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Press Releases 2012

Laromme Brand Vanilla Rugelach Recalled Due to Undeclared Eggs

01-08-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of potential undeclared eggs in certain cases of Laromme brand Vanilla Rugelach. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to eggs run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Distribution of the recalled product included retail stores throughout Massachusetts. The recalled product comes in a 14 oz. round clear plastic container with a UPC code of 87062500954-8 and was distributed between November 2, 2011 and December 22, 2011. No other Laromme brand products are included in this recall.

To date, one illness has been reported in relation to this product. Consumers who are allergic to eggs, or who are unsure if they are allergic to eggs, should not consume the recalled product and should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 845-352-8811 between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. For more information, see the FDA website.


HEALTH Reports Pertussis Outbreak in Barrington; Works With School Officials, Providers

01-09-2012

On December 22, HEALTH received a report from a Barrington pediatrician that a student had been diagnosed with pertussis. After working with Barrington school officials and other healthcare providers, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has confirmed a total of eight cases of pertussis in students who attend either Hampden Meadows Elementary School or Barrington Middle School.

HEALTH's staff began working closely with school officials to identify any other symptomatic students, identify close contacts at home and at school who may need antibiotic prophylaxis, assess student immunization coverage rates, and consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on recommended next steps. At this time, CDC does not recommend mass antibiotic prophylaxis.

So that healthcare providers could assist HEALTH in its investigation, HEALTH sent provider advisories on December 29 and January 6 to all licensed providers in the state. The investigation is ongoing, and HEALTH expects to find additional cases. Symptoms of pertussis include cough lasting more than two weeks and worsens to include whooping, short periods without breathing, or gagging or vomiting after coughing spells.

"Anyone with symptoms of pertussis should be tested by his or her healthcare provider," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "The best protection against pertussis is to get vaccinated, so any child who is not up-to-date on his or her pertussis vaccination should be vaccinated. We want to make sure that any infant younger than age one, any pregnant woman, or anyone with a weakened immune system who may have been exposed to someone with pertussis also sees his or her healthcare provider for evaluation, testing, and treatment."

Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that is also known as whooping cough. It is highly contagious and caused by a bacterial infection of the lungs. People with suspected or confirmed diagnosis of pertussis should stay out of work, school, or child care until they have been on antibiotics for at least five days. HEALTH receives reports of about 60 cases of pertussis each year.


HEALTH to Host Pertussis Vaccination Clinic in Barrington

01-10-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) in conjunction with the Barrington Schools will be hosting a pertussis vaccination clinic for Barrington residents on Thursday, January 12 and Friday, January 13, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Barrington High School cafeteria, 220 Lincoln Avenue. Anyone with health insurance should bring his or her health insurance card to the clinic. Any Barrington resident who is uninsured will be vaccinated at no cost to the individual.

Due to the outbreak and based on a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HEALTH encourages anyone age 10 or older who has not previously received a Tdap vaccine and lives in Barrington get vaccinated. It is especially important for the following individuals to be vaccinated:

  • Anyone who has close contact with or cares for an infant younger than one year of age.
  • Any woman who is at least 20 weeks pregnant. (These women should contact their obstetricians to get vaccinated.)
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system (including chronic respiratory problem, neuromuscular disease, or immunodeficiency disorder).
  • Anyone who works at a school or childcare facility.
  • Anyone who provides direct patient care.

"Vaccination is the best prevention against pertussis," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "This clinic is part of HEALTH's ongoing effort to prevent the further spread of pertussis in the Barrington community. Anyone who does not live in Barrington and needs to be vaccinated should contact his or her healthcare provider."

Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that is also known as whooping cough. It is highly contagious and caused by a bacterial infection of the lungs. People with suspected or confirmed diagnosis of pertussis should stay out of work, school, or childcare until they have been on antibiotics for at least five days. HEALTH receives reports of about 60 cases of pertussis each year.


DEM, HEALTH Respond to Mercury Spill at St. Andrew's School

01-11-2012

Earlier today (January 11) St. Andrew's School in Barrington reported to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) that a vial of mercury had been dropped on a classroom floor in the Brown Science Building on January 10. The classroom was used for high school science classes.

The school notified local and state officials and evacuated all students from the building where the spill occurred. In addition, the shoes of all students and faculty who were in the classroom since the spill are in the process of being tested for mercury. Staff from DEM are conducting air sample testing to identify areas of potential contamination. Clean Harbors is currently working with school officials to safely clean the affected building. HEALTH staff is on site to ensure that all health and safety protocols are followed during the incident response.

HEALTH has received no reports of students or staff with any acute effects.


Hospital Conversion Application Deemed Complete

01-18-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Attorney General (RIAG) today announce that the Hospital Conversion Application submitted by Steward Health Care and Landmark Medical Center has been deemed complete.

HEALTH and RIAG will now start the formal review and evaluation of the application, and have 180 days to complete this step of the process.

The two Departments received the initial application on October 14, 2011. The initial application was deemed incomplete and the applicants' deadline to submit missing information was January 11, 2012.

"Today's announcement signals the completion of this phase of the process", said Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD. "It also highlights the success of a collaborative approach; recognizing the importance of healthcare jobs to the Woonsocket community and the availability of accessible and affordable health services in northern Rhode Island."


HEALTH Reports Update on Barrington Pertussis Outbreak

01-18-2012

On December 22, HEALTH received a report from a Barrington pediatrician that a student had been diagnosed with pertussis. As of today, there have been 21 cases of pertussis confirmed in Barrington. The number of confirmed cases in Rhode Island is consistent with outbreaks occurring nationally and regionally in Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts.

Due to the outbreak and after consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HEALTH hosted vaccination clinics as an ongoing effort to prevent the further spread of pertussis in the Barrington community. Anyone who was unable to get vaccinated at the clinic and needs to be vaccinated should contact his or her healthcare provider.

HEALTH is continuing to work with school officials to assess student immunization coverage rates and identify students with symptoms who require treatment and close contacts at home who may need antibiotics to prevent infection (prophylaxis).

"Vaccination is the best prevention against pertussis," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We are continuing to work with the healthcare providers and Barrington community to prevent the further spread of pertussis. In general, a pertussis outbreak will slow down and eventually stop once immunity, either through vaccination or infection, has been established in the community. Our work focuses on increasing vaccination rates, particularly in adults and adolescents, and preventing transmission to vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, infants, and those with weakened immune systems."

Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that is also known as whooping cough. It is highly contagious and caused by a bacterial infection of the lungs. People with suspected or confirmed diagnosis of pertussis should stay out of work, school, or childcare until they have been on antibiotics for at least five days. HEALTH receives reports of about 60 cases of pertussis each year.


HEALTH Monitoring a Cluster of Flu-like Illness As Rhode Island Enters Peak Flu Season

01-24-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is closely monitoring classroom clusters of flu-like illness at Wakefield Elementary School as Rhode Island officially enters peak flu season. HEALTH's laboratory has confirmed some illnesses were caused by the influenza Type A virus, which is among the preventable flu strains in this year's seasonal flu vaccination.

The school has experienced a high rate of absenteeism since the New Year and HEALTH is working directly with school administrators to limit the spread of flu and to make sure students receive appropriate medical care.

"The situation at Wakefield Elementary School underscores the importance of flu vaccination," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Flu activity peaks in Rhode Island in January and February. It is not too late to get a flu shot. In fact, this is the most important time to make sure you are vaccinated. Every Rhode Islander who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu should get vaccinated now."

Flu is a serious illness, especially for young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic health condition or a weakened immune system. Everyone older than 6 months of age should get a flu vaccination every year, even healthy people. Some children may need second doses of flu vaccine.

Symptoms of the flu include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain, and fatigue. In addition to vaccination, good health habits can prevent the spread of germs that cause the flu.

  • Wash your hands throughout the day with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Flu is spread through coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent others from getting sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Stay home if you are sick. If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home from work, school, or child care until you have been fever-free (temperature less than 100.4ºF/38ºC) for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Flu vaccine is available at primary care providers' offices and pharmacies throughout Rhode Island.


Rhode Island Achieves 100% Newborn Screening Rate in 2011

01-30-2012

The Rhode Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that 100% of the 11,653 Rhode Island infants born in 2011 received a newborn blood-spot screening. This achievement underscores the success of a state public health program that consistently reaches between 99 and 100% of newborns each year.

"Newborn screening involves a simple blood test used to identify many life-threatening illnesses before any symptoms begin," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Rhode Island could not have reached such a perfect rate of screening without the help of our many partners in public health."

Newborn screening aims to identify and treat conditions as early as possible to prevent death or disability and enable children to reach their full potential. Rhode Island law requires birthing hospitals to screen newborns for 28 conditions, all of which are recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics.


DEM and HEALTH Warn of Possible Rabies Exposure at Kennedy Plaza

02-01-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people who were in the Kennedy Plaza area on January 23, 2012 at approximately 8:45am be evaluated for possible exposure to rabies. A man described as Latino in his mid 50's, approximately six-feet tall, with a beard and glasses reportedly had a bat in a box and was displaying the bat to a crowd of people gathered there.

DEM and HEALTH are concerned that people may have had contact with this bat and subsequently been exposed to rabies. DEM and HEALTH are asking for this man, or anyone else who could have had contact with this bat to call (401) 222-2577 or 272-5952 after hours for a rabies risk assessment. Bat rabies is highly transmissible to humans, and can be transmitted without being bitten or scratched by the bat. As a result, many times the rabies vaccinations are recommended if there is no visible bite mark and the bat is not available for testing. Rabies is fully preventable if treatment is initiated soon after an exposure. Timely vaccination after rabies exposure is 100% effective in preventing human rabies.

DEM and HEALTH advise that all people avoid contact with wildlife.

HEALTH and DEM make the following recommendations:

  • Avoid all contact with stray or free-roaming domestic animals.
  • Avoid all contact with wild animals.
  • Call HEALTH if you have had any contact with a stray or free roaming domestic animal, or a wild animal.

Rhode Island Municipalities to Hold Pertussis and Flu Clinics

02-07-2012

Following the success of the recent pertussis vaccination clinics in Barrington, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) plans to exercise its public health preparedness plans with several cities and towns by opening Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccination clinics. Since it is still peak influenza season, vaccinations against seasonal flu will also be offered.

"HEALTH supports the primary care setting as a preferred venue for vaccinations," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "However, this is a great opportunity for Rhode Island's municipalities to test their abilities to run a public vaccination clinic."

While there is no current pertussis outbreak anywhere in the state, pertussis remains a contagious disease that can cause illness and sometimes death, especially in infants. Anyone who is in close contact with an infant should get a Tdap shot. Additionally, a booster dose of Tdap is required for students before they enter seventh grade. Students who participate in the clinic will meet a vaccination requirement for seventh grade enrollment.

Flu vaccine will help people avoid the flu this year. The flu hits Rhode Island hardest in January and February every year.

There is no cost for the vaccinations and health insurance is not a requirement, but anyone who is insured should bring his or her insurance card. Pregnant women must be at least 20 weeks into their pregnancy to receive Tdap vaccine.

Tdap and influenza vaccinations continue to be available at primary care physician practices.


Study shows Rhode Island Smoking Ban Reduced Hospital Admissions for Heart Attack and Related Costs

02-14-2012

A new study from the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) shows that Rhode Island hospitalization rates for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), commonly known as heart attack, and associated costs have been on the decline since the state's Smoke-Free Public Places and Workplaces Act took effect in 2005.

Published in the journal of Medicine and Health Rhode Island, "The Impact of Rhode Island's Statewide Smoke-Free Ordinance on Hospital Admissions and Costs for Acute Myocardial Infarction and Asthma" compares the rates of the two conditions against a control group, hospitalization for appendicitis during a span of time between 2003, before the legislation was passed, and 2009, four years after the ban took effect. The findings reveal a 28.4 percent drop in the rate of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) admissions and a 14.6 percent reduction in total associated cost, representing a potential savings of over six million dollars.

The study focused on adult admissions to Rhode Island's 11 acute care general hospitals where AMI, asthma, and appendicitis were listed as the principal diagnosis. Patients under the age of 18 and out-of-state residents were excluded. The total reimbursable costs were adjusted for inflation using 2009 as the reference year.

"The results contribute to the growing number of studies showing the significant health benefits and cost savings gained by having a statewide ban on indoor smoking in place," said Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD.

Unlike other studies, however, asthma hospitalizations did not decrease. The rate of patients admitted for the condition increased 19 percent (11.3 percent to 13.5 percent) with related costs rising 55 percent. The study suggests the severity of the economic crisis in Rhode Island may be amplifying factors associated with asthma exacerbation, such as poverty and poor housing quality.

As anticipated, the hospitalization rate and costs associated with appendicitis remained the same as no known relationship exists between the condition and exposure to secondhand smoke.

The report is available online.


Rhode Island Lauded for Top Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Rates

02-16-2012

Exceptional childhood and adolescent immunization rates have earned Rhode Island two awards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and have placed the state in the nation's top tier for two vaccine series.

Rhode Island's coverage rate for the combined vaccine series children should complete by 2 years of age was 80.2%. This compares to the national average of 73.1%. This vaccine series protects children from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, pneumococcal disease, and Hepatitis B. Rhode Island's vaccination coverage rate for the vaccine series for adolescents between 13 and 17 years of age was 84.4%. The national average for this series was 64.2 %. This vaccine series protects adolescents from tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, meningococcal disease, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

"Children and adolescents in Rhode Island are being vaccinated against serious diseases thanks to the dedication of Rhode Island's pediatricians, family physicians, school personnel, and many other unsung heroes," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Children share close quarters at schools, at child care facilities, and at home. At a time when the rates of many vaccine-preventable diseases are rising, it is especially important that this population is protected."

Rhode Island shared the childhood series coverage rate top tier with Wisconsin, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. Rhode Island shared the adolescent series coverage rate top tier with Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

The data was collected between 2010 and 2011 through the CDC's National Immunization Survey (NIS), a national telephone survey that provides information to help guide the nation's health policies.

Award recipients achieved the Healthy People 2020 goals of having vaccination coverage rates of greater than 80% for the two vaccine series. Healthy People 2020 is a federal initiative aimed at improving the health of all Americans by establishing health benchmarks for states.


HEALTH Applauds Municipalities for Preparedness Drills and for Protecting Rhode Islanders Against Pertussis

02-22-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) applauded municipalities throughout the state today for continuing to provide adults and older children with unique opportunities to get shots that protect against pertussis (also known as whooping cough).

HEALTH scheduled clinics with 21 cities and towns throughout Rhode Island in February and March to test their preparedness plans as well as to protect anyone who many need a Tdap shot. In addition to pertussis, Tdap protects against tetanus and diphtheria. All adults (except pregnant women who have not yet reached the 20th weeks of their pregnancies) who have never received Tdap are invited to participate. There is no residency requirement for the clinics and health insurance is not required, although anyone who is insured is asked to bring his or her insurance card. Flu vaccine will also be available for anyone who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu.

"Cities and towns should be commended for taking these important steps now to make sure they're ready, should they ever have to respond to a public health threat. They are also protecting residents against pertussis, which can be a dangerous disease, especially for babies who are too young for the vaccine," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "The majority of babies with pertussis get it from an adult who was not vaccinated. Tdap vaccine has only been available since 2005 so many adults have not been received it. The best way to protect yourself, your child, grandchild, or any other infant in your life is to get a Tdap shot, either at a doctor's office or at a clinic."

HEALTH receives reports of approximately 60 cases of pertussis each year.

In addition to anyone who is in close contact with a baby, it is particularly important that individuals with weakened immune systems to get Tdap shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a single dose of Tdap for people 11 years of age and older because immunity from early childhood pertussis vaccinations wanes by late childhood. In Rhode Island, Tdap is required for seventh graders. Students who participate in the clinic will meet a vaccination requirement for seventh grade enrollment.


HEALTH Issues Immediate Compliance Order to Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center

02-24-2012

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) issued an Immediate Compliance Order to Harborside Rhode Island Limited Partnership, DBA Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center, located at 270 Post Road, Warwick, RI. The facility has been ordered to cease and desist admissions of new patients and to consult with HEALTH before re-admitting patients following hospitalizations. The compliance order is in effect until further formal notice from HEALTH.

HEALTH's Office of Facilities Regulation completed an unannounced inspection of the facility on February 24, 2012 as part of the required Medicare/Medicaid and Rhode Island State surveys.

Based on preliminary information obtained in the inspection, Director of Health Michael Fine, MD determined that there are significant issues regarding the delivery and quality of care and services at the facility that warranted action by HEALTH. The facility was found to be in non-compliance in quality of care issues, including pain management, fall prevention, pressure ulcers, and range of motion issues.

Based on the findings of the inspection and as part of the final inspection report, HEALTH will issue recommendations to the facility to ensure the health and safety of its residents and compliance with state and federal standards of care.

All residents of the facility, their family members, and legal guardians were notified, in writing, of the Immediate Compliance Order.


HEALTH Receives Support From The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation

02-27-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to announce the receipt of a $40,000 donation from The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The donation will support HEALTH's Women's Cancer Screening Program (WCSP) in covering the cost of mammograms for women age 40-49. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the WCSP is mandated to provided 80% of mammograms to women age 50 -64. The Gemma Foundation's donation allows the WCSP to able to expand available screening services to women age 40 - 49.

The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation was established in 2004 in honor of Gloria Gemma and her courageous fight against breast cancer. Its mission is to raise breast cancer awareness, increase breast health education, and generate funding for critical breast health programs. The Foundation strives to keep 100% of its net proceeds in the local community.

The Gloria Gemma Breast Bus is a tool through which breast health education and the breast cancer awareness message is carried throughout Rhode Island. A breast health educator travels statewide on the Breast Bus and often partners with the WCSP Statewide Outreach and Recruitment Contractor, Women & Infants Hospital, to educate the public on the importance of screening, to identify WCSP-eligible patients, and to refer women to breast and cervical cancer screening services.

The WCSP has developed a strong network of providers to assure that the delivery of breast and cervical cancer screening, follow-up, treatment, and support services are available for enrolled clients. Since the program's inception in 1995, more than 30,000 Rhode Island women have enrolled and been provided breast and/or cervical cancer screening services, and more than 40,000 mammograms have been provided.


HEALTH Launches Youth Anti-Tobacco Media Campaign and Interactive Facebook Page

02-27-2012

"Tobacco users have a short shelf life. Teens are their replacements." The hard-hitting message is the theme of the Rhode Island Department of Heath (HEALTH) Youth Anti-Tobacco campaign, which launched earlier this week with a series of television, radio, Facebook, and outdoor advertisements. The television and radio spots feature the voice of Victor Crawford, a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, who admits to lying about youth-targeted industry marketing. After offering his apology, the ad reveals that Crawford died of throat cancer in 1996.

"The Replacements," a series of print advertisements designed to complement Crawford's message, features various youth faces branded with product barcodes that include the word "Replacement." All campaign ads include the slogan "Don't be a replacement, be an original" and direct people to an interactive Facebook page for more information. This innovative page showcases manipulative marketing practices used by the tobacco industry to sell young people their products.

"The youth campaign aims to combat the tobacco industry's deceptive marketing practices," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Today's youth are bombarded by advertising of cigarettes, new lines of candy-flavored, smokeless, and even dissolvable tobacco products designed to appeal to them. These products are dangerously addictive and youth need the tools to fight back."

The campaign represents over a year of research and creative development through HEALTH's Tobacco Control Program. Concepts and messaging were focus group tested with a target audience of ethnically diverse youth, between the ages of 12 and 17. The campaign is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


HEALTH Hires Chief Administrative Officer for Medical Board

02-29-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to announce the hire of James McDonald, MD, MPH as Chief Administrative Officer of the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline for the State of Rhode Island. McDonald started on February 27.

McDonald comes to HEALTH after serving as Director of Health Services for Naval Health Clinic New England in Newport, RI since 2008. From 1990 to 1996, he was a pediatrician on active duty for the U.S. Navy, the private sector, and public health. While at Naval Health Clinic New England, McDonald was an advocate for patient safety, physician accountability and wise stewardship of limited government resources. He holds board certifications in pediatrics and preventative medicine.

"Dr. McDonald is an acknowledged leader of physician organizations," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We are impressed with his deep commitment to the integrity of professional practice and his commitment to protecting the safety of all Rhode Islanders."

