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It's Not Too Late to Get Your Flu Shot

01-02-2013

PROVIDENCE - With Rhode Island now in peak flu season and flu-related hospitalization rates climbing throughout the state, the Rhode Island Department of Health reminds all Rhode Islanders that it is not too late to be vaccinated against influenza."Influenza usually hits Rhode Island the hardest in January and February. This year, flu has been widespread in Rhode Island since early December, which means we could be facing one of the harshest flu seasons we have seen in years," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Anyone older than six months of age who has not been vaccinated against the flu should be vaccinated as soon as possible. By getting your flu shot, you are protecting yourself and your loved ones by helping to prevent the spread of the flu."

Dr. Fine declared influenza to be widespread in Rhode Island on Dec. 5, 2012, and this declaration remains in effect. The state is currently seeing approximately 14 flu-related hospitalizations per day and approximately 9% of emergency room visits during the past week have been for influenza-like illness. Rhode Islanders who develop influenza-like symptoms, which include fever, cough, head and body aches, fatigue, and runny nose, are encouraged to see their doctor as soon as symptoms develop for treatment that can help lessen the severity and duration of the illness.

The influenza vaccine being used this year is a highly accurate match for H3N2, the dominant flu strain in circulation. Flu vaccine is the most effective protection against the flu. Particularly for the elderly, vaccine can prevent hospitalization and death.

For those who receive the influenza vaccine but still get the flu, vaccine shortens the duration of the illness and makes symptoms less severe. It also lessens the chances that the infected person will spread the flu to others. Immunization against the flu is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, anyone older than 50 years of age, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems. Common chronic conditions include heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, and blood disorders. It is also especially important for those who live with or care for people who are at high risk for flu-related complications to be immunizedAdults and children can be vaccinated by their doctors. Additionally, adults can be vaccinated at pharmacies, and children and adults without doctors or health insurance can be vaccinated at public clinics.

HEALTH Outlines Myths and Facts About Flu and Flu Shots

01-09-2013

PROVIDENCE - As the flu remains widespread in Rhode Island and continues to send people to doctors' offices and hospitals throughout the state, unvaccinated Rhode Islanders are urged to get flu shots to protect not only themselves, but also those around them - ” particularly elderly people and babies under the age of six months."Flu vaccine helps you and the people in your life stay healthy," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Roughly 40 percent of the state has been vaccinated so far this flu season. For the hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders who still haven't gotten flu shots, it's not too late to protect yourself, your family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends." This flu season is particularly severe and is hitting the state earlier than usual, said Dr. Fine, adding that the state is averaging about 10 flu hospitalizations each day and seeing nearly 200 patients with flu-like symptoms daily in emergency departments. "We don't know how long the flu is going to continue to circulate in Rhode Island at this level," he said. "But what we do know is that flu vaccine is the best defense against influenza." Many people have questions about the flu shot, or hear conflicting information about the need to protect themselves and their families from influenza. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about influenza and the flu shot:

Myth: Flu's not a big deal. It's just like getting a bad cold.
Fact: Flu is much more than a cold and can lead to hospitalization and even death. Its symptoms go beyond the runny nose, cough and sore throat you might have with a cold and can also include fever, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea.

Myth: I'm young and healthy. I don't need to get a flu shot.
Fact: A bad case of the flu can keep you out of work or school for about two weeks. A flu shot helps protect you from getting the flu. But when you get a shot, it also helps protect those around you. The more healthy people ages 18 to 49 who get a flu shot (an age group in which the vaccine is highly effective, but in which Rhode Island has a vaccination rate of only about 18 percent), the greater the likelihood that the virus won't spread to the people who are most likely to have life-threatening complications from getting the flu: Babies under age six months and people over the age of 65.

Myth: My friend got the shot and still got the flu! If I can get the flu anyway, I shouldn't bother to get the shot.
Fact: It's true - you might get the shot and still get the flu. But getting a flu shot usually means that you'll be sick for less time than you would have been without the shot and your symptoms will be milder.

