can happen to anyone at any time.  1,145 Maine people died from a heart attack and stroke in 2011.  The best thing you can do for someone having a heart attack or stroke is call 911 immediately.

Heart Attack 
A heart attack happens when the blood flow to the heart is greatly reduced or completely blocked.  On average, there is a death caused by heart attack about every minute in the United States.  Most people do not know the symptoms of a heart attack and know to call 911.  These symptoms include:
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest, jaw, neck, back, arms or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak, lightheaded, faint or sweaty
A stroke happens when the blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked.  This year almost 800,000 Americans of all ages will suffer stroke, which is the fourth leading cause of death in the country.  Most people do not know the symptoms of a stroke and to call 911.  These symptoms include sudden:
  • Numbness in the face, arm or leg
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Severe headache
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
SCA happens when the heart stops beating without any warning.  When this happens, blood flow stops to the brain and other body organs.  If not treated within minutes, the person will die. 

The best way to get the heart pumping again quickly before help arrives is to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).  It works by sending an electric shock to the heart to try and restore its normal rhythm.  They are safe, easy to use, and can be lifesaving. 

Be Prepared
Only skilled medical professionals can determine if someone is having a heart attack, stroke or sudden cardiac arrest.  Your responsibility is to recognize the symptoms and act quickly.  You can help to prepare yourself by taking a CPR/AED course that can teach you critical skills needed to respond and manage these medical emergencies until emergency medical services arrive.  These courses are offered by Maine Adult EducationAmerican Heart Association, and American Red Cross.

For more information about heart attack and stroke visit:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Public health workforce

Maine CDC and the Hanley Center for Health Leadership have been working together and with many organizations statewide and across the New England region to focus on improving the capacity, knowledge, and performance of Maine's current and future public health workforce. The goal is to develop highly engaged and skilled workforce to lead Maine's efforts to accomplish its public health goals.

Shifting priorities in public health, changes in the delivery of health care, and rapidly evolving technology have driven the need for workforce and capacity development. A comprehensive Public Health Workforce Development Plan has been drafted for Maine CDC. The final version of the plan is expected to be available by April 2015. One element of this plan is the creation and sharing of a series of online educational training sessions. The first four trainings are now available; the topics are: Foundations of Public Health,Bedbugs; Drinking Water and Public Wells; and Lyme Disease. Many additional trainings will be made available over the next year and ongoing.

Public health and other health professionals are encouraged to participate in this program. To access the trainings, go to, choose Create a New Account and follow the simple instructions on how to register. Along with the presentation and quiz questions, an evaluation form and certificate of completion are also available online. Feedback is welcome and encouraged, as it will be used to inform future trainings and to ensure that all trainings are as useful and as effective as possible.

For more information about this program, please e-mail We look forward to your participation and feedback.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


The United States is currently experiencing a large, multi-state outbreak of measles linked to an amusement park in California. The last confirmed case of measles in Maine was in 1997. 

On January 23, 2015, US CDC issued a Health Advisory to notify public health departments and healthcare facilities about the multi-state outbreak and to provide guidance for healthcare providers nationwide (

Measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles can cause serious health complications, such as pneumonia or encephalitis, and even death. Children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are at high risk of getting a serious case of measles. About 1 in 4 unvaccinated people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized; about 1 in 500 may die.

Guidance for healthcare providers
  • Ensure all patients are up to date on measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.
  • Consider measles in patients presenting with febrile rash illness and clinically compatible measles symptoms (cough, coryza, and conjunctivitis), and ask patients about recent travel internationally or to domestic venues frequented by international travelers, as well as a history of measles exposures in their communities.
  • Promptly isolate patients with suspected measles to avoid disease transmission and immediately report the suspect measles case to the health department.
  • Obtain specimens for testing from patients with suspected measles, including viral specimens for genotyping, which can help determine the source of the virus. Contact the local health department with questions about submitting specimens for testing.
For more information, go to