The mission of the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline is to protect the public and to assure practice and professional standards in Rhode Island's physician community. The Board reviews and approves physician license applications, investigates complaints of unprofessional conduct, and assures the achievement of continuing medical education standards.


HEALTH Announces End of Barrington Pertussis Outbreak

02-29-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced the pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in Barrington has officially ended, but reminded the public that a nationwide resurgence in the contagious disease should serve as a warning for all children and adults to get up-to-date on their vaccinations.

February 27 marked the last date of the pertussis outbreak in Barrington. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declares a pertussis outbreak over when 42 days have passed since the last illness onset date. HEALTH received its first report of a Barrington pertussis case on December 22. Since that time, 29 pertussis cases have been confirmed in Barrington, with most cases reported at two Barrington schools among Grade 4 and 5 students. HEALTH worked closely with the Barrington School Department to identify potentially exposed children and others to prescribe medications that can prevent severe illness and stop the spread of infection. HEALTH also worked closely with the local town and school officials to hold pertussis vaccination clinics on Jan.12 and 13.

"Vaccination remains the best defense, but just as we saw in Barrington, early childhood immunity drops off and leaves all older children and adults unprotected against pertussis," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Thanks to the schools and town officials, Barrington boosted its community immunity by 1,088 pertussis vaccinations and became a model for other Rhode Island communities to follow."

HEALTH receives reports of approximately 60 cases of pertussis each year. The number of cases in Rhode Island is consistent with the resurgence of pertussis being observed regionally and nationally.

Municipalities throughout Rhode Island are holding pertussis vaccination clinics in February and March to test their preparedness plans as well as to protect anyone who many need a Tdap shot.

Pertussis vaccinations are typically given during early childhood, but immunity often wanes by later childhood. The tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccination was introduced in 2005 to boost immunity for children 11 years of age or older, as well as adults. Anyone who is likely to be in close contact with a baby (this includes pregnant women in the third trimester) and individuals with weakened immune systems are strongly encouraged to get a Tdap shot.

In Rhode Island, Tdap is required for seventh graders. Students who participate in the clinic will meet a vaccination requirement for seventh grade enrollment.


Adult Adoptees May Request Copies of Original Birth Certificates

02-29-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that as of today, Rhode Island-born adoptees age 25 and older may request non-certified copies of their original, unaltered birth certificates from the State Office of Vital Records. While the State Office cannot release requested certificates until July 2012, adoptees are encouraged to mail their request forms ahead of time for faster service. HEALTH expects a heavy volume of requests during the first week of July.

The State Office of Vital Records maintains sealed files of pre-adoption birth certificates for all adopted children who were born in Rhode Island. Amendments to state law (R.I. Gen. Laws §15-7, 23-3-1, 23-3-15) passed in July 2011 will allow the release of non-certified copies of these certificates to adoptees age 25 and older starting July 2012. Non-certified copies of vital records are for informational purposes only and cannot be used for legal proof of identity, citizenship, or as a substitute for an official birth certificate.

HEALTH reminds birth parents that they can continue to submit contact preference forms with the State Office and/or medical history forms with the Rhode Island Family Court's Voluntary Adoption Reunion Registry. Adoptees will receive this information, as available, with their pre-adoption birth certificates.


HEALTH, RIDE and DCYF Encourage Child Care Providers to Participate in State Challenge

03-12-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), the Department of Education (RIDE), and the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) are encouraging child care centers and homes to sign up with Let's Move! Child Care, a program to promote children's health by supporting healthier practices for children in child care. Let's Move! Child Care focuses on five key areas: increasing physical activity, reducing screen time, improving food choices, providing healthy beverages, and supporting infant feeding. All five areas align with HEALTH's Initiative for a Healthy Weight program goals and its priority to support healthy early childhood development in early care and educational settings.

Since First Lady Michelle Obama's announcement of Let's Move! Child Care in June 2011, 10 percent of Rhode Island child care centers or homes have registered as participants. Rhode Island has the opportunity to be recognized if it receives the highest percentage of licensed or legally operating child care programs to sign up as Let's Move! Child Care participants.

"With more than 30 percent of Rhode Island children entering kindergarten overweight or obese, the child care centers and homes are an essential setting for promoting healthy eating and physical activity," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We encourage child care providers to sign up and help us in our effort to prevent childhood obesity."

"We want all of our students be well rested, to eat nutritious and balanced meals, and to stay healthy and fit," said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Children who develop habits of good health in their early years will come to school ready to learn, and they will be likely to maintain healthy practices throughout their lives."

"DCYF is excited about the Let's Move! Child Care initiative," said Director of DYCF Dr. Janice DeFrances. "In support of the initiative, we are working with RIDE, the Department of Human Services, and HEALTH as well as the National Organization of Regulatory Administrators (NARA) to update our child care regulations to incorporate the standards established by Let's Move! Child Care. We will be addressing areas such as nutrition, physical activity, and programming in order to address health concerns for children in licensed child care settings."

At the conclusion of the challenge on April 1, winning states will receive national recognition, including an award presentation during the 2012 Weight of the Nation conference hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity in Washington, D.C.


Department of Health Announces Intent to Revoke License of Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center

03-13-2012

History of Non-Compliance with State and Federal Standards Dating Back to 2007

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced its intention to begin the process of revoking the healthcare nursing facility license of Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center. This action is being taken following years of non-compliance with federal and state standards, with the scope and severity of the violations showing potential risk/harm and immediate jeopardy to residents.

This process affords the facility operator the ability to appear before a hearing officer to show cause why the Department should not revoke the facility's license or take other appropriate action as the circumstances require.

"We have started monitoring the facility on a daily basis," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Our primary concern is ensuring the safety and well being of its residents."

Additional information will be posted to the Department of Health website on Wednesday, March 14.


HEALTH Reports Varicella Activity in Four Rhode Island Communities

03-15-2012

Since March 1, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has received reports of six single, sporadic cases of varicella (chickenpox): three in Warwick, one in Cranston, one in North Providence, and one in Woonsocket. Families of potentially-exposed children who attend Totally Kids Child Care, Oakland Beach Elementary School, and Drum Rock Elementary School in Warwick, as well as Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, McGuire Elementary School in North Providence, and YWCA Northern RI in Woonsocket were notified about potential risks. HEALTH is working with the schools and day care centers to ensure that children and staff identified as close contacts receive age-appropriate vaccinations, as needed.

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease. The virus spreads easily through the air by sneezing and coughing, or contact with fluid from blisters. Early symptoms may include aching, fever, and sore throat, followed by the appearance of a very itchy skin rash with blisters forming. Any child with these symptoms should stay home from school, day care, or other activities and see a doctor right away.

Chickenpox reports are common this time of year, especially among younger children who have not reached full immunity by completing the series of two vaccinations or by having chickenpox. HEALTH advises all parents to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for ensuring their children are up-to-date on chickenpox vaccinations.

Parents of young children should arrange for their children to see a doctor to get up-to-date on shots. One dose of chickenpox vaccine is recommended for children at 12 to 15 months of age, and a booster dose is recommended for children before they enter kindergarten. If a child has symptoms of chickenpox, parents should call their child's doctor as soon as possible and follow the doctor's instructions.

"Vaccination is the best prevention against chickenpox," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We are continuing to work with healthcare providers and schools to prevent the further spread of chickenpox in Rhode Island."

HEALTH works with school officials on an ongoing basis to assess student vaccination coverage rates and identify cases of chickenpox.


HEALTH Launches Statewide "Live Smoke Free RI" Campaign

03-20-2012

"Live Smoke Free RI" Campaign arms landlords, tenants and public housing authorities with powerful resources for establishing smoke-free housing policies

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced the launch of a new campaign today that is expected to really hit home - literally. "Live Smoke Free RI," a statewide smoke-free housing campaign was officially unveiled during a press event at the West Warwick Housing Authority's West Warwick Manor. Created in response to a growing demand for smoke-free housing, the campaign is designed to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure and reduce the leading cause of residential fire deaths by assisting landlords, tenants, and housing authorities make residences smoke free.

"Smoke-free policies are a win-win for everyone involved," said Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. "We can reduce the biggest cause of home fires and improve the health of Rhode Islanders who are inadvertently breathing in the secondhand smoke of their neighbors. In addition, landlords save money by eliminating smoke-related repairs and alleviate a proven area of conflict among tenants."

"No one should have to experience the health, safety, and economic impact of another person's smoking habits if their desire is to live smoke free," said Kristen Swanson, Executive Director of the West Warwick Housing Authority. "We have been working with our tenants to better understand how secondhand smoke is impacting them and we hope to implement a smoke-free policy by June of this year.

Created in both English and Spanish, key elements of the campaign include: an Internet microsite designed to serve as an informational and educational resource for landlords, realtors, tenants and the general public as well as easy to use "toolkits" that can be ordered or downloaded. These will provide an overview of the dangers and problems generated by residential smoking, and a variety of materials to help residential buildings go smoke free.

"Live Smoke Free RI" also features advertising and marketing materials in both English and Spanish to support and heighten awareness of the campaign. Key outdoor paid media components include billboards, bus posters and bus shelters while paid broadcast media includes radio and television spots. Other marketing materials include signs, banners, posters and campaign inserts for smoking cessation resource guides.


HEALTH and Providence VA Medical Center Launch Campaign to Help Veterans Quit Smoking

04-02-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Providence VA Medical Center today launched the Veterans' Free Nicotine Patch Campaign, a statewide initiative designed to increase successful quit-smoking attempts among veterans. Through the campaign, all U.S. Armed Forces veterans who use tobacco, including active, inactive and retired members of the National Guard, Reserves, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, will be eligible to receive a two-week supply of free nicotine patches (while supplies last) when they receive counseling via the Smokers' Helpline (1-800-QUIT NOW). Following the two-week free nicotine patch supply, veterans will be directed to the appropriate cessation services through the Helpline.

The campaign, modeled after a successful initiative by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, reflects a growing concern about veterans' high rates of tobacco use. Historically, members of the Armed Forces have smoked at a higher rate than the general population has. A recent study from the Institute of Medicine showed that 32 percent of active-duty military personnel smoke, and that the prevalence of smoking may be more than 50 percent higher in military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan than for those who were not deployed there. Additionally, up to one-third of Armed Forces members who smoke report that they did not smoke prior to their military service.

"Scientific evidence shows that using nicotine replacement therapy can double a smoker's chances of success in quitting," said Director of HEALTH Michael Fine, M.D. "Using nicotine replacement therapy in combination with behavioral counseling is a one-two punch that has been found to be even more effective than using either alone."

"Thousands of veterans were able to access these valuable cessation resources during the Massachusetts Veterans' Free Patch Campaign," said Vincent Ng, medical center director for the Providence VA Medical Center. "We are looking forward to being able to do the same for our veterans here in Rhode Island."

The Veterans' Free Nicotine Patch Campaign begins today.


HEALTH Now Recruiting Public and Professional Nursing Board Members

04-10-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced its recruitment of new members for the state Board of Nursing, which licenses and regulates the nursing profession, and approves standards of basic nursing education programs. HEALTH is particularly interested in expanding the diversity of the Board, whose members include both licensed healthcare professionals and members of the public, all of whom serve a three-year term.

"The Board of Nursing protects the public by establishing standards for training and conduct, reviewing license applications, and investigating and disciplining cases of professional misconduct," said Director of HEALTH, Michael Fine, M.D. "We want the make-up of our boards to better match the make-up of our state's population. Our boards have not always been as diverse as we'd like, so we are reaching out widely to engage new members. Serving on the Board of Nursing is a great opportunity to get involved in our state's public health infrastructure and process."

The Board of Nursing meets on the second Monday of each month from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Department of Health in Providence. Board members are required to use laptop computers, password-protected thumb drives, the Internet and email.


State 2012 Air Quality Alert Program Enters Busy Season

05-01-2012

April 30 through May 4 is Air Quality Awareness week, a cooperative effort between the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Weather Service (NWS) to remind everyone to protect their health by paying attention to local air quality. With the onset of warmer weather, DEM is urging Rhode Islanders to be aware of the increased risk of ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution, and take health precautions when smog levels are high.

When air quality is expected to reach unhealthy levels due to elevated levels of ozone or fine particle pollutants in the air, DEM issues an Air Quality Alert under a joint air quality program DEM manages with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH). The year-round Air Quality Alert program encourages residents to reduce air pollutant emissions by limiting their car travel and their use of small engines, lawn mowers, and charcoal lighter fluids. To help cut down on the use of cars, all regular RIPTA routes - excluding special services such as the Providence/Newport ferry service - will be free on Air Quality Alert days. DEM forecasts Air Quality Alert days, issuing Air Quality Alerts typically on the afternoon before such a day occurs.

Ground level ozone, or smog, is a major air pollution problem in Rhode Island and other northeast states. Ozone forms when emissions from power plants, factories, automobiles and other products we use every day react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight and high temperatures.

"Rhode Islanders can help reduce air pollution by driving less, refueling after dark, conserving electricity, and by not operating outdoor power equipment when air quality is predicted to be unhealthy," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Air pollution is a significant health concern, especially for those with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Taking these steps to reduce air pollution can make a real difference and help us all breathe a little easier."

HEALTH warns that unhealthy levels of ozone can cause throat irritation, coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, increased susceptibility to respiratory infection, and aggravation of asthma and other respiratory ailments. These symptoms are worsened by exercise and heavy activity. The elderly, children, and people who have underlying lung diseases, such as asthma, are at particular risk of suffering from these effects. As ozone levels increase, the number of people affected and the severity of the health effects also increase.

Fine particles are produced by a wide variety of natural and man-made sources, including factories, power plants, motor vehicles, fires, and windblown dust. HEALTH warns that exposure to elevated levels of fine particles can cause respiratory irritation. People with lung disease are at increased risk for aggravated symptoms of asthma and bronchitis, and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

When fine-particle concentrations in the ambient air are elevated, people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should limit prolonged and strenuous outdoor activity, even in the early morning hours. Unlike ozone, fine particle concentrations can be elevated throughout the day, even in the early morning hours. Individuals who experience respiratory or cardiac symptoms should consult their doctors. Particulate levels can also be elevated indoors when outdoor levels are high, although some filters and air cleaners can reduce those levels. Smoking and the use of candles, fireplaces, and wood stoves can also cause elevated indoor levels of fine particles.

RIPTA is reimbursed for bus and trolley rides on Air Quality Alert days through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program. The RI Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, makes these funds available for projects that reduce congestion on the highways or reduce emissions from transportation-related activities.

Air Quality Alert Days will be posted on the DEM website homepage, www.dem.ri.gov, and on the RIPTA website, www.ripta.com, under "News & Events." In addition, the alerts will also be posted on the RIDOT Transportation Management Center's overhead dynamic message signs on the afternoon before and the morning of the Air Quality Alert day.

DEM's daily air quality forecast and links to near real time ozone and particulate matter readings are available on the Department's website, www.dem.ri.gov, by clicking on "Air Quality Forecast" under "Timely Topics." When high ozone or particulate matter levels are predicted, DEM advises residents to check that page for the current air pollution levels before engaging in strenuous outdoor activities. Information about ozone, fine particles, and other air quality issues may also be obtained by calling DEM's Office of Air Resources at 401-222-2808.


Dr. Lange Named Rhode Island's First Childhood Immunization Champion

05-03-2012

Providence, R.I. - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced that Elizabeth Lange, M.D. has been selected as Rhode Island's first Childhood Immunization Champion by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC launched this new annual award program to honor immunization champions in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia during National Infant Immunization Week (April 21-28, 2012).

"Dr. Lange's passion for childhood immunization and her dedication to Rhode Island children is an inspiration to her partners in pediatrics and public health," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Her work on the front lines as a pediatrician and behind the scenes on issues of immunization policy protects children and saves lives."

Dr. Lange was nominated from a pool of healthcare professionals and other immunization leaders, all of whom have made significant contributions to public health in Rhode Island through childhood immunization. She has been a pediatrician at Coastal Medical, Inc./Waterman Pediatrics in East Providence since 1995, and sits on numerous boards and panels that aim to improve immunization rates in Rhode Island, including HEALTH's Vaccine Advisory Committee, the Primary Care Physician Advisory Council and the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (past president). Dr. Lange, who also sits on the Expert Advisory Committee for Health Insurance Exchange, has been an advocate on issues related to student vaccinations and has testified before the General Assembly on issues including Thimerosal and pediatric flu vaccine recommendations.

"I am honored to be named Rhode Island's CDC Childhood Immunization Champion. The success of Rhode Island's immunization program rests on the shoulders of the state's pediatricians and family physicians, as well as countless other immunization advocates. It is a privilege to be a part of this dedicated group," said Dr. Lange. "While we have made much progress, there is still work to be done to ensure that all children in Rhode Island are fully immunized on schedule."

Rhode Island's coverage rate for the combined vaccine series children should complete by two years of age was 80.2 percent in 2011 (the national average was 73.1 percent). Rhode Island's vaccination coverage rate for the vaccine series for adolescents between 13 and 17 years of age was 84.4 percent (the national average for this series was 64.2 percent).

National Infant Immunization Week is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the U.S.


HEALTH Now Recruiting Pharmacy Board Members

05-03-2012

Providence, R.I. - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced its recruitment of new members for the state Pharmacy Board, which licenses and regulates the pharmacy profession, and approves standards of basic pharmacy education programs. HEALTH is currently recruiting one registered independent pharmacy professional and two public members, and is particularly interested in expanding the diversity of the Board.

"The Pharmacy Board establishes standards for training and conduct, reviews license applications, and investigates and disciplines cases of professional misconduct," said Director of HEALTH, Michael Fine, M.D. "This Board serves an important role in protecting the public, and serving on the Pharmacy Board is a great opportunity to get involved in our state's public health infrastructure and process."

The Pharmacy Board meets monthly at the Department of Health in Providence. Board members are required to use laptop computers, password-protected thumb drives, the Internet and email.


HEALTH Recognizes the Importance of Public Health Nursing

05-10-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) celebrates National Nurses' Week (May 6-12) by recognizing the important role of all nurses, including public health nurses, in delivering quality healthcare to Rhode Islanders. Public health nurses work in communities to improve health and safety, and to provide education that helps people be healthier. They may also provide direct services, such as screening and preventive care, to people without access to healthcare.

"Nurses perform important work every day in community settings across Rhode Island," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Their dedicated efforts help us promote public health every week of the year, and I thank all of Rhode Island's nurses for doing what they do."

HEALTH supports public health nursing through a variety of programs. For more than 20 years, nurses have partnered with social workers and community health workers in HEALTH's First Connections home visiting program to conduct free, voluntary, confidential home visits for pregnant women and families with young children. In 2011, First Connections visited about 3,500 children and their families.

In 2011, HEALTH received a federal grant to support evidence-based maternal and child home visiting. Nurses are an integral part of the Nurse-Family Partnership" model of home visiting, which, when fully implemented in 2012, will serve 225 families in Central Falls, Newport, Providence, Pawtucket, West Warwick and Woonsocket. This free, voluntary, confidential program pairs expectant first-time mothers with a registered nurse. The nurse provides intensive home visiting services to the mother and her child until the child's second birthday. Nationally, Nurse-Family Partnership has demonstrated improvements in prenatal health, child health, pregnancy spacing and economic self-sufficiency among families.

Anyone can refer a pregnant woman or family to a home visiting program.

National Nurses' Week is celebrated annually from May 6 to May 12, the birthday of modern nursing founder Florence Nightingale.


HEALTH announces new online resources to monitor drinking water quality

05-10-2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - In conjunction with National Drinking Water Week (May 6-12), the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced two resources to help Rhode Islanders monitor the quality of their drinking water.

Private well owners can now create a detailed list of recommended tests for their well using HEALTH's new Internet-based Private Well Testing Viewer. Using this new technology, well owners simply type in their address or click at the well location, and the tool creates a list of tests specific to that location and time, based on information the system has gathered about well test results from the surrounding area.

"As one of the few states with a private well testing law and regulations, Rhode Island continues its leadership role with the creation of the Private Well Testing Viewer," says Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "This new resource allows Rhode Island's private well owners to test for issues most likely to affect drinking water quality in their specific location and become knowledgeable about - and protect themselves from - environmental exposures that may occasionally be present in private wells."

