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08/17/2018 17:30 EDT
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07/27/2018 17:30 EDT
The following statement can be attributed to Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health: "As a part of our commitment to patient safety, Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) staff were at Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children's Hospital day and...
07/27/2018 15:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and RI Defeats Hep C invite all Rhode Islanders to attend the 'C is for Cure' WaterFire lighting on July 28th – World Hepatitis Day – to rally support to eliminate hepatitis C in Rhode Island. The lighting will take place at 8 p.m. in downtown...
07/25/2018 16:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with Roosevelt Lake (part of the Roger Williams Park Ponds) and Mashapaug Pond in Providence due to blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) blooms. Blue-green algae can...
07/24/2018 13:00 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Pepperidge Farm is recalling four varieties of Goldfish crackers. A seasoning that is applied to these crackers has been the subject of a recall due to the potential presence of Salmonella. The products were distributed...
07/23/2018 16:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Mondelez Global is recalling certain Ritz Cracker Sandwiches and Ritz Bits product. These products contain whey powder as an ingredient, which the whey powder supplier has recalled due to the potential presence of Salmonella.
07/20/2018 14:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is coordinating directly with Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children's Hospital leadership, and is working closely with healthcare providers and healthcare facilities throughout the state to ensure that safe, quality care continues to be delivered...
07/19/2018 10:00 EDT
The Precautionary Boil Water Advisory that had been in place for Wilbur and McMahon School in Little Compton has been lifted. The system was required to issue a Precautionary Boil Water Advisory because it was performing pump repairs. Before consuming water from this system again, people should...
07/16/2018 16:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with water from Central Pond, Turner Reservoir, Omega Pond, and the portion of Ten Mile River that flows from Turner Reservoir to Omega Pond in East...
07/13/2018 16:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) recommends closing Goddard Park State Beach in Warwick for swimming because of high bacteria counts. When a beach closure is recommended, water quality analysis is conducted by RIDOH's laboratory or a state-certified laboratory. The status of a beach
07/13/2018 15:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Turner Reservoir in East Providence due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins,...
07/13/2018 14:00 EDT
The Precautionary Boil Water Advisory that had been in place for Church Woods (Charlestown) has been lifted. The system was required to issue a Precautionary Boil Water Advisory because it lost pressure. Before consuming water from this system again, people should clean and sanitize...
07/09/2018 13:15 EDT
Rhode Island's updated pain management regulations now require healthcare providers who are writing opioid prescriptions: 1. to have a conversation with their patients on the risks of taking an opioid prescription, 2. indicate the diagnosis code(s) on the prescription. 3. to co-prescribe...
06/29/2018 14:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) urges all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves against the elevated heat indexes forecasted for the coming week with a few simple health precautions. Heat indexes above 90 degrees are expected from Sunday through the 4th of July. "Extreme heat can...
06/28/2018 13:45 EDT
The Wilbur and McMahon School, located at 28 Commons in Little Compton, is required to issue a precautionary boil water notice to its customers because the water system is performing pump repairs. Customers should boil vigorously for at least one minute all water used for human consumption,...
06/27/2018 15:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Almy Pond in Newport and Melville Ponds in Portsmouth due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can...
06/27/2018 12:30 EDT
Results from a comprehensive youth health survey released today suggest that middle and high school students in Rhode Island have made improvements in health behaviors over the past 10 years in many areas, including seat belt use, sexual activity, and alcohol and illegal prescription drug use....
06/26/2018 16:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Health Professional Loan Repayment Board announced $680,000 in loan repayment awards today aimed at strengthening the healthcare workforce and narrowing health disparities in Rhode Island by increasing the number of providers in medically...

Last Year's News

RIDOH Detects Increase in Viral Illness throughout the State; Urges Rhode Islanders to Take Precautions to Prevent the Spread of Disease

01-09-2017

Disease surveillance systems at the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) have detected an increase in viral respiratory and gastrointestinal illness over the past several days. This is not unexpected for this time of year; however, the Department is urging all Rhode Islanders to help prevent the spread of viral illnesses like the flu and norovirus by practicing good personal protection measures.

To help keep yourself and your family healthy this winter:

- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and warm water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.

- Sneeze and cough into your elbow.

- If you are sick, stay home from work, school, or childcare.

- If you are a food handler, healthcare worker, or child care worker and are vomiting or have diarrhea, you must stay home until symptoms have stopped for at least 48 hours.

- Do not share utensils, water bottles, or other personal items. Many germs that cause viral illness are spread through saliva.

- Wipe down common items like phones, keyboards, door knobs, and railings with a disinfectant that contains bleach. You can also use a solution of 5-25 tablespoons of bleach to one gallon of water.

- If you have not already done so, get your annual flu shot! Flu activity is increasing in Rhode Island, and a flu shot is the easiest and most effective way to help prevent the flu.

"While we expect to see an increase in viral illnesses at this time of year, we know hospital emergency departments are experiencing an increase in patients with respiratory and gastrointestinal illness," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "It is important to protect yourself from getting sick whenever possible, by following the tips to best take care of you and your family this winter."

Many viral illnesses need to run their course and require staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest. Antibiotics fight bacterial infections and will not cure illnesses caused by a virus. If you are sick enough to seek medical care and your problem is not life-threatening or risking disability, you may be able to call your doctor or schedule an urgent visit for care instead of going directly to the emergency department.

'Widespread Flu' in Rhode Island Prompts Activation of Masking Requirement

01-11-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced today that the flu is "widespread" in Rhode Island, triggering the state's requirement for unvaccinated healthcare workers in hospitals and many other types of healthcare facilities to wear surgical masks.

"The masking requirement is critical in protecting healthcare workers from catching the flu, and also in protecting patients who are often dealing with other serious health issues," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "For people who have not been vaccinated yet, it is not too late. Flu vaccine is the best way to keep yourself and the people you love safe from the flu."

The healthcare facilities and organization to which this regulation applies are:

- Adult day care programs

- Assisted living facilities

- CVS Minute Clinics

- Free-standing ambulatory care surgical centers

- Free-standing emergency care facilities

- Home care providers

- Home nursing care providers

- Hospice providers

- Hospitals

- Kidney treatment centers

- Nursing facilities

- Organized ambulatory care facilities

- Physician ambulatory surgery centers

Healthcare workers in these facilities must wear surgical masks when involved in direct patient contact. Direct patient contact is considered routinely anticipated face-to-face contact with patients, such as entering a patient's room, serving food to patients, or participating in group patient activities.

In addition to the healthcare workers in these facilities, all licensed EMS practitioners who have not been vaccinated against the flu must wear masks when engaged in direct patient contact.

Everyone older than 6 months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. In addition to healthcare workers, vaccination is particularly important for pregnant women, people over the age of 50, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions (such as heart, lung, or kidney disease; diabetes, asthma, anemia, blood disorders, or weakened immune systems).

Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, head and body aches, fatigue, and runny nose. Some people also have vomiting and diarrhea.

Flu shots are available at doctors' offices and pharmacies throughout Rhode Island.

North Providence and East Providence Police Departments Expanding Police Access to Naloxone

02-06-2017

As part of a coordinated, statewide effort to address Rhode Island's drug overdose crisis, the North Providence and East Providence Police Departments are working to get naloxone to other municipal police departments whose officers are currently not equipped with the overdose rescue medication.

"Naloxone is an essential tool in our work to prevent overdoses and save lives, but it can only work if it is in the hands of first responders and others whose swift action can mean the difference between life and death," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "I want to thank the North Providence and East Providence Police Departments for exemplifying the kind of collaboration we need to tackle the overdose epidemic in Rhode Island."

Expanding access to naloxone is the focus of the rescue strategy of the action plan developed by Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. The other three focus areas of the plan are prevention, treatment, and recovery. The Task Force's goal is to reduce overdose deaths by one-third within three years.

In early January the North Providence and East Providence Police Departments first offered to purchase naloxone for the police departments in 10 cities and towns that were not equipping their officers with naloxone. Seven police departments (Johnston, Lincoln, Narragansett, East Greenwich, New Shoreham, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket), along with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM)'s Division of Enforcement, have since accepted the offer.

Funding from North Providence and East Providence for naloxone is coming from settlement money awarded to the cities by Google after a 2011 investigation into its advertising practices. This money has helped the Rhode Island State Police acquire naloxone since 2014.

"We are thrilled to be able to step up to the plate and help save lives in cities and towns whose police departments do not have naloxone," said North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi. "We will take advantage of any opportunity to help throughout the state."

"The overdose issue is affecting all of Rhode Island," said Colonel Christopher Parella, Chief of the East Providence Police Department. "We have to come together as a state, which means pooling resources and expertise, whenever possible, to save every life that we can. We are proud that East Providence will be able to help other police departments make sure that their officers are carrying naloxone."

Like many states across the country, Rhode Island is experiencing a spike in fentanyl-related overdose deaths. Naloxone can reverse a fentanyl overdose. However, more than three doses are often needed.

Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and Rebecca Boss, Acting Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH) reached out to the chiefs of the 10 police departments without naloxone and urged them to act on the offer from North Providence and East Providence. Dr. Alexander-Scott and Director Boss are the co-chairs of Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

In addition, RIDOH and BHDDH have placed naloxone in the community through targeted street outreach by peer recovery coaches. RIDOH and BHDDH have also coordinated with the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (DOC) to ensure that its staff are equipped with naloxone and that inmates receive naloxone upon release.

The offer from the North Providence and East Providence Police Departments comes as health insurers in Rhode Island are now required to cover at least one form of generic naloxone for both patients and third parties (such as individuals who are concerned that a family member or friend is at risk of an overdose). This requirement is the result of legislation that passed in 2016. The legislation was sponsored by Senator Joshua Miller and Representative David Bennett.

At least 307 people died of drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island in 2016. Drug overdoses claimed 290 lives in Rhode Island in 2015.

Expanded Hours for Free, Rapid HIV Tests on February 7th: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

02-06-2017

As a part of work toward Rhode Island's ambitious 90-90-90 HIV testing and treatment targets, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is encouraging people to take advantage of expanded hours for free, anonymous HIV testing on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Tuesday, February 7th.

Testing will take place on February 7th from noon until 7 p.m. at AIDS Project Rhode Island (APRI)'s office at 9 Pleasant Street in Providence. No appointments are required, and all are welcome to be tested. The rapid tests that will be done do not require blood to be drawn, and results are available in 20 minutes. (Testing is available year round at APRI, either by appointment or during walk-in hours on Tuesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)

The targets of the 90-90-90 campaign are that by 2020, 90% of all HIV-infected Rhode Islanders will know their HIV status, 90% of all HIV-infected Rhode Islanders will be in care and receiving treatment, and 90% of all HIV-infected Rhode Islanders will have suppressed viral loads. In December 2015, Rhode Island and Providence became the first state-city partnership to join the international 90-90-90 campaign.

"90-90-90 is a pivotal campaign that establishes clear metrics to evaluate our work to get as many people as possible tested for HIV, and to ensure that people who have HIV are seeing their doctors and are taking their medications," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a great opportunity for Rhode Island as state to narrow a significant health disparity, and for individual Rhode Islanders to get tested, know their status, and get connected to vital medical care."

Between 2011 and 2015, African Americans in Rhode Island accounted for 20% of newly identified cases of HIV, despite representing only 7% of the state's population. The rates of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men is 90 times higher than the rate for heterosexual men and women, and African American men who have sex with men are at an even greater risk.

The disparity of newly-identified cases of HIV infection among African Americans is not unique to Rhode Island. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that African Americans have the largest burden of HIV of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States. More information about HIV among African Americans is available online.

Everyone should get tested for HIV at least once in their life. People with certain risk factors should be tested more frequently. Men who have sex with men should be tested at least once a year, along with people who have multiple sex partners, people who use injection drugs, and people who have sought treatment for or been diagnosed with another sexually transmitted disease.

APRI will also be offering free and anonymous testing for Hepatitis C and syphilis. Staff will be available to provide assistance in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

In addition to APRI, free, rapid testing is available through AIDS Care Ocean State and Project Weber/RENEW.

Rhode Island Releases Nation's First Statewide Standards for Treating Overdose and Opioid Use in Hospitals and Emergency Settings

03-08-2017

Leadership from hospitals and emergency departments throughout Rhode Island joined Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force today to release a first-in-the-nation set of statewide guidelines to save lives by ensuring consistent, comprehensive care for opioid-use disorder in emergency and hospital settings.

"Ensuring that people who are living with the disease of addiction get the same high-quality care at hospitals and emergency departments throughout Rhode Island is essential to preventing overdoses and saving lives," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "My heart breaks for each and every person who has lost a loved one to this epidemic. We need to come together as families, as communities, and as a state to give people who are living with addictions the resources and support they need. Change is possible, healing is possible, and recovery is never out of reach."

In addition to establishing a common foundation for treating opioid-use disorder and overdose in Rhode Island hospitals and emergency departments, the standards establish a three-level system of categorization that defines each hospital and emergency department's current capacity to treat opioid-use disorder. All emergency departments and hospitals in Rhode Island will be required to meet the criteria for Level 3 facilities. As a facility's capacity to treat opioid-use disorder develops, that facility can apply for a higher designation.

Hospitals and emergency departments will be categorized based on initial self-assessments and follow-up evaluations by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH).

Sample requirements for a Level 3 facility (all Rhode Island emergency departments and hospitals):

- Dispense naloxone to all patients at risk

- Educate all patients who are prescribed opioids on safe storage and disposal

- Provide comprehensive discharge planning to people who overdose

- Screen all patients for substance-use disorder

- Report all overdoses within 48 hours to RIDOH

- Offer peer recovery support services

Sample requirement for a Level 2 facility:

- Maintain capacity for the evaluation and treatment of opioid-use disorder

Sample requirement for a Level 1 facility:

- Maintain a "Center of Excellence" where patients can receive buprenorphine treatment for opioid-use disorder

The standards were developed by members of Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, which is co-chaired by Rebecca Boss, Acting Director of BHDDH, and Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of Health. The standards were also developed with input from hospitals and emergency departments throughout the state. Leadership from several hospitals, including Butler Hospital, the Miriam Hospital, and Kent Hospital, attended today's Task Force meeting to show their support for the standards.

"The hallmarks of quality patient care in any individual healthcare facility are consistency, continuity, and coordination," said Gary Bubly, MD, FACEP, Medical Director of the Miriam Hospital's Department of Emergency Medicine. "Rhode Island is applying these principles at a statewide level in a way that will profoundly shift how opioid-use disorder is treated. These standards are a model that can be replicated in states across the country that we hope will prevent overdoses and save lives."

"The development of these standards by Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force will ensure that best practices in the treatment of opioid use disorder are replicated at Butler and at each hospital throughout Rhode Island," said Lawrence Price, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer of Butler Hospital. "A public health issue as significant as the overdose crisis demands this kind of careful coordination throughout the state."

The requirement that all Level 3 hospitals and emergency departments provide comprehensive discharge planning stems from the 2016 Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Golder Law. The structure and support included in a discharge plan are intended to help an individual who has overdosed not do so again. For example, a discharge plan could include patient education, connection to a peer recovery specialist, contact with a primary care provider, and contact with the patient's emergency contact. Alexander C. Perry (the son of former Senator Rhoda Perry) and Brandon Goldner (the son of Barbara and Brian Goldner, the CEO of Hasbro) had both visited emergency departments because of substance-use disorder issues prior to their fatal overdoses. The bill's lead sponsors were Senator Josh Miller and Representative David Bennett.

At least 329 Rhode Islanders died of drug overdoses in 2016. Although Rhode Island has seen a steady decline in the number of overdose deaths caused by prescription medication, the state has seen sharp increases in overdoses caused by the synthetic opioid fentanyl. In 2016, approximately 57% of Rhode Island's overdoses involved fentanyl, compared to 47% in 2015 and 35% in 2014.

The complete standards, titled Levels of Care for Rhode Island Emergency Departments and Hospitals for Treating Overdose and Opioid Use Disorder, are available online.

People can call 401-942-STOP to receive treatment and recovery support.

People with Special Healthcare Needs and all Rhode Islanders Urged to Prepare for and Stay Healthy During Winter Storm

03-13-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) urges anyone with a special healthcare need to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry (RISNER) in advance of the coming winter storm.

Enrolling in RISNER does not guarantee assistance, but it does allow local and state emergency officials to plan for, respond to, and care for Rhode Islanders with disabilities, chronic conditions, and other special healthcare needs in an emergency, such as large winter storms and hurricanes.

People who use life-sustaining equipment that need electricity should contact their electricity provider and inform them of their specific needs, if they haven't already done so.

Who should enroll?

Any Rhode Islander, regardless of age, who has a chronic condition, disability, special healthcare need, or may require additional assistance during an emergency. Specific examples of people who should enroll include:

- People on home oxygen, a respirator, ventilator, dialysis, pacemaker, or who are insulin dependent;

- People with mobility issues (e.g., use a wheelchair, walker, or cane);

- People who are visually impaired, blind, hard of hearing, or Deaf;

- People who use assistive animals or prosthesis.

How to enroll?

Visit www.health.ri.gov/emregistry to enroll online. A printable form is also available on the website and can be submitted by mail. People who do not have access to computers can call 2-1-1 and a United Way representative will assist with enrollment. (Individuals can also enroll in Spanish.)

If someone cannot complete the enrollment form for him or herself, a family member or caregiver can enroll that individual. Strict confidentiality is maintained at all times and only emergency management and response agencies have access to the information in RISNER.

Additionally, all Rhode Islanders are urged to take specific steps to stay healthy and safe during the winter storm:

Snow Shoveling

- Talk to your doctor if you have a history of heart trouble to make sure it is safe for you to shovel snow.

- Take it slow - pace yourself and take breaks. Stop if you feel tired or feel tightness in your chest.

- Don't pick up too much snow at once. Use a smaller shovel, or only fill the shovel part way if you use a large shovel.

- Push the snow as you shovel- ”it is easier on your back.

- Protect your back. Bend from the knees, and lift with your legs bent. Stand with your feet about hip width apart for good balance, and keep the shovel close to your body.

- Drink plenty of water.

- Dress warmly, and dress in several layers so you can remove a layer if needed.

Extreme Cold

- The elderly are especially susceptible to extremely cold temperatures. Check on elderly friends, family, or neighbors frequently.

- Dress warmly, even if you are just making a short trip to the mailbox. If you fall or a door locks behind you, you could be exposed for a longer period of time than you planned.

- Dress warmly even when you are inside- ”especially if you do not move a lot.