Myth: I've had the flu shot and now I'm sick. There's nothing I can do now.
Fact: If you got the flu shot, but still got the flu, the vaccine will likely lessen the severity and duration of your illness. You should still call your doctor as soon as possible, however, because you can be treated with medication, even if you've had the shot.

Myth: I've already had the flu this year, so I don't need the shot.
Fact: Not true - you can get the flu twice in one season! Even if you've had a confirmed case of the flu, the flu shot will help protect you from other flu strains that are circulating this year. Also, some people think they have the flu when they really have another virus.

Myth: I think I've got the flu. There's nothing I can do now.
Fact: If you develop flu-like symptoms, call your doctor right away. He or she can evaluate your symptoms and prescribe a treatment that will help lessen your symptoms and the length of time that you're sick. But remember, you need to call your doctor as soon as you start to feel flu-like symptoms, as treatment must occur during the first 24 hours of when you start feeling sick.

Myth: The flu shot is the only way to protect myself from getting the flu.
Fact: A flu shot is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and those you love from influenza. But there are other things you can do to stay healthy, too. Wash your hands, wipe down commonly touched surfaces in your home (door knobs, cabinet handles, telephone and TV remote) and generally take good care of yourself by eating well and staying rested.

Adults and children can be vaccinated by their doctors. Additionally, adults can be vaccinated at pharmacies, and children and adults without doctors or health insurance can be vaccinated at public clinics.

Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, including healthy adults between 18 and 49 years of age. Immunization against the flu is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, anyone older than 50 years of age, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems. Common chronic conditions include heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, and blood disorders. It is also especially important for those who live with or care for people who are at high risk for flu-related complications to be immunized.

Woodstock Issues Voluntary Recall of Woodstock Brand Tamari Almonds Due to Undeclared Allergen (Soy)

01-12-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health advises consumers that Woodstock, a Providence-based company, has issued a voluntary recall of certain Woodstock Brand Tamari Almonds because of undeclared soy. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to soy run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

The front of the retail package being recalled is labeled "Woodstock All Natural Tamari Almonds, 7.5 oz." However, only one "Best By" date is affected by the recall. The recalled packages say "Best By: 10/24/13, Lot 12298". This information appears on the back of the retail pouch. The almonds were distributed to retailers in 26 states, including Rhode Island and neighboring New England states. Although most of the product was pulled before distribution, the company stated that some of the products were sold to consumers in Rhode Island.

No illnesses have been reported to date in association with this product. Consumers can return the almonds to where they were purchased and receive a full refund. Consumers with questions can contact the company at 888-534-0246 x25154, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

DEM, HEALTH CAUTION NORTH KINGSTOWN RESIDENTS ABOUT RACCOON BITE INCIDENT

01-15-2013

Animal Still At Large After Biting One Person and Two Dogs Last Night

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has learned that a person is being treated for rabies exposure after having contact with a raccoon in an unprovoked attack in North Kingstown last night. The incident happened around 6:30 p.m. Monday on Heritage Road, which is located off Post Road. One individual and two dogs were bitten. The vaccination status of the dogs is being evaluated and proper precautions will be taken once the dogs' vaccination status has been determined. Despite attempts to capture the raccoon the animal still remains at large, and as such must be presumed to be infected with rabies. This is behavior that is not typical for raccoons. Therefore, anyone who sees any sick or abnormally-acting wildlife should it report to DEM and North Kingstown Animal Control. Anyone who could have had potential contact with a raccoon in that area should contact the RI Department of Health's Division of Infectious Diseases at 222-2577 for evaluation. Additionally, anyone who owns a domestic animal that may have had contact with a raccoon or any other wildlife must report the incident to their municipal animal control officer or DEM's environmental police at 222-3070.

DEM's state veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM, says that all Rhode Island residents should take sensible precautions, such as staying away from wildlife, vaccinating pets, securing garbage, and not leaving pet food outside. Those in North Kingstown should be particularly aware, and report any contact to DEM's environmental police office at 222-3070.