Also available to all Rhode Islanders is HEALTH's Drinking Water Watch system, an online database that contains information about public water systems in Rhode Island. Updated daily by the Rhode Island Office of Drinking Water Quality, available information includes test results for bacteriological, organic and inorganic chemistry, monitoring frequency and histories of violations. The Drinking Water Watch system can be accessed at https://dwq.health.ri.gov:8443/DWW/


East Providence Named a 'HeartSafe' Community

05-15-2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced that the City of East Providence is now a certified Rhode Island HeartSafe community. HeartSafe road signs and special decals for the community's rescue vehicles will be presented during tonight's City Council meeting at East Providence City Hall.

"I commend the City of East Providence for making the cardiovascular health of its citizens a priority," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Nearly 2,500 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day. HeartSafe communities help improve an individual's chances of survival by ensuring that first-responders and the community itself are better prepared to address cardiac emergencies."

HeartSafe communities must meet a number of criteria to earn the designation, 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.

East Providence is the fourth HeartSafe community in Rhode Island - the others are Westerly, Warwick and South Kingstown. The Rhode Island HeartSafe Community Program is a collaboration of HEALTH and the American Heart Association. The certification is valid for three years.


HEALTH advises that shellfish and shellfish products from Korea should not be eaten

05-15-2012

Providence - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is advising consumers not to eat any fresh or frozen shellfish that comes from Korea.

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that all fresh and frozen shellfish, and many products made from these shellfish, shipped from Korea to the United States may be contaminated. This includes frozen breaded shellfish products from Korea.

Effective immediately, FDA has removed all certified dealers in the Korean Shellfish Sanitation Program from its Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List. This stops the shipment of fresh and frozen molluscan shellfish from Korea to the U.S. Molluscan shellfish include oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.

States have been advised to treat Korean shellfish products as being from an unapproved source. Canned shellfish products are not affected.

HEALTH advises that consumers who have already purchased these products should not eat them.

Shellfish grown and produced in Rhode Island are not affected.

No illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island.


Dare to Dream Student Leadership Conference Unique to Students with Disabilities

05-21-2012

Over 700 Rhode Island students with special needs or disabilities, together with educators, Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) staff, transition coordinators, Rhode Island youth serving agencies and organizations, subject experts, and motivational speakers, will attend the fourth annual inspirational Dare to Dream Conference, Tuesday, May 22nd, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston Campus.

Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health, will open the conference and welcome attendees. "It is important to recognize the health and well-being of all Rhode Islanders functioning in their communities and realizing their dreams," said Dr. Fine.

For many students in attendance with disabilities, this may be the first time they hear and see people talking openly about what it means to be a person with a disability. Attendees learn about transition resources, accommodations, and services available to help them. Javier A. Sanchez, internationally recognized youth communications specialist, will incorporate comedy, story-telling, and spoken word poetry into his presentation that will speak about moving youth and adults from inspiration to action.

In May 2009, the Rhode Island Transition Council (HEALTH and RI Parent Information Network as the leads) sponsored a statewide initiative to organize the first youth with disabilities or special health care needs student leadership Dare to Dream conference modeled after the New Jersey initiative. Since that time the program has worked to develop valuable state resources, tool kits, educational materials, brainstorming sessions with key stakeholders, videos, high school clubs, and strategic workshops for educators, parents, youth group leaders, youth workers, and health care professionals. For more information and resources visit www.ripin.org/daretodream2012.html


Bagged Salad Recalled Due to Potential Listeria Contamination

05-22-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a recall of retail and foodservice bagged salad from River Ranch because they have the potential of being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Listeria monocytogenes 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, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The bagged salad products were carried by three distributors in Rhode Island. There have been NO reported illnesses associated with this recall.

The retail salad products under this recall were distributed nationwide under various sizes and packaged under the brand names of River Ranch, Farm Stand, Hy-Vee, Marketside, Shurfresh, and The Farmer's Market.

Foodservice salad products under this recall were distributed nationwide under various sizes and packaged under the brand names of River Ranch, Cross Valley, Fresh n Easy, Promark, and Sysco.

The recalled retail and foodservice salad bags have either "Best By" code dates between 12MAY2012 - 22MAY2012 or Julian dates between 116 - 125. The code date is typically located in the upper right hand corner of the bags.

Consumers who have purchased this product should not consume it and are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions can contact River Ranch at their 24-hour customer service center at 1-800-762-7708.


HEALTH approves Steward applications regarding Landmark Medical Center and Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island

05-23-2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Michael Fine, M.D., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), announced that HEALTH has rendered two decisions that will affect the acquisition of Landmark Medical Center and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island by Steward Health Care System, LLC.

HEALTH approved both the Change In Effective Control application, which was recommended for approval earlier this month by the Health Services Council, and the Hospital Conversions application. HEALTH approved both applications with conditions.

"In evaluating these applications, HEALTH was charged with considering the totality of the evidence, as well as the needs of the people of Woonsocket," said Dr. Fine. "HEALTH staff worked hard to thoroughly review these applications quickly and efficiently to keep this process moving along. After extensive review of the evidence, HEALTH determined that Steward adequately met the criteria for approval of its applications."

The full decisions and the report of the Health Services Council can be found under "Completed Decisions" in the right column on the Hospital Mergers and Conversions page.


HEALTH Kicks off Beach Season with New Initiatives to Help Beachgoers Stay Healthy

05-25-2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - With all beaches set to open this Saturday, May 26, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced new tools to promote public health and safety during beach season. These include new Web pages featuring an interactive water quality map, as well as a public awareness campaign on responsible pet ownership.

At www.health.ri.gov/beaches, beachgoers can view current beach closures and advisories, as well as use an interactive map to view water sampling data and other information for any beach in the state. Beach managers can learn how to apply for a beach license and find instructions for monitoring water quality. The new Web pages also include health and safety tips on topics like sun safety and keeping food safe.

"Summer is a time to get outdoors and enjoy Rhode Island's natural resources," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Remember to bring sunscreen with both UVB and UVA protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater, and re-apply generously after swimming and throughout the day."

HEALTH's website also targets beachgoers with a new public health message this beach season - the department's"Scoop the Poop" campaign lets pet owners know that pet waste at the beach can pollute the sand and water, and encourages pet owners to pick up after their pets, dispose of pet waste properly and follow local rules for pets at the beach (State beaches do not allow dogs from April 1 to September 30; town beach rules vary, but are generally posted at the beach). The campaign includes radio advertisements in English and Spanish, as well as posters for beaches, dog parks and veterinary offices.

The Beach Monitoring Program at HEALTH works to protect the public from illnesses associated with swimming in contaminated fresh and saltwater bathing waters. The program collects and analyzes water samples from licensed beaches and works closely with beach owners and managers, cities and towns, and other state agencies to identify and eliminate sources of contamination.


HEALTH Recruiting for New Board of Examiners of Interpreters for the Deaf

05-31-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is recruiting five members to sit on the Board of Examiners of Interpreters for the Deaf, a new Board designed to ensure that the practice of interpreting and transliterating meet the necessary standards and qualifications to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. All members of this new Board must be Rhode Island residents, and three of the five must be nationally-certified interpreters. The remaining two Board members must be members of the public.

"Equal access to information and services is key to ensuring the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Serving on this new Board is an opportunity to help ensure equality within Rhode Island's public health infrastructure."

The Board of Examiners of Interpreters for the Deaf will meet three times annually at the Department of Health in Providence. Board members serve a three-year term. Applicants with diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.


HEALTH Recruiting for Board of Veterinary Medicine, Seeking Public and Professional Members

06-01-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is recruiting new participants to serve on the Board of Veterinary Medicine, which licenses, regulates, and exercises disciplinary authority for the profession of Doctors of Veterinary Medicine. HEALTH is recruiting for the following positions:

  • Two licensed veterinarians
  • One licensed veterinarian whose practice includes the treatment of equine or large animals
  • One public member

"The Board protects the public by advising HEALTH in all matters pertaining to the practice of the profession of veterinarians," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Becoming a member of one of HEALTH's regulatory Boards is a great opportunity to get involved in our state's public health infrastructure and process."

The Board of Veterinary Medicine meets quarterly at the Department of Health in Providence. Members serve a three-year term (not to exceed two consecutive three-year terms). Applicants with diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.


HEALTH Advises No Contact With Untreated Water from Ponds and Brooks Affected by Blue-Green Algae - Tap Water is Safe to Touch and Consume

06-22-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises individuals to avoid contact with untreated waters affected by blue-green algae blooms. The following ponds and/or reservoirs have experienced algal blooms which may form naturally occurring algal toxins:

  • Bailey Brook, Middletown
  • Easton Pond North, Middletown
  • Easton Pond South, Middletown
  • Gardiner Pond, Middletown
  • Paradise Pond, Middletown
  • St. Mary's Pond, Portsmouth
  • Watson Pond, Little Compton

Treated tap water originating from these reservoirs is safe to touch and consume.

Existing restrictions prohibit recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing (fishing is typically allowed at St. Mary's Pond and Bailey's Brook) at these ponds. People should not eat fish from any of these reservoirs.

Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and should not be allowed to drink this water or swim in it.

These blue-green algae species, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. Although no toxins have been found at this time, it is important that the public avoid contact with untreated waters.

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. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in these areas and experience any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

Algae blooms and the natural production of toxins typically resolve itself in a few weeks. Water will continue to be sampled and monitored. Individuals should avoid contact with untreated waters until further notice.


HEALTH Urges Rhode Islanders to 'Take Control' On National HIV Testing Day

06-27-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) encourages Rhode Islanders to "take the test and take control" in observance of National HIV Testing Day on Wednesday, June 27.

Rhode Islanders who do not have a primary care doctor, who lack insurance or who are concerned about out-of-pocket costs for testing can take advantage of free or low-cost testing offered through HEALTH's year-round partnerships with organizations like AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island and MAP Behavioral Health Services. These three community-based agencies will also offer testing for Hepatitis C and vaccinations to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.

"I encourage all Rhode Islanders who have ever been sexually active to speak with their doctor about routine HIV testing during their regular check-up," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "One in every four people infected with HIV in Rhode Island today does not know that they have it. Without that knowledge, those who are infected are more likely to unknowingly spread HIV to others."

Some clinics will offer extended hours during the week of June 24-30 to accommodate additional patients. The HEALTH website has posted daily schedules of the three state-funded clinics that offer free HIV testing and preventive test services, and also lists more clinics throughout Rhode Island that offer low-cost or income-based free HIV services year-round.

There were 97 new HIV cases reported in Rhode Island in 2011, and 1,451 newly diagnosed HIV cases among Rhode Island residents were reported to HEALTH between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2010. As of 2010, the number of people living with HIV in Rhode Island was estimated to be between 4,100 and 4,500 - with 26 percent of those people unaware of their status.

"The goal of the Rhode Island Department of Health is to eliminate new native HIV infections in Rhode Island by 2016," said Dr. Fine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the United States, with about 20 percent of those people unaware that they are infected and at risk of spreading HIV to others. Approximately 50,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year.

The National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) founded the National HIV Testing Day in 1995 and continues to lead the annual observance.


HEALTH Orders Immediate Closure of Bristol Bakery

07-13-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has issued an Immediate Compliance Order against Bristol Bakery, located at 89 Gooding Ave. in Bristol. Consumers are advised not to eat any bakery products purchased at Bristol Bakery or any products that may have originated at the facility.

Multiple violations were cited by HEALTH during an inspection of the establishment by inspectors from the Office of Food Protection. This inspection was a follow up to a routine inspection conducted on June 6, 2012; however, several violations cited during the initial inspection were not corrected and new violations were also cited during the follow-up inspection.

Bristol Bakery has been ordered to correct all deficiencies outlined in the food inspection investigation report, have all pests eliminated by a licensed pest control operator, and clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces. Bristol Bakery has further been ordered to remain closed until such time as the facility passes a re-inspection and is approved to re-open by HEALTH.


Food Establishments Advised to Avoid Shellfish From Oyster Bay, Nassau County

07-13-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is advising food establishments to check the tags on any shellfish that they sell to consumers or use in food preparation and to avoid using or selling any shellfish harvested from areas in the Town of Oyster Bay, N.Y. The harvesting of shellfish from that area has been temporarily prohibited due to an illness outbreak caused by naturally occurring marine bacteria in shellfish, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The action was taken by DEC and the New York State Department of Health after three people who ate raw or partially cooked shellfish in Nassau County became ill. An additional five illnesses were reported to DEC by three other states that received shellfish harvested in Oyster Bay.

Laboratory tests have determined that the illnesses were caused by the marine bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which occurs naturally and is generally associated with warm water conditions. When ingested, the bacteria may cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, as well as abdominal cramps, fever and chills. Those with compromised immune systems or underlying chronic diseases are at increased risk for illness.

Consumers who are experiencing these symptoms and have recently consumed raw shellfish should contact their physician.

No illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island.

Shellfish grown and produced in Rhode Island are not affected.


HEALTH to Hold Pertussis Vaccination Clinics in North Kingstown

07-17-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is recommending pertussis vaccinations in North Kingstown after the HEALTH Laboratory confirmed a total of six pertussis (also known as "whooping cough") cases in that community. HEALTH recommends that individuals see their primary care physician to be immunized, and will also hold two community vaccination clinics in North Kingstown in conjunction with town and school officials.

Six pertussis cases have been confirmed by HEALTH in students who attend Stony Lane Elementary School (four cases), Davisville Middle School (one case), and Hamilton Elementary School (one case). The school district closed for the summer on June 19, and the first case was confirmed by HEALTH on July 2.

In conjunction with town and school officials from North Kingstown and Jamestown, HEALTH will hold two pertussis vaccination clinics for the public on Thursday, July 19, and Monday, July 23, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the North Kingstown High School cafeteria, 150 Fairway Drive, North Kingstown. Individuals do not have to live in North Kingstown or Jamestown to be vaccinated.

"Anyone with symptoms of pertussis should see his or her healthcare provider for evaluation, testing and treatment," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "The best protection against pertussis is vaccination. Any child who is not up to date on his or her pertussis vaccination should be vaccinated, and we encourage all adults to get a Tdap vaccine as well."

Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HEALTH encourages anyone age 10 or older who has not previously received a Tdap vaccine and lives in North Kingstown or Jamestown to get vaccinated. It is especially important for the following individuals to be vaccinated:

  • North Kingstown and Jamestown students ages 10 and older who need to receive Tdap (This will meet the Grade 7 vaccination requirement)
  • Pregnant women and anyone in their household (Pregnant women should be at least 20 weeks into the gestation period)
  • Anyone in close contact with or caring for an infant less than one year old
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system or other chronic disease (such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) and anyone in their household
  • Professionals, including summer camp staff, school staff, daycare workers, and healthcare workers
  • All adults, including those ages 65 and older
  • Children less than 10 years old who are not up to date in their five-dose series of DTaP should be vaccinated at their healthcare provider's office.

Those who have health insurance should bring their health insurance card to the clinic. Those who are uninsured will be vaccinated at no cost to the individual.

HEALTH staff have worked closely with school officials to identify symptomatic students, identify close contacts at home and at school who may need antibiotic prophylaxis, assess student immunization coverage rates, and consult with the CDC on recommended next steps. Advisories have been sent to all licensed providers statewide and monitoring is ongoing.

Pertussis typically begins with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes much worse over one to two weeks. Symptoms of pertussis include cough lasting more than two weeks, a long series of coughs that may be accompanied by a whooping sound (although not all patients make the whooping sound), short periods without breathing, turning blue, difficulty catching the breath, and gagging or vomiting after coughing spells. Fever may also be present. The cough is often worse at night and is not alleviated by cough medicines.

Infants less than one year of age, especially those less than six months old, are most likely to experience severe pertussis illness. Young infants should be kept away from anyone with a cough, and infants with a cough illness should be seen by a doctor right away.

Caused by a bacterial infection of the lungs, pertussis is highly contagious and vaccine-preventable. Those with suspected or confirmed diagnoses of pertussis should stay out of work, school, or childcare until they have been on antibiotics for at least five days.

HEALTH receives reports of about 60 cases of pertussis each year.


HEALTH Reminds Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves From Mosquito Bites

07-18-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is reminding all Rhode Islanders to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites after the Massachusetts Department of Health announced that numerous Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)-positive mosquito samples were found in that state. Massachusetts has announced that aerial spraying for mosquitoes will take place in 21 cities and towns there on Friday, July 20, and Saturday, July 21, including nearby Rehoboth.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) tests mosquito pools statewide in Rhode Island for EEE and West Nile Virus (WNV) each week. DEM reports that the state today received its first positive result for West Nile Virus from a sample pool in Westerly.

No positive EEE results have been reported in Rhode Island at this time.

"We typically see sporadic positive results for WNV in mosquitoes in Rhode Island and occasionally see positive results for EEE in mosquitoes as well," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Although Rhode Island's test results do not indicate the presence of EEE or significant WNV in mosquitoes at this time, it is important that all Rhode Islanders make every effort to protect themselves from mosquito bites."

To best protect against mosquito bites, Rhode Islanders are advised to:

  • Minimize outdoor activities during peak mosquito time (typically dusk to dawn)
  • Use mosquito repellent with DEET during outdoor activity, particularly during evening hours
  • Dress in long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and socks during outdoor evening activities
  • Use mosquito netting on baby carriages or play yards when your baby is outdoors
  • Repair holes in screens, and fix any loose screens. Be sure all open windows are screened.
  • Remove standing water around your yard and house by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding

WNV is typically a mild illness in humans, characterized by flu-like symptoms. EEE is a rare, but serious disease characterized by fever, headache, drowsiness, convulsions and, in serious cases, coma.


HEALTH and DEM Issue Blue-Green Algae Advisory for Melville Pond

07-23-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in the waters of Melville Pond in Portsmouth, which is experiencing a blue-green algae bloom that may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in Melville Pond until further notice. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins, so 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 the pond.

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.

Those who come into contact with the water should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, and wash their 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 warm 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 that 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.


HEALTH and Providence Water Supply Board Announce Joint Initiative

07-27-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Providence Water Supply Board(PWSB) have signed an agreement on a joint initiative aimed at improving public health outcomes in preventing childhood lead poisoning and improving drinking water quality for PWSB customers.

According to the terms of a consent order signed by Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH, and Boyce Spinelli, general manager of PWSB, HEALTH will grant a stay on its requirement that PWSB replace seven percent of its lead service connection lines during the 2012 season to allow further analysis of data on the effectiveness of the partial lead service replacement program in lowering lead levels in water delivered at the tap. The consent order specifies that PWSB will convene an expert advisory panel to evaluate corrosion control treatment in its water system, as well as any treatment adjustments needed to achieve recommended lead action levels.

PWSB will also contribute $500,000 to HEALTH's lead poisoning prevention program.

"In recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Science Advisory Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, and local lead poisoning advocates have all raised questions about the effectiveness and safety of partial lead service line replacements in lowering blood lead levels in children," said Dr. Fine, adding that further analysis will be conducted by the expert advisory panel. "Some data show that partial lead service line replacement does not significantly change the low concentration of lead in water delivered at the tap."

"We are pleased to collaborate with HEALTH in the development of viable alternative solutions to the challenges that lead present today," said Spinelli, adding, "it just makes more sense to re-allocate the $8 million LSR budget this year to a three-tiered plan designed to: 1.) help prevent lead poisoning in toddlers, the highest at-risk segment of the population; 2.) assemble a team of nationally-acclaimed water experts help us reduce our water's effect on the corrosion of lead in household plumbing, and; 3) accelerate our water main replacement program with the lion's share of that budget to improve overall water quality for customers throughout our system."

PWSB will remain on standard monitoring, and HEALTH will continue to monitor PWSB's efforts to replace full lead lines.


Free Skin Cancer Screening July 29 at Roger Wheeler State Beach

07-27-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced that University Dermatology physicians will be onsite from noon to 2 p.m. this Sunday, July 29, at Roger Wheeler State Beach in Narragansett to conduct free "Sun Smarts" skin cancer screenings during the Governor's Bay Day celebration, in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Management's (DEM) Great Outdoors Pursuit program.

"Skin cancer is the only cancer you can see on the surface of the skin," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "A skin cancer screening is a visual, non-invasive exam that takes just a few minutes, but could save a person's life."

The screenings are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Dermatologists will conduct a five to 10-minute examination of each individual in a private exam area.