- Remove clothing if it gets damp or wet. Wet clothing can make you more prone to hypothermia.

Power outages

- If the power goes out, you can store food outside safely when the outside temperature is below 45- °F. Place your food in a shady spot away from direct sunlight and in a container.

- Never use a gas range or oven to heat your house and do not use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern or portable camping stove inside your house.

- If you need to use a generator, make sure it is properly installed and vented.

RIDOH Celebrates Three Communities for Preventing Youth Tobacco Use

03-15-2017

In observance of national Kick Butts Day, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is recognizing teenagers and leaders in three communities for their work over the last year to pass local requirements aimed at keeping youth from accessing tobacco products in all forms, preventing nicotine addiction, and protecting youth from tobacco-related death and disease.

"Big tobacco continues to shamelessly target youth and lower income communities with their dangerous, highly addictive products," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "The brave, inspired students who worked with their governments in Central Falls, West Warwick, and Woonsocket to pass these measures have demonstrated their might in standing up to these companies and in helping to ensure that no one's health in Rhode Island is determined by his or her zip code."

In Central Falls, West Warwick, and Woonsocket, groups of high school students worked with lawmakers to research how youth are lured to tobacco use through marketing, pricing, promotions, and product placements in retail store settings; how tobacco products in kid-friendly flavors mainly appeal to children and teens (such as grape, cherry, bubble gum, and more); and how teens and children had been able to access tobacco products in their communities.

Based on their findings, Central Falls, West Warwick, and Woonsocket now require retailers to have local licenses to sell tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Additionally, each community's policy includes unique provisions to address local concerns. For example:

- Woonsocket has banned all flavored tobacco products.

- West Warwick has banned "buy-one-get-one-free" tobacco promotions and requires all tobacco products to be placed behind sales counters.

- Central Falls has banned all flavored tobacco product sales. Additionally, the city has become the first municipality in Rhode Island to make 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products and has restricted the number of tobacco retailers and their proximity to schools.

Rhode Island's youth cigarette smoking rate dropped from 8% in 2013 to 4.8% in 2015. However, emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, hookahs, and flavored cigars threaten to reverse these gains. In 2015, 27% of high school teens in Rhode Island reported using a tobacco product of any kind. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and in Rhode Island, with an estimated 1,800 people dying from a tobacco-related illnesses in the state each year.

"At the current rate, 5.6 million children alive today across the United States will die prematurely of tobacco related illness- ”with 16,000 of them from Rhode Island," said Daniel Fitzgerald, a National Youth Advocate for the Truth Initiative and a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Prevention Fellow at the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH). "Tobacco addiction takes hold in the teenage years. Nearly 90% of all adult smokers started smoking before age 19. Helping teens stay away from tobacco is the best way to prevent a lifetime of tobacco addiction, disease and death."

Due to this week's inclement weather, the 4th Annual Kick Butts Day Zombie Walk through Downtown Providence and the Statehouse that was scheduled for today was postponed to a later date. More than 200 Rhode Island high school teens were expected to take part to raise awareness about tobacco and nicotine health harms to youth and to educate the public about how to prevent youth from accessing tobacco products.

The national Kick Butts Day observance is sponsored by the national Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids to give youth the opportunity to take a stand against tobacco in creative ways.

Updated Opioid Use Regulations Take Effect in Rhode Island

04-17-2017

Updated regulations intended to make the prescribing of opioids more judicious and safe in Rhode Island are now in effect, marking the implementation of a major component of the Strategic Plan developed by Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

"These updated pain management regulations focus on dosing limitations to help reshape how we as healthcare providers had been taught how to approach opioid therapy, and to make sure that we're only prescribing what's actually needed for the treatment of acute pain," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). "While we work to minimize unnecessary prescribing of opioids for acute pain, it is essential that patients' chronic pain needs are appropriately and compassionately treated. Although opioid prescribing in Rhode Island decreased by 16% between 2013 and 2015, which was the largest drop in the nation, the regulations were updated to ensure that acute pain and chronic pain are treated differently."

These updates do not affect the long-term treatment being received by patients with chronic pain. Examples of patients receiving chronic pain treatment include patients with cancer-associated pain diagnoses and patients in palliative/nursing home care. Just as a patient with diabetes would not be abruptly removed from diabetes medication, a patient receiving opioids for chronic pain should not be removed too abruptly from pain medication, but transitioned in a way that is safe for the patient to an acceptable alternative over time. Acute pain is pain that comes on quickly and usually does not last longer than a few days, weeks, or months. Examples of causes of acute pain include dental work, a broken bone, and certain back injuries.

Highlights of the updated pain management regulations focusing on acute pain include:

- Requiring that initial prescriptions for acute pain be limited to 20 doses and no more than 30 morphine milligram equivalents per day;

- Prohibiting long-acting or extended-release opioids for initial prescriptions for acute pain;

- Documenting the results of a thorough medical history, developing a treatment plan, and accessing the Rhode Island Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) for relevant prescription monitoring information, all prior to issuing an initial prescription for acute pain; and

- Requiring continuing education training for prescribers on topics such as appropriate prescribing for pain, pharmacology, potential for dependence, and alternatives to opioids for pain management.

RIDOH's original pain management regulations were developed in 2015. The work of updating these regulations falls within the prevention strategy of the Governor's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force's Strategic Plan. The other three focus areas of the plan are treatment, rescue, and recovery. The goal of the Strategic Plan is to reduce the number of overdose deaths in Rhode Island by one-third within three years.

RIDOH began work on updating the state's pain management regulations after the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a law requiring tighter regulations on opioid prescribing. The lead sponsors of this bill were Representative David Bennett and Senator Joshua Miller. Before promulgating these updated regulations, RIDOH opened up a public comment period to hear from healthcare providers, community advocates, and the public.

To support the implementation of these updated regulations, RIDOH and Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School will offer education sessions in May. Providers will learn more about how to appropriately prescribe opioids and consider interdisciplinary approaches to treating patients with pain.

Substance-use disorder should be treated as a life-long disease, and substance-use disorder related to opioid use is no different. A greater level of compassion and understanding are called for when patients with opioid-use disorder transition from pain management medication to alternative treatment. Rhode Island offers alternative treatment options for opioid use disorder, including outpatient programs through the Rhode Island Centers of Excellence. The six Centers throughout the state provide Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), counseling, peer support, and vocational counseling. A local recovery hotline is also available to connect individuals in crisis with treatment and recovery support. People can call 401-942-STOP (7867) to receive treatment and recovery support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. English and Spanish-speaking counselors who are licensed in chemical-dependency are available.

Flu No Longer Widespread in Rhode Island

04-26-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has alerted healthcare providers that the flu is no longer widespread in Rhode Island, which means that healthcare workers who have not been immunized against the flu are no longer required to wear surgical masks during direct patient contact.

The flu had been declared widespread in Rhode Island on January 11, 2017. Widespread is the highest tier in the five-tier system that RIDOH uses to categorize flu activity in the state.

"Although the flu is no longer widespread in Rhode Island, it is still present in the state. Anyone who has not been vaccinated yet should be vaccinated as soon as possible," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "When you get a flu shot, you are not just protecting yourself. You are also protecting the ones you love by preventing the spread of the flu."

Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone older than 6 months of age. It is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, senior citizens, young children, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and asthma.

Although the masking requirement has been lifted for healthcare workers, should a flu outbreak occur in an individual healthcare facility, the Director of Health may require unvaccinated healthcare workers in that facility to wear masks when engaged in direct patient contact.

The March of Dimes Celebrates Rhode Island for Reductions in Preterm Birth Rate

05-01-2017

The March of Dimes presented Rhode Island with its Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Leadership Award at a ceremony this morning for the state's dramatic reduction in the rate of preterm births, a health issue closely tied to brain, lung, hearing, and vision issues in newborns.

Rhode Island's preterm birth rate fell from 9.6% in 2010 to 8.6% in 2015, a 10% drop. The national preterm birth average for 2015 was 9.6%.

"We are pleased to recognize the commitment, leadership, and collaboration required to reduce the rate of prematurity in Rhode Island. We are fully aware of the complexity of this issue and applaud the state for its notable accomplishment," said Jordana Frost, Maternal and Child Health Director for the March of Dimes in Rhode Island.

Despite Rhode Island's progress in reducing its preterm birth rate, disparities still exist. For example, the preterm birth rate among African Americans was 11.4% and it was 9.7% among Latinos. The preterm birth rate among white Rhode Islanders was 8.4%. Nationally, the preterm birth rate among African American women (13%) was about 50 percent higher than the rate of preterm births among white women (9%).

"This award is a testament to the incredible commitment and collaboration that exists throughout Rhode Island among OB-GYNs and other healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, insurers, the Rhode Island Department of Health and other state agencies, community groups, the Rhode Island Task Force on Premature Births, and so many others," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "Moving forward, we need to narrow our focus even more on preterm birth disparities, including those based on race, ethnicity, city or town of residence, and insurance status. Every single baby in Rhode Island absolutely deserves an equal opportunity to have as healthy a start as possible, and to be on a trajectory that will allow them to thrive through childhood and beyond."

"The Rhode Island Task Force on Premature Births includes a variety of groups and projects all aimed at ameliorating various adverse situations that can contribute to preterm birth," said Katharine Wenstrom, MD, chair of the Rhode Island Task Force on Premature Births, director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Women & Infants Hospital, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. "Some are local grass roots projects, some are sponsored by local agencies, and some are headed by the Rhode Island Department of Health, but all are focused on working together in collaboration to share energy and resources, to be as effective as we can be in reducing the preterm birth rate in Rhode Island."

A preterm birth is when labor that starts too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, giving the baby less time to develop in the womb. Preterm babies may have more health problems or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born at full term. Specific complications include breathing problems, low blood pressure, bleeding in the brain, and anemia.

The preterm birth rate in the United States decreased from 2007 to 2014. This decline was in part due to declines in the number of births to teens and young mothers. Data indicate a slight increase in the national preterm birth rate from 2014 to 2015.

The Rhode Island Task Force on Premature Births has been working to address preterm births since 2006, when Rhode Island's preterm birth rate was 12.5%. The work of the Task Force includes expanding access to contraception and working to reduce multiple pregnancies by assisted reproductive technology, which is a major risk factor for preterm births. Other risk factors include an interval of less than six months between pregnancies, smoking cigarettes, using illicit drugs, poor nutrition, stressful life events, and other social and environmental factors.

Another major focus on the Rhode Island Task Force on Premature Births is addressing barriers to access to 17-hydroxyprogesterone, which is also known as 17P. 17P is an evidence-based intervention to help prevent recurrent preterm birth. Barriers to access to 17P include cost, insurance coverage, and availability.

The six other states or territories to receive the Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Leadership Award are Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, and Virginia.

New Data Link Policies that Restrict Tobacco Sales to Lower Rates of Youth Tobacco Use in Providence

05-08-2017

Fewer teenagers report using e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products in Providence than in other cities following Providence's 2013 implementation of strict policies that restrict tobacco sales, according to new data released today by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).

Since July 2013 local tobacco retail licenses have been required in Providence, and the city has restricted the sale of flavored tobacco in retail convenience stores such as gas stations, food markets, and pharmacies. Flavored tobacco products are often available in kid-friendly flavors such as strawberry, grape, bubble gum, and cotton candy. The city also banned tobacco discounting and coupons. Survey data collected in 2016 revealed that:

--3.2% of teenagers in Providence reported using flavored tobacco products within the past 30 days (i.e. current use), while 3.9% reported current use of e-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery devices (ENDS)

--In neighboring Cranston, 7.6% of teens reported current use of flavored tobacco products, while 7.7% reported use of e-cigarettes or ENDS products.

--In Woonsocket, flavored tobacco products were reportedly used by 12.7% of teenagers, while e-cigarettes or ENDS products were used by 14.4% of teenagers.

This is the first time that city-level tobacco use data are being compared in Rhode Island.

"Providence's policies that restrict tobacco sales were very likely a significant factor in the city's lower rate of tobacco use among teenagers," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "By standing up to the big tobacco companies that continue to target youth and lower income communities with their dangerous, highly addictive products, Providence is establishing a model that can be replicated in every other city and town in the state. Every single young person in Rhode Island absolutely deserves an equal opportunity to breathe free and thrive."

"On behalf of the City of Providence, we're pleased to see the impact of our tobacco control efforts, including restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco," said Ellen Cynar, Director of the Providence Healthy Communities Office. "The future of Providence is dependent upon the health of our youth. The more we can reduce Providence youth initiation of tobacco and nicotine products early on, the less likely they are to be addicted down the road."

As one of 10 Health Equity Zones (HEZs) in Rhode Island, Providence has focused on reducing its youth smoking rate. Bristol, another HEZ, recently prohibited smoking and the use of other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on town property. In each HEZ a wide range of organizations and individuals are working together on various projects that are narrowing health disparities by supporting healthy choices and safe living. In addition to tobacco cessation, other HEZs are focusing on preventing chronic diseases, improving birth outcomes, and improving the social and environmental conditions of neighborhoods.

Like other tobacco products, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine use by children and teenagers is particularly harmful because it can damage the developing brain and result in life long addiction. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death, killing 480,000 people in the United States and 1,800 Rhode Islanders each year. Most adult smokers get addicted to deadly tobacco use during adolescence.

Nationally, 24% of high school students report current use of e-cigarettes. Of U.S. middle school and high school tobacco users, 70% had used at least one flavored product in the past 30 days.

While teenage use of some tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars, continues to decline, more young people are turning to other highly addictive tobacco products, like hookahs and ENDS products, which are also available in candy-like and kid-friendly flavors. In a 2014 nationwide study of 12-17 year olds, the majority of those surveyed who ever tried tobacco first used a flavored tobacco product.

In Rhode Island, cigarette use among high school teens declined from 8.0% in 2013 to 4.8% in 2015- ”the lowest youth smoking rates in the country. Despite this reduction, 27.1% of all youth in Rhode Island in 2015 used some type of tobacco product (cigarettes, cigars, smokeless, hookah, or e-cigarettes). In Rhode Island, ENDS products (i.e. e-cigarettes or "vaping" devices) were the most commonly used tobacco product within the prior 30 days (19.3%), followed by hookahs (11.8%). One session of hookah smoking can have the impact of up to 200 cigarettes. Rhode Island youth also reported using, cigars (8.4%), smokeless tobacco (5.3%), and lit cigarettes (4.8%).

Parents and educators should address teen tobacco use immediately and, if needed, contact the child's pediatrician or school nurse for age-appropriate tobacco cessation support.

In Rhode Island, it is illegal to sell any tobacco product to anyone under 18, including e-cigarettes, ENDS products, and customized "vaping" devices, e-liquids, and related components. As of August 2016, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations also ban online sales of all tobacco products to anyone under 18, as well as free sample giveaways and marketing claims related to smoking cessation benefits without prior FDA authorization.

The data being reported today were generated from two surveys conducted of teenagers in 2016, the Rhode Island Student Survey and the Annie E. Casey Evidence to Success Youth Experience Survey.

The Rhode Island Smokers' QuitLine provides free and confidential information and counseling to tobacco users: English: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669); Spanish: 1-800-8-D'‰JALO (1-800-833-5256)

New Study Shows Rhode Islanders' Vulnerability in Hot Weather; Prompts New Actions to Protect Public Health

05-10-2017

A study published today in the journal Environmental Research provides new, local details on the health effects of hot weather on Rhode Islanders and has prompted the National Weather Service (NWS) Northeast Region to update its heat advisory policy.

According to study authors, including Julia Gold, the Manager of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)'s Climate Change and Health Program, hospital emergency department visits and deaths from all causes in Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire increased by 7.5% and 5.1% respectively on days when the heat index reached 95 degrees, as compared to days with a maximum heat index of 75 degrees. The heat index is a combined measure of heat and humidity that quantifies how the weather feels. The study also found that people with pre-existing health conditions in the three states, such as asthma, heart disease, and kidney problems, fared much worse on days when the heat index reaches 95 degrees.

The research, which study authors previously shared with officials at the NWS New England and Regional offices, prompted the NWS Northeast Region to begin issuing heat advisories when the heat index is forecast to reach 95 degrees for any amount of time on two or more consecutive days or 100 degrees for any amount of time on a single day. The previous NWS regional threshold was a maximum daily heat index of 100 for 2 or more consecutive hours. This change was made in December, 2016.

"Like most public health issues, climate change and extreme heat do not affect all communities equally. In addition to Rhode Islanders with pre-existing health conditions, other vulnerable populations include the elderly, people who work outdoors, and people who live in lower income communities," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "As we prepare for and respond to climate change statewide, it is essential that we continue to support this kind of research that allows us to identify burdens and trends and to take specific steps to ensure that everyone in Rhode Island has an equal opportunity to be healthy and safe."

The study, Heat-related morbidity and mortality in New England: Evidence for local policy, was led by Gregory Wellenius from the Brown University School of Public Health. In addition to the Manager of RIDOH's Climate Change and Health Program, the study was co-authored by state public health officials in Maine and New Hampshire. Rhode Island data from 1999 to 2012 were analyzed in the study. The data were extracted from hospital discharge and vital statistics databases.

The study is the first that documents the relationship between heat and health in New England. Nationally, more people die during bouts of extreme heat than from any other type of weather event.

During an average Rhode Island summer, the heat index reaches 90 degrees on 10 days. Climate Solutions New England, an organization that promotes energy self-reliance and weather resilience, predicts that between 2020 and 2099 Rhode Island will experience 13-44 more days above 90 degrees than what would be expected using the current 10-day-a-year average.

Weather-related emergency department visits begin well before the heat advisory threshold is met, according to NSW. For that reason, NWS recommends the use of early, enhanced safety messaging to the public.

In response to that recommendation and the data being made public today, RIDOH has worked to develop new partnerships, communication tools, and outreach strategies. In April, RIDOH and NWS co-hosted an event to share the research of the Northeast Regional Heat Collaborative and explain the new heat advisory policy for New England. (The Northeast Regional Heat Collaborative incudes officials from Brown University and the public health departments in Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, although Vermont data was not analyzed in the study being published today.) Professionals from each New England state participated, including news meteorologists, emergency management professionals, public health officials, and staff from local, regional, and federal agencies.

To stay healthy and safe during extreme heat, people should:

Stay out of the direct sun. Seek shaded or air conditioned areas such as libraries or malls;

Drink plenty of fluids (avoid alcohol and caffeine);

Schedule outdoor events early in the morning when it's cooler;

Pace yourself when you exercise;

Wear light-colored, light-weight clothing. Use hats with brims and sunscreen (SPF 30 or more) for more protection;

Check on friends, family, and neighbors.