Protecting pets from rabies helps to maintain a barrier between humans and rabies in wildlife, and, under state law, dogs, cats, and ferrets must be maintained as currently vaccinated against rabies. Only a licensed veterinarian can administer the vaccine.

Pertussis Vaccination Recommended in Coventry After Four Confirmed Pertussis Cases

01-18-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health is recommending pertussis vaccinations in Coventry after the HEALTH Laboratory confirmed a total of four pertussis (also known as "whooping cough") cases in that community. HEALTH recommends that individuals see their primary care physician to be immunized, or be immunized at the community vaccination clinic scheduled for tomorrow, January 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Coventry High School at 40 Reservoir Road in Coventry. This clinic will offer pertussis (Tdap), influenza, and pneumonia vaccinations. Three pertussis cases have been confirmed by HEALTH in students who attend the Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School in Coventry and one case has been confirmed in a student who attends Tiogue Elementary School. "The best protection against pertussis and influenza is vaccination," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Any child who is not up to date on his or her pertussis vaccination should be vaccinated, and we encourage all unvaccinated 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 Coventry to get vaccinated. It is especially important for the following individuals to be vaccinated:

  • Coventry 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 school staff, daycare workers, and healthcare workers
  • All adults, including those ages 65 and older. Individuals may receive all three of the vaccinations offered during one clinic visit. 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. 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. 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 Now Recruiting Public and Professional Physician Assistants Board Members

01-23-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health today announced its recruitment of new members for the state Physician Assistants Board, which licenses and regulates the physician assistant profession. HEALTH is particularly interested in expanding the diversity of this Board, whose members include both licensed healthcare professionals and members of the public, all of whom serve a three-year term. "The Physician Assistants Board protects the public by establishing standards for training and conduct, reviewing license applications, and investigating and disciplining cases of professional misconduct," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Serving on the Physician Assistants Board is an opportunity for community members and professionals to get involved in Rhode Island's public health infrastructure and process." HEALTH currently seeks two licensed physicians who are actively engaged in the practice of medicine, one chief executive officer of a healthcare facility located and licensed in Rhode Island, two licensed physician assistants, and two members of the general public who are not employed in any health-related field. The Physician Assistants Board meets quarterly at the Department of Health in Providence.

HEALTH Opens Public Comment Period on Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center's Request to Change Location

01-23-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health has received a request to change location from the Greenleaf Compassionate Care 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/applications/submitted/compassioncenters/proposalchanges/Greenleaf.pdf, during the two-week public comment period. The comment period will close on February 6, 2013.

New Report Ranks R.I. 19th in Nation for Adult Smoking, Third-lowest for Youth Tobacco Use

01-25-2013

PROVIDENCE - A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released today shows how each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. is faring in implementing proven strategies that reduce tobacco use, such as comprehensive smoke-free policies, media campaigns, higher prices on tobacco products, and access to cessation services. The CDC's Tobacco Control State Highlights 2012 shows that 20 percent of Rhode Island adults smoke, giving the state the 19th lowest smoking rate among all states.* Rhode Island had the third-lowest youth smoking rate in the nation, with 11.4 percent of Rhode Island youth currently smoking cigarettes. Nationally, 19 percent of adults and 18.1 percent of high school students still smoke; confirmation that, despite enormous progress, declines in smoking rates have slowed in recent years.