Nationally, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and new cases have been increasing dramatically. Exposure to the sun during childhood and adolescence typically plays a critical role in the development of skin cancer as an adult.

The free event offers dermatologists a chance to educate the public about skin cancer prevention and early detection while potentially saving lives by finding skin cancers in their earliest, often most treatable stages.

The Sun Smarts events are sponsored by The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, American Cancer Society, Lifespan Community Health Services, University Dermatology, ABC6, and the Rhode Island Departments of Health and Environmental Management.


HEALTH Recommends Re-Opening of Atlantic Beach Club Beach

07-28-2012

HEALTH officials recommends the re-opening of Atlantic Beach Club in Middletown for swimming. This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.


HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Calico Bean Salad Voluntarily Recalled by Stop & Shop

07-31-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat Calico Bean Salad purchased from the salad bar at Stop & Shop Supermarkets between July 18 and July 26, 2012. Stop & Shop has voluntarily recalled the product, following a recall by Costa Fruit & Produce, because it may potentially be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Consumers who purchased Calico Bean Salad from Stop & Shop during this time period should discard any unused product and bring their purchase receipt to the Stop & Shop store from which the product was purchased for a full refund.

Symptoms of listeriosis can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness and nausea, or abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten this product and experiences these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with this product at this time.


HEALTH Advocacy and Equity Commission Seeks Public Members

08-07-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) seeks 10 individuals to sit on the new Health Advocacy and Equity Commission. The Commission will advise Director of Health Michael Fine, MD and other state departments on issues of racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic health disparities.

"It is essential that diverse voices are heard in the development of health policy," said Director Fine. "This Commission will play a key role in developing and facilitating a comprehensive health equity plan that addresses the social determinants of public health."

Social determinants of health encompass a wide range of factors impacting the health of individuals, families and communities. The Health Advocacy and Equity Commission will propose recommendations to address these factors, recommend a plan of action, and perform a bi-annual evaluation of the state's efforts to reduce health disparities by addressing the social determinants of health.

Commissioners will serve a three-year term.


HEALTH Advises Consumers to Dispose of Cakes from Central Falls and Providence Bakery

08-07-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers to dispose of all cakes sold from Emely Party Store and Bakery, 854 Dexter Street in Central Falls or Emely Party Store and Bakery, 568 Broad Street in Providence prior to August 1. During an investigation at the Broad Street location, HEALTH staff found that cake frosting was made with raw egg whites, there was bare hand contact with ingredients used in the frosting, and that raw egg whites were stored in containers not approved for reuse. The investigation was prompted by an illness outbreak associated with a birthday party.

The owner of Emely Bakery has been cooperative during the investigation and has made all of the changes recommended by HEALTH.

Food that is prepared with raw eggs can cause illness. The most common symptoms of foodborne illness are nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Salmonella may be present inside the shell of some raw eggs. To prevent foodborne illness, pasteurized eggs should be used for any products where eggs will not be thoroughly cooked. If raw or undercooked eggs are to be served by any food establishment, a consumer advisory must be provided to warn consumers that raw or undercooked eggs have been used and consuming the product may increase their risk of foodborne illness. High risk individuals such as the young, the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems should not consume raw or undercooked foods of animal origin.


HEALTH Advises Consumers About Limited Reichel Foods Recall

08-07-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat certain Dippin' Stix Sliced Apples & Caramel with Peanuts or Armour Active Packs Cheese Pizza Lunch Kits products - both manufactured by Reichel Foods, Inc. of Rochester, MN - because a limited amount of the products may potentially be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The products, which have been voluntarily recalled by Reichel Foods, Inc., were distributed to retail and convenience stores throughout the United States.

Products subject to the voluntary recall include:

  • 2.75-oz. single-serve trays of Dippin' Stix Apples & Caramel with Peanuts. The affected case code dates are 09/01/12, 09/02/12, and 09/03/12. The affected single-serve tray code dates are USE BY 01SEP2012, USE BY 02SEP2012, and USE BY 03SEP2012
  • 5.6-oz. packages of "Armour Active Packs Cheese Pizza" Package Code 1026090112 or Case Code 27815-17996

Consumers who have purchased products with these codes should throw the product away immediately or return it to the store where it was purchased for a full refund.

Symptoms of listeriosis can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness and nausea, or abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten these products and experiences these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with these products at this time.


HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Certain Food Products From Target Stores

08-07-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat certain foods from the Market Pantry and Archer Farms Deli Salad lines. The products are sold at Target stores, and are being voluntarily recalled because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Consumers who have purchased the following items should discard them immediately:

  • Target Item Number (DPCI):
  • 216-24-0207, Archer Farms Four Bean Salad 14-oz
  • 216-24-0102, Market Pantry American Potato Salad 3#
  • 216-24-0107, Market Pantry American Potato Salas 16 oz
  • 216-24-0103, Market Pantry Chicken Salad 12-oz
  • 216-24-0106, Market Pantry Cole Slaw, 15-oz
  • 216-24-0114, Market Pantry Cole Slaw, 44-oz
  • 216-24-0109, Market Pantry Egg Salad, 12-oz
  • 216-24-0101, Market Pantry Macaroni Salad 3#
  • 216-24-0105, Market Pantry Macaroni Salad 16-oz
  • 216-24-0104, Market Pantry Mustard Potato Salad 16-oz
  • 216-24-0100, Market Pantry Mustard Potato Salad 3#
  • 216-24-0116, Market Pantry Reduced Fat Mustard Potato Salad 16-oz
  • 216-24-0108, Market Pantry Tuna Salad 12-oz
  • 216-24-0119, Market Pantry Italian Pasta Salad 14-oz
  • 878-02-0051/0151 Layered Taco Dip

There are several date codes for each item. Consumers should refer to the item list at Garden-Fresh Foods - Market Pantry and Archer Farms Deli Salad items for specific date and code information.

Not all Target stores carried the recalled items or the recalled date codes.

Specific questions regarding this recall should be directed to Garden-Fresh Foods, which manufactured the products. Consumers may call (800) 645-3367. Consumers can also contact Target Guest Relations for in-store purchases at (800)-440-0680 and Target.com Guest Services for online purchases at (800) 591-3869.

Symptoms of listeriosis can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness and nausea, or abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten these products and experiences these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with these products at this time.


HEALTH Advises Consumers Not To Eat Some Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Products

08-09-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat certain foods manufactured by Reichel Foods of Rochester, MN. The products are being voluntarily recalled by Reichel Foods because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The specific products being recalled include:

  • 5.6-oz. packages of Armour Active Packs Turkey & Cheese Wrap, Package Code 1026090112 or Case Code 27815-17994
  • 5.6-oz. packages of Armour Active Packs Ham & Cheese Wrap, Package Code 1026090112 or Case Code 27815-17995

The products were produced between July 23, 2012 and July 26, 2012, and have a "sell by" date through Sept. 1, 2012.

Products may have been sold locally at Walmart stores. No illnesses associated with these products have been reported at this time.

Symptoms of listeriosis can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness and nausea, or abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten these products and experiences these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

Consumers with questions about this recall may contact Reichel Foods at (866) 372-2609.


HEALTH Advises No Contact With Untreated Water from Sisson Pond in Portsmouth

08-15-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises individuals to avoid contact with untreated waters affected by blue-green algae blooms in Sisson Pond in Portsmouth. Sisson Pond has been added to the following list of ponds and/or reservoirs that have experienced algal blooms which may form naturally occurring algal toxins:

  • Bailey Brook - Middletown
  • Easton Pond North - Middletown
  • Easton Pond South - Middletown
  • Gardiner Pond - Middletown
  • Paradise Pond - Middletown
  • St. Mary's Pond - Portsmouth
  • Watson Pond - Little Compton

Treated tap water originating from these reservoirs is safe to touch and consume.

Existing restrictions prohibit recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing (fishing is typically allowed at St. Mary's Pond and Bailey's Brook) at these ponds. People should not eat fish from any of these reservoirs.

Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and should not be allowed to drink this water or swim in it.

These blue-green algae species, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. Although no toxins have been found at this time, it is important that the public avoid contact with untreated waters.

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. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in these areas and experience any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

Algae blooms and the natural production of toxins typically resolve itself in a few weeks. Water will continue to be sampled and monitored. Individuals should avoid contact with untreated waters until further notice.


HEALTH and DEM Issue Blue-Green Algae Advisory For Mashapaug Pond

08-15-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in the waters of Mashapaug Pond in Providence, which is experiencing a blue-green algae bloom that may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in Mashapaug Pond until further notice. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins, so 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 the pond.

DEM has confirmed the presence and predominance of blue-green algae species in Mashapaug 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.

Those who come into contact with the water should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, and wash their clothes. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

Warm temperatures and sunshine produce 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 that 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.


HEALTH Advises Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves From Mosquito Bites

08-17-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has determined that, according to its Mosquito-Borne Disease Risk Assessment Matrix, Rhode Island is at high risk for mosquito-borne illness. HEALTH is advising Rhode Islanders to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites after test results from a mosquito trap in Tiverton recently tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and tests from two Rhode Island mosquito traps tested positive for West Nile Virus.

"It is not unusual to see positive results for EEE and West Nile Virus in mosquitoes in Rhode Island," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "But these positive results remind us that it is important to protect ourselves and our children from mosquito-borne illnesses like EEE and West Nile Virus, which can cause serious illness and even death."

All Rhode Islanders are encouraged to:

  • Use bug spray with no more than 30 percent DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants
  • Minimize outdoor activities at sunrise and sundown. Mosquitoes are most active during these times
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and bug spray if you must be outside at sunrise or sundown
  • Cover playpens and baby carriages with mosquito netting
  • Makes sure all windows and doors have screens. Be sure to fix any holes in screens
  • Eliminate standing water in your yard
  • Clear gutters to allow proper drainage
  • Remove water from unused swimming pools and boats, or cover them

Most people who are infected with West Nile Virus after a mosquito bite will not become ill. People who do develop symptoms may have a fever, headache, body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection of West Nile Virus or EEE include headache, 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.


HEALTH Offers Tips for a Healthy, Successful School Year

08-27-2012

PROVIDENCE - As students head back to the classroom, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) encourages all parents to take steps to make sure kids have a healthy and successful school year.

"We know that when children's basic health needs are met through proper nutrition, regular exercise and good sleep habits, they perform better in school and are better able to handle the stresses of the school setting," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Parents play a significant role in helping kids make healthy choices throughout the school day."

HEALTH encourages all parents to:

  • Make time for breakfast. A healthy start to the day begins with a nutritious breakfast for students - and parents. Be a good role model by making breakfast part of your morning routine.
  • Keep lunch and snacks healthy. Fill lunchboxes with plenty of lean protein, fresh fruits and veggies. Avoid soda and energy drinks, and allow limited servings of 100-percent juice. Encourage kids to drink plenty of water - from the tap is fine.
  • Encourage physical activity. With physical education time limited in many school districts, it's more important than ever for parents to provide opportunities for physical activity and unstructured play. Be sure to protect kids against mosquito bites by limiting outdoor play at dusk, using bug spray with no more than 30 percent DEET, and dressing kids in long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect their skin.
  • Get kids immunized. Fall is the perfect time to schedule immunizations, both for childhood diseases and for influenza. See your primary care physician or visit one of HEALTH's school-based vaccination clinics.
  • Limit screen time. Encourage kids to stay active by setting house rules for screen time - television, computers and gaming systems - and enforcing them. Keep television and computers out of kids' bedrooms to promote good sleep habits.
  • Create healthy bedtime routines. Depending on their age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends between 8.5 and 13 hours of sleep for kids. Help yours wind down by creating a calming evening routine such as a bath, reading or spending quiet family time together.

HEALTH Advises No Contact With Bailey's Brook, Gardiner Pond, Melville Ponds and Almy Pond

08-28-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the public health advisory issued earlier this summer regarding blue-green algae blooms in Easton Pond - North and Paradise Pond in Middletown, Easton Pond - South (Newport and Middletown), Sisson Pond and St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth, and Watson Pond in Little Compton.

However, as previously advised, individuals should continue to avoid contact with untreated waters affected by blue-green algae blooms in Bailey Brook in Middletown and Gardiner Pond in Newport. Treated tap water originating from Bailey Brook and Gardiner Pond is safe to touch and consume.

In addition, HEALTH has also issued a public health advisory for Almy Pond in Newport. A public health advisory remains in effect for Melville Ponds in Portsmouth.

Recreational activities such as swimming, boating or fishing should be avoided at Bailey's Brook, Gardiner Pond, Almy Pond, and Melville Ponds. People should not eat fish from these waters.

Pets can also be affected by exposure to algal toxins and should not be allowed to wade or swim in, or drink water from, Bailey's Brook, Gardiner Pond, Melville Ponds, and Almy Pond.

These blue-green algae species, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. Although no toxins have been found at this time, it is important that the public avoid contact with untreated waters.

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. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in these areas and experience any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.


HEALTH Encourages Rhode Islanders to Enjoy a Healthy Holiday Weekend

08-30-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders that a few simple steps can help keep them and their families healthy during upcoming holiday weekend celebrations.

"Many people will be enjoying the unofficial end of summer this weekend and we want to make sure those celebrations are safe and healthy," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "We hope people will get outside, get some physical activity and enjoy time with family and friends."

All Rhode Islanders are encouraged to:

  • Protect skin from the sun. Apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection before going outside - even if it's cloudy
  • Minimize tick and mosquito exposure. Mosquitoes are most active at sunrise and sundown, so outdoor activities should be limited at these times. If you will be outside at these times, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and bug spray (no more than 30 percent DEET). Tuck pants into socks if you'll be gardening, or walking through woods or tall grass to minimize exposure to ticks
  • Check for ticks. Be sure to check the entire body for ticks each day, especially the hairline, around the waist and under the arms
  • Keep food safe. Meat and poultry should be refrigerated until it is ready to be grilled. Raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, while poultry should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to test temperatures
  • Swim safely. Never swim alone, and never leave young children or non-swimmers unattended. Be sure that non-swimmers wear life jackets or other approved flotation devices

HEALTH Advises Consumers to Be Aware of Product Recalls

08-30-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises Rhode Islanders that they should not consume certain products manufactured by Protica Inc. of Whitehall, PA. The products are being voluntarily recalled by Protica Inc. because they may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, bacteria that can cause life-threatening illness or death.

The specific products being recalled include Body Choice "Protein Shots," Nutritional Resources "Protein Wave," ProBalance "Protein to Go French Vanilla Latte" and "Protein to Go Milk Chocolate Shake." Consumers should visit http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm316820.htm for information about specific dates and lots of the products that are being recalled. No illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island.

Consumers are warned not to use these products, even if they do not look or smell spoiled.

Symptoms of botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can include general weakness, dizziness, double vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

In addition, HEALTH advises consumers that they should not consume certain lots of Daniella brand mangoes because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. The products are being voluntarily recalled by produce distributor Splendid.

The recalled mangoes, a product of Mexico, were sold as individual fruit and can be identified by the Daniella brand sticker and one of the following PLU numbers: 3114, 4051, 4311, 4584 or 4959.

Most people infected with salmonella bacteria develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. Older adults, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from salmonella infection.


HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Tofu and Sprouts from Manna Organics

09-04-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat certain soybean sprouts and tofu from Manna Organics because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The recalled products were distributed to various restaurants, retailers, and distributors in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, and Texas on or after July 17, 2012. The products may have entered Rhode Island through distributors in Connecticut or Massachusetts.

Symptoms of listeriosis can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness and nausea, or abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten this product and experiences these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

The Jinga Firm and Soft, SooNyeoWon Firm and Soft Tofu are packaged in a square 16-ounce white plastic container with the label sealed on top with UPC Codes: 0 28346 09112 4, 0 28346 09111 7, 0 28346 07812 5 and 0 28346 07814 9. An expiration date of September 9, 2012 or later is printed in black on top of the label.

The five pieces and 10 pieces tofu are packaged in a white plastic bucket. The five pieces and 10 pieces are lidded and labeled in Korean "Healthy Tofu" with UPC Codes 0 28346 09125 4 and 0 28346 09129 2. Affected products have an expiration date of July 25, 2012 or later.

The Soy Milk is packaged in a 1.3 gallon white plastic pail.

The Large Tofu Bucket(30 pieces), Soon tofu, and Small Tofu are packaged in a large, white plastic pail enclosed in a plastic bag labeled TOFU with the company name, address, and nutritional information listed directly below. Affected products have an expiration date of July 25, 2012 or later.

SooNyeoWon Silken Tofu is packaged in a small 14-ounce square plastic container with the label sealed on top. It has a UPC Code of 0 28346 09113 1. There is an expiration date printed in black on top of the label. Affected products have an expiration date of September 9, 2012 or later.

The Soybean Sprouts 16-ounce products come in a clear plastic sealed bag colored in red or green with the labels SOONYEOWON SOYBEAN SPROUTS or SOONYEOWON HEALTHY SOYBEAN SPROUTS with UPC Codes 0 28346 07121 8 and 0 28346 07140 9. The Soybean Sprouts 10-lb. and 5-lb. bags come in a clear hand-tied plastic poly bag labeled SPROUTS with the company info directly beneath it.

No illnesses have been reported to date.


HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Ready Pac Fresh Cut Fruit Products Containing Mango

09-04-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat certain fresh cut fruit products containing Daniella Brand mangoes, which have been recalled by supplier Splendid Products due to potential contamination with Salmonella Braenderup.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Anyone who has eaten these products and experiences these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

Ready Pac Foods, Inc. of Irwindale, California distributed the products under several brand names, including Ready Pac, Walmart, and Starbucks. The voluntarily recalled products were distributed in numerous states, including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Recalled products distributed in RI, MA, and CT include:

  • Ready Pac" Super Fruit Blend 6oz
  • UPC: 77745?23076
  • Use-by date: 9/8/2012 or earlier
  • Ready Pac" Gourmet Fruit Bowl 64oz
  • UPC: 77745?22620
  • Use-by date: 9/9/2012 or earlier
  • Starbucks" Seasonal Harvest Fruit Blend 6oz
  • UPC: 62111?71390
  • Use-by date: 8/22/2012 through 9/7/2012

No illnesses have been reported specific to the Ready Pac products that are the subject of this recall. Consumers who may have purchased the affected product are asked to record the Use?by Date and/or UPC code number, immediately dispose of the product, and contact the Ready Pac Consumer Affairs Department, toll?free at (800) 800?7822, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Pacific Time) to obtain a full refund. Retailers should check their inventories and store shelves to confirm that none of the products are present or available for purchase by consumers or in warehouse inventories.


HEALTH and DEM Issue Blue-Green Algae Advisory For Several Bodies of Water

09-05-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in four bodies of waters in Rhode Island due to blue-green algae blooms. This advisory is based on sampling conducted on August 16 and 17 by a DEM contractor as part of the screening-level monitoring conducted at 12 lakes and ponds to evaluate the extent and presence of blue-green algae blooms in Rhode Island.

The following bodies of water are impacted by this advisory: Roger Williams Park Ponds in Providence, J.L. Curran Reservoir (Upper and Lower Reservoirs; also known as Spring Lake Reservoir) in Cranston, Barber Pond in South Kingstown, and Pasquiset Pond in Charlestown.

All four bodies of water are experiencing a blue-green algae bloom that may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in these waters until further notice. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins, so 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 the affected waters.

DEM has confirmed the presence and predominance of blue-green algae species in these bodies of water. 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.

Those who come into contact with the water should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, and wash their clothes. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

Warm temperatures and sunshine produce 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 that 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.


HEALTH and DEM Advise No Contact With Water from St. Mary's Pond - Tap Water is Safe to Touch and Consume

09-06-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise individuals to avoid contact with untreated waters from St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth. The pond has experienced an algal bloom which may form naturally occurring algal toxins.

Treated tap water originating from the pond is safe to touch and consume. Existing restrictions prohibit recreational activities such as swimming and boating. People should not eat fish from this body of water.

Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and should not be allowed to drink this water or swim in it.

These blue-green algae species, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. Although no toxins have been found at this time, it is important that the public avoid contact with untreated waters.

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. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in this area and have experienced any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with untreated waters in this area should contact their veterinarian.

Algae blooms and the natural production of toxins typically resolve itself in a few weeks. Water will continue to be sampled and monitored. Individuals should avoid contact with untreated waters until further notice.