Rhode Islanders Urged To Take Precautions to Protect Against Lyme Disease

05-17-2017

With warmer weather and longer days now in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) urge everyone to take precautions to protect against Lyme disease when heading outdoors.

"Our comprehensive approach to Lyme disease in Rhode Island entails getting prevention messaging throughout the state, with a focus on those communities that are most affected by Lyme, while also working to ensure that everyone who is experiencing the symptoms of Lyme disease gets thorough, quality care," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "Using repellent, checking for ticks, and removing ticks will help Rhode Islanders stay healthy and safe while enjoying our state's beautiful wooded areas and parks in the months to come. When it comes to Lyme disease, an ounce of prevention is absolutely worth a pound of cure."

"Promoting enjoyment of Rhode Island's beautiful, historic parks and forestlands are core to our mission," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "We encourage people to get outside and connect with nature. But equally important is doing so safely. Being aware of the risk of Lyme disease and taking precautions to protect yourself against ticks are key while outdoors."

Approximately 900 Rhode Islanders are infected with Lyme disease each year. In 2014, Rhode Island had the fourth highest rate of Lyme disease in the country. Washington County, where there are more wooded and brushy areas with high grass, consistently has the highest rate of Lyme disease in Rhode Island. Ticks that carry Lyme disease are most prevalent in Rhode Island from May through September. In order to transmit Lyme disease to a human being, a ticked has to be attached to the skin for 36 hours or more.

To help protect against Lyme disease, Rhode Islanders should:

- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaves; (If you are going to be in wooded and brushy areas, spray your clothes with Permethrin to keep ticks away);

- Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors;

- Wear light-colored clothing, so that ticks can be more easily identified;

- Tuck your pants into their socks so that ticks do not crawl under clothing;

- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks;

- Check yourself, your family, and your pets daily for ticks, so that if attached, a tick is removed within a 24 hour period, which then makes Lyme disease much less likely;

- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror if you have been in a grassy or wooded area. Parents should check children carefully for ticks, including hidden locations like under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and on the scalp, in hair.

If you find a tick, remove it with fine-tipped tweezers. Deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, can be as small as a poppy seed and difficult to see during the spring and summer months when they have not yet fully developed.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that spread through the bite of an infected tick that has been attached for at least 36 hours. Symptoms of new onset Lyme disease can include fever, a bullseye rash anywhere on the skin, facial or Bell's palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face), severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), pain and swelling in the large joints (such as knees), shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, and heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat. If someone experiences any of these symptoms and has had a tick bite, they should contact their doctor about concerns for Lyme disease.

May is Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Month. Other tick-borne illnesses in Rhode Island are anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Health officials are also concerned about Powassan, a new tick-borne disease to southern New England. While Powassan is extremely rare, it causes brain inflammation and serious illness.

As part of a larger Lyme disease education campaign, RIDOH and DEM have circulated It Only Takes One Bite posters throughout Rhode Island, with a focus on Washington County and Block Island.

Rhode Island Teens "Kick Butts" with Zombie Walk and Mannequin Challenge

05-31-2017

Hundreds of Rhode Island teenagers held a Kick Butts Zombie Walk and mannequin challenge across Providence today to call on leaders to up the age to buy tobacco products in any form to 21, and to take additional steps to help prevent tobacco-related disease and deaths.

The event, which culminated with an awards ceremony at the Rhode Island State House to recognize groups whose education campaigns led to new tobacco use prevention measures in their communities, was held on World No Tobacco Day. The event is an opportunity for teenagers from communities throughout Rhode Island to use their creativity to show how tobacco use can disfigure and kill.

"I commend every one of these teenagers for stepping up and fighting back as big tobacco searches for its next generation of victims," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). "We need to follow their lead and do everything we can to prevent youth tobacco use, with a particular focus on the lower-income communities in Rhode Island where companies continue to push their shameless marketing tactics most aggressively."

"We're thankful to live in a community that stands up to the tobacco industry that preys on kids and teens and made 21 the legal purchase age to tackle the root causes of deadly tobacco and nicotine addiction head-on," said Ronny Jimenez-Severino, 19, of Central Falls, who attended today's event. "Putting a healthy distance between tobacco and teens is the best way to ultimately stop tobacco products from killing more people. Nine out of ten adult smokers first light up as a kid or teen. If the tobacco industry isn't stopped from targeting us, roughly 5.6 million more kids and teens alive today in the United States will one day die from smoking- ”with 16,000 from Rhode Island."

In addition to the need to raise the minimum legal tobacco purchase age to 21-years-old, teenagers at the event focused on the dangers of emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. Flavored tobacco products are often sold in kid-friendly candy flavors that can quickly hook developing adolescent brains on nicotine.

Youth were recognized at the ceremony for their work to pass tobacco policies within the last year in Central Falls, West Warwick, and Bristol.

Central Falls and West Warwick passed local ordinances requiring retailers to be licensed to sell tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Central Falls has banned all flavored tobacco product sales, restricted the number of tobacco retailers (based on population density), restricted tobacco retailers' proximity to schools, and made 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products. Across the United States, more than 140 communities require tobacco customers to be at least 21-years-old. Since 2015, Hawaii and California have made 21 the legal tobacco purchase age. Legislators in other states, including Rhode Island, are considering similar measures.

In April, the Bristol Town Council banned all tobacco use (including e-cigarettes) in all municipal parks and beaches with support from its Parks & Recreation Department, which oversees summer camps for Bristol and Warren and other youth activities. The East Bay Tobacco Youth Council, which includes teens from Bristol, Warren, East Providence, and Barrington, has campaigned in recent years to raise public awareness about the harms of all tobacco products.

Since 2013, Providence has required tobacco retail licenses for all tobacco sales and restricted emerging tobacco products that have been strongly linked to youth tobacco use. Recent RIDOH data have shown reduced rates of flavored tobacco product use and e-cigarette use in Providence among youth. (Providence's rates were two and three times lower than those in Woonsocket and Cranston, which did not have similar restrictions in place when data were collected.)

Central Falls, West Warwick, Bristol, and Providence are all Health Equity Zone (HEZ) communities. In each HEZ a wide range of organizations and individuals are working together on various projects that are narrowing health disparities by supporting healthy choices and safe living. In addition to tobacco cessation, other HEZs are focusing on preventing chronic diseases, improving birth outcomes, and improving the social and environmental conditions of neighborhoods.

Rhode Island's youth cigarette smoking rate dropped from 8% in 2013 to 4.8% in 2015, the lowest in the nation. However, emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and flavored cigarettes threaten to reverse these gains and increase rates of tobacco use for the next generation. Twenty seven percent of high school students in Rhode Island reported using a tobacco product in 2015.

Wednesday's events were sponsored by the national Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Heart Association, Tobacco Free Rhode Island, and RIDOH, with additional support provided by the Truth Initiative and From the R.I.P Productions. In addition to the walk, mannequin challenge, and awards ceremony, the day featured a health education program at the Providence Career & Technical Academy.

World No Tobacco Day is sponsored by the World Health Organization each year on May 31 to increase awareness about tobacco dangers and negative health impacts worldwide. The Rhode Island Teen Zombie Walk is a registered activity with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. More information about teen tobacco use in Rhode Island, the campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and World No Tobacco Day is available online.

Rhode Islanders Reminded to Take Precautions Around Live Poultry; Cluster of Salmonella Cases Being Investigated

06-12-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is investigating a cluster of five cases (four cases in May and one in February) of human illness due to Salmonella Braenderup linked to exposure to backyard chicks. Rhode Islanders are reminded to practice good hygiene around live poultry to protect against the spread of disease. Contact with live poultry and the areas where they live can make people sick with Salmonella. Chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry that look healthy and clean can still carry Salmonella bacteria.

Guidance for people who own live poultry or are around live poultry:

- Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching live poultry, eggs, or anything in the area where poultry live and roam. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.

- Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.

- Children younger than 5 years old, adults older than 65 years old, and people with weakened immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.

- Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.

- Clean any equipment used to care for live poultry outside, such as cages or feed or water containers.

- Do not let live poultry inside your home, especially in kitchens.

- Do not let live poultry in areas where food or drink are prepared, served, or stored.

Additional guidance is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

RIDOH is working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM) to communicate additional messaging to feed stores. This guidance includes recommendations to source birds from suppliers that have adopted the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s best management practices to mitigate Salmonella contamination; to provide health information to customers at the point of purchase; and to provide hand washing stations or hand sanitizer next to poultry display areas.

CDC is investigating eight outbreaks of a variety of strains of Salmonella in 47 states linked to live poultry in backyard flocks.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy people with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. For general information, the public can call RIDOH at 222-5960.

Free and Low-Cost Tests Available in Rhode Island on National HIV Testing Day

06-26-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is joining leading HIV prevention organizations in Rhode Island in urging Rhode Islanders between 13 and 64 years of age to get tested at one of three free or low-cost HIV testing events on Tuesday June 27th, National HIV Testing Day.

Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 years old should be tested for HIV at least one time. People who have unprotected sex or who share injection drug paraphernalia should get tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months).

"These HIV testing events are perfect opportunities for every Rhode Island teenager and adult to learn his or her HIV status and, if need be, get connected to vital medical care," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "As part of our commitment to the 90-90-90 Campaign, our goal is that by 2020, 90% of Rhode Islanders who are infected with HIV know their status, are getting medical care, and have suppressed viral loads. Testing is particularly important in the communities where we see higher rates of HIV, such as among African Americans and Latinos, and in the community of men who have sex with men."

The free or low-cost HIV testing events will be offered at the following locations:

- AIDS Care Ocean State: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.; 557 Broad St., Providence (Walk-in testing or by appointment)

- AIDS Project Rhode Island: 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.; 9 Pleasant St., Providence (Testing services are offered in Spanish and Portuguese too.)

- Project Renew Drop-In Center: 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.; 105 Dodge St., Providence (This testing site is for high-risk women and is located in a basement office at the First Tabernacle Church. Enter in the rear of the building near the pink sign.)

Rhode Islanders who do not have primary care doctors, who do not have insurance, or who may not be able to afford testing may take advantage of free or low-cost HIV testing offered through RIDOH's year-round partnerships with community organizations. A listing of HIV testing sites is available online.

RIDOH Announces Awards to Strengthen Healthcare Workforce and Narrow Health Disparities

06-29-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Health Professionals Loan Repayment Board announced more than $686,000 in loan repayment awards today aimed at strengthening the healthcare workforce and narrowing health disparities in Rhode Island by increasing the number of providers in medically underserved communities.

The awards went to 18 healthcare professionals, including physicians, dentists, nurses, and behavioral health providers. In accepting their loan repayment awards, the recipients have committed to practicing in medically underserved communities in Rhode Island for at least two years.

"The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program is essential to our work to eliminate health disparities by ensuring access to quality health services and care in every zip code in Rhode Island," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of Health and Chair of the Health Professional Loan Repayment Board. "Health and medical education are expensive. This program helps remove barriers for our next generation of healthcare providers, and it also helps us draw the best and brightest to the healthcare workforce in our state."

Funding for the program comes from the federal government and from various health and community organizations. The Rhode Island Health Center Association solicited matching funds from many of these organizations.

"The recruitment and retention of health professionals is essential to having an adequate workforce to provide comprehensive medical services to Rhode Islanders. The loan repayment program is a vital tool which ensures this necessary supply of professionals to deliver care, especially within communities where access can be challenging," said Jane A. Hayward, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association.

Contributions to the Health Professionals Loan Repayment Fund were made by the Rhode Island Foundation ($200,000), Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island ($50,000), the Rhode Island Health Center Association ($50,000), Delta Dental of Rhode Island ($50,000), Landmark Hospital ($50,000), CharterCARE ($50,000), Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island ($30,000), and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan ($25,000). Additionally, $175,000 in federal funding was contributed by U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) through a grant to RIDOH.

More information about the Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program, including a definition of a medically underserved community.

Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program Award Recipients

Blackstone Valley Community Health Center:

Alice Eyo - Registered Nurse

Pedro Ochoa - Dentist

Shannan Victorino - Registered Nurse

Providence Community Health Centers:

Mofoluso Agbelese - Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Beth Cronin - Physician

Jessica Salak - Physician

Emily White - Physician

Rhode Island Department of Corrections:

Jessica Bonanno-Hamel - Independent Clinical Social Worker

Thundermist Health Center:

Yamila Cos - Dentist

Jessica Heney - Physician

Vanessa Krasinski - Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Stephanie Avila - Certified Nurse Midwife

Emily Collier - Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Allison Parkhurst - Marriage and Family Therapist

The Providence Center:

Marol Kerge - Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Emily Phrasikaysone - Registered Nurse

Comprehensive Community Action Program:

Kimberly Stokinger - Physician Assistant

Jason Villa - Physician Assistant

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Melville Pond

07-05-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Melville Pond in Portsmouth due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can harm humans and animals.

People should also be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from the pond. All recreation, including fishing, boating, and kayaking, should be avoided. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins, so owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Skin contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with Melville Pond and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waterbodies that exhibit bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.

Program of Free Skin Cancer Screenings to Kick-off at Narragansett Town Beach

07-06-2017

U.S. Senator Jack Reed will join staff from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), the Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, and Brown Dermatology at Narragansett Town Beach on Friday for the first of seven Skin Check 10 free skin cancer screenings to take place this summer.

Screenings will take place on Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the beach at 39 Boston Neck Road in Narragansett. Senator Reed and other representatives at the event will be available to talk to the media about the importance of skin cancer screenings from 12:15 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.

"Along with using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more, getting a skin check is the most important thing you can do to protect against skin cancer this summer," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "Skin cancer can affect people of all skin tones and complexions, which is why all Rhode Islanders should take advantage of these free, convenient skin cancer checks. A cancer screening has the power to save a life."

"This is an important effort, and I want to commend the Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island and thank all the coalition partners who have come together to promote sun safety. This initiative helps raise awareness about the steps people can take to prevent skin cancer. These volunteers are setting up shop right by the beach and making it as quick and easy as possible for people to get screened," said Senator Reed, the author of the Sunscreen Innovation Act, a bipartisan bill to improve sunscreen protection, promote sunscreen use, and ensure U.S. consumers have access to the safest, most effective sunscreens available.

All screenings will be performed by dermatologists and dermatology residents associated with Brown Dermatology. The first 100 people at each event will be screened. Those who require follow-up will be referred for dermatology consults.

WJAR is the primary sponsor of the events. Other partners include the Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Lifespan, Bank Newport, Women & Infants, Women's Dermatologic Society, and the American Cancer Society.

2017 Free Cancer Screenings (the list is also available online at health.ri.gov/cancer/skin):

- Friday, July 7 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Narragansett Town Beach 39 Boston Neck Road, Narragansett, RI 02882

- Friday, July 14 12:30 p.m. -2:30 p.m.; Easton's Beach (First Beach) 175 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI 02840

- Saturday, July 22 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Lifespan Rising Above Cancer 5k Event 185 Asylum Rd, City Park, Warwick (Near the dog park)

- Sunday, July 30 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Scarborough State Beach 970 Ocean Road, Narragansett, RI 02882

- Friday, August 11 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Roger W. Wheeler State Beach (Sand Hill Cove Beach) 100 Sand Hill Cove Road, Narragansett, RI 02882

- Sunday, August 13 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Pawtucket Red Sox, McCoy Stadium 1 Columbus Ave., Pawtucket, RI 02860 (Screening will be outside the main gates to allow community members to attend.)

- Friday, August 18 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.East Matunuck State Beach 950 Succotash Road, South Kingstown, RI 02881

The two ways to stay sun safe this summer are prevention (using sunscreen, wearing protective apparel, and staying out of the direct sun) and early detection (getting screened).

Prevention:

- Apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more with both UVA and UVB protection ("broad spectrum" sunscreen). Make sure to put it on all areas of skin exposed to the sun, including ears, neck, nose, eyelids, fingers and toes, and reapply every two hours.

- Use water-resistant sunscreen while swimming, boating or exercising;

- Seek shade, especially when the sun rays are the strongest between 10 AM and 2 PM;

- Wear protective clothing;

- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck;

- Wear wrap-around sunglasses with UV protection where possible;

- Use caution near water, sand and snow because they reflect and intensify the rays of the sun and can increase your chances of sunburn;

- Avoid indoor tanning.

Early detection:

- Talk with your primary care provider about seeing a dermatologist and getting screened for skin cancer, especially if you have a family history of it.

- Get your kids screened. Skin cancer is a growing concern for children, especially among adolescents. Talk with your child's pediatrician about skin cancer screening.

- If you work outdoors, you should be screened annually by a dermatologist.

Skin Cancer Screening Kick-off Event Cancelled Because of Inclement Weather

07-07-2017

The kick-off event for the Skin Check 10 program of free skin cancer screenings scheduled for today at Narragansett Town Beach has been cancelled because of inclement weather.

Today's screening event will be rescheduled.

The remain skin check dates and locations are:

- Friday, July 14 12:30 p.m. -2:30 p.m.; Easton's Beach (First Beach) 175 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI 02840

- Saturday, July 22 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Lifespan Rising Above Cancer 5k Event 185 Asylum Rd, City Park, Warwick (Near the dog park)

- Sunday, July 30 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Scarborough State Beach 970 Ocean Road, Narragansett, RI 02882

- Friday, August 11 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Roger W. Wheeler State Beach (Sand Hill Cove Beach) 100 Sand Hill Cove Road, Narragansett, RI 02882

- Sunday, August 13 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Pawtucket Red Sox, McCoy Stadium 1 Columbus Ave., Pawtucket, RI 02860 (Screening will be outside the main gates to allow community members to attend.)

- Friday, August 18 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.; East Matunuck State Beach 950 Succotash Road, South Kingstown, RI 02881

This list is also posted online at health.ri.gov/cancer/skin.

All screenings will be performed by dermatologists and dermatology residents associated with Brown Dermatology. The first 100 people at each event will be screened. Those who require follow-up will be referred for dermatology consults.

WJAR is the primary sponsor of the events. Other partners include the Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Lifespan, Bank Newport, Women & Infants, Women's Dermatologic Society, and the American Cancer Society.

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth

07-07-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising people to avoid contact with St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth because of blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) blooms in that pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can harm humans and animals.

