Contact

Media Inquiries

Press Release Archives
2010

Schedule for School-Based Clinics for Second Doses of H1N1 Flu Vaccine Released

01-05-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released the schedule for the second round of H1N1 flu vaccination clinics in its statewide, school-based immunization campaign today.

Beginning on January 11, 2010, clinics for second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine will run in schools on scheduled dates for approximately four weeks. The clinics for second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine will be for children who were younger than 10 years of age when their schools ran H1N1 flu vaccination clinics in the fall. Children who were older than 10 years of age at the time of their schools’ first H1N1 flu vaccination clinics do not require second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine.

The schedule for school-based clinics for second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine is available on HEALTH’s website . The leaders of public, private, and parochial schools throughout the state will contact the parents and guardians of their students with more specific information about clinics.

“Second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine are important for any child who was younger than 10 years of age at the time of his or her school’s first clinic,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “First doses may only give many younger children partial immunity against this serious virus. With another wave of illness very possible in the coming months, parents can keep their families as safe as possible by making sure that their young ones receive second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine.”

In creating the schedule for second-dose clinics, HEALTH considered important factors such as volunteer availability and the number of students to be vaccinated at each clinic. The Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) ’s volunteers will again vaccinate students against H1N1 flu in school-based clinics.

The schedule for second-dose clinics is very similar to the schedule for first-dose clinics, though in some cases school sites were moved to more efficient venues by HEALTH, the MRC, and schools. HEALTH will run 220 second-dose clinics for students enrolled in 278 Rhode Island schools. The schedule can be searched by town, date or school and is subject to change. Parents and students are encouraged to check HEALTH’s website regularly for any updates to the clinic schedule

Parents and guardians should note that retail pharmacies are not vaccinating children who are younger than 18 years of age against H1N1 flu. Additionally, Rhode Island healthcare providers are not yet routinely administering second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine to school-aged children. Children who miss their schools’ second-dose clinics must make alternate arrangements. Children who are older than six months of age but who are not yet in kindergarten or who attend kindergarten in private or pre-school settings can receive second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine from their pediatricians and family physicians now.

HEALTH’s first round of school-based clinics for H1N1 flu vaccine ran from November 2, 2009 through December 15, 2009 for children in kindergarten through grade 12 in Rhode Island schools. At 421 first-round clinics, 120,930 school-aged children received vaccine. Parents and guardians who signed consent forms for their children to attend one of these first dose clinics will not have to sign additional consent forms for second dose clinics.

For the answers to frequently asked questions about second doses of H1N1 flu vaccine, including those regarding consent forms, see the H1N1 School-based Clinics page on HEALTH’s website . With any additional questions about H1N1 flu or second-dose clinics, call HEALTH’s H1N1 Information Line at (401) 222-8022. Responders on this line are prepared to answer questions in English and Spanish.

Department of Health Announces Free H1N1 Vaccination Clinics for General Public; Healthcare Worker, First Responder Clinics Coming This Weekend

01-07-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), in coordination with municipal partners, will hold public H1N1 vaccination clinics beginning January 16. These clinics will be free of charge and no appointments are necessary. Individuals must be 18 years of age or older to be vaccinated at these clinics, but do not need to live in the city or town where the clinic is being held. No identification will be required at these clinics; however, anyone who will be vaccinated must complete and sign a consent form.

“Our goal is to vaccinate half a million Rhode Islanders by Valentines Day to protect them from the spring wave of H1N1,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Even people who consider themselves to be healthy should be vaccinated. Vaccination is the best way for people to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu. If we vaccinate as many people as possible, it is less likely that we will see a third wave of illness this spring.”

HEALTH is seeking the assistance of volunteer providers and pharmacists to help at these clinics. Licensed healthcare providers and pharmacists interested in volunteering should contact Amy Grzybowski at the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency at 462-7335 or amy.grzybowski@us.army.mil

In addition, final clinics for all healthcare workers and first responders will be held this Saturday, January 9 at clinics run by the 10 acute-care hospitals. Each of the hospitals will run a Healthcare Service Region (HSR) clinic that is designed to vaccinate the healthcare workers and first responders in their assigned territory. HEALTH has expanded these clinics to include any licensed healthcare professional and their clinical staffs. Healthcare workers and first responders should go to the HSR clinic that covers the city or town where they work.

“Healthcare workers and first responders are a priority group for vaccination,” said Gifford. “We encourage those who have not already been vaccinated to do so in order to protect their patients and families who may be at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu.”

All healthcare workers and first responders should bring a signed consent form and a work or volunteer identification badge or pay stub with them to the HSR POD clinic. In addition, Our Lady of Fatima’s and Memorial Hospital’s HSR PODs will require you to bring an insurance card and a slightly different consent form.

Health Department Receives Donation of Seasonal Vaccine

01-08-2010

The Department of Health (HEALTH) has received a donation of 5,000 doses of injectable seasonal influenza vaccine from Provant Health Solutions, LLC. This vaccine will be distributed to physician offices, community health centers and long-term care facilities that serve the elderly, the uninsured and medically fragile individuals.

“This donation of seasonal vaccine is greatly appreciated and will be put to good use,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We did not receive all the seasonal flu vaccine we ordered, so this vaccine will help to protect at-risk Rhode Islanders who could not get their seasonal vaccine before.”

Provant Health Solutions is a full-service corporate health and wellness company operating out of East Greenwich. This company is dedicated to assisting employers achieve a healthy and productive workforce while effectively managing population health risk and associated healthcare costs.

Department of Health Announces Plan to Get H1N1 Vaccine to Nursing Homes

01-11-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is working to increase the availability of H1N1 vaccine in the state’s nursing home facilities beginning this week and continuing throughout the month of January.

While people age 65 and older were not initially prioritized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive the H1N1 vaccine, the elderly are still at risk for developing serious flu-related complications, especially if they have underlying medical conditions. Nursing homes face special challenges during flu season due to the close contact residents have with the staff and with each other.

“Nursing homes have the opportunity to assure that all of their residents are vaccinated and protected against H1N1,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We want to avoid outbreaks of H1N1 in nursing homes like those that have happened in other states. Since H1N1 vaccine is now widely available in the state, we encourage anyone age 65 or older to get vaccinated to protect themselves as we expect a third wave of the virus in the coming months.”

If you are 65 years of age and older and not a resident in a nursing home facility, you still have many opportunities to get vaccinated. Beginning January 16, most Rhode Island cities and towns will hold free vaccination clinics for adults. A schedule of free public clinics is available on HEALTH’s website. Retail stores, pharmacies, and some urgent care centers are also holding vaccination clinics for adults age 18 and older. Rhode Islanders can use the Flu Clinic Locator on HEALTH’s website to search for public H1N1 flu clinics at local pharmacies and retail stores.

HEALTH has been working with nursing homes to enroll them in the H1N1 Vaccine Program. Nursing homes currently enrolled in the H1N1 program will start receiving H1N1 vaccine this week. More recent enrollees will begin receiving vaccine and vaccinating residents the week of January 18.

National Walking Champion Opens Eat Smart Move More Summit

01-12-2010

In the fight against obesity, it’s about little steps adding up to big successes. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator. Choose the low-fat option on the menu. In our communities, it means promoting walking and biking instead of taking the bus or driving.

The Rhode Island Department of Health’s (HEALTH) Initiative for a Healthy Weight program welcomes keynote speaker Mark Fenton to its Eat Smart Move More Summit on Friday, January 15, 2009. Fenton, a public health, planning and transportation expert for non-motorized transportation, will discuss the importance of changing a community’s physical environment and how those changes can make healthy choices, like walking or biking, the easy choice. Fenton will share how Rhode Island can implement programs that were successful in other communities across the nation.

Nationally, the movement to promote menu labeling has gained momentum. This effort encourages providing the calorie content of all food items to the consumer at the time of purchase. New York University Professor of Medicine and Health Policy Dr. Brian Elbel will talk about the success of menu labeling in New York City.

“Fighting the obesity epidemic requires support from everyone,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This conference will help participants understand the root causes and the social and environmental factors that contribute to this national problem. We all must continue to advocate for improvements that support healthier and more active communities.”

Other speakers include Somerville Massachusetts mayor Joseph Curtatone and Duke University Professor of Community and Family Medicine Dr. Sara Benjamin.

Heluva Cold Pack Cheese Products Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

01-13-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Heluva Good 8-ounce plastic cup containers of Cold Pack Cheese Food may be contaminated with the bacteria that causes listeriosis. This bacteria can cause serious illness and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the elderly or anyone with a weakened immune system. In addition, the bacteria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. These products were distributed to stores in Rhode Island.

The products involved in this recall include:

  • 8-ounce plastic cup containers of Heluva Good Port Wine Cold Pack Cheese Food, sell by date between 11/15/2010 through 12/15/2010.
  • 8-ounce plastic cup containers of Heluva Good Sharp Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese Food, sell by date between 11/15/2010 and 12/15/2010.

These are the only products involved in this recall.

Consumers who have purchased either of these products should return the product(s) to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Symptoms of listeriosis can include high fever, sever headache, stiffness and nausea, or abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. No illnesses have been reported in connection with these recalled products.

Department of Health Encourages Employers to Hold H1N1 Vaccination Clinics

01-14-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is urging employers to offer additional H1N1 vaccination opportunities for Rhode Islanders in the coming weeks. The Department has set a goal of vaccinating 500,000 Rhode Islanders by Valentine’s Day (February 14, 2010).

“This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and we are asking Rhode Island’s employers to join our efforts to vaccinate as many Rhode Islanders as possible by Valentine’s Day,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “The recent drop in statewide flu activity gives us a window of opportunity to prevent a third wave of H1N1 flu this spring. We need help from all of our partners to reach all Rhode Islanders, especially the elderly or adults with chronic health conditions.”

Director of Elderly Affairs Corinne Calise-Russo added, “While people age 65 and older were not initially prioritized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive the H1N1 vaccine, the elderly are still at risk for developing serious flu-related complications, as we are seeing in other states. They should take advantage of the opportunities now available for Rhode Island seniors to get vaccinated for free.”

Some employers have already committed to hosting a vaccination clinic for their employees. “We want to keep our employees healthy this winter,” said Hasbro Chairman Al Verrecchia. “Organizing an H1N1 vaccination clinic for employees was simple. Our employees will be protected and as a company, we hope this will decrease employee absenteeism due to H1N1 illness.”

Several mass immunizers have enrolled in the H1N1 vaccination program and can work with community-based organizations and employers to hold clinics. Any agency or employer interested in hosting an H1N1 clinic should contact HEALTH or a mass immunizer.

In coordination with municipal partners, HEALTH will hold free public vaccination clinics beginning January 16 for anyone age 18 or older. No appointments are necessary and no health insurance cards are necessary. For more information or to view a regularly updated schedule of public clinics, visit http://www.health.ri.gov/flu/about/freepublich1n1clinics/index.php.

The H1N1 vaccine is also available at retail stores, pharmacies, and urgent care centers, though individuals or their insurers may be charged an administrative fee to receive vaccine at these locations. Rhode Islanders can use the Flu Vaccine Locator tool on HEALTH’s website to find the most up-to-date information about local vaccine availability. Community agencies and employers who decide to hold a clinic for the general public can submit clinic dates and locations to HEALTH for inclusion on the Flu Vaccine Locator.

Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle

01-21-2010

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

Mayor Doyle was an early supporter of the RENEW program. The RENEW program is funded by HEALTH and focuses on providing HIV prevention services to high-risk women. The Mayor has advocated for collaboration between the city’s police force and the community to address the issues of women at high risk for HIV and abuse due to commercial sex work. Because of the collaborative effort, HIV risk for women and policing problems have been reduced. Seventy three percent of the Barton Street community reported an improvement in their quality of life since these efforts began.

The Pawtucket Police Department was recently awarded the HIV Prevention Leadership Award.

Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Rhode Island Parent Information Network

01-21-2010

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN) with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

Early last year, one of the state’s local offices of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program closed. This office served 5400 people in Pawtucket and Central Falls. RIPIN offered building space and a way for HEALTH’s WIC program to provide services to these clients for up to five months. Until HEALTH found a permanent home for the local WIC office, RIPIN insured that vulnerable members of the community, including pregnant women, infants, and children up to five years of age, and their caregivers (including those living in shelters) continued to receive healthy food and nutrition education through the WIC program.

Once a permanent location was established for the Pawtucket and Central Falls WIC office, RIPIN continued to offer assistance and support by helping clients transition to the new WIC location.

The Rhode Island Parent Information Network provides information, support, and training to help all Rhode Islanders become their own best advocate at school, in healthcare, and in all areas of life.

Department of Health Warns of Possible Salmonella Contamination in Daniele, lnc. Peppered Salami Products

01-25-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that there is currently a national investigation of a salmonella outbreak possibly linked to salame products manufactured by Daniele, Inc. As a result of this investigation, Daniele Inc. has decided to voluntarily recall all of their peppered salame products.

Sweet Sopressata in “Daniele Deli Selection”, produced by Daniele Inc. was tested and found to be positive for Salmonella. This product was not distributed in Rhode Island; however, it was sold at Costco stores. Daniele Inc. has been working diligently with HEALTH and USDA to help identify the source of the contamination.

HEALTH has also been working with the CDC, USDA, and FDA on a broader investigation of a national salmonella outbreak. Preliminary results indicate that eleven ill individuals had consumed salame products from “Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack.” This has not been confirmed as the cause of their illness. In response to the investigation, Daniele Inc. is voluntarily issuing a recall of all peppered products.