The report is particularly significant because it highlights important associations between smoking rates and legislative tobacco control activities. Eight states raised their cigarette excise taxes a total of nine times since the last report was issued in April, 2010, and five states have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws since then. "It's no coincidence that Rhode Island has the third-lowest youth smoking rate and the second-highest cigarette excise tax in the nation," said Michael Fine M.D., director of HEALTH. "Raising the tax rate is a proven best practice strategy for keeping cigarettes out of the hands of young people. We need to remain vigilant in order to continue this positive trend." Although many states have taken steps to reduce smoking rates, the report reveals a significant slowdown in legislative tobacco control activity that took place earlier in the decade across the nation. In Rhode Island, the adult smoking rate has seen a dramatic reduction from 23 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2010, but has remained stagnant in the last few years. "The fact that we rank 19th in adult smoking shows that much work still needs to be done," said Fine. "Having the resources to provide comprehensive statewide cessation services is critical to a successful tobacco control program. The American Lung Association recently gave us a 'D' in this area, so we must prioritize reducing these percentages." In addition to providing cessation services to help smokers quit and increasing the cigarette excise tax, other proven interventions include running high-quality media campaigns to promote non-smoking as a social norm, engaging youth and community members on tobacco control issues, and enforcing restrictions that prevent youth access to tobacco. "Even after significant progress in reducing tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure in the last decade, much more work needs to be done to end the tobacco-use epidemic," said Tim McAfee, M.D. MPH, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "There is excellent research that clearly identifies what needs to be done to eliminate tobacco use. States can accelerate their efforts to save lives and reduce tobacco-related healthcare costs."

The 2011 adult smoking prevalence rate appears significantly higher at 20.2% when compared to the 2010 rate of 15.7%; however, the actual number of Rhode Islanders who smoke hasn't necessarily changed. The difference in rates is a result of two factors - the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which collects smoking data, used a new weighting method in all states called "raking" and a new sampling method to include more cell phone users. The raking method calculates the data in a way that equalizes differences between the number of respondents and the actual population. The increased cell phone sample captures a greater diversity of Rhode Islanders. Together, the two methods ensure that the information collected is a more accurate estimate of the state's smoking population.

HEALTH Announces Centers for Health Equity Grants

02-01-2013

PROVIDENCE - Where you live makes a big difference in how healthy you are likely to be. If you live in a place without safe sidewalks for walking, or without grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, you may find it hard to eat right and exercise. If you do not eat right and exercise, you may become overweight or even obese. If you become overweight or obese, you are more likely to develop some kinds of cancer and diabetes- ¦ and if you have diabetes, you are more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke.

The Rhode Island Department of Health will address the environments in which people live through the awarding of $100,000 grants to eight community-based organizations serving low-income neighborhoods in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls. These grants are made through federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funds. "The way to make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the union is to meet people where they are, in their neighborhoods and their communities," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Our goal is to help them build collaborations, and to make lifestyles, homes, neighbors and communities safer." HEALTH has awarded grants to the City of Providence, Olneyville Housing Corporation, and West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation, all of which will work on building healthy and safe sustainable communities. These agencies will collaborate to develop strategies and policies that impact the availability of resources to meet daily needs like housing, education, job opportunities, and food security. These efforts will impact the community structure, such as parks and transportation, which also affect the natural environment. Clinica Esperanza, Family Service of RI, the Providence Center, West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation and the Providence Plan (Ready To Learn Program) will implement evidence-based programs addressing chronic disease and its risk factors, as well as maternal child health priorities. This work will address health improvements that can be achieved through population-based and individual actions, as well as systems-based, environmental, health service, and policy interventions. These interventions will further advance the National Prevention Strategy and RI Maternal and Child Health priorities at the local level.

Flu levels subside in R.I., but immunization still important

02-01-2013

PROVIDENCE - As influenza illness levels begin to subside across the state, the Rhode Island Department of Health reminds all Rhode Islanders that it is not too late to be vaccinated against influenza. "Although we saw an early spike in influenza cases this flu season, it is important to note that we could see the number of influenza cases rise again before the flu season officially ends in May," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH, adding that Rhode Island has seen 769 hospitalizations since the department began tracking confirmed influenza cases on October 1, 2012. That number reflects a higher total number of hospitalizations for influenza than initially reported, as HEALTH's staff has re-evaluated data reported by the state's hospitals. "Our original count of hospitalizations did not include some individuals who went to the emergency department with flu-like symptoms, who were later confirmed to have flu and admitted to the hospital," said Dr. Fine. "These numbers further confirm HEALTH's message: Influenza is a serious illness and it is important for us to protect each other by getting immunized." According to reports made to HEALTH by providers and pharmacies, 470,449 Rhode Islanders have been vaccinated against influenza to date. Since December 10, 2012, 7,846 people have been seen at emergency departments throughout the state for flu-like illness.