People should not ingest untreated water or eat fish from St. Mary's Pond. Because pets can be affected by exposure to algal toxins, owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. This advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Contact with water containing cyanobacteria can cause Irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects can include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming in, or have otherwise been in contact with, St. Mary's who experience symptoms should contact their healthcare providers.

Anyone who comes into contact with water from St. Mary's should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, bathe, and wash their clothes. If a pet comes in contact with this water, the pet should be washed with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if the pet shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a few days of contact with the water.

Note that St Mary's Pond is a drinking water source maintained by Newport Water. Newport Water's primary goal is to provide safe drinking water for all of its customers. As the main drinking water supplier for the residents of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth, Newport Water serves nearly 70,000 people Even when a cyanobacteria bloom is present in a pond, the treated water that Newport Water distributes to homes is safe. Treatment removes harmful bacteria, including cyanobacteria, before the water is delivered to customers.

Newport Water follows all state and federal drinking water testing and monitoring requirements to assure that treatment processes are working correctly and the water is safe to drink. Drinking untreated water from any pond at any time is not recommended.

Water that is treated to become drinking water comes from nine different surface reservoirs or ponds: St. Mary's Pond, Sisson Pond, Lawton Valley Reservoir, South and North Easton Ponds, Gardiner Pond, and Paradise Pond located on Aquidneck Island, Nonquit Pond in Tiverton, and Watson Reservoir in Little Compton - all owned and maintained by Newport Water. While RIDOH and RIDEM are now issuing a public health advisory for St. Mary's Pond, Newport Water's other water supply ponds also routinely experience blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms. Most algae blooms occur in the summer and fall, but they can occur at any time of year.

Newport Water needs all residents and visitors on Aquidneck Island and in Tiverton and Little Compton to help protect these valuable drinking water supplies. State law prohibits both people and animals from swimming and bathing in ponds that are drinking water sources. In addition, Newport Water prohibits fishing, swimming, and boating in these reservoirs, as posted.

Cyanobacteria blooms also occur in other waterbodies in the State. The public should avoid contact with any body of water in Rhode Island that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom in Three Ponds at Roger Williams Park in Providence

07-07-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Elm Lake, Roosevelt Lake, and the Japanese Gardens in Roger Williams Park in Providence due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the ponds. Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can harm humans and animals.

People should also be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from those bodies of water. All recreation, including fishing, boating and kayaking, should be avoided. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Skin contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with these ponds and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waterbodies that exhibit bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact With Slack Reservoir in Greenville

07-13-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Slack Reservoir in Greenville, which spans the Smithfield and Johnston town line, due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins, including microcystins, that can harm humans and animals. Very high levels of microcystins were detected in water samples taken from Slack Reservoir this week.

All recreation, including swimming, fishing, boating and kayaking, should be avoided. People also should not ingest water or eat fish from Slack Reservoir. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Skin contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with these ponds and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waterbodies that exhibit bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom in Almy Pond in Newport

07-21-2017

The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with Almy Pond in Newport due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins, including microcystins, that can harm humans and animals.

All recreation, including swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking, should be avoided. People should not ingest water or eat fish from Almy Pond. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Skin contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with these ponds and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waterbodies that exhibit bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Spectacle Pond in Cranston

07-24-2017

Providence -- The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with Spectacle Pond in Cranston due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins, including microcystins, that can harm humans and animals.

All recreation, including swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking, should be avoided. People should not ingest water or eat fish from Spectacle Pond. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Skin contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with these ponds and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waterbodies that exhibit bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.

RIDOH and Brown University Partner to Gather Data on Rhode Island Drinking Water

07-28-2017

Beginning next month, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) Center for Drinking Water Quality will partner with a group of researchers at Brown University to conduct free sampling at approximately 35 selected water systems to collect data on a group of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals are currently unregulated in drinking water, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently lowered the health advisory level for two PFAS [Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS)] to 70 parts per trillion because of new findings on health effects.

Under the direction of the EPA, all public water systems in Rhode Island serving over 10,000 people were tested for PFAS between 2013 and 2015. The Department of Health is conducting this testing to further assess the situation in Rhode Island.

The water sampling will take place throughout the months of August and September on public wells located within one mile of a facility that could potentially contain these chemicals or may have in the past. RIDOH is requiring the testing at these water systems, and has sent a letter notifying the 35 water systems that fit the criteria of this mandate. The data gathered will help State and local agencies (such as RIDOH, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and town planners) understand the occurrence of these chemicals in Rhode Island. If the chemicals are identified through the sampling, RIDOH will work with water systems to resample, notify customers, and implement a plan of action for treatment, if needed.

With the support of federal resources, RIDOH is funding the sampling, which will be conducted by researchers from the Brown University Superfund Research Program (https://www.brown.edu/research/projects/superfund/) under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Guelfo and the RIDOH Center for Drinking Water Quality. These staff and students have been trained in the specific protocol for collecting the water samples, which will be tested by the RIDOH State Health Laboratories (SHL) or a certified laboratory sub-contracted by the RIDOH SHL.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a class of man-made chemicals used in a variety of products and applications that are resistant to water, grease or stains including non-stick cookware, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, and food packaging, although the majority of PFAS have been phased out in the United States. Examples of facilities that have the potential to contain these chemicals due to use or disposal include industrial factories, airports, fire training academies, and landfills.

The EPA health advisory level for PFAS is 70 parts per trillion for PFOA, PFOS, or a combination of both PFOA and PFOS. This level takes into consideration the fact that drinking-water may be a source of approximately 20% of PFOA and/or PFOS in a person's body but that consumer products and food are the largest sources of exposure to these chemicals for most people. Scientists have found PFOA and PFOS in the blood of nearly all the people they tested because of their use in everyday consumer products.

Studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over the health advisory level may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants; cancer; and effects to the liver, immune system, or thyroid.

Ensuring that drinking water is clean and safe is one of the core functions of RIDOH. Rhode Island's drinking water undergoes rigorous and frequent testing to maintain the high standards required by the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act. The mission of the RIDOH Center for Drinking Water Quality is to prevent disease and to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of Rhode Island by ensuring the state's drinking water supply. Community water suppliers are responsible for providing an annual water quality report known as the Consumer Confidence Report.

###

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Blackamore Pond in Cranston

08-01-2017

The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with Blackamore Pond in Cranston due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins, including microcystins, that can harm humans and animals.

All recreation, including swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking, should be avoided. People should not ingest water or eat fish from Blackamore Pond. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Skin contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with these ponds and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waterbodies that exhibit bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.

RIDOH Shifts to More Consumer-Friendly Hours at the Office of Vital Records

08-02-2017

In an effort to better accommodate Rhode Islanders in need of birth, death, and marriage certificates, and other critical documents, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has adjusted the hours of its Office of Vital Records. The Office of Vital Records is now open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. The Office had previously been open from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

This change was made by RIDOH's Division of Customer Services in response to feedback from customers who felt that it would be more convenient if people were able to visit the Office of Vital Records in the morning, before their work days began.

In addition to picking up birth, death, or marriage documents, other reasons why Rhode Islanders might visit the Office of Vital Records include issues related to genealogy, dual citizenship, amendments on vital records, paternity affidavits, and adoption records.

RIDOH is located at 3 Capitol Hill, Providence, RI, 02908. The Office of Vital Records is in room 101.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom in Turner Reservoir in East Providence

08-02-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Turner Reservoir in East Providence due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins, including microcystins, that can harm humans and animals.

All recreation, including swimming, fishing, boating and kayaking, should be avoided. People should not ingest water or eat fish from Turner Reservoir. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Skin contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with these ponds and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waterbodies that exhibit bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Sisson Pond in Portsmouth

08-04-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Sisson Pond in Portsmouth because of blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) blooms in that pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can harm humans and animals.

People should also not ingest untreated water or eat fish from Sisson Pond. Since pets can be affected by exposure to algal toxins, owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. This advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Contact with untreated water containing cyanobacteria can cause irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects can include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming in, or have otherwise been in contact with, Sisson Pond who experience symptoms should contact their healthcare providers.

Anyone who comes into contact with untreated water from Sisson Pond should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, bathe, and wash their clothes. If a pet comes in contact with this water, the pet should be washed with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if the pet shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a few days of contact with the water.

Note that Sisson Pond is a drinking water source maintained by Newport Water. Newport Water's primary goal is to provide safe drinking water for all of its customers. As the main drinking water supplier for the residents of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth, Newport Water serves nearly 70,000 people. Even when a cyanobacteria bloom is present in a pond, the treated water that Newport Water distributes to homes is safe. Treatment removes harmful bacteria, including cyanobacteria, before the water is delivered to customers. Newport Water follows all state and federal drinking water testing and monitoring requirements to assure that treatment processes are working correctly and the treated water is safe to drink. Drinking untreated water from any pond at any time is not recommended.

Water that is treated to become drinking water comes from nine different surface reservoirs or ponds: St. Mary's Pond, Sisson Pond, Lawton Valley Reservoir, South and North Easton Ponds, Gardiner Pond, and Paradise Pond located on Aquidneck Island, Nonquit Pond in Tiverton, and Watson Reservoir in Little Compton - all owned and maintained by Newport Water. While RIDOH and RIDEM are now issuing a public health advisory for Sisson Pond, Newport Water's other water supply ponds also routinely experience blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms. A healthy advisory issued for St. Mary's Pond earlier this year remains in effect. Most algae blooms occur in the summer and fall, but they can occur at any time of year.

Newport Water needs all residents and visitors on Aquidneck Island and in Tiverton and Little Compton to help protect these valuable drinking water supplies. State law prohibits both people and animals from swimming and bathing in ponds that are drinking water sources. In addition, Newport Water prohibits fishing, swimming, and boating in these reservoirs, as posted.

Cyanobacteria blooms also occur in other waterbodies in the State. The public should avoid contact with any body of water in Rhode Island that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov.

WaterFire Lighting Organized To Support Efforts to Eliminate Hepatitis C

08-04-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and RI Defeats Hep C invite all Rhode Islanders to attend the 'C is for Cure' WaterFire lighting on August 5th to rally support to eliminate hepatitis C in Rhode Island. The lighting will take place at 8 p.m. in downtown Providence.

"By uniting the community through events such as the 'C is for Cure' WaterFire Lighting and through collaborations in the areas of education, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, we can absolutely make hepatitis C a thing of the past in our state," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "This work is especially important in communities where we see higher rates of hepatitis C, such as among Baby Boomers, and among people who have used injection drugs in the past. Every single Rhode Islander who has hepatitis C can and should live a long, healthy life."

"In the United States, more people are now dying of hepatitis C than are dying of all other top-60 infectious diseases combined," said Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University and Director of RI Defeats Hep C Lynn E. Taylor, MD. "In Rhode Island, we face a particularly high disease burden. This disease takes people down at the prime of their lives. According to a 2016 Department of Health report, more than 75% of Rhode Islanders who died of hepatitis C were between the ages of 45 and 64 when they died. New medications can cure hepatitis C in most people, most of the time, safely, in 12 weeks- ”averting hepatitis C-related illness and death."

RI Defeats Hep C is a comprehensive initiative to treat, cure, and eliminate hepatitis C in Rhode Island.

In Rhode Island, hepatitis C-related deaths rose from 25 in 2005 to 102 in 2014. Additionally, the number of inpatient hospitalizations with a primary discharge diagnosis of hepatitis C increased six-fold between 2005 and 2014.

In response to these data, and in response to a recent Call to Action from the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), RIDOH continues to work to end the hepatitis C epidemic in Rhode Island. RIDOH funds community partners to provide free and confidential rapid hepatitis C testing to anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to hepatitis C. In addition, RIDOH works closely with ENCORE, the state's needle-exchange program, to provide clean needles and other injecting equipment and harm-reduction counseling for people who use injectable drugs.

Recent advances in medicine that can cure hepatitis C have made hepatitis C elimination a viable goal for Rhode Island. To achieve this goal, RIDOH is taking steps to re-visit the core components of its strategic plan to eliminate hepatitis. These core components include:

- Preventing hepatitis C virus transmission and new infections;

- Screening every Rhode Islander for hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime, and diagnosing every case of hepatitis C;

- Linking every case of hepatitis C to a provider who can care for and treat hepatitis C;

- Ensuring equitable access to hepatitis C treatment for all individuals who are living with hepatitis C; and

- Curing as many patients of hepatitis C as possible.

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, a blood-borne virus. Most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs. For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for 70%- 85% of people who become infected with it, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, even death. Most people who are infected with hepatitis C virus do not know it because they have no symptoms. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C; however, hepatitis C can be prevented by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting illicit drugs.

Of the more than three million people in the United States who are living with hepatitis C, 75% were born between 1945 and 1965. In addition to Baby Boomers, other people for whom testing is extremely important include anyone who:

- Currently injects drugs;

- Has ever injected drugs, including anyone who injected drugs once or a few times many years ago;

- Has a history of intranasal (through the nose, or snorting) drug use, including those who snorted only once many years ago. An example is snorting cocaine.

- Received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987;

- Has ever had long-term hemodialysis;

- Has persistently abnormal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels;

- Has HIV infection;

- Was born to a woman with hepatitis C;

- Has been notified they received blood from a donor who later tested positive for HCV infection; or

- Received a blood transfusion, blood components, or an organ transplant before July 1992.

State Ensuring Quality of Care During Home Health Organization Client Transfers

08-11-2017

Agencies within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) are working to ensure the smooth transition of care for clients of Homefront Health Care to a new home health organization without any interruptions in services after Homefront announced plans to close effective today, August 11, 2017.

Nursing Placement, a Pawtucket-based home health organization, has committed to take on all of Homefront's approximately 450 former clients and all their employees. All clients will continue to receive the same services that they had been receiving from Homefront Health Care, and all employees will continue to be paid during the transition. Clients began receiving calls today to inform them that, although their caregiver's employer will be changing, they will still be visited by the same individual caregivers.

"Our absolute number one priority is the health and safety of Homefront Health Care's former clients," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "Immediately after being informed of Homefront's plans, we began developing a strategy for client transfers to ensure that people, many of whom have serious health needs, continued to receive their services and care without interruption. This tremendous collaboration across the state demonstrates how Rhode Islanders come together and take action to keep each other healthy and safe."

Other agencies and organizations involved in coordinating the client transfers include the State Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, Medicaid, and commercial insurers.

Theodore Orson of the law firm Orson and Brusini was appointed by Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein to oversee the special mastership of Homefront Health Care. When Orson learned that Homefront would not have sufficient funds to make payroll, ceasing Homefront's operation appeared necessary to Orson and the Superior Court. That was before Nursing Placement agreed to take over Homefront's patient care, hire its employees, and advance its payroll.

"I am thrilled and amazed that Nursing Placement has agreed to take over all of the patient care and to hire all of Homefront's employees," Orson said. "This is a perfect example of a Rhode Island business stepping to the plate to address an urgent public health need and to make certain that Rhode Island nurses, therapists, and CNAs retain their jobs."

Homefront had six locations. Its employees, including nurses, therapists, certified nursing assistants (CNAs), homemakers, made more than 150,000 home care visits each year throughout Rhode Island. Nursing Placement has agreed to maintain Homefront's operation financially, including paying employees, until the transfer is complete.

Homecare workers received their second raise in two years through the recently enacted FY18 budget. These investments represent the administration's continued commitment to investing in home and community-based care.

Clients with questions can contact their case manager, or reach out to Homefront at 401-383-9696. They can contact the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 401-785-3340.

Restaurants Report Scam Involving Inspections and Credit Card Information

08-16-2017

In the last two days, two food establishment owners in Rhode Island have reported receiving fraudulent calls from a man who identified himself as the Director of Health. The man requested their credit card information in order to pay for an upcoming inspection. The food establishment owners were threatened with $500 fines for not providing this information.

Food establishment owners would never receive phone calls from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) requesting credit card information to pay for inspections. Food establishment owners are charged annual licensing fees, but these fees are collected by mail.

Any food establishment employee who receives a call requesting credit card information for an inspection should not provide it. They should notify RIDOH immediately at 222-2749. RIDOH is coordinating with the Rhode Island State Police on this matter.

RIDOH and RIDEM Blue-Green Algae Advisories: Recommend Avoiding Contact with all Waters at Roger Williams Park and Warwick Pond while Lifting Restrictions for Slacks Reservoir

08-18-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) announce the placement of advisories to avoid contact with all water bodies in Roger Williams Park in Providence and Warwick Pond in Warwick, while lifting the advisory for Slacks Reservoir in Greenville (spans Smithfield and Johnston town lines). The health advisories are being issued for Roger Williams Park and Warwick Pond due to blue-green algae blooms. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals.

The advisory for Slacks Reservoir has been lifted due to confirmed absence of blue-green algae and cyanotoxin. Contact with and recreational activities on the Reservoir and associated Slack Pond Beach may resume. The advisory was put in place in July due to the presence of a blue-green algae bloom.

Because of the continued presence of cyanobacteria, health advisories remain in place for Sisson Pond, Melville Pond, and St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth; Almy Pond in Newport; Spectacle Pond and Blackamore Ponds in Cranston, and Turner Reservoir in East Providence. Contact with water containing cyanobacteria can cause irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Ingestion of water containing cyanobacterial toxins can cause stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water.

The public is reminded to avoid contact with any body of water in Rhode Island that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

People who experience the symptoms associated with cyanobacteria exposure and who have been swimming or fishing in water, or drinking untreated water from a waterbody with a confirmed or suspected cyanobacteria bloom, should contact their healthcare providers. People who come into contact with potentially affected waters should rinse their skin and wash their clothes with clean water as soon as possible. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with potentially affected waters should contact their veterinarians. Pets who have come in contact with potentially affected waters should not be allowed to lick water off their fur and should be rinsed with clean water as soon as possible.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov.

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth

09-01-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise people to avoid contact with Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae causes toxins that can harm humans and animals. Newport's public drinking water supply is not at risk.

Recreational activities (like swimming, boating, and fishing) are never allowed in Lawton Valley Reservoir, which supplies drinking water. This advisory emphasizes that people should avoid contact with the reservoir and not eat fish from the reservoir. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins. For this reason, owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water.

Irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are more at-risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming in or otherwise in contact with Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. The public is reminded that health advisories issued earlier in the year for St. Mary's and Sisson Ponds remain in effect, and all precautions are applicable to these ponds as well.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes in contact with the water, immediately wash your pet off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

Lawton Valley Reservoir is a drinking water source maintained by Newport Water. Newport Water's primary goal is to provide safe drinking water for all of its customers. As the main drinking water supplier for the residents of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth, Newport Water serves nearly 70,000 people. Even when a cyanobacteria bloom is present in a drinking water source, the treated water that Newport Water distributes to homes is safe. Treatment removes harmful bacteria, including cyanobacteria, before the water is delivered to customers. Newport Water follows all state and federal drinking water testing and monitoring requirements to assure that treatment processes are working correctly and the treated water is safe to drink. Drinking untreated water from any pond at any time is not recommended.

Water that is treated to become drinking water comes from nine different surface reservoirs or ponds: St. Mary's Pond, Sisson Pond, Lawton Valley Reservoir, Watson Reservoir, South and North Easton Ponds, Gardiner Pond, and Paradise Pond located on Aquidneck Island, Nonquit Pond in Tiverton, and Watson Reservoir in Little Compton - all owned and maintained by Newport Water. While RIDOH and RIDEM are now issuing a public health advisory for Lawton Valley Reservoir, Newport Water's other water supply ponds also routinely experience blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms. Most algae blooms occur in the summer and fall, but they can occur at any time of year.

Newport Water needs all residents and visitors on Aquidneck Island and in Tiverton and Little Compton to help protect these valuable drinking water supplies. State law prohibits both people and animals from swimming and bathing in ponds that are drinking water sources. In addition, Newport Water prohibits fishing, swimming, and boating in these reservoirs, as posted.

Cyanobacteria blooms also occur in other waterbodies in the State. The public should avoid contact with any body of water in Rhode Island that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov.

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Slack Reservoir in Greenville

09-01-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Slack Reservoir in Greenville (spans Smithfield and Johnston town line) due to a blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins, including microcystins, that can harm humans and animals. Very high levels of microcystins were detected in water samples taken from Slack Reservoir this week.

All recreation, including swimming, fishing, boating and kayaking, should be avoided. People also should not ingest water or eat fish from Slack Reservoir. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Skin contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with these ponds and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waterbodies that exhibit bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.

Rhode Island a National Leader in Immunizations for Adolescents

09-08-2017

Immunization rates for teenagers in Rhode Island are among the highest in the country, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"A core function of public health is preventing illnesses and injuries before they occur. Vaccines are one of the most effective prevention tools available to us today. Countless kids were spared the serious health consequences of many diseases because Rhode Island communities are so well vaccinated," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). "Our immunization rates also have a significant impact on our overall healthcare costs as a state. Working to eliminate financial barriers to vaccination is part of our work at RIDOH to give everyone in Rhode Island, no matter what zip code they come from, an equal opportunity to thrive."

The data were gathered through a version of the National Immunization Survey that focuses on children from 13- to 17-years-old (NIS-Teen). Surveyors made randomized telephone calls to parents and guardians. The information they provided was confirmed with the child's healthcare provider. The study revealed that:

90% of Rhode Island girls and 88% of Rhode Island boys received at least one dose of Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, the highest rates in the country, and much higher than the national averages for the first dose of HPV vaccine: 65% for girls and 56% for boys.* HPV is a very common virus that can lead to cancer in males and females.

95.4% of Rhode Island teens received the combined vaccine called Tdap, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis.* This was the second highest rate in the nation.

96.4% of Rhode Island teens received at least one dose of Meningococcal Conjugate vaccine, the highest rate in the country.*

Vaccines are provided to all children in Rhode Island at no cost to the child's family or the child's healthcare provider through funding provided by insurers and funding from the federal government. In addition to the accessibility of vaccines, other factors in Rhode Island's immunization success include the hard work of all Rhode Island healthcare providers and public health practitioners; KIDSNET, a statewide health information system; and Vaccinate Before You Graduate, a vaccination catch-up program offered in all Rhode Island middle and high schools.

According to a CDC study published in 2014, childhood vaccines prevented 21 million hospitalizations nationally and resulted in $295 billion savings in direct medical costs nationally between 1994 and 2013.

The most recent National Immunization Survey data were gathered during 2016.

*It is important to note that the coverage rates produced by NIS are estimates- ”often referred to as point estimates. Because a random sample of telephone numbers is taken, these rates have an associated statistical margin of error. Due to statistical uncertainty (i.e. sampling error) in the estimates, Rhode Island's true vaccination rates may be slightly higher or lower.

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Mashapaug Pond; Lift Restrictions for Pleasure Lake

09-12-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Mashapaug Pond, while lifting the advisory for Pleasure Lake, located in Roger Williams Park. The advisories for the two bodies of water, both located in Providence, are related to high levels of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

At Pleasure Lake, recent consecutive surveys and samples confirmed the absence of blue-green algae and cyanotoxin, allowing the advisory to be lifted. However, health advisories remain in place for other bodies of water in Roger Williams Park.

Contact with water containing blue-green algae can cause irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects can include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming in, or have otherwise been in contact with these ponds, who experience symptoms, should contact their healthcare providers.

Anyone who comes into contact with water that is under an advisory should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, bathe, and wash their clothes. If a pet comes in contact with this water, the pet should be washed with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if the pet shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a few days of contact with the water.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. The public should avoid contact with any body of water that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact RIDEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov

Hospitals Recognized for Standardizing Care to Treat Addiction and Overdose

09-13-2017

Governor Gina Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force has recognized South County Health and CharterCARE Health Partners for their leadership in providing consistent, comprehensive care for opioid-use disorder in hospitals and emergency departments in Rhode Island.

The South County Health recognition took place at this morning's Task Force meeting. The recognition of CharterCARE Health Partners took place at the July meeting.

This recognition was based on treatment criteria met at Roger Williams Medical Center and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital (both CharterCARE facilities), and South County Hospital. These criteria were established in March by the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) and Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) in a document titled Levels of Care for Rhode Island Emergency Departments and Hospitals for Treating Overdose and Opioid Use Disorder. The aim of these first-in-the-nation standards is to ensure that best practices in the treatment of opioid-use disorder are in place at emergency departments (EDs) and hospitals throughout the state.

"We are pleased that hospitals have begun enacting Levels of Care for those suffering from overdose or opioid use disorder," said Director Rebecca Boss of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals. "Levels of Care standardizes treatment across all emergency rooms and hospitals to ensure a high level of care for people throughout the state. With these newly designated 'levels' we hope to lower the rate of overdose deaths by allowing emergency rooms to become one of the first steps towards recovery."

"Rhode Island is the leader in the nation for establishing qualifications, called Levels of Care, to treat people with opioid-use disorder in hospitals and EDs. CharterCARE Health Partners and South County Health are the first health systems in our state to be recognized for achieving Levels of Care designations, and we hope that the other healthcare facilities throughout the state follow their lead," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "Every single overdose death is preventable. We need all EDs and hospitals in Rhode Island to attain Levels of Care designations so people have access at every possible opportunity to the treatment and recovery resources they need to live lives free of addiction."

The Levels of Care document established a three-tiered system. Designations are made through an application process submitted to RIDOH and BHDDH. All hospitals must qualify for at least a level three, with the expectation that many will attain higher designations, which involve expanded capacity to provide care for opioid-use disorder (i.e., medication-assisted treatment), recovery services, and more.

Roger Williams Medical Center and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital earned a level-one distinction, the highest distinction. This means that these hospitals are, among other steps, providing comprehensive discharge planning to all overdose patients, screening all patients for substance-use disorder, offering peer recovery support services, and maintaining the equivalent to a Center of Excellence where patients can receive treatment for opioid-use disorder.

South County Hospital was recognized for achieving a level-three designation. This means that the hospital is fulfilling the requirements of the 2016 Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act, sponsored by Chairman Joshua Miller and Representative David Bennett. The hospital is also submitting the required reports of overdoses to RIDOH within 48 hours and testing routinely for fentanyl.

Work to build South County Hospitals's levels of care infrastructure was led by William Sabina, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine, and Steven Juchnik, BSN, RN, CEN, Emergency Services Director.

"A lot of processes were already in place, and the Levels of Care requirements only strengthened our existing partnerships with South Kingstown Police Department, South Kingstown Partnership for Prevention, Narragansett Prevention Partnership, and The Providence Center's AnchorED," said Steven Juchnik. "The biggest success story from this is bringing all the factions together to address overdose and opioid-use disorder, including the Emergency Department, nurses, physicians, RIDOH/state agencies, law enforcement, the local prevention coalitions, and treatment and recovery facilities."

"It was a collaborative process where we were able to build partnerships with RIDOH and BHDDH along the way," said Rebecca Plonsky, LICSW, Regional Vice-President of Integrated Behavioral Health for CharterCARE Health Partners. "This engaged our team and ensured we were meeting the expectations of the state and adopting best practices. It was exciting to see our multidisciplinary teams come together to meet the necessary criteria and treat such an at-risk population. Through our continuum of care, we are ready to treat and support patients at any stage of their recovery."

On September 26, 2017, RIDOH's regulations will be updated to require all Rhode Island emergency departments to meet almost all level three requirements. This regulations update reinforces the 2016 Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act that specifies discharge planning procedures in emergency departments and hospitals for patients with opioid-use disorder. This will include standardized screening evaluations; laboratory drug screenings to determine the cause of overdose; education on the risks and benefits of prescribed opioids, as well as safe storage and disposal; written policies that outline when a prescriber should dispense or prescribe naloxone to patients; education on the administration of dispensed or prescribed naloxone; opportunities to speak with peer recovery support specialists; information about treatment options; and, notification of a patient's emergency contacts and peer recovery support specialist.

A recovery hotline is available to connect people in crisis with treatment and recovery support. To access services through an English and/or Spanish-speaking counselor who is licensed in chemical-dependency and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, people should call 401-942-STOP.

Additional overdose data and resources are available at http://preventoverdoseri.org/

RIDOH Warns of Dangers of Eating Queso Fresco Made with Unpasteurized Milk

09-13-2017

As the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) continues to investigate two cases of listeria, all Rhode Islanders, and particularly pregnant women, are urged to not eat queso fresco made with unpasteurized milk (also known as raw milk).

Queso fresco is a type of soft cheese. Queso fresco, queso blanco, panela, and asadero-style cheeses are only considered safe when they are marked with a professional label stating that they are "pasteurized" or "made from pasteurized milk."

Homemade queso fresco is sometimes made with unpasteurized (or raw) milk. Unpasteurized milk can cause serious illness. The pasteurization process destroys bacteria that can make people sick.

Pregnant women are significantly more likely than other people to get listeria. Among pregnant women, the highest rates of listeria are seen among Hispanic women. A pregnant woman with listeria can pass the infection to her unborn baby. It can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, and impairments of newborns.

Listeria can develop within a few days or even weeks after eating contaminated food. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. If the infection spreads to the nervous system, headaches, a stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Pregnant women may experience mild flu-like symptoms or may not feel sick at all, yet the infection can still severely affect their unborn babies.

Anyone who has consumed queso fresco with unpasteurized milk and who experiences any of these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider right away.

RIDOH Warns of Recall of Mussels from Maine

09-15-2017

Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has been notified of a recall of Maine mussels. The affected product was harvested on September 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 from Frenchman's Bay in Maine. This recall is being initiated because levels of the toxin that cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) exceeded the established threshold of 20 ppm. All product should be destroyed. The recall effects the following Maine dealers who purchase directly from harvesters:

Atlantic Shellfish in Jonesport

Eastern Maine Mussel in Hancock

Moosabec Mussels Inc. in Jonesport

Pemaquid Oyster Co. in Waldoboro

Stewardship GEM LLC. In Bar Harbor

These dealers may have sold product to Rhode Island shellfish distributors, markets, and restaurants. RIDOH is contacting all Rhode Island shellfish distributors who may have received product from Maine, and in turn, the distributors are contacting their customers and destroying any remaining product they have not already sold. There have been no reported illnesses that are related to this recall.

ASP is characterized by gastrointestinal disorders (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain) and neurological problems such as confusion, short-term memory loss, disorientation, seizure, or coma. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.

RIDOH Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus in 2017

09-22-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has confirmed the first human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Rhode Island in 2017.

The 66-year-old individual from Providence County began to experience symptoms of WNV on September 15, 2017. Common symptoms of WNV include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. Although many people who are infected with WNV show no symptoms, symptoms last for some people for several days or several weeks.

"We are currently in the height of mosquito season in Rhode Island," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "The best way to prevent West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes breed in water, so you should get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water, such as tires, planters, and old trash cans or recycling bins. You should also wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you are outside, especially at sunrise and sunset. A few simple precautions can help you stay healthy and safe when you are outdoors spending quality time with family and friends."

Additional mosquito-prevention measures:

- Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that are loose or have holes.

- At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active) minimize outdoor activities. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.

- Use EPA-approved bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET (20-30% strength); picaridin, IR3535; and oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthan-diol. Always read the label and follow all directions and precautions.

- Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants under two months of age. Children should be careful not to rub their eyes after bug spray has been applied on their skin. Wash children's hands with soap and water to remove any bug spray when they return indoors.

- Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.

- Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds

- Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. Just one cup of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes; an unused tire containing water can produce thousands of mosquitoes.

- Clean your gutters and down spouts so that they can drain properly.

- Remove any water from unused swimming pools, wading pools, boats, planters, trash and recycling bins, tires, and anything else that collects water, and cover them.

- Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week, and rinse out birdbaths once a week.

There were two human cases of WNV in Rhode Island in 2016. Additional data and information about mosquito prevention is available online.

Dr. Alexander-Scott Kicks Off Annual Flu Vaccination Campaign at RIDOH

09-25-2017

Rhode Island's annual flu immunization campaign was launched today at the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) by Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, who vaccinated reporters and discussed the dangers of the flu and the importance of flu shots for everyone older than six months of age.

"A flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself and the ones you love against the flu. When you get a flu shot you are not only protecting yourself, you are also protecting the people in your life by limiting the spread of the flu. This is especially important if you spend time with younger children or the elderly, who are more susceptible to the effects of the flu," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "Even if you don't have health insurance or can't afford a flu shot, there are places in Rhode Island where you can get vaccinated for free. There will be more than 100 public flu clinics at schools across the state, starting next week. Flu shots are safe, effective, and easier to get than ever before!"

Although doctors recommend flu shots for everyone older than six months of age, flu shots are especially important for certain people. They include the elderly, healthcare workers, younger children, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions. Examples of chronic medical conditions include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and asthma.

The flu is a serious virus that can even be deadly. Last year, the flu sent 1,216 Rhode Islanders to the hospital and resulted in 33 deaths. Approximately 455,000 Rhode Islanders were vaccinated last year. This was the second highest rate in the nation. However, RIDOH is working to increase Rhode Island's vaccination rate for the 2017-2018 flu season.

In addition to helping keep individuals and families healthy, flu shots represent a public health investment in prevention that saves Rhode Island and the United States significant amounts of money each year. Across the country, the flu results in an estimated $10.4 billion in direct medical expenses annually and an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually. Increased flu vaccination rates can bring these figures down.

After getting a flu shot some people experience a slight ache or a low-grade fever. This means that the body is developing an immune response to the flu virus. These mild side effects are much less significant than the actual flu, which causes most people to stay in bed for a week. You absolutely cannot get the flu from the flu shot.

Dr. Alexander-Scott was joined at the press event by several legislators, who were also vaccinated. They included Representative Vella-Wilkinson (Warwick), Representative Edwards (Tiverton/ Portsmouth), and Representative Mendonca (Portsmouth/ Middletown).

People with additional questions can call 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.

RIDOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Pleasure Lake, Stafford Pond, and J.L. Curran Reservoir

09-27-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising the public to avoid contact with the water in Pleasure Lake in Roger Williams Park, Providence; Stafford Pond in Tiverton; and the J.L.Curran Reservoir in Cranston. This advisory is being issued because high levels of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, have been detected in those bodies of water.

Contact with water containing blue-green algae can cause irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects can include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming in, or have otherwise been in contact with these ponds, who experience symptoms, should contact their healthcare providers.

Anyone who comes into contact with water that is under an advisory should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, bathe, and wash their clothes. If a pet comes in contact with this water, the pet should be washed with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if the pet shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a few days of contact with the water.

Stafford Pond is a source of public water for the Stone Bridge Fire District in northern Tiverton as well as parts of the North Tiverton Fire District. Before being delivered to customers, the water is treated to remove harmful bacteria, including cyanobacteria. The Stone Bridge and North Tiverton Fire Districts follow all state and federal drinking water testing and monitoring requirements to assure that treatment processes are working correctly and the water is safe to drink. Drinking untreated water from any pond at any time is not recommended.

A previous health advisory for Pleasure Lake was lifted earlier this month. However, that advisory is now being reinstated because the algal bloom in that waterbody has returned. Health advisories remain in place for other Roger Williams Park waterbodies.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. The public should avoid contact with any body of water that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact RIDEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov

Residents in the Oakland Section of Burrillville Provided Health Guidance for Drinking Water

10-02-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is working with the Oakland Association water system in a section of Burrillville to ensure that consumers, as well as private well owners in the area, take specific health precautious after tests revealed a slightly elevated level of certain man-made chemicals, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), in the system's drinking water.

In early August, RIDOH's Center for Drinking Water Quality began working with a group of researchers at Brown University to conduct sampling at approximately 35 selected water systems to collect data on PFAS. The systems that were selected for this testing are located within one mile of a facility that could potentially contain these chemicals or may have in the past. These chemicals are currently unregulated in drinking water, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently lowered the health advisory level for two PFAS [Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS)] to 70 parts per trillion (ppt) because of new findings on health effects. EPA's health advisory levels were calculated to offer a margin of protection against adverse health effects to the most sensitive populations: fetuses during pregnancy and breastfed infants. The health advisory levels are calculated based on the drinking water intake of lactating women, who drink more water than other people and can pass these chemicals along to nursing infants through breastmilk.

Exceedances of this new health advisory were recorded during sampling at Oakland Association, Inc., which serves approximately 175 people. The sampling protocol calls for resampling whenever exceedances are identified. The three sample results collected from the system were 88 ppt, 69 ppt, and 114 ppt. The results were received between September 14th and September 29th.

The Oakland Association water system has provided specific health guidance to its customers, which includes recommendations to not boil water (boiling water concentrates these chemicals) and to use bottled water or other licensed drinking water until the level of PFAS is below the health advisory. This bottled water or water from a different source should be used for drinking, food preparation, cooking, brushing teeth, and any activity that might result in swallowing water.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is developing a process to provide bottled water at no charge to customers served by the Oakland Association who would not be able to obtain bottled water themselves without financial assistance.