HEALTH continues to work closely with USDA, FDA and CDC to identify the source of the Salmonella outbreak and the Salmonella contamination. The Salmonella found in the Daniele product does not appear to be the same as the cause of the outbreak.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

HEALTH advises Rhode Islanders not eat peppered salame products produced by Daniele Inc.

All of the recalled products will have EST. 54 or EST. 9992 inside of the USDA seal. The list of recalled products is as follows:

  • Daniele Deli Selection (20oz)
  • Daniele Surtido Fino Italiano (454g)
  • Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack (16 oz)
  • Dietz and Watson Artisan Collection Party Platter Pack (8 oz)
  • Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack (8oz)
  • Daniele Gourmet Combo Pack (16 oz)
  • Daniele Surtido Fino Italiano (340g)
  • Daniele Brand Gourmet Pack (Emballage Assorti Gourmet Italian) (500g)
  • Boar’s Head All Natural Salame “Coated with Coarse Black Pepper) (8oz)
  • Daniele All Natural Salame “Coated with Coarse Black Pepper) (10oz)
  • Daniele Pepper Salame (catch weight)
  • Black Bear Baby Genoa Pepper Salame (9oz)
  • Dietz & Watson Artisan Collection Baby Genoa Pepper Salame (catch weight)
  • Daniele Deli Selection (20 oz)
  • Daniele Gourmet Italian Deli Selection (600g)
  • Daniele Salame Bites Pepper Salame (7oz)
  • Daniele Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper (catch weight)
  • Daniele Gourmet Deli Selection (Assortment De Fines Charcuterie Italienne) (400g)
  • Daniele deli Selection (32oz)

Department of Health Applauds Tobacco Control Legislation That Closes Loophole

01-27-2010

With the passage of Rhode Island House Bill #5607 and Senate Bill 408aa, it will be more difficult for tobacco vendors to skirt the law. This bill prevents any tobacco vendor who has an outstanding fine from getting a new license for the same location before the fine is paid. The bill also prohibits multiple licenses at the same address by the same owner.

When a business owner who has a tobacco sales license illegally sells tobacco or tobacco products to minors (anyone younger than 18), they may be fined or have their license suspended. Before this bill was passed, there was a loophole that allowed the license holder to apply for and receive a new tobacco sales license before the fine was paid.

“If a business owner is selling tobacco or tobacco products to minors, they are breaking the law and making it easier for youth to develop a dangerous, addictive habit” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Historically, control and oversight of tobacco licensing has not been as stringent as we would like it to be. This bill holds licensees accountable for their illegal actions and makes it more difficult for minors to have access to tobacco or tobacco products.”

This bill was sponsored by the lat Representative Thomas Slater; Representatives Grace Diaz and Anastasia Williams; and Senator Juan Pichardo. In addition support for this bill was given by The American Lung Association, the Woonsocket Prevention Task Force, and other community advocacy organizations.

Rhode Island Department of Health Issues Health Advisory Against Using Folk Remedy for Morning Sickness

01-28-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) warns consumers not to use a folk remedy designed to relieve the symptoms of morning sickness. This product is called by several names including “Nzu”, “Poto” or “Calabash Chalk”. These products may be sold as a large pellet or in bulk and they resemble clay.

HEALTH’s laboratory testing has confirmed elevated levels of lead and unsafe levels of arsenic in these products. (Samples that were tested showed lead levels ranging from 5 ppm to 29 ppm.) These products were found at God Is Able African Market (743 Cranston Street), Jamal and Jamel Variety Store (750 Cranston Street), Cranston Variety (306 Cranston Street) and Toofs Market (611 Charles Street).

HEALTH has removed these products from shelves at the above-named stores. Any other store that carries these products should stop selling them immediately. Any consumer who has purchased this product should discard the product and stop using it.

Lead exposure is of special concern to pregnant women and young children because it can inhibit development of the nervous system, affecting intelligence and behavior. Concerns about the safety of this product were identified by the Childhood Lead Action Project .

“Lead can be present in a wide variety of consumer goods, especially those imported,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Calabash Chalk is just one example of a preventable source of lead exposure. This also serves as a reminder that families need to make sure that all young children are screened for lead poisoning.”

Update in National Salmonella Outbreak Investigation

01-28-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces today that ground black pepper samples from an open container at Daniele Inc. has tested positive for salmonella. Further lab testing also shows that the ground pepper contains the same strain of salmonella that is associated with a national outbreak. This brand of ground pepper was only distributed to Daniele, Inc. in Rhode Island.

Because the sample was from an open container of ground pepper, it is considered to be probable as the source of the outbreak. Additional samples of ground pepper from closed containers at Daneile Inc., the distributor and the importer are being tested by HEALTH and FDA.

No additional items have been added to the recall list because of this finding. Consumers are advised to not eat the products listed below. HEALTH continues to work closely with CDC, FDA and Daniele Inc. to confirm the source of the outbreak.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

All of the recalled products will have EST. 54 or EST. 9992 inside of the USDA seal. The recalled products include:

  • Daniele Deli Selection (20oz)
  • Daniele Surtido Fino Italiano (454g)
  • Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack (16 oz)
  • Dietz and Watson Artisan Collection Party Platter Pack (8 oz)
  • Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack (8oz)
  • Daniele Gourmet Combo Pack (16 oz)
  • Daniele Surtido Fino Italiano (340g)
  • Daniele Brand Gourmet Pack (Emballage Assorti Gourmet Italian) (500g)
  • Boar’s Head All Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper) (8oz)
  • Daniele All Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper) (10oz)
  • Daniele Pepper Salame (catch weight)
  • Black Bear Baby Genoa Pepper Salame (9oz)
  • Dietz & Watson Artisan Collection Baby Genoa Pepper Salame (catch weight)
  • Daniele Deli Selection (20 oz)
  • Daniele Gourmet Italian Deli Selection (600g)
  • Daniele Salame Bites Pepper Salame (7oz)
  • Daniele Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper (catch weight)
  • Daniele Gourmet Deli Selection (Assortment De Fines Charcuterie Italienne) (400g)
  • Daniele deli Selection (32oz)

Salmonella Outbreak Update

02-03-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that recent test results strongly suggest black pepper is the source of the Salmonella outbreak associated with Daniele Inc. Daniele purchased black pepper from two different distributors (Mincing Oversees Spice Company and Wholesome Spices) who buy imported black pepper. Samples of pepper from both distributors have tested positive for Salmonella. All other tests of employees and the facilities are negative at this time. These findings are consistent with Daniele Inc.’s history of no Salmonella findings by in-house testing and USDA periodic testing. No additional food items have been added to the recall list.

As part of the outbreak investigation, it was determined that both distributors who supplied black pepper to Daniele imported pepper from common sources.

“These recent findings show that black pepper used during the manufacturing process at Daniele was the likely source of this outbreak,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This outbreak only underscores the importance of closely monitoring food that is imported from other countries as they may not have the same food safety standards as we do.”

Daniele now purchases black pepper that has already been treated to assure the elimination of Salmonella and other infectious organisms. Daniele is testing all lots of new products before they leave the manufacturing plant for distribution. In addition, the company continues to clean and sanitize all areas and equipment to ensure safe products.

HEALTH is working with FDA to determine any other distribution of this black pepper in Rhode Island.

Health Department Assesses Hospitals’ Capital Investment

02-04-2010

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released Hospital Capital Investment in Rhode Island (2008). This report is one measure of the financial health of hospitals in the state. This report analyzes each hospital’s available capital (physical property and assets) and capital improvements. In turn, each hospital’s capital is evaluated based on how well they could support their individual improvement projects and what their financing costs were. In addition, a snapshot summary of each hospital’s capital is included.

Compared to other hospitals in the Northeast, hospitals in RI used less debt to finance their capital assets (47% versus 61%), and had lower capital-related fixed expenses (4.4% versus 5.7%). However, hospitals in RI may have to invest in new capital sooner than their regional peers because, on average, their physical plants are older (13.1 years versus 10.8 years). Hospitals in RI have less capacity to finance new capital (2.1 versus 2.7 debt service coverage values), and, on average, have generated fewer revenue dollars for each invested dollar ($2.50 versus $2.62).

Overall, these measures suggest that the independent hospitals (Landmark, Memorial, Roger Williams, South County, St. Joseph, and Westerly) will have a more difficult time making capital investments than Care New England (Butler, Kent, and Women & Infants), or Lifespan (Bradley, Miriam, Newport, and RI Hospital) hospitals.

Two Rhode Island Communities Awarded HeartSafe Certification

02-05-2010

On National Go Red Day, Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that two communities – Warwick and Westerly – have earned HeartSafe certification. This program is designed to help communities give people a better chance of surviving a heart attack or other cardiac emergency. HeartSafe communities must meet a number of criteria including offering CPR classes, placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) throughout the community and on emergency response vehicles, training first responders, creating effective emergency response plans for municipal and school buildings, and evaluating the community’s response to cardiac emergencies.

“Heart disease is the number one killer in Rhode Island and in the country,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “If someone is having a heart attack, the goal is to give them the best chance of survival. We applaud Warwick and Westerly for making this a priority in their community. We hope that other cities and towns in Rhode Island will do the same.”

The HeartSafe Community program is a collaboration of HEALTH and the American Heart Association. The HeartSafe Community certification is valid for three years.

Health Department Cannon Building Closed to Public on Monday, February 8 Due to Flooding

02-07-2010

The Cannon Building of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) at 3 Capitol Hill in Providence will be closed to the public tomorrow, Monday, February 8 due to flooding from burst pipes of the building's chiller. HEALTH employees who work in the Cannon Building are asked to report to work tomorrow at the Department of Administration Cafeteria at 8:30 a.m., prior to going to their offices. It is recommended that they wear casual clothes, as many of them will need to identify documents and equipment that have been damaged. Employees should be aware that the building will be very warm on Monday due to the fans that are drying the building.

Updates as to when the building will open to the public will be provided as soon as possible. Public services affected by the closing are the Office of Vital Records, where people obtain birth, death, and marriage records; the Office of Professional Licensing; and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vendor services.

The Medical Examiner's Office and the HEALTH Laboratory are housed in a separate building, which is not affected. That building will remain open for business as usual.

Department of Health Cannon Building Remains Closed to Public

02-08-2010

The Cannon Building of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) at 3 Capitol Hill in Providence will remain closed to the public on Tuesday, February 9 due to flooding from burst pipes of the building’s chiller.

Cosmetology exams scheduled for Tuesday, February 9 (9 a.m. and 1 p.m.)will be held in Conference Rooms A and C at the Department of Administration, 1 Capitol Hill, Providence.

Updates as to when the building will open to the public will be provided on a regular basis. The Medical Examiner’s Office and the HEALTH Laboratory are located in a separate building and were not affected by the flooding.

Health Department Email System Partially Down

02-09-2010

The Cannon Building of the Health Department (HEALTH) remains closed to the public today due to flooding from a burst pipe. In addition, many employees are not connected to the email system and will not be able to send or receive email. HEALTH will provide an update on the situation before the end of the day.

H1N1 Flu Vaccination Clinic in Narragansett Canceled For February 10

02-09-2010

The H1N1 flu vaccination clinic that was scheduled for tomorrow, February 10, at Narragansett High School has been canceled due to the threat of inclement weather.

Narragansett High School, located at 245 South Pier Road in Narragansett, will host a make-up clinic on February 17. This free, public clinic will operate from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.

All of the free, public clinics for H1N1 flu vaccine that cities and towns throughout the state are hosting are only open to people who are 18 years of age and older. Individuals interested in getting vaccinated against H1N1 flu do not need to make appointments, show insurance cards, or present identification at clinics. Individuals can attend any clinic, regardless of where they live.

Cities and town throughout the state will host seven additional free, public clinics for H1N1 flu vaccine. To find a clinic see the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH)’s website (www.health.ri.gov). To search by zip code for a retail store or pharmacy that is offering H1N1 flu vaccine, in addition to Rhode Island’s public clinics, see the Flu Vaccine Locator on HEALTH’s website. Some of these retail stores and pharmacies may charge small administrative fees.

Department of Health Cannon Building Remains Closed to Public; Cosmetology Exams Canceled

02-09-2010

The Cannon Building of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) at 3 Capitol Hill in Providence will remain closed to the public on Wednesday, February 10 and Thursday, February 11 due to flooding from burst pipes of the building’s chiller.

Additionally, HEALTH has canceled the cosmetology exams scheduled for Wednesday, February 10 due to the threat of inclement weather. These exams will be rescheduled. Once the dates, times, and locations of the rescheduled exams are finalized, HEALTH will contact exam participants directly.

Providers, partners and the public should be aware that some employees do not have access to e-mail and others may have unpredictable access to e-mail. Anyone who needs to contact HEALTH should do so by phone.

First Floor of Department of Health’s Cannon Building to Reopen Friday

02-11-2010

On Friday, February 12, the first floor of the Department of Health’s (HEALTH) Cannon Building will reopen to the public. Services open to the public on the first floor are the Office of Vital Records (12:30 – 4 p.m.) for birth, death and marriage certificates; the Office of Health Professionals Licensing; and the Office of Emergency Medical Services. All floors of the Cannon Building will reopen to the public on Monday, February 15. (State offices are open on Monday, February 15.)

The Cannon Building has been closed to the public since Monday, February 8 due to flooding from burst pipes of the building’s chiller.

Providers, partners and the public should be aware that some employees do not have access to e-mail. All employees have access to their voice mail.

The Medical Examiner’s Offices and the HEALTH Laboratory are located in a separate building and were not affected by the flooding.