As Summer Winds Down, New England Still at Risk for Viruses Carried by Mosquitoes

09-10-2012

PROVIDENCE - The New England State Health Officers want to alert the region to the increased risk for West Nile virus infection and Eastern Equine Encephalitis despite the end of much summer activity. These viral infections are spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes and often reach their peak at this time of year, just when people may be lowering their guard against mosquito bites.

The United States is currently experiencing a widespread outbreak of West Nile virus, and the Northeast is no exception. In the United States, West Nile has been detected in humans, animals, or mosquitoes in all 48 of the continental states. As of August 28, 2012, 1,590 cases of West Nile have been reported nationwide, with 65 deaths. More cases are expected to occur. Eastern Equine Encephalitis is also of major concern in the Northeast. It is the most severe mosquito-spread illness in the United States.

Symptoms of West Nile virus include headache, high fever, confusion, tremors, convulsions and rarely, paralysis. West Nile virus infection can also be fatal. Symptoms of Eastern Equine Encephalitis range from mild flu-like illness to inflammation of the brain, coma and death.

All of the states in the Northeast are seeing increased mosquito-borne virus activity this summer. All six New England states have detected West Nile virus in mosquitoes, and Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have reported human cases. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont have all detected EEE in mosquitoes, with Massachusetts and Vermont reporting human cases. For many of the New England states, this activity has been earlier and more intense than in previous years. All states expect to see more viral activity as we move into early fall.

The State Health Officers of the Northeast remind residents and visitors that the threat of arboviral illness, including West Nile virus, remains high, and everyone should take steps to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes will remain active until the first frost, so the public must remain vigilant.

State Health Officers recommend the following measures to protect against West Nile virus infection and other mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • Avoid or limit time outdoors at dawn and dusk when many species of mosquitoes are most active
  • Use an EPA approved repellent when outdoors, especially around dawn and dusk - always follow the instructions on the product's label
  • Wear protective clothing when outdoors, including long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks
  • Make sure screens on windows and doors are intact to keep mosquitoes out of the home
  • Reduce standing water around the house (collecting in containers, tires, etc.) to decrease the numbers of mosquitoes breeding around your home

HEALTH Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus Infection

09-11-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports that a man in his 50s from Newport County was diagnosed with West Nile fever, a mild form of West Nile Virus (WNV). The Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed the diagnosis. The man first developed symptoms on August 25 and WNV infection was confirmed on August 28. He has since recovered.

"This is yet another reminder that this is the time of year when there are more mosquitoes and Rhode Islanders are at increased risk for exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "It is imperative that anyone who spends a lot of time outside to use safeguards against mosquitoes."

Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection. People should routinely use mosquito repellent and cover up or avoid outdoor activity at dusk and dawn when mosquito-biting activity is greatest. Place mosquito netting over playpens and carriages outside, and be sure that screens are in good repair. Mosquito repellent should contain no more than 30 percent DEET, and it should not be used on infants. It is also important to make sure there is no standing water in yards or in other public gathering places.

To date this year, there have been three mosquito pools in Rhode Island that have tested positive for WNV and three that have tested positive for EEE. For information about mosquito-borne diseases, visit www.health.ri.gov/disease/carriers/mosquitoes/


HEALTH Advises Cookout Attendees of Possible Listeria Contamination

09-11-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is advising residents, staff, volunteers, family and friends who attended a cookout at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 and ate uncooked onions that they may have been exposed to listeria monocytogenes.

On Sept. 7, the dietary supervisor for the Veterans Home received an email from U.S. Foods indicating that random sampling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of onions from one of their suppliers found one positive result for the presence of Listeria in one lot of onions. The Veterans Home received three cases of diced onions potentially from that lot on Sept. 6, 2012.

None of the recalled foods are available at retail, according to U.S. Foods. HEALTH will continue to monitor the recall for expansion.

Symptoms of listeriosis can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness and nausea, or abdominal pain and diarrhea. Pregnant women, young children, frail and elderly persons are particularly at risk. Anyone who ate these onions and experiences these symptoms within the next 70 days should contact their healthcare provider. No illnesses have been reported. Residents and staff are being monitored.


Rabid Kitten Confirmed in Jamestown; Those Who May Have Had Contact with Cat Colony Advised to Contact HEALTH for Evaluation

09-12-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are alerting the public that a kitten collected from Jamestown in the vicinity of Highland Drive and Ft. Wetherill State Park that has died, has tested positive for rabies. The kitten was adopted by a Jamestown resident in August. DEM is attempting to determine if other cats or kittens from the colony in Ft. Wetherill have also been adopted.

Based on reports, this cat had been part of a colony of feral cats. It is not known if other cats in the colony are exhibiting signs of rabies but it must be assumed that all cats in the colony may have been exposed to rabies and therefore are potentially infected.

According to R.I. State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM, this particular rabies case is of concern because the kitten came from an area in which other non-vaccinated animals and people may have been exposed. Those people may not be aware that they or their animals have been exposed to rabies.

Anyone who may have had contact with feral cats in this area should contact HEALTH for evaluation of their risk at 222-2577 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Those with domestic animals that may have had contact with cats or kittens in this colony should call the Jamestown Police Department at 423-1212.

All dogs, cats and ferrets are required by State law to have current vaccination against rabies. Vaccination of pet animals prevents them from contracting rabies, and prevents people from becoming exposed to rabies from their pets. HEALTH and DEM make the following recommendations:

  • Make sure dogs, cats and ferrets are properly vaccinated against rabies. It is the law.
  • Avoid all contact with stray, wild or free-roaming domestic animals.
  • Call HEALTH if you have had any contact with a stray, wild or free-roaming domestic animal.
  • Call your local animal control officer if an animal you own has had contact with a stray, wild or free-roaming domestic animal.
  • Secure all trash so that animals will not be attracted to it.
  • Do not feed animals outdoors, as this will attract other animals. This is especially dangerous when feeding large numbers of free-roaming cats.
  • Do not leave pets outdoors loose or unattended.

HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Salata Frescolina Brand Ricotta Cheese

09-12-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat Salata Frescolina brand ricotta cheese from one specific production date because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The product, which is being voluntarily recalled by Forever Cheese Inc., is from Lot Number T9425 and/or is labeled with production code 441202.

The cheese was sold to distributors for retailers and restaurants in California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington between June 19 and August 9, 2012. Consumers who may have this product in their refrigerator or freezer should discard it.

No illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island to date. Three deaths and 14 illnesses have been reported in other states.

Symptoms of listeriosis can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness and nausea, or abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten this product and experiences these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

For more information, consumers may contact the company at (888) 930-8693.


HEALTH Names Keough to Nursing Director Post

09-13-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced the appointment of Lori Keough, Ph.D., M.Ed., FNP-BC as State Director of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education for the department. In her new role, Keough will provide administrative support and direction in enforcing state laws and regulations regarding the licensing and discipline of registered nurses, practical nurses, registered nurse practitioners, certified nurse anesthetists and midwives throughout Rhode Island.

"It's my pleasure to welcome Lori Keough to the Department of Health," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "I know that Rhode Island's nursing profession and its Board of Nursing are in capable hands. I look forward to Lori's leadership in this role."

In addition to serving as Executive Secretary to the state's Board of Nursing, Keough is also charged with managing the adjudication of professional complaints against nurses, overseeing disciplinary actions and providing direction to the state's schools of nursing regarding nursing education and approval of nursing programs.

Keough is currently a post-doctoral Fellow in health disparities at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, as well as an assistant professor of community health nursing at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. She also works as a nurse practitioner at Childrens Hospital in Boston.

Keough earned a Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Massachusetts-Worcester, a master's degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a master's degree in education and a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Rhode Island College, and associate's degrees in both nursing and business administration from the Community College of Rhode Island. She lives in Seekonk, MA.


HEALTH Advises No Contact with Water from Ponds in Cranston and Lincoln

09-14-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in Blackamore Pond in Cranston and Scott Pond in Lincoln. Both bodies of waters had total cyanobacteria counts well in excess of safe amounts. This advisory is based on sampling conducted as part of the screening-level monitoring conducted at lakes and ponds to evaluate the extent and presence of blue-green algae blooms in Rhode Island.

Individuals should avoid all contact with waters in Blackamore and Scott Ponds, including recreational activities such as swimming, boating or fishing. People should not eat fish from these waters.

Pets can also be affected by exposure to algal toxins and should not be allowed to wade or swim in, or drink water from, these ponds.

These blue-green algae species, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. A visible algae scum was not observed on either pond, but blooms were developing at the time of the sampling. It is important that the public avoid contact with these waters.

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. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with water from these ponds should contact their veterinarian.

People and pets that come into contact with the water should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, and wash their clothes. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

Warm temperatures and sunshine produce 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 that 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.


HEALTH Recommends 'Smart Scheduling' For All Outdoor Recreation and Sports Activities

09-14-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends that school administrators and town officials throughout the state employ "smart scheduling" of all outdoor activities, including games and practices for all sports, in response to the threat of mosquito-borne illness. HEALTH advises that any games and practices scheduled to occur during early morning or dusk hours be rescheduled to earlier in the afternoon (or relocated to an indoor venue), if possible, to help minimize the risk of mosquito bites for players, coaches and spectators.

"Rhode Island recently saw its first human case of West Nile Fever and has seen some increase in the number of mosquito pools positive for both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Smart scheduling of outdoor activities and personal protection measures are the best ways for Rhode Islanders to protect themselves from mosquito-borne illness."

At a minimum, HEALTH recommends that schools and organizations remind all participants in outdoor activities to protect themselves from mosquito bites with some simple personal protection actions, including:

  • Avoid outdoor activities during dawn and dusk. Mosquitoes are most active at this time
  • If you must be outside at dawn or dusk, wear an insect repellant with no more than 30 percent DEET
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants when possible to avoid exposing skin to mosquitoes
  • HEALTH will continue to update school and municipal officials as conditions change. HEALTH recommends that smart scheduling stays in effect for the remainder of the mosquito season, which typically ends mid-October (after the first hard frost).

HEALTH Reports Providence County Case of West Nile Virus Infection

09-18-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports that a man in his 20s from Providence County has been diagnosed with meningitis resulting from a West Nile Virus (WNV) infection. The man is now recovering.

"Although the calendar tells us that summer officially ends this week, the threat of mosquito-borne illness lingers until the first hard frost," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "I encourage all Rhode Islanders to continue to take measures to protect themselves and their children from mosquito bites."

Avoiding outdoor activity at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, is an important protection from the threat of mosquito-borne illness. HEALTH recently advised school districts and city and town officials to implement "smart scheduling" of outdoor activities, such as athletic practices and games, to earlier times that help athletes, coaches and spectators avoid exposure during peak mosquito activity times.

In addition, HEALTH encourages all Rhode Islanders to take personal protection measures, such as wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and using bug spray with no more than 30 percent DEET, when they must be outside during dawn or dusk hours. Other important protection measures include placing mosquito netting over infant playpens and carriages when outside, and ensuring that screens are in good repair. It is also important to eliminate standing water in yards or in other public gathering places.


HEALTH Recognizes Dr. James Padbury for Newborn Screening Work

09-19-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recently presented Dr. James Padbury with its Newborn Screening Recognition Award. This award is presented to individuals in Rhode Island who have made exceptional contributions to the practice of newborn screening. Dr. Padbury is the William and Mary Oh - William and Elsa Zopfi Professor of Pediatrics for Perinatal Research and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and Pediatrician-In-Chief at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island. He has chaired Rhode Island's Newborn Screening Advisory Committee since its inception, guiding the program to ensure that the state evaluates and implements screening for new conditions at the earliest possible point to improve the health outcomes of Rhode Island's smallest citizens.

"HEALTH depends on the support of many public health partners to provide these critical screenings," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Dr. Padbury is a newborn screening champion who understands how important these screenings are to public health. Under his guidance, the Newborn Screening Program continues to expand to better serve all babies born in Rhode Island."

Newborn screening aims to identify and treat health conditions as early as possible to prevent death or disability, and to enable children to reach their full potential. Rhode Island law requires birthing hospitals to screen newborns for 29 conditions, including hearing loss. The American College of Medical Genetics recommends screening for all of these conditions.


HEALTH Grants Hold On BCBSRI Material Modification Application

09-20-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced that it has granted Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island's (BCBSRI) request that HEALTH suspend its review of BCBSRI's material modification application for the potential termination of Landmark Hospital from its coverage network.

HEALTH granted this request after BCBSRI agreed to notify physicians who have admitting privileges only at Landmark that it would not take adverse action against them based on a lack of participating hospital privileges. The company had notified physicians in July that it would require them to seek admitting privileges at another participating hospital.

"HEALTH recognized the difficult position that Landmark physicians faced in this situation," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "We requested that Blue Cross notify physicians that they are not required to have admitting privileges at a Blue Cross-participating hospital to remain as a participating Blue Cross provider. While we are now satisfied that this situation will not affect the relationship that patients have with their doctors in Woonsocket, we call on Blue Cross to move forward quickly in communicating this information to all Rhode Islanders."

HEALTH's review of BCBSRI's material modification application has been suspended for 60 days, effective September 17, 2012.


HEALTH Awards Funding for Evidence-Based Home Visiting Services

09-21-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has awarded new funding to seven community-based agencies to provide home visiting in six communities using three evidence-based models. Through the Affordable Care Act's Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership", and Parents as Teachers will reach approximately 700 families and will be provided by several community-based agencies selected to receive funding.

"The funded agencies will work with families in their communities to provide intensive home visiting services to pregnant women and families with young children," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "The evidence-based programs will further Rhode Island's efforts to build quality, comprehensive, statewide support systems for pregnant woman, parents and caregivers, and young children. They will help us take better care of newborns and their mothers, help more moms to breastfeed, and reduce premature birth and adolescent pregnancy."

Healthy Families America enrolls pregnant women and families with infants two weeks old or younger. Home visitors continue to work with a family until the child is three years old. Agencies offering this program include Children's Friend (Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence), East Bay Community Action Program (Newport), Family Resources Community Action (Woonsocket), Family Service of Rhode Island (Providence), and Meeting Street (Providence).

Nurse-Family Partnership enrolls first-time mothers before their 28th week of pregnancy, and nurse home visitors continue to work with families until the child is two years old. This program is offered through Children's Friend in the communities of Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick, and Woonsocket.

Parents as Teachers enrolls pregnant women and families with infants through six months of age, and home visitors continue to work with families until the child is three years old through the new funding. This program is offered by the Blackstone Valley Community Action Program (Central Falls, Pawtucket) and Connecting for Children & Families (Woonsocket).

Families who participate in these programs have lower rates of child maltreatment, pre-term birth, and emergency room usage. They also have higher rates of prenatal and well-baby care, infant immunization, and economic self-sufficiency. The new funding expands Rhode Island's existing home visiting system, which includes the HEALTH-funded First Connections Program, as well as several longer-term programs.


HEALTH Advises No Contact With Untreated Water from Watson Reservoir Affected by Blue-Green Algae

09-21-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises individuals to avoid contact with untreated waters affected by blue-green algae blooms. For the second time this season, Watson Reservoir in Little Compton has experienced algal blooms which may form naturally occurring algal toxins. Treated tap water originating from the reservoirs is safe to touch and consume.

Existing restrictions prohibit recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing. People should not eat fish from the reservoir.

Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and should not be allowed to drink this water or swim in it.

These blue-green algae species, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. Although no toxins have been found at this time, it is important that the public avoid contact with untreated waters.

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. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in these areas and experience any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

Algae blooms and the natural production of toxins typically resolve itself in a few weeks. Water will continue to be sampled and monitored. Individuals should avoid contact with untreated waters until further notice.


HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders About Potential Salmonella Contamination of Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter

09-24-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) warns consumers that Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter Made With Sea Salt may be related to a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney infection. HEALTH is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and public health officials in several states to investigate a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney infection. Nationally, there have been 29 cases of illness, with one illness reported in Rhode Island.

Testing of peanut butter samples is underway at several state public health laboratories. Although there are currently no positive product samples, Trader Joe's has voluntarily removed this product for sale from its stores. Consumers should be aware that this product is also available online via various shopping websites.

HEALTH is currently advising Rhode Islanders that Trader Joe's brand Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter Made with Sea Salt 16 oz. containers with "Use by" dates of 5/23/2013 and 6/28/2013 may be related to the outbreak. This includes peanut butter from stores or online.

In addition, HEALTH advises anyone who recently consumed Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter Made with Sea Salt and then became ill with diarrhea or vomiting to consult their healthcare provider.

HEALTH will provide more information about the investigation as it becomes available.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection included diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 6 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 2 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient requires hospitalization. Older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.


HEALTH Provides Update on Salmonella Outbreak--Advises Rhode Islanders Not to Eat Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter Made With Sea Salt

09-24-2012

Yesterday the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advised Rhode Islanders that Trader Joe's brand Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter Made with Sea Salt may be related to a multi-state Salmonella Bredeney outbreak.

Additional information was released today by Trader Joe's, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FDA (see links below). Although this peanut butter has not been positively linked to any illness, Trader Joe's has voluntarily recalled the product. HEALTH now advises Rhode Islanders not to eat any Trader Joe's brand Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter Made with Sea Salt. People should discard any remaining peanut butter or return it to Trader Joe's. This is especially important for children under the age of five, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

In addition, HEALTH advises anyone who recently consumed Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter Made with Sea Salt and then became ill with diarrhea or vomiting to consult their healthcare provider.


HEALTH Advises No Contact with Water from Slacks Reservoir in Johnston and Smithfield

09-24-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in Slacks Reservoir in Johnston and Smithfield. The reservoir's water had a visible scum of cyanobacteria in a cove in the upper eastern part of the reservoir, near Greenlake Town Beach in Greenville. These blue-green algae, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin.

Individuals should avoid all contact with water in Slack Reservoir, including recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing. People should not eat fish from this reservoir. Pets can also be affected by exposure to algal toxins and should not be allowed to wade or swim in, or drink water from this reservoir.

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. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with water from this reservoir should contact their veterinarian.

People and pets that come into contact with the water should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, and wash their clothes. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

Warm temperatures and sunshine produce conditions favorable to algae growth. DEM and HEALTH warn 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 that 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.


HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Certain Almond Butter and Peanut Butter Products Manufactured by Sunland, Inc.

09-24-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers not to eat certain Almond Butter and Peanut Butter products manufactured by Sunland, Inc. of Portales, NM. The company has voluntarily recalled a limited number of its products because they may be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections.

The voluntary recall was initiated by the company after it learned that the products may be linked to an 18-state outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney. The products are sold under several different brand names, including Archer Farms, Earth Balance, fresh & easy, heinen's, Joseph's, Natural Value, Naturally More, Open Nature, Peanut Power Butter, Crunchy Sugar Butter, Creamy Sugar Butter, Serious Food, Snaclite, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sprout's, Sunland, Dogsbutter and Trader Joe's. The recall applies to products with "Best If Used By" dates between May 1, 2013 and September 24, 2013. For a complete list of affected UPC codes, consumers should check the company's website at http://www.sunlandinc.com/788/html/pdfs/SunlandRecall.pdf

The products were distributed nationally to numerous large supermarket and retail chains, including some in Rhode Island.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection included diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 6 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 2 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient requires hospitalization. Older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.

Rhode Island has one case of illness that may be associated with this outbreak.


HEALTH Reports Bristol County Case of West Nile Virus Infection

09-25-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports that a woman in her 60s from Bristol County has been diagnosed with meningitis resulting from a West Nile Virus (WNV) infection. The woman is now recovering.

This case is Rhode Island's third case of illness resulting from a West Nile infection this year.

"Though the days are getting shorter and cooler, Rhode Islanders must remain vigilant against the threat of mosquito-borne illness until the first hard frost," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Personal protection and smart scheduling of outdoor activities must remain priorities for everyone."

Avoiding outdoor activity at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, is an important protection from the threat of mosquito-borne illness. HEALTH recently advised school districts and city and town officials to implement "smart scheduling" of outdoor activities, such as athletic practices and games, to earlier times that help athletes, coaches and spectators avoid exposure during peak mosquito activity times.