In addition, RIDOH, with the support of DEM, will hold a community meeting for customers of Oakland Association on Tuesday, October 3 at 6:00 p.m. at the Burrillville Police Department Community Room at 1477 Victory Highway.

People who use private wells within a quarter mile of the Oakland Association well that was sampled are being given guidance on how they can get their water tested.

While consumers are taking these precautions, Oakland Association is already developing a plan of action with RIDOH to reduce these chemicals to acceptable levels, which could include treatment or connecting to a new water source. DEM will conduct an investigation to determine the source of the contamination. Additionally, a small number of non-residential sites near Oakland Association that have their own water systems, such as restaurants and churches, will be sampled.

All the other results on other systems sampled in Rhode Island thus far have been below 70 ppt. Sample collection will continue for at least another week.

Studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over the health advisory level may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants; cancer; and effects to the liver, immune system, or thyroid.

Under the direction of the EPA, all public water systems in Rhode Island serving over 10,000 people were tested for PFAS between 2013 and 2015. At that time, there were detections in Cumberland and Westerly. Since that time, follow-up sampling at those systems have indicated that the systems do not exceed 70 ppt.

PFASs are a class of man-made chemicals used in a variety of products and applications that are resistant to water, grease or stains including non-stick cookware, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, and food packaging, although the majority of PFAS have been phased out in the United States. Examples of facilities that have the potential to contain these chemicals due to use or disposal include industrial factories, airports, fire training academies, and landfills.

The EPA's new health advisory level takes into consideration the fact that drinking water may be a source of approximately 20% of PFOA and/or PFOS in a person's body but that consumer products and food are the largest sources of exposure to these chemicals for most people. Scientists have found PFOA and PFOS in the blood of nearly all the people they tested because of their use in everyday consumer products.

People can call RIDOH for more information at 401-222-5960.

Dr. Alexander-Scott Named President-Elect of National Organization of State Health Directors

10-10-2017

State health directors from across the nation have elected Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), to be President-Elect of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), providing Dr. Alexander-Scott with a national platform to advocate for the health priorities of Rhode Islanders and people throughout the country.

ASTHO is comprised of the chief health official in each U.S. state and territory. Dr. Alexander-Scott will spend a year working with the current President to help steer the organization before assuming the role of President in September, 2018. Dr. John Wiesman, Secretary of Health at the Washington State Department of Health, is beginning his term as ASTHO's President as Dr. Alexander-Scott begins her term as President-Elect.

"I was both humbled and honored to be elected President-Elect of ASTHO. State health directors from across the country made this decision after looking at the tremendous successes brought about in Rhode Island by the 480 individuals that I am honored to call colleagues at RIDOH," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "Our focus at RIDOH is ensuring that every person and community in Rhode Island has an equal opportunity to be as healthy as possible, regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, level of education, level of income, or insurance status. As President-Elect of ASTHO, I will be partnering with the top public health officials in the nation whose expertise will help us make this vision a reality."

"We are honored to have Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH serve as ASTHO president-elect," said ASTHO Executive Director Michael Fraser. "She brings unique experience to this role as a practicing physician who specializes in adult and pediatric infectious diseases. We applaud her commitment to public health and appreciate her ongoing leadership to ensure optimal health for all."

ASTHO develops and guides public health policy and ensures excellence in state-based public health practice. Through its leadership team, ASTHO coordinates and advises state health directors on the impacts of health policy and provides them with guidance and technical assistance on improving the nation's health. In addition to the numerous public health policy areas that ASTHO contributes to, each President selects an ASTHO President's Challenge for her or his term. Secretary Wiesman is continuing the 2017 focus (Public Health Approaches to Preventing Substance Misuse and Addictions).

Dr. Alexander-Scott has been the Director of Health at RIDOH since April 2015. She is board-certified in Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and Adult Infectious Diseases. Under Dr. Alexander-Scott's leadership, RIDOH is working to ensure that every person and community has an equal opportunity to be as healthy as possible by addressing the social, environmental, and economic determinants of health. Poverty, employment opportunities, accessible transportation, education, discrimination, access to healthy food, and access to housing that is free of toxins and other environmental hazards are examples of these underlying determinants of health, which research indicates impact approximately 80% of an individual's health outcomes.

As a Regional Representative on the ASTHO Board of Directors with Dr. Wiesman, Dr. Alexander-Scott has worked closely with the current President.

In addition to Dr. Alexander-Scott and Dr. Wiesman, Gerd Clabaugh, the Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, also assumed a leadership role at ASTHO this month. He now serves as the organization's secretary-treasurer.

General Mills Recalls Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola Cereal

10-11-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that General Mills is recalling two days of production of Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola cereal because of an undeclared allergen. There have been no reports of illness.

Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola cereal produced on July 15 and 16, 2017 is being recalled because the product may contain almonds, an undeclared nut allergen.

General Mills will recall affected Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola cereal produced on those dates from customer warehouses and store shelves. Consumers with nut allergies should not consume products bearing the affected code dates and should contact General Mills for a replacement or full refund.

This voluntary recall includes Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola cereal with the following "BETTER IF USED BY" code dates and the plant code JK:

Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola cereal

- 20MAR2018JK

- 21MAR2018JK

Products containing almonds can cause illness or severe reactions for individuals with nut allergies.

Consumers requesting refunds or calling with further questions should contact General Mills Consumer Services at 1-800-624-4123.

Follow-up Community Meeting Scheduled Regarding Drinking Water in the Oakland Section of Burrillville

10-19-2017

A follow-up community meeting about the drinking water in the Oakland section of Burrillville will be held on Monday, October 23rd from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Burrillville Middle School auditorium. Burrillville Middle School is located at 2220 Bronco Hwy (Route 102), Burrillville, Rhode Island.

Earlier this month the Rhode Island Department of Heath (RIDOH) began distributing guidance to consumers on the Oakland Association water system, as well as private well owners in the area, after tests revealed a slightly elevated level of certain man-made chemicals, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), in the water system's well.

An initial community meeting was held on October 3rd. At the follow-up meeting on October 23rd officials from RIDOH, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), and the Town of Burrillville will provide updates on:

- What is being done to address the elevated levels,

- Sampling of private wells in the area,

- The state's preliminary site investigation, and

- Bottled water distribution.

PFASs are used in a variety of products and applications that are resistant to water, grease or stains including non-stick cookware, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, and food packaging, although the majority of PFAS have been phased out in the United States. Examples of facilities that have the potential to contain these chemicals due to use or disposal include industrial factories, airports, fire training academies, and landfills.

In early August, RIDOH's Center for Drinking Water Quality began working with a group of researchers at Brown University to conduct sampling at approximately 35 selected water systems to collect data on PFAS. The systems that were selected for this testing are located within one mile of a facility that could potentially contain PFAS chemicals or may have in the past. These chemicals are currently unregulated in drinking water, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently lowered the health advisory level for two types of PFAS to 70 parts per trillion (ppt) because of new findings on health effects.

Exceedances of this new health advisory were recorded during sampling at Oakland Association, Inc., which serves approximately 175 people. The sampling protocol calls for resampling whenever exceedances are identified. The three sample results collected from the system were 88 ppt, 69 ppt, and 114 ppt. Subsequent testing at several nonresidential sites in the area that use their own systems (for example a restaurant and a church) did not reveal the presence of PFAS.

The health guidance provided to Oakland Association customers includes recommendations to not boil water (boiling water concentrates these chemicals) and to use bottled water or other licensed drinking water until the level of PFAS is below the health advisory. This bottled water has been provided by RIDEM via water dispensers and should be used for drinking, food preparation, cooking, brushing teeth, and any activity that might result in swallowing water. This guidance remains in place.

Beginning on October 5th and through October 9th, RIDEM sampled over 50 private wells within a quarter mile radius of the Oakland Association Well. All the results of this sampling will be shared with each of the individual tenants/homeowners via mail. If any of the samples exceed the health advisory of 70 ppt, then the tenants/homeowners will also be notified as soon as possible via phone.

RIDEM has been providing drinking water, via bottled water and recently in-home water dispensers, at no charge to customers served by the Oakland Association due to the confirmed sampling results above the health advisory of 70 ppt. Those individuals served by private wells within a quarter mile radius of the Oakland Association well, pending results of our sampling, were also offered bottled water.

While consumers are taking these precautions, Oakland Association is already developing a plan of action with RIDOH to reduce these chemicals to acceptable levels, which could include treatment or connecting to a new water source. DEM is conducting an investigation to determine the source of the contamination.

All the other results on the other systems sampled in Rhode Island thus far have been below 70 ppt. Studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over the health advisory level may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants; cancer; and effects to the liver, immune system, or thyroid.

PFASs are a class of man-made chemicals used in a variety of products and applications that are resistant to water, grease or stains including non-stick cookware, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, and food packaging, although the majority of PFAS have been phased out in the United States. Examples of facilities that have the potential to contain these chemicals due to use or disposal include industrial factories, airports, fire training academies, and landfills.

Mann Packing Recalls Minimally Processed Vegetable Products

10-20-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Mann Packing of Salinas, California is recalling various minimally processed vegetable products because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Mann Packing is issuing this recall in response to a single positive result found on a product during random sampling by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The recalled products were distributed throughout the United States and Canada with "best if used by" dates from October 11 to October 20 listed on the front of the packaging. UPC codes and more information about these products are available online.

Mann Packing is issuing this recall out of an abundance of caution. To date, public health officials have not reported any illnesses associated with these products.The recalled product has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Mann Packing is working to ensure that the product is removed from store shelves. Consumers who have purchased any recalled products are urged not to consume them, discard them or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with further questions may contact Mann Packing on our 24-hour consumer line at 888-470-2681 or visit veggiesmadeeasy.com/products.

Preventing Foodborne Illnesses After a Power Outage

10-30-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising people who have lost power to take food safety precautions at home.

Food safety tips when the power goes out

- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened.

- A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

- To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, use generators, grills, and similar items outdoors only. Generators should be used at least 20 feet away from your home.

Food safety tips for when power is restored

- Throw out perishable food (such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and leftovers) in your refrigerator when the power has been off for four hours or more. Perishable foods that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.

- When in doubt, throw it out!

- If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40- ° F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.

- If you don't know the temperature in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40- ° F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.

Know the Symptoms of foodborne illnesses

Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within one to three days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to six weeks later. Although most people will recover from a foodborne illness within a short period of time, some people can develop chronic, severe, or even life-threatening health problems. Foodborne illness can sometimes be confused with other illnesses that have similar symptoms. The symptoms of foodborne illness can include: vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache. If you think that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

RIDOH's Consent Agreement with Prime Healthcare Services, Inc.

11-02-2017

On October 30, 2017, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) entered into a Consent Agreement with Prime Healthcare Service, Inc. The Consent Agreement is accessible at the link below.

Many Blue-Green Algae Advisories Lifted; Others Remain in Place

11-02-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are lifting the advisories that had warned the public to avoid contact and recreational activities with several bodies of water in Rhode Island because of blue-green algae blooms. However, the advisories on several other bodies of water are remaining in place. Blooms of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals.

Advisories for the following bodies of water are being lifted:

- Stafford Pond, Tiverton

- Pleasure Lake, Providence

- Lawton Valley Reservoir, Portsmouth

- Mashapaug Pond, Providence

- Warwick Pond, Warwick

- Sisson Pond, Portsmouth

- Turner Reservoir, Rumford

- St. Mary's Pond, Portsmouth

Because of evidence of ongoing blue-green algae blooms, advisories remain in place for the following bodies of water:

- J. L Curran Reservoir, Cranston

- Blackamore Pond, Cranston

- Spectacle Pond, Cranston

- Almy Pond, Newport

- Slack Reservoir, Smithfield-Johnston

- Melville Ponds, Portsmouth

- Roger Williams Park Ponds (other than Pleasure Lake), Providence

Contact with water containing blue-green algae can cause irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Ingestion of water containing blue-green algal toxins can cause stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water.

The public is reminded to avoid contact with any body of water that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

People who experience the symptoms associated with blue-green algae exposure and who have been swimming or fishing in water, or drinking untreated water from a body of water with a confirmed or suspected cyanobacteria bloom, should contact their healthcare providers. People who come into contact with potentially affected waters should rinse their skin and wash their clothes with clean water as soon as possible. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with potentially affected waters should contact their veterinarians. Pets who encounter potentially affected waters should not be allowed to lick water off their fur and should be rinsed with clean water as soon as possible.

Seasonal cooling and declining daylight are expected to cause blue-green algae to subside.

During the week of November 13th RIDEM will re-visit waterbodies under continued advisory. If blue-green algae have subsided, a status update will be issued at that time.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov.

People with Special Healthcare Needs Encouraged to Enroll in Emergency Registry

11-07-2017

In the wake of last week's destructive windstorm, and in advance of the winter weather events to come, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is urging people with special healthcare needs to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry (RISNER).

RISNER allows local and state emergency officials to better prepare for and respond to Rhode Islanders with disabilities, chronic conditions, and other special healthcare needs during emergencies. Enrolling in RISNER, however, does not guarantee assistance. It is used by emergency responders when making decisions when responding to emergencies.

"Preparedness is one of the keys to remaining healthy and safe during an emergency or natural disaster," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "For people with special healthcare needs, enrolling in RISNER is a critical preparedness step that can help emergency responders get you the vital health services, care, and assistance you need, should a disaster strike."

Anyone with a special healthcare need can enroll in RISNER. Examples of people who are enrolled in RISNER include:

- People with mobility issues (e.g., use a wheelchair, walker, or cane);

- people who are visually impaired, blind, hard of hearing, or Deaf;

- people on home oxygen, respirators, ventilators, dialysis, or pacemakers, and people who are insulin dependent; and

- People who use assistive animals or prostheses.

To enroll in RSINER, people can either call 401-222-5960 or visit www.health.ri.gov/emregistry. From this webpage people can enroll in either English or Spanish, and a paper enrollment form can also be printed for those who would prefer to mail in their information. If someone cannot complete the enrollment form for him or herself, a family member or caregiver can enroll that individual. Strict confidentiality is always maintained. Only emergency management and response agencies have access to the information in RISNER.

RISNER is managed by RIDOH's Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response (CEPR). This week, letters are being sent to current RISNER enrollees reminding them to update their information. Enrollees are also being encouraged to talk to neighbors and friends about RISNER to increase awareness among Rhode Islanders with special healthcare needs.

Additional emergency preparedness steps that all Rhode Islanders should take

Make a Plan

During an emergency, it is important to know how to reach family members. Designate an emergency contact each family member can call to let them know they're safe. Gather and make copies of contact and medical information for each family member. Make a plan for your pets. Pick meeting spots and make sure everyone is familiar with evacuation routes.

Make a Kit

Your kit should include a flashlight and extra batteries, a first-aid kit, food and water (non-perishable food, and one gallon of drinking water per person per day), essential medicines, and copies of important documents stored in waterproof containers.

Power outages

If the power goes out, you can store food outside safely when the outside temperature is below 45- °F. Food can also keep for several hours in the refrigerator or freezer if the doors remain closed. Most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.

Rhode Island Medical Imaging Makes Donation to Help Expand Access to Breast Screening and Follow-up Services

11-08-2017

On behalf of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)'s Women's Cancer Screening Program, Governor Gina M. Raimondo accepted a $10,000 check today from Rhode Island Medical Imaging to expand financial assistance for access to breast screening and follow-up services for low-income women in Rhode Island.

"I want to thank Rhode Island Medical Imaging for their generous donation, and for their decades-long commitment to the health of Rhode Islanders," said Governor Raimondo. "Financial barriers should never stand between a woman and potentially life-saving cancer care. Rhode Island Medical Imaging's work to ensure that this is not the case, and their selfless commitment to the well-being of all Rhode Islanders, exemplifies the best of Rhode Island."

After women receive breast cancer screenings, RIDOH's Women's Cancer Screening Program offers financial assistance for follow-up services to insured women whose incomes are not more than four times the federal poverty level. However, many women do not meet this criterion but still struggle to afford follow-up services because of high co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses. The donation will allow the Women's Cancer Screening Program to help these women who are currently just above the cut off.

RIDOH's Women's Cancer Screening Program is a breast and cervical screening program that covers the cost of an office visit, Pap and HPV tests, mammograms, and most follow-up services for people who meet certain eligibility criteria. The program is also able to help some uninsured women enroll in Medicaid to cover the cost of breast and/or cervical treatment. For more information about eligibility criteria and services, call 401-222-4324, or visit www.health.ri.gov/programs/womenscancerscreening

"We at Rhode Island Medical Imaging are proud to once again support the Women's Cancer Screening Program," said Dr. John Pezzullo, president of Rhode Island Medical Imaging. "As the largest provider of women's imaging services in the state, we see first-hand how devastating a breast cancer diagnosis can be for patients and their families. At RIMI, we offer cutting-edge technology complimented by a team of radiologists that are at the top of their field. We believe we must do our part to ensure that the underserved population of women in need receive that same level of quality care."

"Thanks to the success of the Affordable Care Act in Rhode Island, many more women have health insurance to cover breast cancer services. But many women struggle to get recommended follow-up services after an abnormal finding because of financial barriers," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "I want to thank Rhode Island Medical Imaging for their donation, and for expanding access to quality health services and care for Rhode Islanders in every zip code throughout the state."

The Affordable Care Act is working in Rhode Island. Approximately 96% of all Rhode Islanders have health insurance today. Expanded access to Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act has resulted in coverage for approximately 70,000 adults, and more than 30,000 Rhode Islanders are insured through HealthSource RI. HealthSource RI's open enrollment period has begun. For more information, people should visit www.healthsourceRI or call 1-855-840-4774.

Established in 1943, Rhode Island Medical Imaging operates a network of private facilities that are staffed by board certified radiologists and registered technologists. Rhode Island Medical Imaging radiologists also perform and interpret the full spectrum of imaging examinations at Rhode Island Hospital, Women & Infants Hospital, Miriam Hospital, and Hasbro Children's Hospital.

Frozen, Organic Green Beans Recalled

11-08-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Nature's Touch Frozen Foods is recalling Nature's Touch Frozen Organic Fine Whole Green Beans due to potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

Nature's Touch is issuing this recall after a routine sampling program by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection found one positive result of Listeria monocytogenes in one retail bag of the product. The recalled product comes in 10 oz. bags and has a UPC code of 8 73668 00141 8. Nature's Touch has immediately ceased the production and distribution of this product and is working in full collaboration with the FDA on this recall.