Department of Health Encourages Rhode Islanders to Take Advantage of Remaining Free Public H1N1 Clinics

02-12-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds Rhode Islanders that there are still a number of free public H1N1 vaccination clinics to take place over the next two weeks. All Rhode Islanders are encouraged to get vaccinated against H1N1, even those who consider themselves healthy. Seven more free public clinics are scheduled on weekends and weekdays between now and February 27. A schedule with clinic dates, locations, and hours of operation is available on HEALTH’s website .

These clinics are free of charge, and no appointments are necessary. Individuals must be 18 years of age or older to be vaccinated at these clinics, but they need not be residents of the city or town in which the clinic is being held. No identification or insurance information is required. In addition to these free public clinics hosted by municipalities, H1N1 vaccine is also available at physician offices and at other clinics hosted by mass immunizers. There may be a charge for administration at other clinics.

“H1N1 flu is a potentially dangerous virus and we expect to see another surge of illness in the coming months,” said Director of Health, Dr. David Gifford, M.D., MPH. “Any adult who has not yet been vaccinated against H1N1 should take advantage of this opportunity to attend one of the free public clinics. The more people who get vaccinated against H1N1, the less likely it is that we will see a third wave of illness this spring.”

Since mid-January, HEALTH, in coordination with its municipal partners has held several public H1N1 vaccination clinics throughout the state. To date, approximately 380,000 Rhode Islanders have been vaccinated against H1N1, and of those, almost 17,000 were vaccinated at the free public clinics.

HEALTH Sees Increase In Norovirus Outbreaks

02-23-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises people that there has been an increase in the number of laboratory-confirmed norovirus outbreaks in the state. HEALTH regularly investigates reports of norovirus clusters in licensed facilities and investigates illness complaints associated with food establishments or other licensed facilities. Since January 1, five long-term care facilities and three schools have reported noro-like illness. HEALTH laboratories have confirmed norovirus in four of these facilities. (Results from two institutions are pending.) In addition, HEALTH has investigated reports of noro-like illness at three food establishments and confirmed norovirus at one establishment.

“Norovirus is a common illness, and like H1N1, frequent handwashing with warm water and soap or an alcohol hand gel is essential to stop the spread of the illness,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “When there was increased H1N1 illness, there was not any norovirus illness. Rhode Islanders must continue to be vigilant about handwashing to prevent the spread of norovirus, H1N1 and many other illnesses.”

To prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
  • If you are sick, do not touch ready-to-eat food with your bare hands. In a food establishment, utensils or gloves are required to be used for handling ready-to-eat foods.
  • If you are a food handler, a healthcare worker or a daycare worker who has symptoms of norovirus, report the illness to your employer, go home and stay out of work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize surfaces after someone is sick with norovirus. Use a bleach-based household cleaner. Wash and wipe down the toilet area, faucets and other hard surfaces with a mixture of one tablespoon of bleach to 3 cups of water. If cleaning up vomit or stool, use two tablespoons of bleach to 1 cup water.
  • Dispose sewage properly.
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish. (The water it came from could be contaminated with norovirus from raw sewage in the water.)

Norovirus is a common viral illness that is spread from hand to mouth. Symptoms usually last 24-48 hours and include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Rhode Island Earns Recognition for Dental Health Policies That Benefit Children

02-25-2010

For children, oral disease can mean living with pain, missing valuable school time, challenges in learning, impaired nutrition and health, and sometimes even death. The Cost of Delay: State Dental Policies Fail One in Five Children, a report released this week by Pew Center on the States, highlights the efforts of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) and community partners to develop and implement programs and policies to increase oral health capacity and improve oral health care for low-income children in Rhode Island.

The report focuses on five areas of success in Rhode Island:

  • The number of dental providers that provide services to children with Medicaid coverage increased from 27 to 269 since 2006.
  • More than half of the high-risk schools in the state have a school-based dental program that provides services such as dental exams, cleanings and sealants for children.
  • Nearly 85% of Rhode Islanders have drinking water with fluoride. Fluoride is a proven, cost-effective way to prevent cavities.
  • The Rhode Island Medicaid program pays providers for early, preventive dental health care. Through RIte Smiles, dental providers can be reimbursed forpreventive dental services for children by the time the first tooth comes in.
  • Rhode Island currently ranks sixth in the nation for the percentage of Rhode Island children younger than age 21 enrolled in the Medicaid program that receive dental care, with 46%, up from 38% in 2006.

“These results are a testament to the hard work of the RI Oral Health Commission, the staff, and our community partners to address critical oral health issues that affect children in our state,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Gary D. Alexander. “We’ve made excellent progress in increasing access to dental care for children on Medicaid and also by encouraging parents to bring their child to the dentist at an earlier age.”

“Preventive oral health care is critical to good, lifelong general health,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD. MPH. “With all of our community partners, we have made significant improvements that will benefit children enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. However, our work is not done. We need to continue to recruit oral health providers and adopt new practice rules for hygienists in school sealant programs.”

Food Recall Confirms Source of Salmonella Was Not At Daniele

02-25-2010

Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that distributor Wholesome Spice has recalled all lots of 25-pound boxes of crushed red pepper sold from April 6, 2009 through January 20, 2010 due to possible Salmonella contamination. This product was distributed in the Northeast. It was not sold in retail outlets to consumers.

“Test results of Daniele employees and of the physical plant indicated that an outside source of Salmonella was likely,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This recall confirms that the source of the Salmonella was from outside of Daniele’s manufacturing plants. HEALTH will continue to work with CDC, FDA and USDA on this national outbreak investigation and recall.”

Department of Health Submits Regulations for Compassion Centers

02-26-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today submitted revised Rules and Regulations Related to the Medical Marijuana Program to include provisions for compassion centers. The revised regulations will become effective on March 18, 2010. To view the new regulations, visit http://sos.ri.gov/documents/archives/regdocs/released/pdf/DOH/5923.pdf.

HEALTH will begin accepting compassion center applications on March 18. The closing date for applications is May 17, 2010. HEALTH may approve up to three applications for a compassion center. All applications must meet minimum requirement before being considered for approval.

Salmonella Recall at Ritacco’s Market in Westerly, RI

03-05-2010

Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that Ritacco’s Market, 84 Oak Street, Westerly, RI is voluntarily recalling all ready-to-eat dry cured sausage products manufactured at the facility because they may be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious, and sometimes fatal, infections in young children, elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. These products are being recalled out of an abundance of caution, and there are no known illnesses associated with these products at this time. Consumers may return these items to Ritacco’s market for a refund.

The recall was initiated after a soprosata (sopressata) sample collected by the Rhode Island Department of Health tested positive for Salmonella typhimurium. This sample was collected during an investigation into contamination of pepper with Salmonella. HEALTH has yet to determine the source of the soprosata contamination, and is working with the firm to implement systems to ensure that all products are safe.

CDC Reports Mumps Outbreak in Northeast

03-12-2010

CDC, in collaboration with public health officials in numerous states in the Northeast, continues to investigate a multi-state mumps outbreak. Most of the current cases were among Hasidic (Jewish) populations in New York and New Jersey. (This outbreak is also occurring among members of the same population in Israel.) Rhode Island has not documented a case associated with this outbreak.

The onset of Passover (March 30 – April 5) means there is potential for travel across the country and internationally, thus increasing the risk of spreading mumps. All Rhode Islanders, both children and adults, should make sure they are up to date on their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination before traveling and/or gathering for the upcoming holiday.

Mumps is a virus that initially can cause symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. These symptoms are usually followed by the painful swelling of the salivary glands under the ears or jaw on one side or both sides of the face. Anyone who has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

Mumps is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The spread of mumps can be prevented by:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Not sharing eating utensils.
  • Cleaning surfaces that are touched frequently (doorknobs, railings, phones, keyboards).

Department of Health Recommends Closing All Beaches

03-30-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends the closure of all beaches in the state. High volumes of rain have caused many sewer systems to overflow into Narragansett Bay.

Although beaches are not yet open for swimming, some Rhode Islanders surf at area beaches.

Beaches will remain closed until further notice.

Flood Safety Reminders

03-31-2010

Recent high volumes of rain are causing flooding and sewer system overflow in the state. Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders of precautions to take during floods:

  • Avoid contact with floodwater when possible. Floodwaters may contain raw sewage or other hazardous substances.
  • Avoid surfing or boating in floodwaters.
  • Do not allow children or pets to wade in or play in floodwater.
  • Do not expose open cuts or wounds to floodwaters. Floodwaters can cause an infection in an open wound.
  • Do not eat any food that has come in contact with floodwater.
  • Conserve water whenever possible to minimize sewage overflow. (Limit toilet flushing and avoid using dishwashers and washing machines.)
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or are standing in water.
  • Do not walk in moving water. Six inches of moving water can knock a person over.
  • Avoid driving through flooded areas.
  • Remove wet carpets, furniture or bedding as soon as possible.
  • To avoid mold growth, dry out any flooded areas within 48 hours.
  • Make sure any important medical documents are in waterproof containers.

HEALTH Issues Safety Information for Private Well Owners Due to Flooding

03-31-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) wants private well owners to be aware of safety concerns due to the continued flooding in the state. Private wells that have flooded (wells that have standing water around them) should be considered contaminated. People with flooded wells should take the following precautions:

  • boil water for one minute before drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.
  • get well water tested for coliform bacteria as soon as possible. As list of certified laboratories that provide testing can be found on HEALTH's website at: http://www.health.ri.gov/labs/waterlabs.php Lab tests usually take about three days but it may take longer for you to get the results depending on which lab you use. Continue to boil water until you get your test results back and the water has been deemed safe for consumption.
  • once flood waters have receded, your well will need to be disinfected with chlorine and tested before you begin drinking it again.

Currently, there are no Boil Water Advisories for public water systems related to the flooding.

HEALTH Issues Safety Information for Cleaning Following Flooding

03-31-2010

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing the following information about how to safely clean up your home if you have had flooding. You will need to clean and dry your house and everything in it. Cleaning properly will remove hazards from bacteria and viruses, and drying will prevent problems from mold. Follow the guidance below when cleaning out your basement or home:

  1. Flood water can contain sewage, so you will need to throw away anything that was wet with flood water and can't be cleaned.
    For insurance purposes, take photographs of all the damaged property that you must throw away.
  2. Clean safely.
    • In order to protect yourself from germs in the water, mold on surfaces and the chemicals in cleaning supplies, cover your body. Wear pants, long sleeves, boots, and rubber gloves.
    • Protect your eyes, nose and lungs.
    • Buy goggles and an N-95 respirator at the hardware store and use them when working in flooded areas or cleaning mold.
    • Use soap or cleaning products with a disinfectant for killing germs. Never mix bleach with other cleaning supplies in the same bucket.
    • Open windows and use fans to pull fumes from your work area.
    • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you are done cleaning.
  3. Dry flooded areas thoroughly. Areas that stay wet or damp for more than 48 hours can grow mold.
    • If carpets, clothing, paper, and other absorbent materials cannot be completely dried, it is best to throw them out.
    • Run bathroom and kitchen ventilators to keep the air moving in your home.
    • If there is no standing water and it is safe to use electric appliances, use fans to help dry damp areas. Fans mounted in windows and blowing out will not blow dust or mold spores about in living areas.
    • Do not pump water out into the sewer system as it will worsen problems we are already having throughout the state with sewage treatment. Water should be pumped out into your yard or into storm water drain pipes.
    • Once things are properly cleaned (disinfected) and dried they should be safe from bacteria and viruses.
  4. Get help.
    • If there is a large amount of mold or flood damage, you may want to hire a professional to help you clean up. Ask your homeowner insurance company for a recommendation.
    • People with asthma, allergies or other breathing problems may be more sensitive to mold. Talk to your medical provider if you aren't sure whether it is safe for you to clean up after a flood.
    • Get more information:
  5. Homeowners and tenants: www.health.ri.gov/brochures/SomeFactsAboutMold.pdf , www.epa.iaq/flood
  6. Employers and workers: www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib101003.html

HEALTH Issues Safety Reminders for First Responders During Flood Response Activities

03-31-2010

The Rhode lsland Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds anyone participating in flood response activities to take precautions when working in floodwater. Floodwaters may contain raw sewage or other hazardous substances that can cause infections such as E. coli, Hepatitis A, or Tetanus.

Seek first aid or medical treatment if you experience the following symptoms after working in a contaminated area: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle aches, fever, abdominal cramps, skin rashes, dizziness, or fatigue. If skin is broken and has come into contact with contaminated material and it has been five years since your last Tetanus shot, you should talk to your healthcare provider about receiving another Tetanus vaccination. Please note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend an updated Tetanus vaccination every 5 years for healthcare providers and every 10 years for the general public. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends a 5-year vaccination interval for first responders.

First responders should take the following additional precautions during flood response activities: Hand Washing

  • To avoid exposure to waterborne illness, wash your hands with soap and clean, running water or use alcohol-based hand gels before work and meal breaks, at the end of work shifts, and after handling contaminated clothing or equipment.
Protective Clothing
  • If you will be working in or near a flooded area, wear chemical-resistant outer clothing, boots, protective eye goggles, and plastic or rubber gloves. Protective clothing is especially necessary when working in flooded areas with known chemical storage or chemical release hazards.
  • If possible, layer latex disposable gloves over cut-resistant gloves. Avoid touching your face with contaminated gloves and properly discard or disinfect gloves after use.
  • Do not place equipment or clothing that has come into contact with contaminated floodwater in personal vehicles.
  • If possible, shower and launder contaminated clothing before returning home.
  • Other Hazards
    • If working in or around flooded homes or buildings, minimize exposure to mildew and mold by wearing N-95 masks, if available. If N-95 masks are not available, surgical masks can be worn. Wear gloves and eye protection as well.
    • Discard mold-damaged materials in plastic bags and clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water.
    • Be aware of exposure to potential chemical or electrical hazards when participating in flood response activities. If working with portable generators, keep them dry and follow instructions for proper handling and safety. Never use a generator indoors or in poorly ventilated areas, due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Place portable generators outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents.
    • If working near roads or highways, remain aware of work zones and traffic control plans and the locations of signs, cones, barrels, and barriers.
    • Ground may become saturated with water during heavy flooding, causing sinkholes and unstable terrain. Be aware of these hazards when working in water trenching operations or flooded areas.