Rhode Islanders with Special Healthcare Needs Urged to Enroll in Special Needs Registry in Advance of Winter Storm

02-07-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health urges those with special healthcare needs to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry in advance of the upcoming winter storm. 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 heavy storm. HEALTH is working with municipalities to provide as close to real-time information as possible in advance of the storm. 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 open, those planning to go to a shelter should bring at least a three-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 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 do not have access to a computer, you can call 2-1-1 and a United Way representative will enroll you over the phone. 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.

HEALTH and Partners to Offer Crowd Safety Management and Control Training

02-11-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health , Rhode Island Division of State Fire Marshal, Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, and RISAFE will offer free crowd safety management and control training on Monday, February 18, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Showcase Cinema, Cinema 15, at 1200 Quaker Lane in East Greenwich. As a result of the events of and the response to the Station Nightclub fire 10 years ago, the Rhode Island Division of State Fire Marshal now requires all places where 50 or more individuals could legally assemble, including nightclubs with occupancies of 100 or more, to have a crowd manager who is trained and licensed. This training is open to any individual affiliated with an organization, including schools, religious organizations, volunteer organizations, and businesses. "The lessons learned from the Station Nightclub fire must never be forgotten," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "This training will increase awareness of the need for proper crowd safety management and control, and help keep Rhode Islanders safe at places of assembly." After completing a four-hour training session and successfully completing a test, participants will receive a crowd manager license, valid for three years, in the mail. A valid form of government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, must be presented for a crowd manager license to be issued. Training session participants are also asked to bring writing materials to the session.

HEALTH Director Lifts Declaration of Widespread Influenza in Rhode Island

02-11-2013

Michael Fine, M.D., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health , has issued a Declaration of Conclusion of Widespread Influenza Period Statewide. According to HEALTH's regulations, healthcare workers who have not been immunized against influenza are no longer required to wear a surgical mask during all times of direct patient contact. However, if an individual facility experiences an outbreak, the Director may require unvaccinated healthcare workers in that facility to wear a surgical mask during direct patient contact. "While we consider Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in determining influenza activity levels, we also look closely at what we are seeing locally and pay attention to what we are hearing from our healthcare facilities," said Dr. Fine. "Based on the sum total of this information, I am declaring influenza to no longer be widespread in Rhode Island." 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. "While we are no longer considering influenza to be widespread throughout the state, unvaccinated Rhode Islanders remain at risk for getting the flu," said Dr. Fine, adding that the influenza season typically runs through May. "We strongly encourage all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves and those around them by being immunized against influenza." Immunizations are available throughout Rhode Island, including through your primary care provider and at local pharmacies. Symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, head and body aches, fatigue and runny nose. Some people also have vomiting and diarrhea.

Show Your Love Campaign Highlights Importance of Health Behaviors Before Conception and Pregnancy

02-14-2013

PROVIDENCE - Show Your Love, a new national campaign, launches today, Valentine's Day, with messages about the importance of engaging in healthy behaviors before making the decision to conceive a child. The campaign was developed by the Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PHHCI), in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Health . According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preconception focuses on women and men taking important steps now to protect their health and the health of the family they may want to have in the future. Women who take steps to improve their health - ” such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and addressing chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure - ” are better prepared for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. "Living a healthy lifestyle is a way to show love to yourself, your partner and your family's future, long before a specific pregnancy is planned," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "While most women know that improving their health is important once they become pregnant, many women and men don't know that improving their health before conception and pregnancy is also critically important." "Preconception health is important for all women and men, including those who are not yet planning a pregnancy," Dr. Fine continued. "HEALTH encourages all Rhode Islanders of childbearing age to make discussions about love, sex, relationships and family part of an annual visit with their primary care physician."