Nature's Touch Frozen Organic Fine Whole Green Beans were distributed through three retailers in the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. All affected retailers have been contacted to ensure that the recalled product is removed from store shelves.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that may cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Consumers who have purchased Nature's Touch Frozen Organic Fine Whole Green Beans are urged to discard it or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. The Nature's Touch Consumer Service Team is available to answer questions at 1-877-850-2664 or by email at: info@naturestouch.ca

Company Selling Raw Milk Told to Cease and Desist

11-15-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that the company Udder Milk has been ordered to cease and desist its illegal sales of unpasteurized, raw milk following confirmation that a New Jersey woman who drank the company's milk was infected with antibiotic-resistant brucellosis.

Consumers would place orders online, and then meet drivers at specific delivery locations, including locations in Rhode Island. Udder Milk was also known as the Co-op on Wheels.

It is illegal to transport raw milk across state lines and sell raw milk. Unpasteurized milk may contain dangerous bacteria. Anyone who has become ill after consuming raw milk products should immediately consult a medical professional. Pasteurized milk and dairy products bought commercially are considered safe for consumption because they are heated to a high temperature that kills harmful bacteria.

Multiple state health department are working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find out where Udder Milk is getting its raw milk. Udder Milk's website identified delivery locations in several states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

The woman from New Jersey tested positive for Brucella RB51 infection. She has since recovered. Brucella bacteria are primarily passed among infected animals. People can become infected by eating or drinking contaminated raw milk products.

A Brucellosis infection can cause a range of symptoms including fever, sweats, chills, weight loss, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. Symptoms may appear up to six months after exposure. Some symptoms may persist for prolonged periods of time or reoccur. These include recurrent fevers; arthritis; swelling of the testicle and scrotum area, heart and/or spleen; depression; neurological symptoms; and chronic fatigue. Brucella RB51 cannot be diagnosed through tests commonly used to diagnose the disease, and this strain is resistant to one of the antibiotics commonly used to treat brucellosis in people.

From 1993 through 2012, there were 127 outbreaks linked to raw milk that were reported to the CDC, resulting in 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations. All suspected and confirmed cases of brucellosis in Rhode Island are immediately reportable to RIDOH. There have been no cases of Brucellosis in Rhode Island in the last five years.

Boil Water Notice Issued for Westerly Water Supply

11-15-2017

The Westerly Water Department has issued a boil water notice to its customers because E. coli bacteria was found in the water supply. Westerly Water Department customers should boil vigorously for at least one minute all water used for human consumption, including drinking and cooking. Alternatively, customers can use bottled water.

This health advisory will remain in effect until corrective actions are completed and satisfactory bacteria results are obtained. The Westerly Water Department will issue a public notice when this requirement is lifted.

E. coli is bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause short-term health effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems. EPA has set a drinking water standard for E. Coli to reduce the risk of these adverse health effects. Under this standard, drinking water must be free of these bacteria for water to be consumed from a system.

The recommendation to boil for one minute pertains to water used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Infants and young children should not be bathed in this water because they may swallow it accidentally. Anyone else using this water for bathing or showering should be careful to avoid swallowing the water.

The Westerly Water Department sells water to customers throughout the Town of Westerly and to customers in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. E. Coli was detected in a routine sample taken on 11/13/17. Repeat samples taken on 11/14/17 were absent of coliform in the distribution system, but E. Coli was present in one of the wells (Bradford Well #2). As a result, the Westerly Water Department is instituting this boil water order. Samples will be collected throughout the distribution system on Thursday 11/16/17 to determine whether or not the contamination has spread within the system. Sample results will not be available until Friday. Continual testing will be done until the system is cleared for human consumption and the boil water notice can be lifted. People with questions should call the Westerly Water Department at 401-348-2561.

Areas in Pawcatuck, Connecticut not affected by this boil water notice would be customers not billed by the Westerly Water Department. These areas are:

- South of Rt. 1 in Ct.beyond Greenhaven Road

- North of Rt. 2 in Ct. beyond 300 feet past Route 617

- North of Rt. 49 in Ct. beyond Stop and Shop Shopping Plaza

- West of Peqqot Trail in Ct. (Rt. 234) beyond Billings Street

- South of River Rd. in Ct. beyond 200 feet beyond Crestview Avenue

- Elm Ridge Rd. in Ct. beyond Fairview Avenue

RIDOH and CDC Urging Rhode Islanders to Be Antibiotics Aware

11-16-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to remind Rhode Island patients, families, and healthcare professionals to Be Antibiotics Aware.

Antibiotics were one of the most significant scientific developments of the 20th century. They have made infections that were once fatal routinely treatable, while also allowing for other medical advances, like cancer chemotherapy and organ transplants. However, the overuse of antibiotics, and the use of antibiotics when they are not appropriate, has resulted in many bacteria no longer responding to antibiotic treatment. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At least 23,000 people die as a result.

In Rhode Island, work to ensure the responsible, appropriate use of antibiotics is being led by the Rhode Island Antimicrobial Stewardship and Environmental Cleaning Task Force. This Task Force is co-chaired by Rebecca Reece, MD, a Medical Consultant to RIDOH's Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Diseases, and Emergency Medical Services; and Kerry LaPlante, Pharm.D., FCCP, a Professor at the University of Rhode Island's College of Pharmacy.

"When someone takes the time out of their day to go to the doctor, they want to walk out with a prescription that is going to make them feel better. But antibiotics are not always the answer. In fact, they can sometimes make things even worse," said Dr. Reece. "By taking antibiotics when doing so is not appropriate, a person puts themselves at risk for serious side effects while also undermining our ability to use antibiotics as a life-saving tool for future generations."

"Improving the ways we prescribe and take antibiotics can help keep us healthy now, help fight antibiotic resistance, and ensure that life-saving antibiotics will be available for the future," said Dr. LaPlante. "Patients, healthcare providers, and healthcare facility administrators all have a role to play in making Rhode Island antibiotics aware!"

The outreach being done in Rhode Island this week is coinciding with U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week and World Antibiotic Awareness Week (November 13th -19th). RIDOH's Be Antibiotics Aware campaign will continue through the winter to remind Rhode Islanders that antibiotics are not the answer for viruses. The Be Antibiotics Aware material being shared includes resources to help healthcare professionals improve antibiotic prescribing and material to educate the public. The material for the public includes the message that all Rhode Islanders should:

- Take prescribed antibiotics exactly as told by healthcare providers.

- Never share medication.

- Never pressure a doctor into giving antibiotics that were not recommended.

- Ask your healthcare provider if there are steps you can take to feel better and get relief from your symptoms without using antibiotics.

- Get a flu shot and other immunizations to keep you from getting an illness that might develop into a bacterial infection.

- Wash your hands, and take precautions to avoid getting infections which might require antibiotics.

Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as colds and the flu virus, or runny noses. Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria. Any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. If antibiotics are used when they shouldn't be used, they won't help the individual, and the individual can still experience these side effects. Common side effects range from rashes and yeast infections to severe health problems like Clostridium difficile infection (also called C. difficile or C. diff).

In Rhode Island, many healthcare facilities signed a letter of commitment to ensure safe prescribing and antimicrobial stewardship programs at their facilities. A list of these members of Rhode Island's Antimicrobial Stewardship Honor Roll is available online.

To learn more about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit www.health.ri.gov/antibiotics and www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use

Yorgo's Foods Recalling All Greek-Style Food Products

11-16-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Yorgo's Foods is recalling all Greek-style food products it manufactures due to their potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The recalled products include hommus, tahini sauces, yogurt dip, salads, tzatziki, grape leaves, and taboule. The recalled products were distributed to retail stores nationwide. A complete list of the recalled products and product photos can be found online. Most of the recalled products were distributed in 8, 12, 16 and 32 ounce plastic cups or 2 and 5 pound plastic bags.

This issue was identified after routine FDA environmental sampling identified Listeria monocytogenes in the processing environment and in one sample of Original Tahini Sauce. Manufacturing of all foods has been voluntarily suspended while the FDA continues to investigate the source of the problem.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in pregnant women, young children, frail or elderly people, those with weakened immune systems and in unborn fetuses. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The products being recalled should be discarded or returned to the grocery store where they were purchased. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with these products. Consumers with questions should contact the company at 1-603-624-5830.

Stop & Shop Recalls Store Brand Frozen Whole Kernel Sweet Corn

11-16-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company is recalling Stop & Shop Brand Frozen Whole Kernel Sweet Corn due to potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

The product details are: Stop & Shop Brand Frozen Whole Kernel Sweet Corn, 16 oz., UPC 68826700676 with a Best By Date of Oct-2019.

Stop & Shop has received no reports of illnesses to date. Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Healthy people rarely contract listeriosis. However, listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy.

Customers who have purchased this product should discard any unused portions and bring their purchase receipt to Stop & Shop for a full refund. Consumers looking for additional information on the recall should call Stop & Shop Customer Service at 800-767-7772.

Boil Water Notice Lifted for Westerly Water Supply

11-17-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Westerly Water Department have lifted the boil water notice that was issued on November 15, 2017 because of an E. coli bacteria finding. Samples taken by the Westerly Water Department on November 16th were all absent of bacteria.

Before consuming water from the system again, people should clean and sanitize refrigerators with water dispensers and/or ice machines, replace any water treatment filter cartridges, and flush any faucets or taps not used during the boil advisory for 10 minutes. Guidance on refrigerator sanitization can be found online (see link below).

Westerly Water Department collected 13 samples throughout the distribution system on November 16th, including locations in Westerly, Rhode Island and Pawcatuck, Connecticut. The Bradford Well #2, which had the E. coli result earlier this week, will remain inactive until corrective action is completed and follow-up samples are absent of bacteria.

Consumers with questions should contact Paul Corina, Westerly Director of Public Works, at 401-348-2561 or 68 White Rock Road, Westerly, Rhode Island.

Public Meeting to be Held Regarding Memorial Hospital's Emergency Department

11-20-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) will hold a meeting on Monday, November 27th to gather public comment on Care New England's application to close the emergency department at Memorial Hospital. The meeting will be held at Lyman B. Goff Middle School from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The address of Lyman B. Goff Middle School is 974 Newport Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The purpose of the meeting will be to allow the public to provide input on the potential closure's effects on the community. RIDOH officials at the meeting will not be able to answer questions about the application. A copy of the application to close the emergency department can be found online.

In addition to speaking at this meeting, members of the public can submit written comment. Written comment can be submitted in person on November 27th or it can be submitted via email or postal mail between today and December 11th to Paula Pullano, Rhode Island Department of Health; 3 Capitol Hill, Room 410; Providence, RI 02908 | Paula.Pullano@health.ri.gov.

Consumers of Udder Milk Products Advised to Consult Healthcare Professionals

11-22-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising anyone who drank or consumed raw milk products from the company Udder Milk in the past six months to visit their doctors for antibiotics to prevent illness.

This announcement is an update to a November 15th press release in which RIDOH urged Rhode Islanders to not consume Udder Milk products or any raw milk products. Udder Milk had been ordered to cease and desist its illegal sales of unpasteurized, raw milk following confirmation that a New Jersey woman who drank the company's milk was infected with antibiotic-resistant brucellosis. Because Udder Milk has not provided information about the farms that supply their milk, it has not been possible to trace the source of the woman's infection. This has prompted the recommendation from federal and state health officials for people to visit their doctors for antibiotics if they have consumed Udder Milk raw milk products in the past six months.

This guidance is particularly important for pregnant women. While Brucella can cause anyone to become sick, it may cause women to suffer miscarriages and other pregnancy complications.

Consumers would place orders online, and then meet drivers at specific delivery locations, including locations in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. It is illegal to transport raw milk across state lines and sell raw milk. Unpasteurized milk may contain dangerous bacteria. Anyone who has become ill after consuming raw milk products should immediately consult a medical professional. Pasteurized milk and dairy products bought commercially are considered safe for consumption because they are heated to a high temperature that kills harmful bacteria.

Antibiotics are being used in this instance as a form of post-exposure prophylaxis, which means that the medication is intended as a treatment to reduce the likelihood of an infection after potential exposure. Antibiotics should only be used if they are prescribed by a healthcare provider. The use of antibiotics when they are not prescribed by a healthcare provider is dangerous.

The woman from New Jersey tested positive for Brucella RB51 infection. She has since recovered. Brucella bacteria are primarily passed among infected animals. People can become infected by eating or drinking contaminated raw milk products.

A Brucellosis infection can cause a range of symptoms including fever, sweats, chills, weight loss, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. Symptoms may appear up to six months after exposure. Some symptoms may persist for prolonged periods of time or reoccur. These include recurrent fevers; arthritis; swelling of the testicle and scrotum area, heart and/or spleen; depression; neurological symptoms; and chronic fatigue. Brucella RB51 cannot be diagnosed through tests commonly used to diagnose the disease, and this strain is resistant to one of the antibiotics commonly used to treat brucellosis in people.

From 1993 through 2012, there were 127 outbreaks linked to raw milk that were reported to the CDC, resulting in 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations. All suspected and confirmed cases of brucellosis in Rhode Island are immediately reportable to RIDOH. There have been no cases of Brucellosis in Rhode Island in the last five years.

Anyone who purchased any milk or other food from Udder Milk should call the RIDOH's Center for Food Protection at 401-222-2749.

Updated Information on Public Meeting to be Held Regarding Memorial Hospital

11-24-2017

This announcement is an update to the November 20 press release about the public meeting that the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is holding on Monday, November 27th regarding Memorial Hospital. In addition to gathering public comment on Care New England's application to close the emergency department at Memorial Hospital, RIDOH will also gather public comment on Care New England's application to transfer the primary care services currently provided under Memorial Hospital's license to Kent Hospital's license. RIDOH received the complete application regarding the transfer of primary care services from Care New England today.

The meeting will be held at Lyman B. Goff Middle School from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The address of Lyman B. Goff Middle School is 974 Newport Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The purpose of the meeting will be to allow the public to provide input on the potential effects on the community of these changes. RIDOH officials at the meeting will not be able to answer questions about the applications. Copies of the applications to close the emergency department and to transfer the primary care services to Kent Hospital's license can be found online.

In addition to speaking at this meeting, members of the public can submit written comment. Written comment can be submitted in person on November 27th or it can be submitted via email or postal mail until December 11th to Paula Pullano, Rhode Island Department of Health; 3 Capitol Hill, Room 410; Providence, RI 02908 | Paula.Pullano@health.ri.gov.

Follow-up Community Meeting Scheduled Regarding Memorial Hospital

11-30-2017

A second meeting has been scheduled to give the public an additional opportunity to provide comment on Care New England (CNE)'s application to close the emergency department at Memorial Hospital, as well as CNE's application to transfer the primary care services currently provided under Memorial Hospital's license to Kent Hospital's license. The meeting will take place on Monday, December 4th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Elizabeth Baldwin School, located at 50 Whitman Street in Pawtucket. The meeting will take place in the cafeteria.

The first community meeting was held on November 27th.

The purpose of the meeting will be to allow the public to provide input on the potential effects on the community of these changes. RIDOH officials at the meeting will not be able to answer questions about the applications.

In addition to speaking at this meeting, members of the public can submit written comment. Written comment can be submitted in person on December 4th or it can be submitted via email or postal mail until December 11th to Paula Pullano, Rhode Island Department of Health; 3 Capitol Hill, Room 410; Providence, RI 02908 | Paula.Pullano@health.ri.gov.

RIDOH Takes Action to Safeguard Patient Safety at Memorial Hospital

11-30-2017

In the interest of patient safety and quality of care, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) issued a Consent Order to Care New England (CNE) today providing detailed instructions on how Memorial Hospital will function until decisions are made on the applications that CNE has submitted to RIDOH regarding the Hospital.

The applications before RIDOH are an application to close Memorial's emergency department and an application to transfer the primary care services currently provided under Memorial Hospital's license to the licenses of other CNE hospitals (which would allow these primary care services to be maintained in Pawtucket).

"Ensuring that safe, quality care is provided to every person who walks through the doors of any healthcare facility in Rhode Island is one of the most important functions of the Rhode Island Department of Health," said Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "Even when someone goes into the hospital for a routine procedure, the unexpected can happen. As we continue to evaluate the applications submitted by Care New England, we are issuing these directions to safeguard patients against any injury or harm that could result from the hospital's current situation."

The directives in the Consent Order only apply to the period beginning on December 1, 2017 and ending on the date when RIDOH issues its decisions on CNE's applications. This Consent Order should not be read as an indication of the future of Memorial Hospital following the issuance of RIDOH's decisions.

The Consent Order stipulates that between December 1, 2017 and the date when RIDOH issues its decisions on CNE's applications:

- EMS services will no longer transport patients to Memorial Hospital

- No new patients will be admitted at Memorial Hospital, and

- No surgeries will be performed.

RIDOH has determined that Memorial Hospital does not currently have the staffing levels necessary to safely administer care in these areas. Memorial Hospital's contract with the group that provides their anesthesia services is ending on November 30, 2017. Memorial Hospital does not currently have a functional Intensive Care Unit. The hospital also does not have any on-site gastrointestinal physicians or orthopedists, among other specialties.

Memorial Hospital will maintain respiratory therapy, radiology, Computed Tomography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, laboratory, and pharmacy services. The hospital must also maintain the appropriate staffing levels required to support these services.

Some Blue-Green Algae Advisories Lifted; Others Remain in Place

12-01-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are lifting the health advisories put in place for several bodies of water because of blue-green algae blooms, while several others advisories are remaining in effect. The advisories caution people to avoid contact and recreational activities with these bodies of water. Blooms of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals.

Advisories are being lifted for these bodies of water:

- Slack Reservoir, Smithfield-Johnston

- J. L Curran Reservoir, Cranston

- Melville Ponds, Portsmouth

Due to evidence of ongoing blue-green algae blooms, advisories will remain in effect for these bodies of water:

- Blackamore Pond, Cranston

- Spectacle Pond, Cranston

- Almy Pond, Newport

- Roger Williams Park Ponds (other than Pleasure Lake), Providence

Contact with water containing blue-green algae can cause irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Ingestion of water containing blue-green algal toxins can cause stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water.

The public is reminded to avoid contact with any body of water that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

People who experience the symptoms associated with blue-green algae exposure and who have been swimming or fishing in water, or drinking untreated water from a water body with a confirmed or suspected cyanobacteria bloom, should contact their healthcare providers. People who come into contact with potentially affected waters should rinse their skin and wash their clothes with clean water as soon as possible. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with potentially affected waters should contact their veterinarians. Pets who encounter potentially affected waters should not be allowed to lick water off their fur and should be rinsed with clean water as soon as possible.