    Rhode Island Tops the Nation for H1N1 Vaccine Coverage

    04-01-2010

    Results released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show, as a region, New England’s H1N1 vaccination coverage rates were consistently the highest in the nation. In fact, the New England region’s vaccination rates were the highest in the country in six of seven target populations surveyed.

    Rhode Island led the nation in vaccination coverage rates for children ages six months through 17 years of age (84.7%) and adults age 25 to 64 with chronic health conditions (57.5%). Overall, Rhode Island is estimated to have the highest H1N1 vaccination coverage rate in the country for anyone age 6 months and older at 38.8% versus the national median of 23.9%.

    The most notable success is in the coverage rates of children ages six months through 17 years. New England’s coverage rate of 56.5% was the highest in the country with the median national H1N1 vaccination coverage rate of 36.8%. New England also reached significantly more individuals ages 25-64 who have health conditions who put them at higher risk for developing complications from H1N1 influenza – 46.5% - versus the national median of 33.2%.

    “These numbers show that we were reaching the people who most needed to be protected,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Since the beginning of the pandemic in April 2009, the New England Health Officers spoke on a regular basis to share information and to discuss policies and strategies. It was this continued collaboration that was key to a successful H1N1 response.”

    “We are very grateful for the thousands of Rhode Islanders who worked hard to make sure that as many people as possible were offered vaccine,” said Gifford. “Our successes in the H1N1 response serve as a best practice for the country.”

    The data are from a national telephone survey conducted by CDC through the months of December, January, and February.

    While we seen very few cases of H1N1 in Rhode Island since the beginning of the year, H1N1 virus is still circulating in the country, especially in Southeastern United States. Anyone who has not been vaccinated, especially those likely to travel outside of the state, should contact their healthcare provider.

    Guidance for Food Establishments

    04-01-2010

    In response to flooding, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is ordering all food facilities that meet any of the following criteria be closed until approved for reopening by the HEALTH:

    • Drinking water well serving the food establishment was flooded
    • Any part of the food establishment was flooded
    • Sewage backed up into the facility
    • Sewage from the food facility is flooding into someone’s basement or in the vicinity of the food establishment
    • Customers or staff need to walk through sewage contaminated water to get into the facility
    • Plumbing does not drain and toilets are not usable by staff
    • There is no power

    Should any of these conditions exist, the food establishment must close and obtain permission from HEALTH prior to reopening.

    In addition to the above, there is high potential for illness due to Norovirus and other disease- causing organisms from exposure to contaminated flood waters. Individuals who are ill with vomiting or diarrhea should not work in food establishments, healthcare or child care for a minimum of 48 after symptoms stop.

    Any questions concerning these matters should be directed to the Office of Food Protection at 222-2749. Food establishment wells that were flooded should be reported to the Office of Drinking Water Quality at 222-6867. Guidelines for cleanup after flooding can be obtained on the HEALTH website.

    HEALTH Confirms the Safety of Public Drinking Water and Reminds Residents to Conserve Water in Areas Affected by Flooding and Sewer System Overflow

    04-01-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds Rhode Islanders that water from municipal public water systems is safe to drink. Rhode Island has separate systems for public drinking water and for sewer treatment. Flooding has had minimal effect on the public drinking water systems. If a Boil Water Advisory is enacted, this information will be posted to HEALTH’s website . There are currently precautionary Boil Water Advisories related to the flooding at four very small public water systems: Lindhbrook Water Company, Meadowlark, Inc., Ashaway Line and Twine, and Nuweetooun School at Tomaquag Museum. People who are supplied water from these water systems should boil their water for one minute before using it for drinking and cooking until the Boil Water Advisory has been lifted.

    Private wells that have been flooded (wells that have standing water around them) should be considered contaminated.

    Residents of areas where sewage treatment and pumping plants are not working properly due to flooding (Warwick and West Warwick) are reminded to conserve water whenever possible. Limit toilet flushing and showering, and avoid using dishwashers and washing machines. These appliances all drain water into the sewage treatment system. Continual use could cause sewage backup and overflow. Also, people should not drain sump pumps into toilets, tubs, or sinks. Drain them instead into your yard or storm water drains.

    HEALTH Reminds Anyone with Special Healthcare Needs to Enroll in Registry

    04-02-2010

    In light of recent emergency events, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) urges anyone with a disability, chronic condition, or special healthcare need to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry. The intent of the Special Needs Emergency Registry is to have a reliable system for the identification of Rhode Islanders who require special assistance during emergencies. The information provided will be shared with local and state emergency management and responders such as local town/city police or fire.

    Individuals have a choice of either registering online at www.health.ri.gov/emregistry or sending a completed Special Needs Emergency Registry Form (form is located on the HEALTH website www.health.ri.gov or by calling 401-946-9996 or RI Relay 711 TTY). If you do not register online, please mail the completed form to RIEMA, Database Manager, 645 New London Ave, Cranston, RI 02920.

    The Registry Form is available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hmong, Cambodian and Lao and in large print, CD-Rom, disc and via the HEALTH website. If you cannot fill out this form on your own, please have a family member or caregiver complete the form and submit on your behalf. Also, if more than one person from a household has a disability, chronic condition or special healthcare needs, each person should submit a separate Special Needs Emergency Registry Form.

    Once a Special Needs Emergency Registry Form is submitted, HEALTH will send a GO-KIT to your home to help you begin to prepare for an emergency.

    The Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry is a joint effort of HEALTH and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA).

    All Rhode Islanders in need of flood disaster assistance should register with FEMA at www.fema.gov or 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585).

    HEALTH Reissues Safety Reminders For First Responders To Prevent Illness

    04-02-2010

    On Wednesday the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) issued guidance for first responders participating in flood response activities to prevent illness. For this guidance, see http://www.ri.gov/press/view/11072.

    Many first responders have contacted HEALTH with specific questions about Hepatitis A. Floodwaters may contain raw sewage that can cause gastrointestinal infections such as norovirus or Hepatitis A, as well as other hazardous substances which can be harmful on contact or if inadvertently swallowed. However, Hepatitis A virus infections are not common in Rhode Island and the risk of spread through contaminated floodwaters is very low. A vaccine against Hepatitis A is available and is administered in two doses 6 months apart.

    Rhode Islanders should seek medical treatment if they experience the following symptoms after working in floodwaters: yellow skin, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or other symptoms of illness.

    HEALTH Urges Private Well Owners to Test Water After Floods

    04-07-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends that all private wells that have flooded (wells that have standing water around them) should be considered contaminated and the water should be tested.

    As soon as water has receded, the well water should be tested for coliform bacteria. If coliform bacteria are present, the well will need to be disinfected and re-tested before it can be used for drinking, cooking or brushing teeth. Until you receive test results showing there is no coliform bacteria in your well water, you should boil your water for one minute before using it for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth or bathing infants.

    Following are the labs that can test drinking water:

    • BAL, Cranston, 785-0241
    • BRC, Jamestown, 423-1825
    • ESS Laboratory, Cranston, 461-7181
    • New England Testing Lab Inc., North Providence, 353-3420
    • Northeast Environmental Testing Laboratory, Providence, 454-3400
    • Premier Laboratory, LLC; Dayville, CT; 860-774-6814
    • RI State Health Laboratories, Providence, 222-5600 (April 6 – June 30)
    • RI Analytical Laboratories, Warwick, 737-8500

    All Rhode Islanders in need of flood disaster assistance should register with FEMA.

    Department of Health Issues Reminder About Beach Closings

    04-07-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders that all beaches remain closed for swimming while HEALTH does water testing. (Pet owners should not allow pets to swim at the beaches.) Recent high volumes of rain have caused many sewer systems to overflow into Narragansett Bay.

    Although beaches are not yet open for swimming, some Rhode Islanders surf at area beaches.

    Beaches will remain closed until further notice.

    Women’s Cancer Screening Program to Resume Patient Services May 1

    04-08-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to announce that as a result of a $100,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor and a $10,000 donation from the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, the Women’s Cancer Screening Program will be able to start offering screening and diagnostic services for breast and cervical cancer on May 1, 2010.

    “We are grateful for the generosity that has been extended to HEALTH,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “In the past year, this program has seen an unprecedented increase in Rhode Island women who need these services. These donations will allow providers to resume screening and diagnostic services for women sooner than was planned.”

    “The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation is pleased to participate in assisting the RI Department of Health's efforts to resume breast cancer screening services to the women of Rhode Island,” said Director of Development Gary Calvino, “It is our belief that in these difficult financial times, federal, state, non-profit and corporate partnerships are essential. Because of our expanding efforts to educate financially challenged women about the importance of proper screenings, our Foundation understands the burden that will be added to the Women's Cancer Screening Program. In forging these partnerships, we increase the possibility of preventing this type of shortfall from happening again in 2011.”

    The Women’s Cancer Screening Program provides breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services for Rhode Island women ages 40 and older who are have no health insurance and whose income is less than 250% of the federal poverty level.

    Governor, Department of Health Celebrate Rhode Island’s Top-Ranking H1N1 Vaccination Effort

    04-14-2010

    Today, the Office of the Governor of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recognized groups who contributed to the state’s top-ranked H1N1 vaccination effort. Rhode Island had the highest overall H1N1 vaccination rate, 38.8%, in the country. In addition, Rhode Island led the country in vaccinating children and high-risk individuals. Nearly 85% (84.7%) of children were vaccinated compared to the national average of 36.8%. Almost 58% (57.5%) of people in high-risk groups were vaccinated compared to the national average of 33.2%.

    “These numbers show that we reached the people who most needed to be protected,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Not only did Rhode Island have high coverage rates, but our H1N1 vaccination coverage rates far exceeded national averages. The combined effort of so many people allowed us to offer vaccine to as many people as possible. HEALTH is grateful for all of the hard work and dedication that was a part of this response.

    Attendees to the recognition event included representatives from Rhode Island’s colleges and universities, schools, hospitals, municipalities, state agencies, and community partners.

    Rhode Island is First New England State to Earn EPA Approval For Lead-Safe Program

    05-03-2010

    Beginning on May 1, there is one more way to keep Rhode Island children safe and healthy.

    Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is the first in New England that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authorized to manage the state’s Lead-Safe Remodeler/Renovator Program. This program requires that any renovation or remodeling done to homes built before 1978 be done by a licensed Lead Hazard Control Firm. This new law applies to any contractor, painter, electrician or other worker who may disturb six square feet or more of paint inside a home or 20 square feet or more of paint on the outside of a home. The new regulations also apply to all elementary schools and childcare buildings built before 1978.

    Most homes and structures built before 1978 contain lead paint. When lead paint is disturbed, the paint debris and dust can spread into the environment and could be ingested by children. Lead poisoning and elevated blood lead levels can impact the mental and physical development of children, especially those younger than six years of age. Licensed Lead Hazard Control Firms and their Lead-Safe Remodeler/Renovators are trained and certified to safely remove lead paint and other lead hazards.

    “Rhode Island has had lead-safe regulations in place since 2001,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We now have the ability to ensure that only licensed Lead-Hazard Control Firms are doing work on homes built before 1978. Rates of childhood lead poisoning in Rhode Island have declined dramatically in the past 10 years; however, we need to continue to prevent this health hazard from having a negative impact on children’s learning and school performance.” Of the 12,384 children who will enter kindergarten in 2011, 2.4% (302) have had an elevated blood lead level at one time.

    The recent changes to Rhode Island regulations are the result of a new EPA law that requires all states to adopt and enforce minimum national standards for renovating and remodeling pre-1978 homes or to permit the EPA to conduct enforcement. The Governor approved the delegation of authority to HEALTH, and the EPA formally delegated authority to HEALTH in late April.

    Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Dr. Joseph DiMase

    05-06-2010

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented gastroenterologist Dr. Joseph DiMase with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

    Dr. DiMase was concerned that there was a two-year wait for colon cancer screening exams in underserved communities. As a result, he created Screening Colonoscopies for Underserved Populations (SCUP). DiMase created a professional advisory board for SCUP, recruited physicians to volunteer their services, approached hospitals to offer time and space for procedures, and got donations of colon preparation products from the manufacturer. In addition, he works with the Rhode Island Health Center Association (RIHCA) to recruit and refer eligible patients.

    Since its inception, SCUP has provided more than 100 free procedures for uninsured, low-income adults. SCUP’s goal for 2010 is to provide as many as 300 free procedures.

    Summit To Highlight the Latest Advances in Cancer Research

    05-27-2010

    Cancer is about more than just diagnosing or treating the disease. Every moment of every day, cancer research is happening all around us—even here in Rhode Island. The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island invites providers, patients and survivors to attend the 2010 Rhode Island Cancer Summit on June 17, 7:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.

    American Cancer Society Deputy National Vice President for Research Dr. Margaret Offermann will discuss the critical role that research plays in the fight against cancer and how personalized medicine is integrated into clinical trial research. In addition, she will explain how a clinical trial goes from concept to research to approval to implementation. Following her presentation, Dr. Offermann will moderate a panel discussion with Rhode Island cancer experts. Panelists will talk about their own research, the status of some clinical trials and about the intricacies of cancer research.