In addition, HEALTH encourages all Rhode Islanders to take personal protection measures, such as wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and using bug spray with no more than 30 percent DEET, when they must be outside during dawn or dusk hours. Other important protection measures include placing mosquito netting over infant playpens and carriages when outside, and ensuring that screens are in good repair. It is also important to eliminate standing water in yards or in other public gathering places.

Certain mosquito pools in Rhode Island have recently tested positive for WNV and EEE.


EXPANDED RECALL: HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Certain Cashew Butter, Tahini and Roasted Blanched Peanut Products Manufactured by Sunland, Inc.

09-25-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers not to eat certain Cashew Butter, Tahini and Roasted Blanched Peanut Products manufactured by Sunland, Inc. of Portales, NM. This latest advisory is an expansion of a voluntary recall of Almond Butter and Peanut Butter products manufactured by the company. Sunland, Inc. has voluntarily recalled a number of its products because they may be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections.

The voluntary recall was initiated by the company after it learned that the products may be linked to an 19-state outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney. The products are sold under several different brand names, including Archer Farms, Earth Balance, fresh & easy, heinen's, Joseph's, Natural Value, Naturally More, Open Nature, Peanut Power Butter, Crunchy Sugar Butter, Creamy Sugar Butter, Serious Food, Snaclite, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sprout's, Sunland, Dogsbutter, Harry & David, and Trader Joe's. The recall applies to products with "Best If Used By" dates between May 1, 2013 and September 24, 2013. For a complete list of affected UPC codes, consumers should check the company's website at http://www.sunlandinc.com/788/html/pdfs/SunlandRecall.pdf

The products were distributed nationally to numerous large supermarket and retail chains, including some in Rhode Island. Consumers should not eat these recalled products, and should dispose of any unused products or return them to the store where they were purchased.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 6 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 2 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient requires hospitalization. Older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.

Rhode Island has one case of illness that may be associated with this outbreak.


Rhode Island Remains National Leader in Childhood, Adolescent Vaccinations

09-26-2012

PROVIDENCE - Childhood and adolescent immunization rates in Rhode Island are among the highest in the country for almost every vaccine children should be receiving, according to newly-released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Children in Rhode Island are protected against many dangerous diseases, thanks to the dedication of Rhode Island's pediatricians, family physicians, school personnel, and many other unsung heroes," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "As proud as I am of these numbers, there's more work to be done. We must continue to educate parents, grandparents and caregivers about the importance of vaccinations for children of all ages."

The CDC's National Immunization Survey revealed that Rhode Island's immunization rates for children between 19 and 35 months of age were tops in the nation for vaccines that protect against several diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, and haemophilus influenzae type B. Immunization rates for these vaccines were all greater than 96%. In the same age category, Rhode Island's immunization rate for polio vaccine was 97.4%. This rate was the third-highest in the nation, behind only Nebraska and Louisiana.

Among adolescents, Rhode Island's immunization rate for the vaccine series that protects against chicken pox (varicella), hepatitis B, tetanus, pertussis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella all surpassed national averages. Seventy-six percent of Rhode Island girls received at least one dose of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine - the highest rate in the country, and well above the national average of 53%. Fifty-seven percent of Rhode Island girls completed the three-dose HPV vaccine series, another top immunization rate in the country, compared to the national average of 34.8%. HPV vaccination rates among males in Rhode Island and the rest of the country are considerably lower, as CDC began recommending routine vaccination against HPV for adolescent males in 2011.

The goals of Healthy People 2020, a CDC initiative that sets national health goals for each decade, include immunization rates of 90% for most childhood and adolescent vaccines.

National Immunization Survey information, last collected in 2011, is gathered through random telephone calls and follow-up with healthcare providers of respondents' children. The survey has been conducted annually since 1994 to measure immunization rates of children 19-35 months of age. In 2006, the survey was expanded to include older children.


HEALTH Reports Washington County Case of West Nile Virus Infection

09-27-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports that a man in his 60s from Washington County has been diagnosed with West Nile Fever, a mild form of West Nile Virus (WNV). The man is now recovering.

This case is Rhode Island's fourth case of illness resulting from a West Nile infection this year.

"I encourage all Rhode Islanders to remember that mosquitos are still active at this time of year and that personal protection against mosquito bites is important," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "We recommend smart scheduling of outdoor activities and vigilant personal protection until the first hard frost."

Avoiding outdoor activity at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, is an important protection from the threat of mosquito-borne illness. HEALTH has advised school districts and city and town officials to implement "smart scheduling" of outdoor activities, such as athletic practices and games, to earlier times that help athletes, coaches and spectators avoid exposure during peak mosquito activity times.

In addition, HEALTH encourages all Rhode Islanders to take personal protection measures, such as wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and using bug spray with no more than 30 percent DEET, when they must be outside during dawn or dusk hours. Other important protection measures include placing mosquito netting over infant playpens and carriages when outside, and ensuring that screens are in good repair. It is also important to eliminate standing water in yards or in other public gathering places.

Certain mosquito pools in Rhode Island have recently tested positive for WNV and EEE.


HEALTH Launches Flu Vaccination Campaign With Statehouse Kick-Off

10-01-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today launched its annual flu immunization campaign with a kick-off event at the Rhode Island State House. Rhode Island's First Lady Stephanie Chafee, Director of HEALTH Michael Fine, MD, and U.S. Senator Jack Reed were on hand to discuss the health dangers of influenza and the importance of being immunized against this preventable disease. Flu vaccinations were offered to all who attended.

"Rhode Island is a nationwide leader in many vaccination rates, but when it comes to being immunized against influenza, we can do better," said Dr. Fine. "Last year, 400,000 Rhode Islanders were immunized against flu - a great start, but it means that 600,000 people were not protected. We hope all Rhode Islanders will see their doctor for a flu shot or visit one of the many vaccination clinics that HEALTH will be hosting across the state throughout the fall."

The flu is a serious illness that even healthy people can get. It is particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly and for those with compromised immune systems. A flu shot helps protect not only the person who gets the shot, but also those around them.

"It's especially important that healthcare workers, pregnant women, grandparents and parents be immunized," said Mrs. Chafee. "When you're busy caring for others in your life, getting a flu shot protects both you and the people you care for."

Senator Reed also announced that Rhode Island will get some help from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in covering flu vaccinations for adults. CMS will reimburse HEALTH for the cost of vaccines that it provides to healthcare providers for all adults.

"Flu season is approaching and doctors encourage everyone above six months in age to get a flu shot. Getting vaccinated is a safe and smart way to protect yourself and the people around you. A quick trip to the doctor or local pharmacy is much better than being sick for a week with the flu. I am pleased to have delivered federal funding to help the Rhode Island Department of Health provide free flu vaccinations to area residents," said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped convince the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to extend an innovative program in Rhode Island that provides doctors with free flu vaccines to administer to seniors on traditional Medicare at no cost, a program that resulted in $335,000 reimbursement to the state during the 2011-12 flu season.

HEALTH encourages all Rhode Islanders to see their doctor, visit a local pharmacy or visit one of HEALTH's many flu vaccination clinics being offered throughout Rhode Island.


DEM ANNOUNCES EEE FOUND IN MOSQUITOES TRAPPED IN TIVERTON

10-01-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that test results from one mosquito pool, or sample, from a trap set in northern Tiverton has been confirmed positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The positive EEE result was from a Culex species that feeds on birds and mammals.

The positive EEE finding came from mosquitoes trapped by DEM staff on September 24 and tested at the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) laboratory. The results were confirmed today.

According to Alan Gettman, Ph.D., DEM's mosquito abatement coordinator, even though evening temperatures have gotten cooler, there are still infected mosquitoes in the environment. Therefore, all Rhode Islanders should take extra care to protect themselves, particularly when mosquito-biting activity is high. Biting activity depends on several conditions. It generally is greatest from dusk to dawn. During the day it decreases in sunny areas at lower temperatures and increases in shady areas at higher temperatures. Biting activity also generally increases with high humidity and with low wind.

Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection. People should routinely use mosquito repellent and cover up when mosquito-biting activity is greatest. They should place mosquito netting over playpens and carriages outside, and be sure that screens are in good repair. Mosquito repellent should contain no more than 30 percent DEET, and it should not be used on infants.

Because horses are susceptible to West Nile Virus and EEE, Rhode Island horse owners should consult with their veterinarians to determine if their horses are properly vaccinated against both diseases and take measures to control and prevent mosquito exposure. Those controls should include: removing or covering all areas where standing water can collect; applying mosquito larvicide in appropriate locations; and avoiding turning animals outside at dawn, dusk and during the night when mosquitoes are most active. Horse owners should insect-proof facilities where possible; use approved repellants frequently; monitor animals for symptoms of fever, in-coordination, stumbling and neurological signs; and report all suspicious cases to a veterinarian immediately.

This year, to date in Rhode Island, six pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis and five pools have tested positive for West Nile Virus.

Mosquitoes in Rhode Island are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the State Health Laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary. Routine test results from the remaining 83 pools of mosquitoes trapped on September 24 will be included in next week's announcement.


HEALTH Continues to Recommend 'Smart Scheduling' For All Outdoor Recreation and Sports Activities

10-03-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) continues to recommend that school administrators and town officials throughout the state employ "smart scheduling" of all outdoor activities, including games and practices for all sports, in response to the threat of mosquito-borne illness. On September 14, HEALTH recommended that any games and practices scheduled to occur during early morning or dusk hours be rescheduled to earlier in the afternoon (or relocated to an indoor venue), if possible, to help minimize the risk of mosquito bites for players, coaches and spectators. This recommendation is made in collaboration with the state Mosquito Advisory Board and is still in effect.

"The threat of mosquito-borne illness lingers until the first hard frost," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "I encourage all Rhode Islanders to continue to take measures to protect themselves and their children from mosquito bites."

At a minimum, HEALTH recommends that schools and organizations remind all participants in outdoor activities to protect themselves from mosquito bites with some simple personal protection, including:

  • Avoid outdoor activities during dawn and dusk. Mosquitoes are most active at this time.
  • If you must be outside at dawn or dusk, wear an insect repellant with no more than 30 percent DEET.
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants when possible to avoid exposing skin to mosquitoes.
  • HEALTH will continue to update school and municipal officials as conditions change. HEALTH recommends that smart scheduling stays in effect for the remainder of the mosquito season, which typically ends mid-October (after the first hard frost).

Recalled Medication Linked to Nationwide Meningitis Outbreak Distributed to Two Rhode Island Facilities

10-04-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced that Rhode Island is among the 23 states nationwide that have received recalled medication from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. Two Rhode Island facilities received medication from the recalled lots linked to a multi-state outbreak of meningitis following epidural steroid injection. HEALTH is working closely with these facilities, who are notifying patients who may have received this medication.

No illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island. To date, a total of 35 cases of meningitis linked to fungal infection have been identified in six states. Five deaths have been reported.

"HEALTH is monitoring this situation, and is participating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the national investigation," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "HEALTH will continue to work closely with the two facilities that received medication from the affected lots to identify and monitor any patients who may have received the medication."

While the investigation is ongoing, according to CDC, all infected patients to date received preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate from among three lots voluntarily recalled by the New England Compounding Center on September 25, 2012. To date, CDC is aware of infections associated only with the three lots that were recalled on September 25, 2012.

All clinicians, healthcare providers, hospitals, pharmacies and other healthcare facilities should immediately cease use of and remove from their pharmacy inventories any product that was produced by the New England Compounding Center until investigation by the FDA has been completed.

This type of meningitis is not transmitted from person to person. Patients who received an epidural steroid injection containing medication from one of these recalled lots should contact their healthcare provider if they experience symptoms such as fever, new symptoms of headache or worsening headache, new stiff neck or sensitivity to light, or symptoms suggestive of a new stroke such as slurred speech, new or worse difficulty walking, or increased dizziness or falls. Patients should also seek care if they have worsening pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.


Patients Who Received Recalled Medication Linked to Nationwide Meningitis Outbreak Have Been Notified By Healthcare Facilities

10-05-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced that patients who received medication from any of the three lots recalled by New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass. have been notified by their healthcare providers and are being monitored for symptoms of meningitis that may be linked to the recalled medication.

"HEALTH and these facilities have worked collaboratively to ensure that all patients who received this medication have been notified," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "We deeply appreciate the efforts that these facilities have made to quickly notify patients. HEALTH will continue to closely monitor any patients who received this medication, and to participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation of this outbreak."

Two Rhode Island facilities - Ocean State Pain Management of Woonsocket, and New England Anesthesiology, which has offices in Warwick and East Greenwich - received recalled medication that has been linked to a multi-state outbreak of meningitis following epidural steroid injection.

In total, 190 patients in Rhode Island received the recalled medication. Those patients have been notified both by mailed letter and through phone calls.

Additional lots of the medication, although not linked to the outbreak at this time, have also been recalled.

This type of meningitis is not transmitted from person to person. Only patients who received an epidural steroid injection containing medication from one of these recalled lots should contact their healthcare provider if they experience symptoms such as fever, new symptoms of headache or worsening headache, new stiff neck or sensitivity to light, or symptoms suggestive of a new stroke such as slurred speech, new or worse difficulty walking, or increased dizziness or falls. Patients should also seek care if they have worsening pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.


HEALTH Adopts Regulations to Require Flu Shots for Healthcare Workers in Rhode Island

10-05-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced that it has adopted new amendments to its Rules and Regulations for Immunization and Testing For Healthcare Workers that will make flu immunizations mandatory for all workers, students, trainees and volunteers who may have routinely anticipated face-to-face interaction, also known as "direct contact," with patients at a healthcare facility.

"HEALTH listened closely to all stakeholders and used that feedback to craft amendments that addressed the concerns of healthcare workers and volunteers, while protecting patients from the threat of influenza," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH.

Healthcare workers and volunteers who have a medical reason for not getting a flu shot may obtain a medical exemption from their doctor, licensed physician's assistant or licensed nurse practitioner. This exemption must be renewed annually and submitted to the employing facility by December 15 each year.

Healthcare workers and volunteers who are opposed to having a flu shot but are not medically exempt must submit a form annually by December 15 that states their refusal to be immunized against influenza and indicates their understanding that they are obligated to wear a surgical face mask during each routinely anticipated direct patient contact during any declared period in which the flu is widespread. That determination will be made by the Director of Health, and healthcare facilities will notify all workers that "a period in which flu is widespread" has been declared for the facility.

"Those who care for and interact with patients in a healthcare setting have a duty to protect the health and safety of those for whom they care," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "A flu shot for all those who interact with patients as part of their employment or volunteer efforts at a healthcare facility is the best way to prevent the spread of influenza to some of our state's most vulnerable populations."

These regulations do not apply to patient family members or to friends who visit or otherwise assist in the care of that patient in a healthcare facility.


HEALTH Holds Flu Immunization Clinic at Crossroads Rhode Island

10-25-2012

PROVIDENCE - Michael Fine, MD, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), First Lady Stephanie Chafee and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras were on hand at Crossroads Rhode Island today as HEALTH immunized 77 Crossroads clients and members of the community against influenza.

"Rhode Island is a nationwide leader in immunization against influenza, but it is especially important that the neediest among us are protected," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Those with reduced access to healthcare and everyday resources that can help them stay healthy are at risk for serious complications from the flu."

"We want to get the message out there that every Rhode Islander - whether or not they have health insurance - can get a flu shot," said First Lady Stephanie Chafee. "It is particularly important for those who have limited access to healthcare to get vaccinated and protect themselves and their loved ones from the health risks associated with the flu. Remember: a flu shot does every body good."

Influenza results in approximately 36,000 deaths in the United States every year. In 2011, 178 Rhode Islanders were hospitalized with the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people six months and older be vaccinated against the flu. It is particularly important for healthcare workers, the elderly, pregnant women, and for those with compromised immune systems to be vaccinated.

"There are many Providence residents who don't have health insurance and I want them to realize that there are opportunities here in the city to get a flu shot," said Mayor Taveras. "These clinics are also a helpful reminder to everyone with insurance of how important it is for all of us to get a flu shot every single year."

Crossroads Rhode Island is the largest provider of comprehensive services to the homeless and disconnected in Rhode Island. After responding to the most urgent, immediate needs, Crossroads identifies underlying issues and searches for long-term solutions for its clients.

"We are so fortunate to have the Department of Health, First Lady Stephanie Chafee and Mayor Taveras supporting this flu clinic," said Anne Nolan, president of Crossroads Rhode Island. "Individuals and families experiencing homelessness are facing enough hardships without also catching the flu. Being able to offer them flu shots at no out-of-pocket cost here at Crossroads where they're already accessing other services is so important."


Rhode Islanders with Special Healthcare Needs Urged to Enroll in Special Needs Registry in Advance of Hurricane Sandy

10-26-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) urges those with special healthcare needs to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry in advance of Hurricane Sandy. Enrolling in the Registry does not guarantee assistance, but it does allow local and state emergency officials to plan for, respond to, and care for Rhode Islanders with disabilities, chronic conditions, and other special healthcare needs in an emergency such as a hurricane. HEALTH is working with municipalities to provide as close to real time information as possible in advance of the hurricane.

People who use life-sustaining equipment that need electricity should contact their electricity provider and inform them of specific needs, if they haven't already done so. If shelters do open, those planning to go to a shelter should bring at least a three (3) day supply of medications.

WHO SHOULD ENROLL

Any Rhode Islander, regardless of age, who has a chronic condition, disability, special healthcare need, or may require additional assistance during a time of emergency. These include:

  • Those on home oxygen, a respirator, ventilator, dialysis, pacemaker, or who are insulin dependent;
  • Those with mobility issues: use a wheelchair, walker, or cane;
  • Those who are visually impaired, blind, hard of hearing, or deaf;
  • Those with developmental or mental health disabilities; or
  • Those who use assistive animals or a prosthesis.

HOW TO ENROLL

Visit www.health.ri.gov/emregistry to complete enrollment online, where the information is added into the Registry immediately. A printable form is also available on the website and can be returned by mail.

If you have recently enrolled or updated your information after receiving a letter from HEALTH, there is no need to enroll or update again.

If individuals cannot complete the enrollment form themselves, a family member or caregiver can enroll individuals on their behalf. Strict confidentiality is maintained at all times and only emergency management and response agencies have access to the information in the Registry.


Hurricane Sandy and Private Water Wells

10-26-2012

In advance of Hurricane Sandy, Rhode Islanders with private wells should be aware of two serious, weather-related issues that could affect their water supplies. Significant rainfall can cause wells to flood, potentially contaminating well water. High winds can cause power outages, leaving pumps unable to draw water.

Rhode Islanders who use private wells should take several important steps:

  • BEFORE THE STORM
    • Examine your well and make sure that: the casing and cap have no cracks and are secure. and that the ground around the well slopes away from the well, promoting runoff.
    • Have a fresh water supply for three days for each person and pet in your home.
    • Fill the bathtub(s) with water prior to the storm (for use in flushing toilets and emergency use).
    • Have a fresh bottle of unscented chlorine bleach (to sanitize water, if needed). Water disinfecting instructions should be on the bottle, if not see below.
  • DURING THE STORM
    • If safe to do so, check around your well for flooding and standing water during a storm. If water is around your well, note if it is moving quickly and contains debris. (Water that is moving quickly can loosen well casings). Note if it is possible for water to overtop the well. Consider flipping the circuit breaker for the well until after the storm passes.
  • AFTER THE STORM
    • Conserve your fresh water supply and the bathtub water-it may take days to get power back or to disinfect the well.
    • Re-examine your well and the area around your well.
    • Ensure that the well's casing and cap have no cracks and are still secure.
    • Note the size and amount of debris near your well.
    • If your electricity has been restored, your well is not damaged, and the surrounding area is not flooded, flip the circuit breaker to the well back on.
    • Make sure your water runs cold and clear.
    • If there is a question about whether your water is safe to drink, get your well water tested.

Emergency Chlorination Process

When there is immediate need for safe water, you can use household bleach to disinfect water that you think may not be safe to drink. Check the bottle's label to see what the percentage of chlorine in the bleach. Using the information below, determine the appropriate number of drops to add to your water.

  • 1% chlorine - Use 10 drops per quart of clear water
  • 4 to 6 % chlorine - Use 2 drops per quart of clear water
  • 7 to 10 % chlorine - Use 1 drop per quart of clear water
  • Strength unknown - Use 10 drops per quart of clear water
  • Mix the chlorine into the water and allow it to stand covered for 30 minutes before using. The water should have a mild chlorine smell. If it is too strong, let it stand another 15 minutes without a cover.
  • Double the amount of chlorine if the water is cloudy, colored, or extremely cold.