Continued seasonal cooling and declining daylight are expected to cause blue-green algae to subside. DEM will re-visit water bodies under continued advisory and when blue-green algae have subsided a status update will be issued.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov.

Rhode Island Meets First Benchmark in Ambitious HIV Treatment Campaign

12-01-2017

Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), announced today that Rhode Island has met the first target of the 90-90-90 initiative, a global effort aimed at ensuring that, by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV will know their status; 90% of people living with HIV will be engaged in HIV care; and 90% of people living with HIV will have viral suppression.

The announcement that 93% of Rhode Islanders who are HIV positive know their status was made at a World AIDS Day event held at the Rhode Island Foundation. The event was sponsored by the Rhode Island HIV & STI Prevention Coalition.

In 2015, Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Mayor Jorge Elorza made Rhode Island and Providence the first state-city partnership to join 90-90-90. Other cities that have joined include Atlanta, Miami, and San Francisco.

More than 2,600 Rhode Islanders are living with HIV. Estimates indicate that there are approximately 300 Rhode Islanders who do not know they are infected with HIV. The total number of people living in Rhode Island with HIV is estimated using advanced epidemiological modeling. Individuals with HIV who are connected to care can receive medications that control their virus levels. This not only improves their own health, but means they are also less likely to spread HIV to other people.

Rhode Island 90-90-90 Data Update

- Goal 1: Know HIV status - 93% of those estimated to have HIV have been diagnosed, up from 88% in 2015

- Goal 2: Engaged in HIV care - 71% in care, up from 60% in 2015

- Goal 3: Have viral suppression - 65%, up from 56% in 2015

"If someone is living with HIV, getting diagnosed is the first, crucial step toward the treatment and care that can help that person live a life that is long, full, and completely healthy. Meeting the first target of 90-90-90 is a testament to the tremendous HIV collaboration happening throughout Rhode Island," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "However, more work needs to be done to get people engaged in care and get people's viral loads suppressed. In part, this means getting at the underlying factors that create additional challenges for some people living with HIV, such as unstable housing, behavioral health issues, substance abuse, and discrimination. Everyone in Rhode Island absolutely has the right to be as healthy as possible, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, level of income, or insurance status."

Rhode Island's progress toward its 90-90-90 targets is the result of collaborations between many organizations who provide critical HIV prevention and education services, including the Executive Office of Health and Human Services' Ryan White Program, AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, Project Weber/RENEW, Community Care Alliance/AGAPE, Thundermist Health Center, The Miriam Hospital, and University Medical Group/Roger Williams Medical Center.

Condom Locator Unveiled

To help ensure that Rhode Islanders have access to condoms, which are a safe, effective way to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), RIDOH unveiled an interactive condom locator map at the event that allows people to find sites where condoms are available for free. The map can be found at health.ri.gov/findcondoms. The venues on the map, which is being promoted as part of a multimedia HIV/STD prevention and testing information campaign launched by RIDOH in November, include community organizations, AIDS services providers, college and university campuses, and bars and clubs.

In 2016, RIDOH distributed 432,000 condoms by 110 dispensers located at 85 unique locations and community events statewide. So far, in 2017, RIDOH has distributed over 395,000 condoms at a growing number of locations statewide.

In addition to helping prevent the spread of HIV, condoms can also help prevent the spread of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. The number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have all spiked in Rhode Island in the last 10 years.

Rhode Island Initiatives Supporting 90-90-90 Progress

RIDOH and its partner organizations promote health equity and the right to health at every level of the HIV care continuum, including testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill to prevent HIV; partner notification services; and wrap-around services to promote linkage to and retention in HIV care. Specific initiatives include:

- RIDOH funds several community agencies to provide free and anonymous rapid HIV testing. As of November 24th, RIDOH partners AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, and Project Weber have conducted 2,060 rapid HIV tests in 2017, up from 1,750 rapid HIV tests at this time last year in 2016.

- When an individual is newly diagnosed with HIV, RIDOH's Partner Services Program talks to patients to identify other individuals who may have been exposed to HIV (through sexual contact or needle sharing) and to help get their partners tested.

- RIDOH provides grants to five schools (Central Falls High School, Lincoln Middle School, North Kingstown High School, Segue Institute, and Woonsocket Middle School) to improve the environment and opportunities for young people to be healthy. The grants also provide health teachers with a curriculum and resources to help them address sensitive sexual health topics.

- As the state and nation continue to battle the overdose epidemic, RIDOH continues its strong commitment to funding ENCORE, the state's needle exchange program run by AIDS Care Ocean State. ENCORE has distributed 84,275 clean needles so far in 2017, up from 74,539 needles at this time last year.

- If someone with HIV stops taking medications to suppress viral loads, RIDOH's Return to Care Program reaches out and helps those people address the barriers that prevent them from staying in care.

For more information on HIV prevention, testing, and treatment, visit http://health.ri.gov/hiv.

RIDOH and BHDDH Host First Statewide Community Overdose Engagement Summit

12-12-2017

Cities and towns from throughout Rhode Island gather to develop local overdose response plans

On behalf of Governor Gina Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, the Rhode Island Departments of Health (RIDOH) and Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH) convened more than 250 leaders today from municipalities throughout the state to participate in the first statewide Community Overdose Engagement Summit to collaboratively address the overdose epidemic.

Summit participants spent the day examining their local overdose data; identifying local resources to support overdose prevention, rescue, treatment, and recovery; and developing local overdose response plans. To complete these plans, RIDOH has made grant funding up to $5,000 dollars available to municipalities.

"We've lost too many lives to the opioid overdose epidemic," Raimondo said. "We can only beat it by working together. Thank you to each and every local leader taking action to help us save lives and keep our communities safe."

Summit participants included municipal leaders, healthcare providers, pharmacists, behavioral health counselors, law enforcement personnel and other first responders, people in the recovery and treatment communities, prevention coalitions members, family and youth substance use prevention organization members, and representatives from Rhode Island Centers of Excellence and RIDOH's Health Equity Zones (HEZs).

"Public health that works is public health that is local and community-focused," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "This Community Overdose Engagement Summit allowed state leaders to provide cities and towns with local data, tools, and resources, including grant funding, to help them prevent overdoses and save lives in their communities. This kind of collaboration within cities and towns, and between municipalities and the state, is critical to our work to overcome the overdose crisis in Rhode Island."

"The sharing of information between cities and towns allows treatment providers, peer recovery coaches and first responders to act in a timely fashion. We need to work together to make sure that everyone who is suffering from substance use disorder knows that addiction is a disease, treatment is available, and recovery is possible," said BHDDH Director Rebecca Boss. "Stigma is a roadblock, but education and treatment can help to break those barriers, which is key to resolving this crisis."

Since March 2014 hospitals and emergency departments have been required to report any suspected opioid overdoses to RIDOH within 48 hours. These data have allowed RIDOH to look at overdose activity in each community on a weekly basis and identify data trends and abnormalities. Through this data analysis, thresholds for local warnings were established and a system for alerting local leaders was developed. Rhode Island Overdose Action Area Response (ROAR) advisories are sent to municipal leaders to alert them of an increase in overdose activity within a seven-day period. In addition, when RIDOH observes an increase in a specific geographical area three times within a six-week period, RIDOH, BHDDH, and the Rhode Island Fusion Center hold a local Community Overdose Engagement meeting with those leaders to examine the community's customized data, discuss their unique challenges, and form solutions. Today's Summit was the first statewide Community Overdose Engagement meeting, designed to bring communities together to learn from one another and develop local overdose response plans.

Some of the initiatives shared at the Summit that can be replicated across the state include:

  • Peer recovery specialists, who are available in a variety of settings, to link overdose survivors with the support and services they need following an overdose. Settings include hospitals emergency departments, community centers, and police departments. Anchor Mobile Outreach brings peer recovery specialists to the street where they provide needle exchange, distribute naloxone kits, and link people to treatment and recovery resources in the community.
  • As of this week, Providence has 12 fire stations designated as "Safe Stations" to provide 24-hour support to those with substance use disorder. The stations have trained firemen who are able to call for peer recovery support and provide transportation to recovery services. The stations allow individuals living with substance use disorders to access resources in a non-hospital or clinical treatment setting, day or night.

  • Warwick, and West Warwick Police Departments have implemented behavioral health navigator programs where licensed mental health professionals accompany police officers on calls to connect residents with treatment/recovery resources and potentially divert them from the criminal justice system. Behavioral health navigators follow-up with these residents, as well as their family members and friends to ensure that post-overdose support systems are in place.

The Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team's (RIDMAT) Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), along with RIDOH, and BHDDH will offer technical support to municipalities in developing their local overdose response plans and in implementing their strategies of prevention, rescue, treatment, and recovery. Cities and towns can start the process of applying for funds online at www.rimrc.org/code-letter-of-intent.

Springfield Smoked Fish Recalls Salmon

12-13-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Springfield Smoked Fish of Springfield, Massachusetts is recalling its 1-pound packages of Pre-scliced Nova Salmon because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The recalled packages were distributed to customers in Rhode Island and Connecticut through retail stores. The product comes in a 1-pound, clear plastic package marked with lot # 42173 on the back of the package and with an expiration date of 12/22/17. The UPC is 811907018018.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this issue.

This issue was identified after FDA product sampling identified Listeria monocytogenes in the product. Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

The production of the product has been suspended while FDA and the company continue to investigate the source of the problem.

Consumers who have purchased the 1-pound packages of the pre-sliced Nova Salmon are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-413-737-8693. Monday through Friday 8 am - 5 pm.

Arruda's Dairy Farm Recalls Egg Nog

12-19-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Arruda's Dairy Farms of Tiverton, Rhode Island is recalling its pint, quart, and half-gallon containers of egg nog because they may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

The recalled packages were distributed to home delivery customers and throughout eastern Rhode Island and the Fall River area of Massachusetts through retail stores. The product comes in a pint, quart, and half-gallon, clear plastic containers with a sell by date of 2/3/18 and 2/10/18.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this issue.

This issue was identified after RIDOH product sampling identified Salmonella bacteria in the product. Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and fever. Symptoms usually begin between 12 to 36 hours after exposure, but they may begin as early as six hours or as late as 72 hours after exposure. Symptoms can be mild or severe and commonly last for two to seven days. Salmonella can infect anyone, but young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections .

The production of the product has been suspended while RIDOH and the company continue to investigate the source of the problem. Arruda's has cooperated fully with RIDOH during the investigation.

Consumers who have purchased the pint, quart, and half-gallon containers of the egg nog are urged to return them to the place of purchase. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-401-624-8898. Monday through Friday 8 am - 7 pm.

RIDOH Issues Decision on Closure Application for Memorial Hospital's Emergency Department

12-28-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) approved today Care New England's (CNE's) application to close Memorial Hospital's emergency department in a decision that includes conditions aimed at supporting local emergency medical response capacity, maintaining the state's primary care training infrastructure, and investing in health at the community-level.

The decision will be effective on January 1, 2018.

"We spent weeks carefully weighing CNE's applications to understand how these changes at Memorial Hospital would affect the most vulnerable residents of Pawtucket and Central Falls, and the state's healthcare system as a whole," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "The conditions included in today's decision seek to ensure that residents continue to have access to the high-quality care they need. In addition, the conditions call on CNE to invest in community-level initiatives that will positively impact the underlying socioeconomic and environmental factors that actually determine the health of people and their neighborhoods."

RIDOH organized two community meetings in Pawtucket in the last month to gather community input, in addition to collecting written comments. This input informed RIDOH's decision and conditions. The conditions include requirements that CNE:

Open a walk-in clinic in Pawtucket, to be open seven days a week.;

Provide $300,000 to Pawtucket and $200,000 to Central Falls each year for two years to offset emergency medical services costs associated with transporting patients to other hospitals.;

Put in place a transportation plan for patients and patients' families so that individuals with non-emergency chronic conditions won't have to incur additional costs associated with traveling to receive services that are only offered at another hospital.;

Maintain Memorial Hospital's Family Care and Internal Medicine Centers in Pawtucket at their current hours and staffing levels.;

Invest $100,000 annually in the Pawtucket and Central Falls Health Equity Zones (HEZs). Rhode Island's HEZs are nine distinct areas throughout the state where organizations are coming together to put health programs and policies in place to prevent chronic diseases, improve birth outcomes, and improve the socioeconomic and environmental conditions of their neighborhoods.;

Make outplacement and career transition services available to staff through an outplacement firm hired by CNE. CNE will continue to organize job fairs which will include representation from all operating units of CNE, other employers through the state, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, and CNE's Employee Assistance Program.

Although today's decision means that Memorial Hospital will no longer function as a hospital, an application for Memorial Hospital to cease providing primary care services in Pawtucket is still pending. CNE intends to continue to provide these services in the future in Pawtucket under the licenses of other CNE hospitals. (These other CNE facilities are in the process of obtaining the necessary licenses to do so.)

According to statute, in making today's decision RIDOH needed to consider how the proposed changes would affect:

Access to healthcare services for traditionally underserved populations (including Medicaid, uninsured and underinsured patients, and people of color);

The delivery of emergency and primary care services in the community;

Other hospitals or healthcare providers in the affected community; and

Other hospitals or healthcare providers in the state.

The findings of the decision included the fact that there are seven acute care hospitals within a 10-mile radius of Memorial Hospital, and 10 health centers within a 10-mile radius. RIDOH also noted in the decision that while Memorial Hospital's primary service areas include many underinsured and traditionally underserved populations, CNE will continue to serve its large primary care patient population in Pawtucket.

Due to concerns about patient safety, RIDOH issued a consent order on November 30th temporarily halting EMS services to Memorial Hospital, along with new admissions and surgeries at the Hospital. The Hospital's emergency department had remained open for walk-in patients. CNE will be issuing public notifications in English, Spanish, and Portuguese in the coming days about the timing of the permanent closure of the emergency department, effective January 1, 2018.

Remaining Blue-Green Algae Advisories Lifted

12-29-2017

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are lifting the health advisories that had been put in place for several bodies of water because of blue-green algae blooms. The advisories had cautioned people to avoid contact and recreational activities with these bodies of water. Blooms of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals.

Effective immediately, advisories are lifted for Blackamore Pond, Cranston; Spectacle Pond, Cranston; Almy Pond, Newport; and Roger Williams Park Ponds, Providence.

No advisories for blue-green algae remain in effect in Rhode Island. DEM will re-visit water bodies in early summer 2018, when blooms might be expected to occur, and advisories will be issued, as needed.

The public is reminded to avoid contact with any body of water that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. While seasonal cooling and declining daylight generally cause blue-green algae to subside, if a bloom is suspected please contact DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov.

Boil Water Advisory in Place for Centre of New England Boulevard Drinking Water System in Coventry

12-30-2017

The Centre of New England Boulevard drinking water system in Coventry has issued a boil water notice to its customers because E. coli bacteria was found in the water supply. Customers should boil vigorously for at least one minute all water used for human consumption, including drinking and cooking. Alternatively, customers can use bottled water.

This health advisory will remain in effect until corrective actions are completed and satisfactory bacteria results are obtained. Centre of New England Boulevard administrators are currently alerting customers about this advisory, and will alert customers when it is lifted.

For more information, contact Matthew McGowan at (401) 274 - 0300 ext 217.

Kent County Water System is not affected by this advisory. The site served by the Centre of New England Boulevard drinking water system is a combination residential area and commercial area.

The recommendation to boil for one minute pertains to water used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Infants and young children should not be bathed in this water because they may swallow it accidentally. Anyone else using this water for bathing or showering should be careful to avoid swallowing the water.

E. coli is bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause short-term health effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems. EPA has set a drinking water standard for E. Coli to reduce the risk of these adverse health effects. Under this standard, drinking water must be free of these bacteria for water to be consumed from a system.

RIDOH Reminds Rhode Islanders to Stay Safe During Extreme Cold

12-31-2017

With frigid temperatures predicted through the holiday weekend, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) reminds Rhode Islanders of precautions to take in extreme cold.

1. Check on elderly family, friends and neighbors frequently. The elderly are especially susceptible to extremely cold temperatures.

2. Watch for icy or slippery spots on driveways and walkways to help prevent injuries from slips and falls.

3. Dress warmly if you are outside, especially if you are not physically active. Wear a coat, hat, scarf and gloves even for a short walk to a mailbox. A fall or a locked door can leave you exposed to extreme cold.

4. Consider postponing any "polar plunges" planned for New Year's Day, due to the dangerously cold temperatures predicted. Take precautions if you participate in one:

- DO NOT plunge if you have any heart or serious medical conditions, or if you are not used to higher heart rates from physical activity.

- DO NOT stay in the water for more than a few minutes. Body heat is lost 25 times faster in water than in air.

- DO NOT dive or somersault into the water.

- DO NOT drink alcohol prior to the plunge. Alcohol accelerates hypothermia.

- DO bring a robe, blanket, towel or jacket to wear while waiting to plunge and for when you get out of the water. A towel to dry off as well as an extra towel to stand on is also a good idea.

- Change out of your wet clothes and dry yourself right away after you come out of the water.

5. If someone has been exposed to extreme cold and is showing signs of hypothermia (confusion, trouble walking, shivering) call 911 right away. Cover the person with a warm blanket. Do not rub the person's arms or legs.

6. Set indoor temperatures according to activity level, health and medications. A safe, fuel-saving temperature for a young, active family may be dangerous for an older person who has trouble moving or is taking certain medications.

7. Avoid drinking alcohol, as it can lower the body's ability to keep warm.

8. Hydrate. Drink plenty of water and other non-caffeinated, no-sugar beverages. (You can get dehydrated in cold weather too.)

9. Review fire safety tips for keeping warm during severe cold weather. The risk of injury and death from home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning increases during severe cold weather, when people are more likely to seek alternative heating sources to stay warm. Make sure you have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. Review additional fire safety tips from the Rhode Island Fire Marshal's Office at https://www.ri.gov/press/view/32177

"Exposure to lower-than-normal temperatures for even a short time can be dangerous for the very young, elderly, and those with chronic diseases," said Director of Health, Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "It is important that all Rhode Islanders use caution during extreme cold, and as a community, be particularly aware of those who are most at risk."

A list of warming centers open to the public for those who need to seek temporary shelter is available on the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency website: http://www.riema.ri.gov/warmingcenters/