    “The medical advances of tomorrow are because of the research being done today,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. ““While cancer prevention efforts like smoking cessation, good nutrition and increased physical activity are important, learning about current research is important too.”

    “Everyone has been touched by cancer,” said Linda Dziobek, Chairperson of The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island. “ We have all experienced the effects that a cancer diagnosis has on family, friends and loved ones. The purpose of this summit is to educate everyone on the latest advances in cancer research, access to clinical trials, and how to navigate the system.”

    The summit is intended for healthcare professionals, community members, cancer survivors and caregivers.

    Wolverine Joining Technologies Earns Workplace Safety Award

    06-21-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recognized Wolverine Joining Technologies in Warwick for meeting the requirements of the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). The SHARP award is presented to companies who demonstrate a history of lower average rates of workplace injury and illness than other companies in the nation. Wolverine Joining Technologies is one of only 12 companies in the state who currently hold this status.

    Wolverine Joining Technologies injury rate is 3.9 compared to the national average of 7.5. Their illness/restricted duty rate is 2.7 compared to the national average of 4.5.

    “We congratulate everyone at Wolverine Joining Technologies for earning this award,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “For an employee health and safety program to be successful, there needs to be a commitment at every level of the organization. This commitment can help to prevent injuries, disabilities and even death.”

    New Puerto Rico Birth Certificates Required after July 1, 2010

    06-22-2010

    As of July 1, Rhode Island’s State Office of Vital Records and local clerk offices can no longer accept certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates issued before that date. The Puerto Rico government has passed a new law invalidating all birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010. After July 1, the Puerto Rico government will issue a new, more secure certificate to anyone who requests one. The law is intended to combat fraud and protect the identity and credit of all people born in Puerto Rico.

    People may need to present a certified copy of a birth certificate to apply for a marriage license or to request legal changes to birth, death, or marriage records filed in Rhode Island. Therefore, starting July 1, any Puerto Rican-born person who needs to provide their birth certificate to the State Office of Vital Records or to a local clerk office for these purposes must apply for a new certified copy from the Puerto Rico Health Department. If the certificate correction was in progress prior to July 1, 2010, then the certificate accepted at the time of the request will be considered valid for its intended purpose.

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends that anyone who needs to get a new birth certificate from Puerto Rico should plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get the new birth certificate. At this time, the Puerto Rico Health Department does not know how long it will take to process a request for a new birth certificate. According to the Puerto Rico government, if you are age 18 or older and were born in Puerto Rico, you may apply for a new copy of your birth certificate online at www.pr.gov.

    HEALTH Issues Compliance Order to OB-GYN Associates, Inc. for Use of Non-FDA-Approved Intrauterine Device (IUD)

    06-23-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline has discovered that the Rhode Island offices of OB-GYN Associates, Inc. have been purchasing non-US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved versions of the Mirena and ParaGard intrauterine devices (IUDs) from a source also not approved by FDA. (An IUD is a small, "T-shaped" device often made of flexible plastic that is inserted into a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy. The Mirena device also delivers small amounts of hormone to further help prevent pregnancy.) HEALTH estimates 400-500 women may have had this device implanted since January 2009 by OB-GYN Associates. Not all the IUDs implanted during this time period were non-FDA-approved Mirena or ParaGard IUDs.

    The use of non-FDA-approved drugs and devices is prohibited by law, except in rare circumstances (e.g. pre-approved product testing). Therefore, today, HEALTH issued a Compliance Order prohibiting OB-GYN Associates, Inc. from implanting any IUDs in patients. All physicians, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurses from the practice have been referred to their respective boards of licensure to determine their level of involvement in the use of non-FDA-approved medical devices. This morning, HEALTH confiscated all IUDs the practice had in stock at Rhode Island offices. HEALTH also is requiring the practice to notify, within 10 days, all patients who have had any non-FDA-approved IUDs implanted since January 1, 2009 and provide copies of their medical records to HEALTH. The compliance order only applies to the implantation of IUDs. The practice remains open and can continue to provide all other OB/GYN services and care.

    “Our main concern is the effectiveness of these IUDs in preventing pregnancy. Because the effectiveness of non-FDA-approved devices cannot be verified, HEALTH recommends that women who may have these IUDs use another form of birth control such as condoms or abstinence,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We anticipate that many women will want to talk to their doctor about next steps, including whether the IUD should be removed. There is no immediate need for women to have them removed as the main concern is lack of effectiveness. It is especially important that women do not try to remove IUDs themselves. IUDs should only be removed by a healthcare professional. This investigation is a reminder to all healthcare providers that federal and state laws require that all drugs and devices be FDA-approved and purchased through FDA-approved sources.”

    Women who had a Mirena or ParaGard IUD implanted by OB-GYN Associates after January 1, 2009, and want to receive future updates about this investigation or want to file a complaint, should call the Department of Health at 222-8022. Reproductive health specialists from Women & Infants Hospital will also be available to answer questions. The line will be staffed until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 23 and thereafter, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Staff speak English and Spanish. This is an ongoing investigation and HEALTH will provide regular updates to providers and patients as more information is available.

    Department of Health Issues Heat Advisory

    06-28-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a heat advisory to remind people of precautions to take in extreme heat. High temperatures and humidity are predicted into Tuesday, so it is especially important that all Rhode Islanders take the following precautions:

    • Stay out of the direct sun. Seek shaded or air conditioned areas such as libraries or malls.
    • Whenever possible, schedule outdoor events (public gatherings, sporting events) early in the morning when it’s cooler and the air quality is better.
    • Drink plenty of fluids. (Avoid alcohol and caffeine.)
    • Wear light-colored, light-weight clothing. Use hats with brims and sunscreen for more protection.
    • Elderly, small children and people with chronic health conditions are more vulnerable to the heat. Call and check on friends, family and neighbors.
    • Anyone showing signs of heat stroke (altered mental state, not sweating, nausea) should seek medical attention immediately.

    HEALTH Issues Compliance Orders to Two Additional OB/GYN Practices for Use of Non-FDA-Approved IUDs

    06-29-2010

    Following the Compliance Order issued to OB-GYN Associates on June 23, two other OB/GYN practices, notified the Department of Health (HEALTH) that they also have been purchasing and utilizing non-FDA-approved IUDs from international sources. After confirming each of the reports, HEALTH has issued Compliance Orders to the following practices: Bayside OB-GYN, Inc. and Center for Obstetrics & Gynecology, Inc.

    The Compliance Orders require each of the practices to stop using non-FDA-approved IUDs, notify all patients, within 10 days, who received a non-FDA-approved IUD and provide that patient list to HEALTH.

    HEALTH issued an advisory to all licensed OB/GYNs today urging any practice or healthcare professional who purchased or inserted a non-FDA-approved IUD to notify HEALTH by noon on July 2, 2010. HEALTH will confirm any additional reports received.

    “Use of non-FDA-approved IUDs is illegal,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Our primary concern right now is lack of effectiveness as a form of birth control. Any patient who received a non-FDA-approved IUD needs to be informed so that she can use an alternate form of birth control such as condoms or abstinence.”

    Puerto Rico Extends Validity of Birth Certificates through September 30, 2010

    07-01-2010

    Rhode Island’s State Office of Vital Records and local clerk offices can now accept certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 through the end of September. The Puerto Rico government previously passed a law invalidating all birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 on that date. The government has now extended the validity of current Puerto Rico birth certificates until September 30, 2010. The purpose of the extension is to provide people born in Puerto Rico who may need a birth certificate for an upcoming transaction with a three-month window to apply for and receive a new document. The Puerto Rico government will still begin issuing new, more secure certificates to anyone who requests one starting July 1.

    People may need to present a certified copy of a birth certificate to apply for a marriage license or to request legal changes to birth, death, or marriage records filed in Rhode Island. Any Puerto Rican-born person who may need to provide their birth certificate to the State Office of Vital Records or to a local clerk office for these purposes after September 30 should apply for a new certified copy from the Puerto Rico Health Department.

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends that anyone who needs to get a new birth certificate from Puerto Rico should still plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get the new birth certificate. At this time, the Puerto Rico Health Department does not know how long it will take to process a request for a new birth certificate. According to the Puerto Rico government, if you are age 18 or older and were born in Puerto Rico, you may apply for a new copy of your birth certificate online at www.pr.gov.

    Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Issued for United Water, Narragansett Pt. Judith, Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, South Kingstown Middlebridge Water Systems

    07-06-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a precautionary boil water advisory for customers of the United Water, Narragansett Pt. Judith, Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, and South Kingstown Middlebridge water systems. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

    Water pressure in these communities dropped below acceptable limits and therefore, the likelihood for bacteria contamination increases. The water systems are working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

    All water system customers are urged to limit water usage to allow the system to restore normal water pressure. United Water and the towns of Narragansett and South Kingstown have banned all outdoor water use until further notice. In addition, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has agreed to close cold-water showers at state beaches.

    This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Customers of United Water, Narragansett Pt. Judith, and Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, and South Kingstown Middlebridge water systems are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

    Health Department Lifts Precautionary Boil Advisory for United, Narragansett Point Judith, Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, South Kingstown Middlebridge Customers

    07-08-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is notifying customers of the United, Narragansett Point Judith, Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, South Kingstown Middlebridge that the precautionary boil water advisory put in place earlier this week has been lifted. The water is safe to use for drinking, cooking and bathing infants and no longer needs to be boiled before use.

    Water testing from multiple points in the distribution system confirms that the water system does not contain bacteria. All of the water systems will resume routine testing of the water quality and will continue to report results to HEALTH.

    Customers and businesses are advised to:

    • Flush faucets that have not been used since Tuesday, July 6.
    • Replace water treatment filter cartridges.
    • Sanitize refrigerator water and ice makers.

    Enrollment Opens For Immunize For Life Vaccine Program

    07-14-2010

    The Rhode Island Department Health (HEALTH) opened enrollment today for Immunize For Life, a new, consolidated state-supplied vaccine program. This program allows healthcare providers to enroll once to order vaccine for both pediatric and adult patients.

    Pediatric healthcare providers can order all recommended vaccines for patients younger than 19 years of age. For a complete list of recommended childhood vaccines, visit:

    http://www.health.ri.gov/programs/immunization/childhood/2010RecommendedChildhoodImmunizationSchedule.pdf. Adult healthcare providers can order influenza, pneumococcal (Pneumovax), and tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccines this year. For recommended adult immunizations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/adult-schedule.htm

    “Vaccination is one of the safest and most effective ways to prevent disease among all Rhode Islanders,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “HEALTH provides these vaccines to all enrolled providers at no cost to the provider or the patient. We urge all providers to participate in this important program.”

    The enrollment process must be completed online. To enroll, healthcare providers should visit https://kidsnet.health.ri.gov/vaccine. HEALTH has prepared written guidance for healthcare providers interested in enrolling for Immunize for Life. Additionally, HEALTH’s Immunization Program will offer conference call training sessions to assist healthcare providers in the enrollment process.

    Phone Scam Alert: Caller Claims to be from Health Department, Tries to Extort Money from Food Establishments

    07-15-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health has received reports that several restaurants throughout the state have received telephone calls from an individual representing the “State Board of Health.” The caller had requested payment for a state mandated identification card. The telephone calls are a scam.

    The Department of Health does not issue or require payments for identification cards to food establishments. The Department’s Food Protection Unit sends renewal notices for food establishment licenses through the U.S. Postal Service and does not call establishments for renewals.

    The Department of Health asks that those that have received similar calls to attempt to get any information possible from the caller (i.e. name, address, phone number) and to contact their local police department.

    Great Value Recalls Chicken Nuggets Sold in Coventry, RI Walmart

    07-20-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that Perdue Farms, Inc., a Perry, Georgia establishment, has recalled frozen chicken nugget products that may contain foreign materials. The product was sold at Walmart in Coventry, RI. Since July 14, 2010, approximately 400 packages of the Great Value Chicken Nuggets have been sold in Rhode Island. HEALTH recommends that the public discard the product.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) made the recall announcement today (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Recall_046_2010_Release/index.asp?s_cid=w_c_sms_cont_001).

    The products subject to recall include:

    1-POUND, 13-OUNCE BAG OF “Great Value Fully Cooked Chicken Nuggets." Each bag bears the establishment number P-33944 as well as a case code of 89008 A0160 on the backside of the packaging. There is also a BEST IF USED BY date of June 9, 2011.

    The Walmart in Coventry has pulled the product from the shelf. The frozen chicken nugget products were produced on June 9, 2010.

    The Georgia company discovered small pieces of blue plastic after receiving consumer complaints. FSIS has not received any reports of injury at this time. The health risks are low. Anyone concerned about an injury from consumption of this product should contact a physician.

    Time for Decision on Compassion Center Licenses Extended

    07-27-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) needs additional time to reach a final decision on licenses for up to three compassion centers. At last month’s public hearing on the applicants, HEALTH anticipated that the review and evaluation would be complete by July 30.

    “We want to assure that all information included in each of the 15 applications for a compassion center license is reviewed carefully and thoroughly,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Due to the larger than anticipated number of applicants and the volume of material submitted, HEALTH needs more time to complete this process. The latest we would have a final decision is early September.”

    Sprouts Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

    07-30-2010

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers of sprout products from Specialty Farms and Nature’s Promise brands may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. These sprouts were sold at Stop & Shop stores in Rhode Island.