The national Show Your Love campaign focuses on women ages 18 to 44 and is designed to speak both to women who are currently planning to become pregnant, as well as those for whom pregnancy might not be in the immediate future. The campaign includes a series of educational materials, as well as social media messages. The PHHCI is focused on promoting health and wellness for women of childbearing age. Members represent national, state, and local organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), March of Dimes Foundation, state health departments, and local affiliates of national organizations.

Attorney General and HEALTH Issue Notice of Public Informational Meeting Regarding the Sale of Westerly Hospital to Lawrence + Memorial Corporation

02-26-2013

The Rhode Island Office of Attorney General (RIAG) and the Rhode Island Department of Health will hold public informational meetings concerning the proposed sale of Westerly Hospital to Lawrence & Memorial Corporation. Notice is hereby given that the Department of Attorney General and the Department of Health are each in receipt of expedited review initial applications for a hospital conversion filed by the above named entities. The separate expedited review initial applications were accepted for review on January 29, 2013

The public is invited to attend the public informational meetings scheduled for Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at the Westerly Middle School, 10 Sandy Hill Road, Westerly. Public comment will be accepted during the scheduled public informational meetings.

RIAG and HEALTH will also accept written comments. Comments must be received by 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, where practicable.

Food For Life Issues Recall of Ezekiel 4:9 Cereal Due to Undeclared Allergen (Almond)

03-05-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health advises consumers that Food For Life Baking Company of Corona, California has issued a recall of its Ezekiel 4:9 Cereals because the products may be mislabeled and may contain an undeclared allergen - almond. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to almond protein can suffer moderate to acute life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product. Food For Life is recalling 15,369 cases of Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Cereal shipped between November 20, 2012 and February 11, 2013:

  • Ezekiel 4:9 Cereal - Original. UPC 073472002550. Lot # M3232, M3313, M3512, M3565.
  • Ezekiel 4:9 Cereal - Golden Flax. UPC 073472002568. Lot # M3253, M3309, M3414, M3439, M3523, N0068, N0165.
  • Ezekiel 4:9 Cereal - Cinnamon Raisin. UPC 073472002574. Lot # M3232, M3313, M3328, M3425, M3512, M3527, M3537, N0045, N0132.

This recall has been initiated as a precautionary measure following a random allergen test performed at the facility concluding that the product may contain an undeclared allergen. This recall is being made with the knowledge and in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this issue.

The recalled products were sold nationwide, including in Rhode Island, through health food distributors and natural food retailers. Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Cereals are sold dry in 16 oz. (454g) Cereal Cartons and bear the following descriptions:

  • Food For Life, Ezekiel 4:9 Boxed Cereal - Original, (Orange Carton)
  • Food For Life, Ezekiel 4:9 Boxed Cereal - Golden Flax, (Blue Carton)
  • Food For Life, Ezekiel 4:9 Boxed Cereal - Cinnamon Raisin, (Purple Carton)

Consumers who have purchased any of these products are urged to return them unopened to the place of purchase for a refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company toll free at: (800) 797-5090.

Bumble Bee Foods Issues Voluntary Recall of Certain Tuna Products Due To Loose Seals

03-06-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health advises consumers that Bumble Bee Foods, LLC has issued a voluntary recall on specific codes of 5-ounce Chunk White Albacore and Chunk Light Tuna Products. The recall has been issued because the products do not meet the company's standards for seal tightness. Loose seals or seams could result in product contamination by spoilage organisms or pathogens and lead to illness if consumed. There have been no reports to date of any illness associated with these products.