HEALTH Reminds Rhode Islanders About Hurricane-Related Health and Safety Preparations

10-29-2012

In preparing for the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds Rhode Islanders about several health and safety precautions to take.

Food Safety:

If there is a power outage, perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and soft cheeses can start to grow bacteria that could make people sick. If the power is off for more than two hours or the temperature in the refrigerator is above 40°F, perishable foods might spoil.

HEALTH's Office of Food Protection recommends people do the following before a power outage:

  • Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting.
  • Put a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer.
  • If your freezer is not full, put containers of water in the freezer. (A full freezer will stay cold for a longer period of time.)
  • Write down the time that the power goes out.
  • Avoid opening refrigerator and freezer doors.
  • If the temperature is above 40°F in the refrigerator or freezer, throw away perishable food.
  • If food in the freezer is between 0°F and 40°F, it can be properly cooked and consumed.
  • Do not taste food to check if it has spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • If you are able to cook on a grill, be sure to have your propane tanks filled and/or charcoal on hand. Only operate grills outside.

People With Medical Devices Requiring Electricity:

HEALTH recommends that people with life-sustaining medical equipment requiring electricity (such as a respirator) consider going to a shelter. Those planning to go to a shelter should bring at least a three day supply of medications.

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

HEALTH also reminds Rhode Islanders with Special Healthcare Needs to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry either online or by calling 211.

Prescription Medications:

People should have several days' worth of prescription medications available. If you are unable to access your regular pharmacy to pick up a prescription, you can call the pharmacy and ask to have the prescription transferred to another pharmacy. Major chain pharmacies can contact any individual pharmacy where a prescription was filled and have the prescription transferred to a pharmacy of the patient's choice.

Generator Safety:

If you plan to use a generator to supply power during an outage, be sure to only operate it outdoors. Before operating generators, turn off the main breaker located in your electric service panel


HEALTH Urges People Who Depend on Medical Devices Requiring Electricity to Go to Shelters

10-29-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is now urging people who depend on life-sustaining medical equipment requiring electricity (such as a respirator) to go to a shelter before the heavier winds pick up this afternoon. They should bring at least a three-day supply of medications.

HEALTH also reminds Rhode Islanders with Special Healthcare Needs to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry.


HEALTH Identifies the State's First Case Linked to Nationwide Meningitis Outbreak

10-29-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has identified the state's first meningitis case linked to the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak. The patient, a woman in her forties from Providence County, received a spinal injection at Ocean State Pain Management of Woonsocket on September 22, 2012. She is currently hospitalized and receiving treatment.

Two Rhode Island facilities--Ocean State Pain Management of Woonsocket and New England Anesthesiology, which has offices in Warwick and East Greenwich--received medication from any of three lots recalled by New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Massachusetts. These lots have been linked to a multi-state outbreak of meningitis following epidural steroid injection.

"HEALTH has worked closely with the two facilities who received recalled medication to identify and notify any patients who may have received the medication," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We continue to monitor those patients and to participate in the national investigation conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration."

In total, 266 patients in Rhode Island received the recalled medication. Those patients have been notified both by mailed letter and through phone calls.

Additional lots of the medication, although not linked to the outbreak at this time, have also been recalled.

This type of meningitis is not transmitted from person to person. Only patients who received an epidural steroid injection containing medication from one of these recalled lots should contact their healthcare provider if they experience symptoms such as fever, new symptoms of headache or worsening headache, new stiff neck or sensitivity to light, or symptoms suggestive of a new stroke such as slurred speech, new or worse difficulty walking, or increased dizziness or falls. Patients should also seek care if they have worsening pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.

For more information on the national outbreak, visit http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/outbreaks/meningitis.html. For more information on the recall, see the Food and Drug Administration website at http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm322752.htm


Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Issued for Seven Water Systems Due to Low or No Pressure

10-31-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing cautionary boil water advisories for the following water systems as a result of loss of system pressure:

Charlestown:

* Castle Rock Condominiums, 401-463-8448

* Carousel Marketplace, 401-578-4171

* Charlestown Commons, 401-364-3388

* Lakeview LLC and Charlestown Early Learning Center, 203-650-3558

Chepachet: Chimera Inc., 401-783-4538

Exeter: Shady Acres, Inc., 401-295-8520

Glocester: The Village on Chopmist Hill, 401-849-7442

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.

The water systems have experienced low or no water pressure, which can affect water quality and safety. Low or no pressure makes a water system vulnerable to contamination, inviting bacteria and other contaminants. 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. Customers of the affected water systems are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.


HEALTH Identifies Rhode Island's Second Case of Illness Linked to Nationwide Meningitis Outbreak

11-01-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has identified the state's second case of illness linked to the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak. The patient, a woman in her sixties from Lincoln, received spinal injections at Ocean State Pain Management on August 31, 2012 and September 21, 2012. She received treatment at an area hospital and is recovering.

Two Rhode Island facilities?Ocean State Pain Management of Woonsocket and New England Anesthesiology, which has offices in Warwick and East Greenwich?received medication from any of three lots recalled by New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Massachusetts. These lots have been linked to a multi-state outbreak of meningitis following epidural steroid injection.

"HEALTH continues to work closely with these facilities and the entire healthcare community to ensure that any patient who develops symptoms related to this outbreak gets early and immediate definitive care," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "We are monitoring this situation and continuing to participate in the national investigation being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration."

In total, 266 patients in Rhode Island received the recalled medication. Those patients have been notified both by mailed letter and through phone calls.

Additional lots of the medication, although not linked to the outbreak at this time, have also been recalled.

This type of meningitis is not transmitted from person to person. Only patients who received an epidural steroid injection containing medication from one of these recalled lots should contact their healthcare provider if they experience symptoms such as fever, new symptoms of headache or worsening headache, new stiff neck or sensitivity to light, or symptoms suggestive of a new stroke such as slurred speech, new or worse difficulty walking, or increased dizziness or falls. Patients should also seek care if they have worsening pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.

For more information on the national outbreak, visit http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/outbreaks/meningitis.html. For more information on the recall, see the Food and Drug Administration website at http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm322752.htm


Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Issued for 12 Additional Water Systems Due to Low or No Pressure

11-01-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing cautionary boil water advisories for the following 12 water systems as a result of loss of system pressure:

Charlestown:

* The Corner Deli, 2 Charlestown Beach Road, 401-792-3861

* Cumberland Farms Store #1262, 508-270-1493

* Indian Cedar Mobile Home Park, 12 Foxtrot Drive, 401-728-4631

* Michael's Shell Station, 5860 Post Road, 401-332-1881

Exeter:

* South County Business Park, 567 S. County Trail, Suite 111, 401-295-0300

* Wolf Rock Country Kitchen, Inc., 806 S. County Trail, 401-294-4251

Foster:

* Abbey Lane Community Association, Inc., 6 Abbey Lane, 401-647-2729

Hopkinton:

* Hopkinton Industrial Park, LLC, 15 Gray Lane, 860-460-4820

Little Compton:

* Stone House Club, 122 Sakonnet Point Road, 401-635-2222

North Smithfield:

* Cumberland Farms Store #1274, 800-452-0333

Richmond:

* Dunkin' Donuts, 418 Kingston Road, 401-440-6850

Wakefield:

* YMCA Camp Fuller, 619 Camp Fuller Road, 401-783-5359

Yesterday, HEALTH issued advisories to seven other water systems due to low or no pressure, bringing the total to 19 water systems with boil water advisories.

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.

The water systems have experienced low or no water pressure, which can affect water quality and safety. Low or no pressure makes a water system vulnerable to contamination, inviting bacteria and other contaminants. 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. Customers of the affected water systems are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.


HEALTH and DEM Lift Public Health Advisories Related to Cyanobacteria Blooms on All Affected RI Ponds

11-02-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announce that contact with and recreational activities on ponds affected by the public health advisories issued in response to cyanobacteria blooms may now be resumed.

In all, 19 surface water bodies were affected by cyanobacteria blooms during this past summer. They include Mashapaug Pond and Roger Williams Park Ponds in Providence; J.L. Curran Reservoir and Blackamore Pond in Cranston; Melville Ponds, Sisson Pond, and St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth; Bailey Brook, Easton Pond North and Easton Pond South, Gardiner Pond, and Paradise Pond in Middletown; Almy Pond in Newport; Watson Pond in Little Compton; Scott Pond in Lincoln; and Slack Reservoir in Smithfield and Johnston; Barber Pond in South Kingstown; and Pasquisset Pond in Charlestown. With the exception of Melville Ponds, recreational activity may be restricted on the affected ponds located in Middletown and Portsmouth, as these water bodies are sources to the Newport public water supply system.

Although cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths combine to produce conditions generally unfavorable to algae growth, HEALTH and DEM warn that blue-green algae blooms may still be evident in some freshwater lakes and ponds throughout the state. People are advised to continue to avoid contact with waters that 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.

Blue-green algae, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. These 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 may include stomachache, 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 experience these symptoms and have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in waters with a suspected cyanobacteria bloom should contact their healthcare provider. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with potentially affected waters should contact their veterinarian. People that come into contact with potentially affected waters should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, and wash their clothes.


Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Lifted for Six Water Systems

11-02-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the cautionary boil water advisories issued earlier this week to the following water systems:

  • Cumberland Farms #1262, Charlestown
  • Cumberland Farms #1274, North Smithfield
  • Shady Acres Nursing Home, Exeter
  • Chimera, Chepachet
  • Hopkinton Industrial Park, Hopkinton
  • Stone House, Little Compton

The water system operators have corrected the problems and the water from these water systems is safe to use and consume.


Four Additional Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Lifted for Water Systems

11-05-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the cautionary boil water advisories issued last week to the following four water systems:

  • The Corner Deli and Charlestown Commons, both in Charlestown;
  • South County Business Park in Exeter;
  • Dunkin' Donuts, 418 Kingston Road in Richmond.

The water system operators have corrected the problems and the water from these water systems is safe to use and consume.


HEALTH Identifies Rhode Island's Third Case of Illness Linked to Nationwide Meningitis Outbreak

11-05-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has identified the state's third case of illness linked to the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak. The patient, a male in his fifties from Warwick, received a spinal epidural injection at Ocean State Pain Management on September 22, 2012 from one of the three contaminated lots. The patient sought care at an area hospital today and is being treated.

Two Rhode Island facilities - Ocean State Pain Management, with offices in Woonsocket and East Greenwich, and New England Anesthesiologists of Warwick - received medication from any of three lots recalled by New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Massachusetts. These lots have been linked to a multi-state outbreak of meningitis following epidural steroid injection. Additional lots of the medication, although not linked to the outbreak at this time, have also been recalled.

In total, 266 patients in Rhode Island received the recalled medication. Those patients have been notified both by mailed letter and through phone calls.

HEALTH continues to work with the facilities and to monitor this situation in Rhode Island as part of the national investigation.

This type of meningitis is not transmitted from person to person. Only patients who received an epidural steroid injection containing medication from one of these recalled lots should contact their healthcare provider if they experience symptoms such as fever, new symptoms of headache or worsening headache, new stiff neck or sensitivity to light, or symptoms suggestive of a new stroke such as slurred speech, new or worse difficulty walking, or increased dizziness or falls. Patients should also seek care if they have worsening pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.

For more information on the national outbreak, visit http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/outbreaks/meningitis.html. For more information on the recall, see the Food and Drug Administration website at http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm322752.htm


Three Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Lifted for Water Systems

11-07-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the cautionary boil water advisories issued last week to the following three water systems:

  • Castle Rock Condominiums, Charlestown;
  • Indian Cedar Mobile Home Park, Charlestown;
  • Abby Lane Community Association, Inc., Foster.

The water system operators have corrected the problems and the water from these water systems is safe to use and consume.


Two Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Lifted for Water Systems in Wake of Hurricane Sandy; Four Advisories Remain

11-08-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the cautionary boil water advisories issued last week to two Charlestown-based water systems. Michael's Shell Station on Post Road and Lakeview LLC dba Charlestown Early Learning Center on Old Post Road have corrected the problems and the water from these water systems is safe to use and consume.

A total of 19 water systems were issued cautionary boil water advisories following Hurricane Sandy due to low or no pressure in their systems. Low or no pressure makes a water system vulnerable to contamination, inviting bacteria and other contaminants.

Four water systems still have cautionary boil water advisories in effect. They are:

* Carousel Marketplace, Charlestown;

* Wolf Rock Country Kitchen, Exeter;

* The Village on Chopmist Hill, Glocester;

* YMCA Camp Fuller, Wakefield.

The water systems are working with HEALTH to correct the problems as soon as possible.


One Cautionary Boil Water Advisory Lifted for Water System in Exeter in Wake of Hurricane Sandy; Three Advisories Remain in Effect in Rhode Island

11-09-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the cautionary boil water advisory issued last week to an Exeter-based water system. Wolf Rock Country Kitchen, 806 South County Trail, has corrected the problem and the water from this water system is safe to use and consume.

A total of 19 water systems were issued cautionary boil water advisories following Hurricane Sandy due to low or no pressure in their systems. Low or no pressure makes a water system vulnerable to contamination, inviting bacteria and other contaminants.

Three water systems still have cautionary boil water advisories in effect. They are:

* Carousel Marketplace, Charlestown;

* The Village on Chopmist Hill, Glocester;

* YMCA Camp Fuller, Wakefield.

The water systems are working with HEALTH to correct the problems as soon as possible.


Rhode Island Municipalities to Hold Vaccination Clinics

11-09-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) will exercise its public health preparedness plans with several cities and towns by opening public vaccination clinics. Vaccinations against pertussis (whooping cough), seasonal influenza, and pneumonia will be offered at cities and towns throughout Rhode Island, with the first clinic beginning tomorrow, November 10.

"I encourage all Rhode Islanders to see their primary care physician for the vaccinations they need," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "But these public clinics are a great opportunity for those who may not have a primary care doctor to catch up on their vaccinations, as well as for our cities and towns to test their ability to run a public vaccination clinic."

While there is no current outbreak of any illness in the state, a vaccinated public is the best way to prevent the spread of emerging illnesses.

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine prevents pertussis. Pertussis is a contagious disease that can cause illness and sometimes death, especially in infants. Everyone over the age of 11 should receive this vaccine at least once in their lifetime. Infants especially are at high risk for hospitalization and severe illness so anyone who is in close contact with an infant should get a Tdap shot. Additionally, a booster dose of Tdap is required for students before they enter seventh grade. Students who participate in the clinic will meet a vaccination requirement for seventh grade enrollment. Pregnant women must be at least 20 weeks into their pregnancy to receive Tdap vaccine.

Influenza vaccine will help people avoid the flu this year. Seasonal flu is dangerous to the very young and the elderly. The flu hits Rhode Island hardest in January and February every year. Everyone aged six months and older can receive a flu shot.

Pneumococcal vaccine prevents pneumonia and is recommended for adults 65 years and older, and for adults 19 years and older with chronic illness (such as heart and lung disease), and especially smokers and people with asthma.

There is no out-of pocket cost for any of the vaccinations and health insurance is not a requirement. Anyone who is insured should bring his or her insurance card. Tdap, influenza, and pneumococcal vaccinations continue to be available at primary care physician practices.


Survey shows Rhode Island is ready for smoke-free outdoor areas

11-14-2012

A recent survey conducted by the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and a handful of community partner organizations shows an increased demand for smoke-free outdoor areas throughout Rhode Island. More than 900 Rhode Island residents were asked to rate how supportive they would be if different outdoor areas such as beaches, parks, playgrounds, and sports and recreational venues no longer allowed smoking. Overall, the results-including those from many smokers- favored such bans.

"Smoke-free outdoor areas would not only protect public health, but also reduce cigarette litter, decrease the risk of fire, send a positive message to kids, and create supportive environments for smokers to finally kick the habit," said Director of HEALTH Michael Fine, MD.

A number of communities have already taken steps to adopt smoke-free outdoor air policies. Last month Central Falls passed an ordinance banning smoking on school grounds, playgrounds, parks, and public events involving youth, families, and seniors. Similarly, Woonsocket recently celebrated their first smoke-free Autumnfest and Charlestown has banned smoking on their town beaches.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), governmental and nongovernmental organizations are encouraged to redouble their efforts to make environment more conducive to quitting than continuing to use tobacco. As more places become smoke-free, it's important that smokers are supported in their attempts to quit, when and if they are motivated. The American Cancer Society's 37th annual Great American Smokeout provides a great opportunity for smokers to get the help they need.

"The Great American Smokeout encourages smokers to commit to making a long-term plan to quit smoking for good," said Susan Roberts, State Director of Government Relations and Advocacy at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "Local smokers are encouraged to call the Smokers' Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit Cancer.org/smokeout for tips and tools to help you quit."


Cautionary Boil Water Advisory Lifted for One Charlestown Water System in Wake of Hurricane Sandy; Two Advisories Remain in Effect in Rhode Island

11-14-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the cautionary boil water advisory issued after Hurricane Sandy to a Charlestown-based water system. Carousel Marketplace has corrected the problem and the water from this water system is safe to use and consume.

A total of 19 water systems were issued cautionary boil water advisories following Hurricane Sandy due to low or no pressure in their systems. Low or no pressure makes a water system vulnerable to contamination, inviting bacteria and other contaminants.

Cautionary boil water advisories for two water systems remain in effect. They are:

* The Village on Chopmist Hill, Glocester;

* YMCA Camp Fuller, Wakefield.

The water systems are working with HEALTH to correct the problems as soon as possible.


Governor Chafee proclaims November 14 World Diabetes Day in Rhode Island

11-14-2012

PROVIDENCE - Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today joined Michael Fine, MD, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), and other diabetes educators at a ceremony at the Rhode Island State House proclaiming November 14 World Diabetes Day in Rhode Island.

The event, attended by representatives from dozens of organizations that provide programs and resources to prevent and control diabetes, was held in conjunction with Diabetes Day events taking place across the globe to raise awareness about this chronic disease.

"Diabetes is a significant health challenge for many Rhode Islanders," said Governor Chafee. "But the spirit of collaboration that we saw today between doctors, patients, insurance companies, members of the public workforce, and many more bodes well for our fight against diabetes and getting all Rhode Islanders on the path to healthy living."

The four calls to action for World Diabetes Day in Rhode Island were prevent, detect, control, and unite.

"Diabetes is a serious disease, but the good news is that it is both preventable and controllable," said Dr. Fine. "Diabetes can be prevented through changes in diet and exercise, and controlled through diet, exercise and sometimes, medication. The complications of diabetes can be prevented through good primary care, including reminders to quit smoking, get regular eye examinations, lose weight and test your blood sugar regularly."

Approximately 20 million Americans, or 8.3% of the country's population, suffer from diabetes. In Rhode Island, 7.4% of adults 18 years of age and older - or 62,000 residents - have been diagnosed with diabetes. Estimates place the actual number of Rhode Islanders with diabetes closer to 12% of the state's population, when the number of undiagnosed diabetics is considered.

In Rhode Island, $722 million annually is spent on direct healthcare cost for adults with diabetes. When indirect costs associated with lost productivity and premature mortality are factored in, the total costs of diabetes soars even higher.

Rhode Island's World Diabetes Day event was co-sponsored by the YMCA of Greater Providence, the American Diabetes Association, AARP Rhode Island, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.


HEALTH celebrates National Rural Health Day with new report on health strengths and challenges in rural RI

11-14-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today released its new 2012 report, "The Health of Rhode Island Non-Metropolitan Communities," and presented eight Rural Health Champion Awards during an event celebrating National Rural Health Day at the North Scituate Community House.

"This year's data confirms what we know to be true about rural communities - they are resilient places where people come together to take care of one another," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "But rural communities continue to face their own unique healthcare challenges, such as access to care through primary care providers."

HEALTH's report highlights updated data on diversity, poverty levels and health insurance rates in rural communities, as well as usage rates of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. New data, included for the first time this year, looks at bullying rates in non-metropolitan communities.

In addition to releasing its report, HEALTH also honored eight "rural health champions" during the event. They include Kobad Malesra, DDS; Andrea Marcotte, MSN, FNP, GNP; Janet McLinden, MEd, SAC; Mary Mumford-Haley, CNM, RNP; Shawna Zincone, BS; Robert D. Maltz, MD, FAAP; S. Scott Mueller, MSW; and Susan Jacobsen, MA, LMHC.