    All items being recalled have a sell-by date of 08/03/2010 or 08/01/2010. The following items have been recalled:

    Item UPC Code

    • Specialty Farms Organic Alfalfa Sprouts Blend (sell by 08/03/2010) 509800108
    • Specialty Farms Organic Sprout Salad (sell by 08/03/2010) 8192400024
    • Nature’s Promise 4-ounce Organic Alfalfa Sprouts (sell by 08/01/2010) 8826704741
    • Nature’s Promise 8-ounce Organic Alfalfa Sprouts (sell by 08/01/2010) 8826704102
    • Nature’s Promise 4-ounce Organic Zesty Sprouts (sell by 08/01/2010) 8826703903

    In Rhode Island, there have been no reported cases of listeria associated with this recall. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

    Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

    Iams, Eukanuba Dry Pet Food Recalled Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

    08-05-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Iams and Eukanuba brand dry pet food may be contaminated with Salmonella. These dry pet foods can be sold at veterinary clinics or pet supply retailers in Rhode Island. No canned food, biscuits/treats or supplements are included in this recall.

    Anyone who has purchased the following recalled items should throw them away immediately:

    Product Name Version "Best-By" Dates UPC Code

    • Iams Veterinary Dry Formulas All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 - 01Dec11 All UPC Codes
    • Eukanuba Naturally Wild All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 - 01Dec11 All UPC Codes
    • Eukanuba Pure All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 - 01Dec11 All UPC Codes
    • Eukanuba Custom Care Sensitive Skin All dry sizes 01Jul10 - 01Dec11 All UPC Codes

    There have been no human illnesses reported that are associated with this recall; however, people handling dry pet food can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they do not properly wash their hands after handling the pet food.

    Symptoms of salmonellosis in humans include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment. Symptoms of salmonellosis in animals include decreased appetite, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting. If your pet consumed any of the recalled food products and has these symptoms, contact your veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.

    Salad Mix Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

    08-11-2010

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers that some 2,825 cases of Veggie Lover’s Salad from Fresh Express may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. This product was distributed in Massachusetts and most likely in Rhode Island too.

    The item being recalled has a product code of I208 and a use-by date of August 10, 2010.

    No other Fresh Express salads are included in the recall, and no illnesses have been reported in association with this recall. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

    Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

    State Health Officials in Massachusetts, Rhode Island Announce First Human Case of EEE in 2010

    08-16-2010

    The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced the first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in a person. The patient, a male in his 20's from Newport County in Rhode Island, is in critical condition at a hospital in Rhode Island. His exposure to a mosquito carrying the EEE virus likely occurred in the southeastern section of Massachusetts that has been identified as an area of elevated risk.

    The onset of his symptoms occurred on August 5, prior to that evening’s start of aerial spraying in southeastern Massachusetts. Symptoms usually present themselves within two to 10 days of exposure.

    “Our thoughts continue to be with this patient and his family,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “While we have not had any mosquitoes test positive for EEE in Rhode Island; this case is a reminder that everyone should continue to take steps to prevent mosquito bites and get rid of standing water on their property.”

    Aerial spraying in southeastern Massachusetts conducted from August 5 – August 7 has reduced the overall mosquito populations in southeastern Massachusetts (including the likely location of exposure in this case) by 80 percent and the number of mammal-biting mosquitoes by 90 percent. Mammal-biting mosquitoes pose the greatest risk to humans.

    “This is a tragic reminder of the very real threat of EEE that we’re facing in Massachusetts,” said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach, “Now more than ever, it’s important that each of us take the simple, very effective steps to protect ourselves from getting bitten by mosquitoes.”

    The last human case in Massachusetts was in 2008 and Rhode Island was in 1998. Massachusetts has confirmed 47 positive EEE pools in 2010. Rhode Island has not identified any positive EEE mosquito pools. EEE is usually spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. It is a serious disease in all ages and can even cause death in some cases.

    People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes.

    Protect yourself:

    • Use bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
    • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.
    • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.
    • Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:
    • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
    • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.
    • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
    • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.

    · Help your neighbors, friends and family do the same things.

    Department of Health Confirms Listeria Contamination in Queso Fresco, Warns Public Not to Consume Queso Fresco Made by Azteca Linda Corp.

    08-23-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers not to eat queso fresco manufactured by Azteca Linda Corp. that has an expiration date of September 11, 2010. HEALTH’s Laboratory confirmed that this product tested positive for the bacteria that causes listeria. HEALTH expects this product to be recalled.

    Symptoms of listeria can include fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain or diarrhea. Listeria infection can also cause miscarriages or still births among pregnant women. Young children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems can be at increased risk for more serious symptoms. Anyone who experiences these symptoms and has eaten this product should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

    DEM, HEALTH Issue Advisory for Ten Mile River, Central Pond, Turner Reservoir, Omega Pond

    08-24-2010

    The Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health (HEALTH) advise people that a recent algae bloom in the Ten Mile River, Central Pond, Turner Reservoir, and Omega Pond may form a naturally occurring algal toxin. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in these areas until further notice. In addition, people should not drink water or eat fish from any of these areas.

    During a recent sampling event, DEM observed a dense algae bloom turning the waters of Turner Reservoir a bright green color. DEM has confirmed the presence and predominance of the blue-green algae, Microcystis. These algae also referred to as cyanobacteria have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxin, Microcystin.

    Symptoms of exposure to Microcystin in humans include stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, muscle and joint pain, and irritation of the skin, eyes and throat. People who have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. People are advised to avoid contact with water if they see similar conditions (dense algae blooms, bright green colored waters) in other lakes and ponds.

    According to Rhode Island State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM, pets can also be affected by exposure to Microcystin. Pet owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. Symptoms of exposure to Microcystin in dogs can include rapid onset of lethargy, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle rigidity or convulsions.

    DEM advises that the algae bloom and the natural production of the toxin will likely resolve itself. This week’s rainfall reduced some of the toxin-producing algae. DEM will re-sample the waters and will inform the public when algae levels are low. At that time, it will be safe to resume recreational activities in these areas.

    Microcystis is a type of blue algae that grows naturally in many water bodies. Under certain conditions, such as warm weather and an abundance of nutrients in the water, the algae may undergo an explosive type of growth that is commonly referred to as an algae bloom. Within a few days, a bloom can cause clear water to become cloudy, often forming floating dense mats of algae along the shoreline. As the days get shorter and cooler, the algae are likely to dissipate. Any toxins that are in the water will decline as the algae die off.

    Azteca Linda Corp. Recalls Queso Fresco Due to Confirmed Listeria Contamination; Queso Hebra Added to Recall List Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

    08-24-2010

    Azteca Linda Corp. is recalling Queso Fresco (fresh white cheese) and Queso Hebra (fresh white string cheese) with an expiration date of September 11, 2010. The Rhode Island Department of Health Laboratory confirmed earlier this week that the Queso Fresco is contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Because the Queso Hebra was made on the same food processing equipment, it is possible that it is contaminated with listeria as well. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system.

    The products included in this recall include:

    • Queso Fresco; hard plastic, clam-shell shaped container; UPC 0 23986 92692 8, expiration date of September 11, 2010
    • Queso Hebra; net weight 14 ounces and net weight 5 pounds; labeled with the brand name Queso El Azteca, no UPC codes; expiration date of September 11, 2010

    At this time, no other Azteca Linda Corp. products are included in the recall, and no confirmed cases of listeria have been reported in association with this recall. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

    Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

    Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Poster Contest Winners, Beacon Charter School, East Bay Met School

    08-26-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented two high school student artists and their schools with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

    HEALTH’s Immunization Program sponsored its first National Immunization Week poster art contest earlier this year. Students were asked to submit artwork depicting the importance of children or young adults getting vaccinated. The winning artwork was printed on posters and brochures that are being distributed to health centers, pediatricians, and family practitioners.

    Corinne Clapper is a sophomore at the East Bay Met School in Newport and Jade Shriver is a sophomore at Beacon Charter High School in Woonsocket. School Nurse Teacher Lisa Shwartz is accepting the award for East Bay Met School. Principal Dr. Robert Pilkington and Artistic Director Patricia Hawkridge are accepting the award for Beacon Charter School.

    DEM, HEALTH Issue Advisory for Melville Pond

    08-27-2010

    For the second time this week, the Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in waters affected by blue-green algae blooms. Melville Pond in Portsmouth is added to the list of waters including the Ten Mile River, Central Pond, Turner Reservoir, and Omega Pond in East Providence that are experiencing the algal blooms which may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in these areas until further notice. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. In addition, people should not drink water or eat fish from any of these areas.

    DEM has confirmed the presence and predominance of blue-green algae species in Melville Pond. These algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins, Microcystin and Anatoxin.

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the 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 drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas 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. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

    With the weekend forecast of warmer temperatures and sunshine – conditions favorable to algae growth – DEM warns that blue-green algae blooms may be evident in other freshwater lakes and ponds in the state. People are advised to avoid contact with waters which exhibit the following conditions: 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.

    DEM advises that the algae bloom and the natural production of the toxin will likely resolve itself in a few weeks. DEM will re-sample the waters and inform the public when algae levels are low. At that time, it will be safe to resume recreational activities in these areas.

    Queseria Chipilo Recalls Cheese Products Because of Possible Health Risk

    08-28-2010

    Queseria Chipilo Recalls Cheese Products Because of Possible Health Risk

    Queseria Chipilo , Passaic, NJ has announced a recall of Oaxaca String Cheese, Queso Fresco, and Queso Fresco Hoja De Plátano. The FDA press release contains a full listing of date codes and packaging information: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm224300.htm

    The recalled cheese products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. This is 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, infection can cause miscarriages and still births among pregnant women. This is a reminder that pregnant women and other people with weakened immune systems should not eat soft cheeses.

    While no illnesses have been confirmed in connection with this recall, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is investigating several illnesses. In addition, HEALTH's Office of Food Protection has sent inspectors into the community to get the recall information to Spanish markets across the state. Consumers who have purchased these products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    Ground Beef Recalled Due to Possible E coli. Contamination

    08-30-2010

    The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises consumers that some 8,500 pounds of ground beef from Pennsylvania-based Cargill Meat Solutions may be contaminated with E coli. E coli is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. This product was not distributed in Rhode Island; however, it was distributed to BJ’s Wholesale Clubs in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

    The ground beef being recalled has a use by/freeze by date of 07/01/2010, a product code of W69032, and has the establishment number 9400 on it.

    At this time, no illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island in association with this recall. Anyone who bought this ground beef should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund. This is also a reminder that ground beef should be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

    Symptoms of E coli include diarrhea and dehydration.

    Department of Health Confirms Listeria Contamination in Queso Fresco and Ricotta Cheese

    08-30-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of additional products manufactured by Azteca Linda Corp. that should not be consumed. HEALTH’s Laboratory confirmed that these two products tested positive for the bacteria that causes listeria. HEALTH expects these products to be recalled. The two products that tested positive for the bacteria that cause listeria are:

    Queso Fresco, brand name Queso El Azteca, expiration date of 09/12/2010

    Ricotta Cheese (Requeson), brand name Queso El Azteca, expiration date of 09/19/2010

    Symptoms of listeria can include fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain or diarrhea. Listeria infection can also cause miscarriages or still births among pregnant women. Young children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems can be at increased risk for more serious symptoms. Anyone who experiences these symptoms and has eaten this product should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

    Mosquito Pool in Rhode Island Tests Positive For EEE; HEALTH Recommends “Smart Scheduling” in Town of Westerly

    08-31-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise all Rhode Islanders that a pool of mosquitoes from a mosquito-trapping site in Westerly has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). This is the first mosquito pool this summer to test positive for EEE. To date there have been no mosquito pools in Rhode Island that have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). In Massachusetts, there has been one reported human case of EEE and one reported case of WNV after multiple mosquito pools tested positive for EEE. In eastern Connecticut, there were also mosquito pools that tested positive for EEE.

    “Both of our neighboring states have mosquito pools that tested positive for EEE, so we anticipated we would see a positive mosquito pool in Rhode Island as well,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This is a reminder to all Rhode Islanders about the proper precautions to avoid mosquito bites—use bug spray with DEET and minimize outside activities at dawn and dusk.”

    The EEE-positive pool was collected from one of three traps set in Chapman Swamp in Westerly. “It is not surprising to find EEE in mosquitoes in Chapman Swamp at this time of year,” said DEM Mosquito Abatement Coordinator Dr. Alan Gettman. “It is noteworthy that traps set in eastern Connecticut have also had mosquito pools test positive for EEE. All other mosquito traps in Rhode Island remain negative for EEE this year. DEM will set extra traps in the Westerly area to continue to monitor the mosquito population.”

    Protect yourself:

    • Use bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
    • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you are outside, HEALTH strongly recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using bug spray.
    • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.

    Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:

    • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
    • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.
    • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
    • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.
    • Help your neighbors, friends, and family do the same things.

    Community Recommendations

    • Municipal and school officials in the town of Westerly should institute “smart scheduling” and should reschedule or relocate any outdoor activity originally planned for dawn, dusk, or evening.

    Most people who are infected with WNV or EEE will not have any type of illness. People who do develop symptoms may have fever, headache and body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, or paralysis. The elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness with WNV and EEE.

    Boil Water Advisory Issued for Prudence Island Water District

    09-03-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has issued a boil water advisory for customers of the Prudence Island Water District (PIWD). HEALTH recommends that water used for bathing of infants, drinking, making ice, brushing teeth or cooking be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water may also be used.

    Water system tests confirmed the presence of E. Coli in the public water supply. PIWD is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

    The presence of E. Coli bacteria indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. These bacteria can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or headaches. Infants, young children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system are at an increased risk for developing more severe symptoms. Consumers who experience any of these symptoms, even if tap water has been avoided, should call their healthcare provider.

    This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Customers of the Prudence Island Water District are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

    Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Issued for Middletown Water Customers

    09-04-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a precautionary boil water advisory for Middletown water customers. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking, or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

    Due to a water main break, the water pressure dropped below acceptable limits and therefore, the likelihood for bacterial contamination increases. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

    All water customers in Newport and Middletown are urged to limit water usage to allow the system to restore normal water pressure.

    This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Middletown water customers are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

    Update on Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Issued for Middletown Water Customers

    09-05-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the precautionary boil water advisory (issued on September 4) for Middletown water customers. Portsmouth customers along West Main Road who are supplied by the Newport Water System remain on a precautionary boil water advisory. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking, or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

    Due to a water main break, the water pressure dropped below acceptable limits and therefore, the likelihood for bacterial contamination increases. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

    This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Portsmouth water customers are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

    Precautionary Boil Water Advisory is Lifted for All Customers of Newport Water System

    09-05-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is notifying customers of Newport Water System that the precautionary boil water advisory put in place on September 4 has been lifted. The water is safe to use for drinking, cooking and bathing infants and no longer needs to be boiled before use.

    Water testing from multiple points in the distribution system confirms that the water system does not contain bacteria. All of the water systems will resume routine testing of the water quality and will continue to report results to HEALTH.

    Customers and businesses are advised to:

    --Flush faucets that have not been used since Saturday, September 4.

    --Replace water treatment filter cartridges.

    --Sanitize refrigerator water and ice makers.

    Mosquito Pools Test Positive for EEE and West Nile Virus

    09-08-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise all Rhode Islanders that a pool of mosquitoes from a mosquito-trapping site in Westerly has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). In addition, a mosquito pool in South Kingstown and a mosquito pool in Pawtucket each tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). This is the second mosquito pool this summer to test positive for EEE, and the first mosquito pools this summer to test positive for WNV.

    “At this time of the year, we expect to see both EEE and WNV in mosquitoes,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Until the first heavy frost in the fall, all Rhode Islanders should be taking the proper precautions to avoid mosquito bites and should be removing standing water from their yards. It is likely that we will see more communities test positive as mosquitoes spread across the state.”

    “It is not surprising to isolate EEE from mosquitoes for the second week in Chapman Swamp,” said DEM mosquito abatement coordinator Al Gettman, PhD. “In addition, the West Nile virus findings are in keeping with our neighboring states’ surveillance information.”

    Recommendations for Communities with EEE

    • Due to the findings of EEE, municipal and school officials in the town of Westerly should continue to utilize “smart scheduling” and should reschedule or relocate any outdoor activity originally planned for dawn, dusk, or evening.

    Recommendations for Communities with WNV

    • Municipal and school officials in the Town of South Kingstown and the City of Pawtucket should continue to encourage personal protection measures (use bug spray, wear long pants and long sleeves) and should eliminate any standing water from municipal or school property.
    • Protect yourself:
    • Use bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
    • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you are outside, HEALTH strongly recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using bug spray.
    • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.
    • Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:
    • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
    • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.
    • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
    • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.
    • Help your neighbors, friends, and family do the same things.
    • The Newport-County man who has been hospitalized with EEE since August 10 is improving and is in stable condition.

    Symptoms of EEE or WNV may include fever, headache and body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, or paralysis.

    Everyone is at high risk for serious illness from EEE, and the case fatality rate for EEE is 33%. For WNV, 80% of people who are infected do not have any symptoms; however, the elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness from WNV.

    Return of School-Based Flu Vaccination Clinics Key to Keeping Rhode Islanders Healthy

    09-09-2010

    Rhode Island is aiming to keep our school-aged children healthy this winter by offering the seasonal influenza vaccine in schools. Last year, this process helped us get the most kids vaccinated and had the unintended consequence of helping to prevent the spread of the flu to parents and grandparents. This year, HEALTH will continue the annual tradition of school-based flu vaccination clinics.

    School-based flu vaccination clinics will be offered at public, private, and parochial schools beginning in early October and running through December.

    “This year, one flu shot will protect people against both seasonal and H1N1 flu,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Vaccination is still the best protection against the flu. We encourage all parents to have their child vaccinated. Vaccinating children gives us the double benefit of keeping the children protected and preventing the children from spreading flu to adults.”

    In the next week, schools will be sending home detailed information about the 2010/2011 flu vaccination campaign with all students. Students must be vaccinated at the clinic offered by the school he or she attends. (Check clinic schedule for location of your school’s clinic.) Parents can also bring their children to their healthcare provider to be vaccinated.

    Receiving flu vaccine at school-based clinics is voluntary and there is no out-of-pocket cost to the student or their families. In general, clinics for high school students will run during school hours and clinics for younger students will run during the evening. School administrators will contact parents and guardians with the specific information about their flu vaccination clinics.

    Students who have allergies not related to vaccine will be able to get vaccinated in the school-based clinic. Students who have severe allergies to eggs, have had a serious reaction to a previous vaccination, or have had Guillan-Barre Syndrome will need to be vaccinated by their doctor.

    None of 15 Applications Deemed Qualified to Apply for Registration

    09-10-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that after a thorough review of the 15 applications it received to be considered for compassion center registration, none of the 15 applications were deemed qualified to apply for registration as a Compassion Center.

    The applicants either failed to meet the minimum scoring requirements or they were disqualified from review for failing to comply with the application requirements. Of the 15 applications received by HEALTH, nine did not meet the minimum scoring requirements of the review process. In addition, during the review process, HEALTH received eight formal letters of concern alleging that some applications were not consistent with the requirements set forth either in the application’s instructions or in the regulations. Several complaints questioned why certain applications exceeded the allowable page limit. Other complaints raised issues about zoning requirements, site control, financing issues, and residency requirements. Upon a second review of the applications, HEALTH found that some of these complaints had merit and after final review, disqualified all 15 applicants. With no qualified applicant to move forward in the process, HEALTH will reissue the Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

    In addition, while reviewing applications HEALTH found inconsistencies in the interpretations of the application requirements and parts of the application that were not in line with the enabling statute. “This is the first time the Department has undergone such a process,” said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We are disappointed that we could not select at least one applicant but are optimistic that by clarifying the application process we will have a clearer process going forward that will yield at least one successful application.”

    HEALTH will solicit new applications with the reposting of an RFP in early October. The Department will refund the $250 application fee to each of the current applicants. Each of the applicants is eligible to apply when the RFP is reissued. The new application will not include page limits and will clearly require applicants to document their not-for-profit status. A more detailed summary of the changes to the application and process will be available once HEALTH has completed its revisions. The criteria used to review the applications are not expected to change, and the timeline will be similar. HEALTH has been working with other states with marijuana compassion centers, in particular Maine, regarding how to ensure the application and process yield safe and effective compassion centers.

    Department of Health Lauds FDA’s Action Against Electronic Cigarette Vendors; Local Company Falsely Markets Product as Safe Alternative to Smoking

    09-15-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) applauds the recent enforcement action taken by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against distributors of electronic cigarettes. Last week, the FDA issued warning letters to five leading distributors for violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, including unsubstantiated health claims, deceptive marketing tactics and poor manufacturing practices. FDA also announced its intention to regulate electronic cigarettes and related products. Electronic cigarettes are sold locally by Providence-based Cigotine LLC.

    “There is no reliable science to support the claims that local electronic cigarette vendors are making,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Recent research suggests that electronic cigarettes contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. In February 2009, Rhode Island and many other states asked FDA to review this product and require premarket approval of it. We are pleased that the FDA has taken these steps to combat a public health threat.”

    FDA asserts that electronic cigarettes should be subject to FDA regulation as drugs because they deliver potentially harmful doses of nicotine to users – a drug found to cause addiction as powerful and self-enforcing as addiction to cocaine or heroin. For a drug to gain FDA approval and make statements about its ability to prevent or treat illness or disease, it must meet strict safety, efficacy, and manufacturing standards. Because electronic cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, companies are not required to report a list of ingredients, the quantity of each ingredient or the potency of each ingredient.

    HEALTH recommends tobacco users consult with a healthcare provider or a pharmacist to identify an approved cessation therapy or contact the Rhode Island Tobacco Control Quitline at 1-800-Try-to-Stop (1-800-879-8678). Quitline services are offered at no-cost to Rhode Islanders.

    Rhode Island Adolescent Vaccination Coverage is Second Highest in Nation

    09-22-2010

    Vaccination is not just for infants and toddlers. Adolescents need vaccinations, too, for protection from serious diseases like tetanus, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV). In the recent National Immunization Survey (NIS) – Teen, Rhode Island ranked second in the nation for the three vaccines routinely recommended for teens.

    In 2009, Rhode Island had near-top rankings for tetanus, meningitis and HPV vaccines. The tetanus vaccination rate was 91.4% (compared to the national average of 76.2%), the meningitis vaccination rate was 75.7% (compared to the national average of 53.6%), and the HPV vaccination rate was 68.3% (compared to the national average of 44.3%).

    “These results are good news for Rhode Island,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Through a combination of HEALTH’s Vaccinate Before You Graduate (VBYG) program and the work of adolescent healthcare providers, our state is protecting young adults against serious diseases before they leave high school. Our goal is to have 90% of adolescents get each of these vaccines. We have already reached this goal for the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) and hepatitis B vaccines.”

    “In addition to providing the recommended vaccines to all Rhode Island teens, we want to make sure that they are up to date on all immunizations and that they get a flu shot every year,” said Chief of the Office of Immunization Patricia Raymond, RN, MPH. “This year, for the first time, we are offering the seasonal flu vaccine to students at school-based vaccination clinics and through our VBYG program. We want to offer as many opportunities as possible to get vaccinated and stay healthy.”

    The 2009 NIS for children ages 19-35 months of age also shows that for most of the recommended childhood vaccines, Rhode Island has met or surpassed the Healthy People 2010 goal of a coverage rate of 90%.

    The NIS is administered annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To view the entire NIS report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/stats-surv/imz-coverage.htm.

    Drug Take-Back Events Scheduled Across the State on September 25

    09-23-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of a drug take-back day on Saturday, September 25. These events are sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and give people the opportunity to have expired, unwanted or unused prescriptions or over-the-counter medications destroyed in a safe and environmentally sound way.

    People can bring tablets or capsules of prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. Intravenous solutions, injectable drugs, needles, and illicit drugs will not be accepted. Take-back events are anonymous and are scheduled from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the following locations in Rhode Island:

    • Barrington Police Department, 100 Federal Rd., Barrington
    • Bristol Police Department, 395 Metacom Ave., Bristol
    • Charlestown Police Department, 4901 Post Rd., Charlestown
    • Cumberland Police Department, 1380 Diamond Hill Rd., Cumberland
    • East Providence Police Department, 750 Waterman Ave., East Providence
    • Middletown Police Department, 123 Valley Rd., Middletown
    • Newport Police Department, 120 Broadway, Newport
    • North Providence Police Department, 1967 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence
    • Office of the Attorney General, 150 South Main St., Providence
    • South Kingstown Police Department, 1790 Kingstown Rd., South Kingstown
    • Warren Police Department, 1 Joyce St., Warren
    • Warwick Police Department, 99 Veteran’s Memorial Drive, Warwick
    • Woonsocket Police Department, 242 Clinton St., Woonsocket

    For information on these events or to locate events in other states, visit www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/takeback

    Falls Prevention Awareness Day Aims to Keep Seniors Safe

    09-23-2010

    Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for people 65 and older. Every year, more than 18,000 older Americans die because of a fall. In Rhode Island, falls-related injuries are the cause of 2,370 hospitalizations and more than 120 deaths. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is partnering with ten local senior centers to educate senior center members about how to prevent falls and falls-related injuries.

    “In 2007, more than 11,000 adults age 65 and older had to go to the Emergency Room for injuries caused by a fall,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Many falls are preventable, and people need to learn about the simple things they can do in their own home to reduce the risk of falling.”

    Studies show that a combination of interventions, including increased physical activity, annual vision checks, medication management, and home safety risk assessments, can significantly reduce falls in the older adult population. The Lowe’s" store located on Quaker Lane in Warwick donated 500 night lights with light sensors that will automatically turn on when it is dark. These night lights will be distributed at 10 Rhode Island senior centers on Falls Prevention Awareness Day, along with home safety checklists.

    HEALTH Calls for New Compassion Center Applications

    10-01-2010

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reissues a call for applications for operation of a medical marijuana compassion center. Nonprofit corporations that wish to apply may download a revised application at www.health.ri.gov/programs/medicalmarijuana. The deadline to submit the application is 12:00 noon on Friday, November 12, 2010.

    The application describes what applicants must do to be considered for a compassion center registration certificate. It has no page limit. Applicants can find a summary of other changes at www.health.ri.gov/programs/medicalmarijuana. The application review and scoring process remains the same and will include a public comment period. HEALTH expects that it will take between four and six months to review all applications.

    “Our goal has been, and continues to be, assuring the safest and most effective compassion center for patients and the public,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We want to keep this process moving.”

    Applicants may submit questions about the application process to compassioncenters@health.ri.gov until October 15. HEALTH will post answers to frequently emailed questions on its website.

    DEM, HEALTH, Lift Earlier Advisory for Turner Reservoir, Ten Mile River, and Omega Pond

    10-12-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announce that recent test results have led them to lift a temporary advisory issued on August 24, 2010 regarding contact with water from the Turner Reservoir, Ten Mile River, and Omega Pond.

    In August, a dense blue green algae bloom turned the waters of Turner Reservoir a bright green color. Laboratory results from tests on water samples taken at that time found unacceptable counts of blue green algae species present. These algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins, Microcystin and Anatoxin. The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the 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.