Rhode Island's non-metropolitan communities include Burrillville, Foster, Glocester, Scituate, Coventry, West Greenwich, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, New Shoreham, Richmond, Westerly, Jamestown, Little Compton, Portsmouth and Tiverton. To access the 2012 report, visit http://health.ri.gov/publications/reports/2012HealthOfRhodeIslandNonMetropolitanCommunities.pdf


Cautionary Boil Water Advisory Lifted for One Glocester Water System; One Advisory Remains in Effect in Rhode Island Following Hurricane Sandy

11-20-2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the cautionary boil water advisory issued after Hurricane Sandy to a Glocester-based water system. The Village on Chopmist Hill has corrected the problem and the water from this water system is safe to use and consume.

A total of 19 water systems were issued a cautionary boil water advisory following Hurricane Sandy due to low or no pressure in their systems. Low or no pressure makes a water system vulnerable to contamination, inviting bacteria and other contaminants.

A cautionary boil water advisory remains in effect for YMCA Camp Fuller in Wakefield. The water system is working with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.


HEALTH Commends RIC for Smoke-Free Policy

11-21-2012

Michael Fine, MD, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today presented the Rhode Island College (RIC) School of Nursing with HEALTH's smoke-free policy award for its new policy banning the use of all tobacco products for nursing school students while on campus and while off campus in RIC Nursing School uniform. The award, presented at RIC's Fogarty Life Science building, honors the School of Nursing for its role as the first college in the state to implement such a ban.

"Nurses have higher smoking rates than all other healthcare professionals," said Dr. Fine. "The passage of this policy is a positive step toward reducing smoking rates among this group. This decision shows leadership that translates into a healthier environment for students and sets an example for all peers and colleagues."

The RIC Student Nurses Association played an instrumental role in the passage of the no-smoking policy. Following a senior class public policy presentation regarding secondhand smoke, members of the group noticed that the School of Nursing lacked a tobacco policy and have since worked with the administration to bring about the current ban.

"As nursing students, it is our role to be positive tobacco-free role models for our patients and peers alike," said Ericka Samoorian, president of the RIC Student Nurses Association. "Our policy also helps give us a competitive edge in the job market, as many employers are already excluding smokers from the hiring process."


HEALTH Urges Flu Shots for Rhode Islanders As Number of Influenza Illnesses Increases

12-05-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is urging all Rhode Islanders who are able to be immunized against flu to get a flu shot, as the number of influenza cases has begun to increase at both the local and national levels. HEALTH reports that influenza activity has been upgraded from sporadic to local (more widespread) in Rhode Island, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported significant increases in flu activity throughout the U.S. during the last two weeks.

"National monitoring by the CDC tells us that an early flu season has begun, and that flu-like illness levels nationwide are already higher than all of last season," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "We've also seen increased flu activity in Rhode Island, but the good news for Rhode Islanders is that it's not too late to protect yourself and your family from influenza by getting immunized against flu."

Vaccines are one of the best ways to prevent the flu, and to avoid spreading it to people at high risk of flu-related complications. Flu vaccine is generally recommended for people ages six months and older. It is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, people over the age of 50, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, blood disorders, or weakened immune systems to be immunized against flu. In particular, those who live with or care for those who are at high risk of flu-related complications should also be immunized.

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

Immunizations are available throughout Rhode Island, including through your primary care provider, at flu vaccination clinics, and at local pharmacies.


HEALTH Declares Flu to Be Widespread in Rhode Island

12-06-2012

PROVIDENCE - Michael Fine, MD, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), has issued a Declaration of Widespread Flu Incidence Statewide. This declaration triggers Rhode Island's new regulations requiring all healthcare workers who have not been immunized against influenza to wear a surgical mask during all times of direct patient contact.

"Flu is here in Rhode Island, and all signs indicate that this flu season is expected to be more severe than those in recent past," said Dr. Fine. "We encourage all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves and those around them by being immunized against influenza. Our healthcare workers have an obligation to protect those they care for by getting immunized or wearing a mask as required by the Department of Health's regulations."

"Direct patient contact" is defined as routinely anticipated face-to-face contact with patients, such as when entering a patient's room, serving food to patients or participating in group patient activities.

Vaccines are one of the best ways to prevent the flu, and to avoid spreading it to people at high risk of flu-related complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year's flu vaccine is well matched to the current strain of influenza (H3N2). HEALTH is urging all Rhode Islanders to be immunized this week for maximum protection against illness. In addition, HEALTH urges all healthcare workers and healthcare facilities to encourage hand washing and continue infection control measures.

Flu vaccine is generally recommended for people ages six months and older. It is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, people over the age of 50, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, blood disorders, or weakened immune systems to be immunized against flu. In particular, those who live with or care for those who are at high risk of flu-related complications should also be immunized.

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

Immunizations are available throughout Rhode Island, including through your primary care provider, at flu vaccination clinics, and at local pharmacies.

For more information about influenza or to find a vaccination clinic near you, visit www.health.ri.gov/flu


HEALTH Announces 'Say Yes to the Test' World AIDS Day Video Contest Winners

12-10-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced the teen winners and finalists of its inaugural "Say Yes to the Test" video ad contest. Zoe Prescott and Bomina Belden, who co-produced their 30-second video for a class project at Westerly High School, won First Place following a final round of competition judged by peers and a representative from HEALTH at the annual World AIDS Day Red Ribbon Rally held recently at the MET School in Providence.

HEALTH and Project Reach co-sponsored the annual youth rally, which also involved many community partners. HEALTH plans to incorporate the winning submission into a statewide campaign to promote routine testing for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and crucial prevention measures.

Prescott and Belden produced a live stop-action video public service announcement that emphasized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 20% of the 1.1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV today do not know they have it and risk infecting others. The video encouraged routine testing so that those who know they are HIV-positive can help prevent spreading the disease through prevention practices.

Second-place winners Mike Heiberger and Austin Cilley, also from Westerly High School, were also honored during the event. Their video portrayed a nurse encouraging a patient to get tested for HIV and explaining how simple the test is.

To view the "Say Yes to the Test" winning video ads, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J6cfFeOd04&list=PLS35A8sS2cgbEGdYJt_ynuuV9dDyCxNxy&index=1

"We applaud our talented young videomakers and are excited to share their important messages about HIV testing with all Rhode Islanders," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Involving young people in this discussion is a critical step in stopping the spread of HIV in Rhode Island. It's important for all generations to get tested and know their status."

HIV can spread from anyone infected through sexual activity or intravenous drug use. HEALTH's goal is reducing new HIV transmissions in Rhode Island to zero. More than 2,000 Rhode Islanders were known to be living with HIV as of 2011, with many more Rhode Islanders infected yet unaware of their status. If left untreated, the infection is more easily spread and can progress to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the final stage of HIV, which causes severe damage to the immune system.

Testing sites for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases can be found throughout the state. Some testing sites offer free or low-cost services, and some offer anonymous testing that use a unique identifier instead of the person's name. All services are confidential for all patients. For more information, visit: www.health.ri.gov/find/hivtestingsites

Learn more about HEALTH's strategies for reducing HIV transmission in Rhode Island to zero, as well as its programs for HIV prevention and care, at http://www.health.ri.gov/programs/hivaidsandviralhepatitis/


Rhode Island Named 10th Healthiest State in U.S.

12-14-2012

PROVIDENCE - Rhode Island is the 10th healthiest state in the nation, according to the recently-released America's Health Rankings"-2012 edition report. Rhode Island's status jumped three spots in the new rankings, up from 13th place last year.

According to the report, the state's strengths include its high immunization coverage and ready availability of primary care physicians.

"We applaud our partners and the primary care community for helping to make Rhode Island a healthy and safe place to live, learn, work, and play," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "We are pleased by these steps forward for Rhode Island's health, but we are also reminded of the work that will help us get to number one."

That work will include addressing Rhode Island's health challenges, which, according to the report, include a high prevalence of binge drinking and preventable hospitalizations. In addition, Rhode Islanders report many days of poor mental and physical health per month.

The state health rankings include statewide population health indicators, as well as information on health disparities among different groups. In Rhode Island, both obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, which is defined as not doing any physical activity outside of work for the last 30 days, are more prevalent among non-Hispanic blacks (35.7% and 35.2%, respectively) than non-Hispanic whites (24.7% and 23.3%). Smoking, meanwhile, is more prevalent among non-Hispanic whites than Hispanics. These data highlight the importance of involving communities in developing and implementing targeted efforts to improve public health.

America's Health Rankings" is the longest-running report of its kind. For 23 years, these rankings have provided an analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis, evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings. For more information, visit www.americashealthrankings.org

For specific data about public health in Rhode Island, visit www.health.ri.gov/data


HEALTH Opens Public Comment Period on Slater Compassion Center's Request to Change Location

12-14-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has received a request to change location from the Slater Compassion Center, one of the three approved Compassion Center applicants in Rhode Island.

As per HEALTH's Rules and Regulations Pertaining to the Medical Marijuana Program, members of the public may comment on this proposed change, which can be viewed at http://www.health.ri.gov/healthcare/medicalmarijuana/about/compassioncenters/index.php, during the two-week public comment period.

The comment period will close on January 2, 2013.


HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Certain Products Produced by Farmstead Inc. of Providence

12-14-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat certain products produced by Farmstead Inc. of 186 Wayland Ave. in Providence. Certain food items purchased from the Farmstead Inc. retail shop or through www.farmsteadinc.com are being voluntarily recalled due to food safety concerns.

HEALTH inspectors initiated an investigation after receiving a tip. No illnesses associated with these products have been reported at this time.

The recalled food products were produced without the required controls to prevent the production of the toxin that causes botulism and the growth of listeria. Ingestion of botulinum toxin from improperly processed foods can lead to serious illness and death.

Among the recalled products are jarred vegetables (8 or 16 oz. Ball jars), including carrots, beets, eggplant, zucchini, pickles, tomato jam. In addition, meat products, including chicken liver mousse and pork rillettes (4 oz. jars), produced by Farmstead Inc. are being voluntarily recalled because they may have been improperly processed, making them susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum. These jars have a screw-on metal lid with the name of the product, but do not contain production or date codes.

Certain soft and semi-soft cheeses, raw milk cheeses, goat cheeses, and any cheeses that are labeled "Keep Refrigerated" and were sold at room temperature in the retail store are also being recalled.

D'Artagnan salami (labeled "Keep Refrigerated") and Proscuitto, salamis, Liverwurst, p't's, and other meats processed at the store are also being recalled because they were improperly processed.

Consumers who have any of these recalled products at home should discard them or return them to the store.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products and experiences abdominal cramps; difficulty breathing, speaking or swallowing; double vision; muscle weakness; muscle aches; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; or fever should contact their healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and treatment. The young, elderly, those with chronic conditions, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to foodborne illness.

Visit http://www.health.ri.gov/foodprotection/about/illness/for more information about foodborne illness.


HEALTH Commends Public Housing Authorities For Going Smoke Free

12-19-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recently recognized 16 of the state's 25 public housing authorities for implementing smoking bans in their units - an important step in combating potential exposures to second-hand smoke that were highlighted in a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 16 public housing authorities that have implemented bans include Bristol, Burrillville, Central Falls, Cranston, Cumberland, Lincoln, Newport, Portsmouth, Providence, Smithfield, South Kingstown, Warren, Warwick, West Warwick, Westerly, and Woonsocket.

An estimated 27 to 29 million Americans living in multi-unit housing are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke in their homes, even though they don't allow smoking in their own homes, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, is the first to report national and state estimates of the number of multi-unit housing residents who are exposed to second-hand smoke that entered their homes from somewhere else in or around their buildings.

"I congratulate all of the public housing authorities that have passed smoke-free policies in their facilities," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. Adopting such policies shows leadership that not only translates into a healthier environment for tenants and staff, but also sets an example for other multi-unit housing agencies throughout the state."

The CDC study found that of the 79.2 million people in the U.S. who live in multi-unit housing, about 62.7 million don't allow smoking in their home. In Rhode Island, approximately 374,942 individuals live in multi-unit housing, with an estimated 128,000 to 135,000 potentially exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke that originated from somewhere else in or around their buildings.

Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposure of non-smokers to second-hand smoke. Each year, second-hand smoke is responsible for an estimated 50,000 deaths in the United States.

HEALTH launched www.livesmokefree.ri.gov earlier this year to serve as a resource for public and private housing authorities, property owners, and tenants who are interested in smoke-free policy adoption. More than half of the state's public housing authorities have already taken advantage of these resources.


Get Immunized Against Influenza To Protect Yourself and Your Family

12-19-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders that it is not too late to be vaccinated against influenza. The declaration of widespread flu incidence in Rhode Island, issued by the Director of Health on Dec. 5, 2012, remains in effect.

"We continue to see a steady increase in the number of hospitalizations for influenza in Rhode Island," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "We expect that influenza cases may continue to rise during the next few weeks, but the good news for all Rhode Islanders is that there is still time to be immunized against this year's strain of illness."

Rhode Island is currently seeing an average of six flu-related hospitalizations per day, Dr. Fine said, adding that approximately 9% of emergency room visits during the past week have been for influenza-like illness.

Flu vaccine is generally recommended for people ages six months and older. It is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, people over the age of 50, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, blood disorders, or weakened immune systems to be immunized against flu. In particular, those who live with or care for those who are at high risk of flu-related complications should also be immunized.

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

Immunizations are available throughout Rhode Island, including through your primary care provider, at flu vaccination clinics, and at local pharmacies.

For more information about influenza or to find a vaccination clinic near you, visit www.health.ri.gov/flu


National Organization Names Three R.I. Physicians 'Public Health Heroes'

12-20-2012

PROVIDENCE - The Association of State and Health Territorial Officials (ASTHO) has designated three Rhode Island physicians as "Public Health Heroes." The three designees - Gary Bubly, Josiah D. Rich and Peter Simon - were nominated for this distinction by the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH).

"Each of these three doctors brings a high degree of dedication and professionalism to his public health work," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "They are examples of the great resource that is Rhode Island's primary care and medical community, as well as examples of how much progress can be made through the partnership of primary care and public health."

Gary Bubly, MD, FACEP, is director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at The Miriam Hospital and is a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine and medicine at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University. HEALTH nominated Dr. Bubly for his assistance in writing regulatory language regarding emergency dispensing of medications from emergency rooms and for his assistance in developing the state's legislation on its new Prescription Monitoring Program.

Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH, is professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University and an attending physician at The Miriam Hospital. HEALTH nominated Dr. Rich for his work in advocating for health policy changes to improve the health of people with addiction, including improving legal access to sterile syringes and increasing drug treatment for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated populations.

Peter Simon, MD, MPH, is the medical director of the Division of Community, Family Health, and Equity at HEALTH. HEALTH nominated Dr. Simon for his work as a national leader in the areas of childhood lead poisoning prevention, newborn screening, and environmental health, and for his passion and commitment to public health.

The United Health Foundation (UHF), with the help of ASTHO, has posted a list of public health heroes who serve as examples of the important work public health professionals carry out in our communities and across the United States. These individuals were included in press releases and announcements in coordination with the release of the 2012 edition of UHF's America's Health Rankings.


HEALTH launches personal story campaign to encourage smokers to quit

12-28-2012

In honor of the New Year, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is encouraging smokers to quit in 2013 with the launch of its new smoking cessation campaign, "Tobacco Made Me." The new campaign, which showcases personal stories from Rhode Islanders whose lives have been negatively impacted by smoking and tobacco use, is designed to motivate current smokers to call the state's quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

"Quitting smoking is tough, but the more times that a smoker tries to quit, the more likely he or she is to ultimately be successful," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Smokers should know that services to help them quit are available and that HEALTH supports them in making a commitment to kick the habit. We are up against $10 billion of tobacco marketing money, but working together, we can help Rhode Island's remaining smokers to quit."

The new campaign is modeled after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) national "Tips from Former Smokers Campaign," which used ex-smokers' personal stories to increase quitline calls in other states by up to four times the normal volume.

HEALTH has launched a new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TobaccoMadeMe that includes video interviews with Rhode Islanders sharing their personal stories of overcoming nicotine addiction. The page will also be a community space where all Rhode Islanders can share their stories and support each other in their efforts to quit smoking. The videos have also been added to www.Quitnowri.com.

A series of bus, radio, and print advertisements featuring quotes from each personal story will assist in raising campaign awareness. "Tobacco Made Me" will run through February, 2013.


13 Ways to Stay Well in 2013

12-31-2012

Resolve today to make 2013 a year of better health.

State Director of Health Michael Fine, MD encourages Rhode Islanders to make health and wellness a priority in 2013. "The new year is a great time to focus on improving your health and that of your loved ones," said Fine. "You don't need to make drastic changes all at once. Choose something important to you, set realistic goals, and resolve to make at least one small change today." Below are several steps Rhode Islanders can take to get and stay well in the coming year.

1. Have and use a primary care (family) doctor. Primary care doctors include family physicians, pediatricians, and internists. Care is best provided in a continuous manner with the same healthcare provider or patient-centered medical home, where many healthcare providers work as a team. Visit www.health.ri.gov/find/healthservices to find primary care services for people with low incomes or limited access to health insurance.

2. Get your flu shot. Doctors say that everyone older than six months of age should get a flu shot now. Flu vaccine is the most effective protection against the flu. For those who are vaccinated but still get the flu, vaccine shortens the duration of the illness and makes symptoms less severe. It also lessens the chance that the infected person will spread the flu to others. Flu vaccine will help you stay active and at work and will help you avoid visits to the doctor and trips to the hospital in 2013.

3. Only take prescription medications that are prescribed to you by a healthcare professional-preferably only by your primary care doctor. Never share or sell your prescription drugs. Keep all prescription medicines (especially prescription painkillers) in a safe place that can only be reached by people who are prescribed to take them. Dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs. Do not use medications unless you really need them.

4. Spend time with family and friends and get to know people in your community to build your social support system. If you are depressed or if life seems overwhelming, reach out for help. If you are pregnant or have young children, request a free home visit to get answers to questions and connect with community-based resources. Visit www.health.ri.gov/homevisiting to see how.

5. Get regular exercise. Keep moving each day. Set 30 to 60 minutes aside each day for some type of aerobic or strength training activity. By enlisting the help of a friend, you can make yourself accountable to someone, which can give you the support you need to stick to your work out routine. Find other small ways to include physical activity in your day, such as taking the stairs.

6. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Add more fruits and vegetables, fish, and fiber-rich whole grains into your diet, and limit calories, sodium, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Visit www.health.ri.gov/eatsmart for tips on eating smarter in the new year.

7. Drink tap water. Providence water is ranked number two in the nation in water quality. Water helps keep your temperature normal, lubricates and cushions joints, protects your spinal cord, and helps your body remove waste. Fill a reusable bottle with tap water and drink throughout the day when you are thirsty and at meals. Choose water when you eat out to reduce calories.

8. Quit smoking. The more times a smoker tries to quit, the more likely he or she will succeed. Visit www.quitnowri.com or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to learn how the Department of Health and other Rhode Islanders can help you quit smoking today.

9. Get screened for colorectal, breast, and cervical cancer. Talk with your primary care provider to choose screening tests that are right for you. In general, you should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50. Women should discuss when to begin breast and cervical cancer screening with their doctors.

10. Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol. Have your blood pressure checked regularly by your primary care provider and have your blood tested for cholesterol levels. Talk with your doctor about when to have your cholesterol checked and how to reduce your risk for heart disease.

11. Get screened for diabetes. Discuss diabetes screening with your doctor. In general, screening is recommended for people with risk factors for diabetes. These include high blood sugar, being older than 45, having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, not exercising regularly, and having high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

12. Get tested for HIV. Everyone should get tested for HIV. Know your status and help stop the spread of HIV in Rhode Island. To find an HIV testing site near you, visit www.health.ri.gov/find/hivtestingsites

13. Make sure your family members and friends get their flu shots. Flu shots are the best way to keep your entire household safe. Even the healthy members of your family can get the flu and spread it to people in your family who can get very sick, including pregnant women, senior citizens, and babies. Flu shots are especially important at this time of year, when the flu hits Rhode Island the hardest.