    The visible signs of the algal bloom are gone and sampling of water from the Turner Reservoir and Omega Pond by both the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and RI DEM indicate that blue green algae cell counts and Microcystin levels are within acceptable limits.

    Two Employers Recognized for Supporting Breastfeeding In the Workplace

    10-21-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition (RIBC) today presented Rhode Island Medical Imaging (RIMI) with a silver Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award for support of breastfeeding mothers and promoting breastfeeding among employees and clients in eight of their facilities in Rhode Island. RIMI joins 18 Rhode Island businesses and organizations that have received the award since 2006. (To see a list of all previous award recipients, visit http://www.health.ri.gov/awards/breastfeedingfriendly/)

    “It is important for all employers to continue to support breastfeeding employees,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Breastfeeding protects mothers and their children from numerous health risks and results in significant cost savings for families, the healthcare system, and employers. Breastfed children also have a lower risk for becoming overweight or obese in childhood and later in life.”

    In addition, RIBC granted funds to Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and to MomDocFamily to enhance breastfeeding accommodations in their facilities. MomDocFamily is an organization of women physicians from all stages of career and training that provides mentoring on combining a medical career with motherhood. Through their partnership with Brown Medical School, MomDocFamily will use these funds to support the development of additional lactation rooms for employees in two Brown-affiliated hospitals.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life and continue breastfeeding for at least a year or longer if preferred. Rhode Island breastfeeding rates have slowly risen in recent years, but still fall below Healthy People 2010 national targets, according to the recently released US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card posted at http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm.

    RIBC is a coalition of community organizations working to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding in the state. For information about the benefits of breastfeeding, visit http://www.health.ri.gov

    Stray Cat in Coventry/West Greenwich Area Tests Positive for Rabies

    10-21-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are alerting the public that a stray calico cat that has been seen in the Route 102 (Victory Highway) area of Coventry and West Greenwich was caught and has tested positive for rabies.

    Based on reports from the public, this cat had at least three kittens. Two of the kittens have been caught and will be tested for rabies. The mother cat did attack pets and humans on Wednesday.

    HEALTH and DEM make the following recommendations:

    • If you have been exposed to or been bitten by a stray cat or any other animal, contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours. HEALTH is the only agency that can authorize the release of rabies vaccine.
    • Do not feed or handle any stray or wild animal.
    • Cover and secure any garbage that is outside. Trash can be a food source for stray or wild animals.
    • Make sure your pet(s) are up to date on their rabies vaccination.
    • If you think your pet may have been exposed to or bitten by one of these cats, contact your veterinarian and your city or town’s animal control officer.

    Department of Health Issues Third Fine to Rhode Island Hospital for Failure to Follow Established Surgical Policies

    10-26-2010

    On August 9, 2010, the Department of Health (HEALTH) received notification from Rhode Island Hospital that during a neurosurgery procedure at RIH on August 4, 2010, a piece of a broken drill bit was left in the patient’s skull after the surgery was completed.

    HEALTH conducted a joint investigation with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and discovered that the hospital is not actively ensuring that the operating room staff is following existing hospital policy. RIH’s surgical count policy states that if a surgical tool or device is unaccounted for at the end of surgery, an x-ray of the patient should be done before the patient leaves the operating room to assure that the tool or device is not inside the patient. In this incident, no x-ray was taken and the surgical count was documented as correct.

    HEALTH also found that numerous staff reports of incorrect surgical counts have gone unanswered by the hospital. Similarly, reports from nursing staff that an anesthesiologist did not wear a surgical mask in the operating room were not addressed by medical leadership.

    Due to RIH’s failure to follow established policy and failure to adequately address staff reports of problems that could result in medical errors, HEALTH is fining Rhode Island Hospital $300,000. In addition, CMS has asked HEALTH to conduct a full survey of all areas of the hospital and to ensure that the hospital is in compliance with all of the Conditions for Participation for Medicare. (To view the letter to the hospital from CMS and the CMS statement of deficiencies, visit http://www.health.ri.gov/discipline/hospitals/RhodeIslandFederalFindings201010.pdf) Two physicians and one nurse are being referred to their licensing boards for review.

    “There is a troubling pattern of disregard for established policies that are designed to protect patient safety and prevent medical errors in Rhode Island Hospital’s operating rooms,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “When reports from staff about problems in the operating rooms are not adequately addressed, employees are less likely to speak up and report potential problems or concerns.”

    RIH must submit a plan of correction to HEALTH by November 10, 2010, and must pay the fine by November 24, 2010.

    HEALTH, DEM Lift Contact Advisory for Water at Melville Pond

    10-29-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announce that recent test results have led them to lift a temporary advisory issued on August 27, 2010 regarding contact with water from Melville Pond in Portsmouth.

    In August, a dense blue green algae bloom turned the waters of Melville Pond a bright green color. Laboratory results from tests on water samples taken at that time found unacceptable counts of blue green algae species present. These algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins, Microcystin and Anatoxin. The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the 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.

    Recent sampling of water from Melville Pond by DEM indicates that blue green algae cell counts and Microcystin levels are within acceptable limits.

    HEALTH Issues Consumer Advisory About Decorative Contact Lenses

    11-05-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises Rhode Islanders that decorative contact lenses (i.e., theatrical opaque contact lenses) are being sold in Rhode Island to people who do not have a prescription. HEALTH received a report of a high-school student who had corneal abrasions and temporary vision impairment from wearing decorative contact lenses that were purchased in a convenience store. An individual must have a prescription from an eye-care professional for any type of contact lenses.

    Contact lenses that are purchased without a prescription can cause severe eye infections, corneal abrasions, or blindness. Anyone who has purchased contact lenses without a prescription should not use the product and should throw them away. Anyone who has recently used decorative contact lenses and is experiencing eye problems should contact an eye-care professional for evaluation. In addition, it is illegal for anyone to sell contact lenses to an individual who does not have a prescription for the lenses.

    HEALTH has confiscated decorative contact lenses from retail locations that were being sold without a prescription. To report eye problems due to decorative contact lenses or the sale of contact lenses without a prescription, call HEALTH’s Complaint Unit at 222-5200 (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or e-mail website@health.ri.gov

    Two Incidents of Retained Foreign Objects Reported at Women & Infants Hospital

    11-17-2010

    On September 30, the Department of Health (HEALTH) received notification from Women & Infants Hospital of two separate cases of a patient with a retained foreign object (RFO) after surgery.

    The first incident occurred on July 24 when a piece of rolled gauze was left inside a patient following a procedure to stop bleeding following a vaginal delivery. The second incident occurred on August 25 when a piece of marker thread from a surgical gauze separated and was left inside a patient’s abdomen following a gynecological procedure.

    HEALTH conducted an investigation and determined that during the July incident, the obstetrical team did not follow the hospital’s policy about communication of patient information when the staff changed shifts resulting in the gauze roll being left in the patient’s vagina. During the August incident, HEALTH determined that the hospital’s surgical count policy was not followed. At the conclusion of the procedure, a surgical staff member noticed that the marker thread had separated from a gauze pad used during surgery. A piece of x-ray sensitive thread was found and removed before the patient left the operating room, but an x-ray was not done to confirm that the entire piece of thread was removed.

    Seven physicians, one nurse, and one nurse anesthetist are being referred to their licensing boards for review.

    “Although Women & Infants does not have a history of non-compliance with federal or state regulations or staff not following hospital policies, it concerns us that these incidents occurred,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This is a reminder that all hospital policies and procedures to prevent medical errors must be followed all the time. If surgical staff is unable to confirm that all instruments and items have been removed from a patient, an x-ray needs to be done before the patient leaves the operating room.”

    Women & Infants must submit a plan of correction to HEALTH by December 2, 2010.

    Report Shows Overall Financial Health of Hospitals in Rhode Island Improves in 2009

    11-23-2010

    The 11th annual The Health of Rhode Island’s Hospitals (2009), published by the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), shows that overall, the financial performance of the 13 acute-care hospitals in the state has improved. In 2009, hospitals as a whole in Rhode Island improved their collective profit margin, operating margin, and available cash.

    In 2009, continuing a strong pattern, there was wide variation in financial performance among individual hospitals. Facilities in the Care New England and Lifespan systems demonstrated significantly stronger financial stability than the six independent hospitals. All independent hospitals continued to show poor financial performance. In 2009, Landmark Medical Center operated under the control of a court-appointed special master, and St. Joseph Hospital’s financial position continued to worsen. In 2009, St. Joseph Hospital became technically insolvent, and began operating with Roger Williams Hospital under the CharterCare affiliation.

    “Rhode Island’s 13 hospitals are a $3.2 billion-dollar industry with an annual payroll of more than $1.8 billion,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “As healthcare continues to evolve, being financially solvent remains a challenge for all hospitals, especially for the independents. At the same time, these hospitals are critical to the state’s healthcare system and to local economies. HEALTH will continue track the critical financial indicators to assure that Rhode Islanders have continuing access to safe, high quality acute healthcare.”

    This report evaluates data from 2007 to 2009, and compares the state’s hospitals to other hospitals in the Northeast region and to a group of the best 10% of hospitals in the region. State-wide net income grew from $3.5 million in 2008 to $7.8 million in 2009; however, investment losses increased. Overall, six of the nine financial performance measures improved from 2008 levels. (Debt coverage, capital financing, and capital expenses weakened slightly.)

    The report also ranked individual hospitals using a combination of the nine individual measures during the time period of 2007 - 2009. The top performing hospitals were Women & Infants Hospital, Bradley Hospital, and Butler Hospital, respectively.

    Newport, South County Hospitals Have Highest Employee Flu Vaccination Rates

    11-29-2010

    In Rhode Island, the average influenza vaccination coverage rate for hospital employees is 61%. Of employees who provide direct patient care, the state average for is 56.4% for CNAs, 56.5% for nurses, and 58.4% for physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.

    During the 2009-2010 flu season, two hospitals far surpassed the state average. More than 80 percent of healthcare workers at Newport Hospital and at South County Hospital were vaccinated against seasonal flu last year, giving these facilities the highest flu vaccination coverage rates for hospitals in Rhode Island.

    Hospitals reported seasonal flu vaccination data to the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) for staff who provide direct patient care for the 2009-2010 flu season. Newport Hospital’s healthcare worker vaccination rate was 86.3%, and South County Hospital’s vaccination rate was 82.5%.

    “We congratulate Newport Hospital and South County Hospital for protecting their healthcare workers and the patients they care for,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Increasing healthcare worker vaccination rates is a state and a national priority, and is a professional ethical responsibility. These two hospitals can serve as a model for other hospitals in the state.”

    HEALTH’s goal is that all hospitals have a healthcare worker vaccination rate of at least 70% every year. For the 2009-2010 flu season, Memorial Hospital had a vaccination rate of 71.8%.

    Be Healthy for the Holidays: Get a Flu Shot Now

    12-01-2010

    Wrapping presents. Decorating the house. Visiting family and friends. With the holiday season upon us and the fact that the flu virus has officially arrived in Rhode Island this year, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) strongly encourages anyone who has not already received a flu shot this season to do so as soon as possible. Flu is a serious disease and can result hospitalizations or death – especially for the elderly, pregnant women or for anyone with a chronic long-term health condition or a weakened immune system. This year’s flu vaccine protects against H1N1 flu and seasonal flu.

    “Many people travel to see family and friends during the holidays,” said Gifford. “Children are one of the primary spreaders of flu virus, so we recommend that all children age six months and older get vaccinated. When children are vaccinated, there is a double benefit of keeping children healthy and preventing the spread of the flu virus no other family members. After you get a flu shot, it takes your body about 7-10 days to develop immunity to flu viruses, so getting vaccinated now will help to protect you before the holidays and before the brunt of the flu season illnesses are here.”

    Flu vaccine for children, adolescents, and adults is available in provider offices, at pharmacies, at public clinics, and at school-based flu vaccination clinics. (Some children may need a second dose of flu vaccine.)

    HEALTH Warns Restaurants of Phone Scam

    12-10-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has received reports that several restaurants throughout the state have received telephone calls from someone stating he or she is from the Department of Health. The caller often is requesting personal information so an inspection can be scheduled. The information being requested could be used for identity theft. These phone calls are a scam.

    HEALTH food inspectors do not need personal information to schedule an inspection. Staff all have photo identification badges that verify they are HEALTH employees.

    Any restaurant or food establishment who receives a similar call should try to get information from the caller (caller’s name, address, and phone number) and then report the incident to local police.

    Update From HEALTH on UnitedHealthcare/Care New England Contract

    12-21-2010

    As of December 21, 2010, UnitedHealthcare (United) and Care New England Health System (CNE) have not reached an agreement on their contract that is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2010.

    If United and CNE do not reach an agreement by December 31, 2010, patients will still be able to use CNE providers and facilities until the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) makes a final decision on United’s material modification application. United has agreed to clarify this in a letter to all members.

    Any time a health insurer anticipates a significant network change offered in its health plan (such as a hospital dropping from its plan), the insurer must apply to HEALTH for approval of the material modification. Upon receipt of an application, HEALTH must review it for completeness. Once an application has been deemed complete, HEALTH has 90 days to take action and up to 30 days to post a notice for public comment. The public then has 10 days from the date of the public notice to submit written comments to HEALTH. HEALTH can only take final action on an application once the public comment period has ended.

    United has submitted an application to HEALTH; however, the application has not been deemed complete. Therefore, there is not enough time in the 2010 calendar year for HEALTH to review and act upon the application before the current contract expires. Because HEALTH has not approved the material modification application, United must continue to provide the same seamless access to CNE providers for all of its members.