Products subject to recall follow:

  • Brunswick Brand 5oz Chunk Light Tuna in Water
  • Bumble Bee Brand 5oz Chunk Light Tuna in Water
  • Bumble Bee Brand 5oz Chunk Light Tuna in Vegetable Oil
  • Bumble Bee Brand 5oz Chunk White Albacore in Water
  • Bumble Bee Brand 5oz Chunk Light Tuna in Water
  • Bumble Bee Brand 5oz Chunk White Albacore in Water
  • Bumble Bee Brand 5oz Chunk White Albacore in Water

These products were distributed for retail sale nationwide between January 17, 2013 and February 28, 2013. It is unknown at this time whether any products were distributed in Rhode IslandBumble Bee Foods stated that there have been no consumer reports of illnesses attributed to the recalled products. Consumers who have purchased the recalled products should discard the product by disposing in the garbage.For any questions concerning this voluntary recall or reimbursement, consumers can contact Bumble Bee Consumer Affairs 24 hours a day at (800) 800-8572.

Annual Rankings Create County-by-County Snapshot of Rhode Island's Health

03-21-2013

PROVIDENCE - A new report released yesterday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute helps paint a picture of health successes and challenges throughout Rhode Island. The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states, and allow counties to see how they compare to other counties within the state based on a range of factors that influence health. "Given Rhode Island's small size, we tend not to see major differences from county to county," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health . "Still, this report gives us a glimpse at how Rhode Islanders are faring at the community level, a matter of particular interest as we think about designing a healthcare system that addresses the unique needs of individual communities throughout the state."

The report looked at factors such as high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, and family and social support. For example, according to the report, in Rhode Island, 21% of those living in Bristol County and Washington County are obese, as are 22% of Newport County residents, and 27% of those living in Kent and Providence counties. The report also found that 42% of all restaurants in Rhode Island are fast food restaurants, with the highest concentration located in Providence County.

"Access to affordable healthy food and safe places to exercise has a measurable impact on the health of a community's residents, as does access to affordable primary care," Dr. Fine said. Several Rhode Island municipalities have been working to improve the health of their residents. In Kent County, municipalities are focused on boosting the use of city and town parks and work with local Chambers of Commerce to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity. Providence formed the Mayor's Office of Healthy Communities and is working to increase play in the city's parks and recreation facilities, reduce substance abuse, and stop tobacco smoking. The Rankings are only one part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program. Communities take information from the County Health Rankings, and then use the County Health Roadmaps to build connections with local and national partners to improve health.

La Preferida, Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall of Their Whole Pinto Beans

03-27-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health advises consumers that La Preferida, Inc. is voluntarily recalling 56,808 29 oz. cans of La Preferida Whole Pinto Beans (Water & Salt). The Can Code is PINTO LP, BEST BY 01/03/2015, "Time" 3003, and can be found on the top of the can. Consumers who find any products with this code should return them to their local grocery store for a full refund. A preliminary inspection by the manufacturer indicates that 420 cans may not have been fully processed, which could result in product contamination by organisms or pathogens that could lead to illness if consumed.There have been no reported illness associated with the consumption of this product, which was distributed for retail sale nationwide from January 7, 2013 through February 6, 2013. It is unknown at this time whether any of the product was distributed in Rhode Island.Consumers can call 1-866-251-8268 with questions.Information in Spanish about the recall can be found at: www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm345464.htm?source=govdelivery

Rhode Island Nursing Homes Rate an "A" from Consumers

03-29-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health released the results of the 2012 Resident and Family Satisfaction Survey revealing that nursing home care in Rhode Island surpassed the national average. In Rhode Island, 93 percent of residents and of family members rated their satisfaction with the nursing home as "Good" or "Excellent" in comparison to the national average of 89 percent.Local geriatricians attribute the results to Rhode Island nursing homes' efforts to move from institutionalized to individualized care. Most nursing home residents in the Ocean State have dedicated staffs that focus on individualized care. They are creating a feeling of community within each home and their residents are empowered with making decisions about their own quality of life. "Rhode Island nursing homes collect satisfaction data from their residents and residents' family members to support care delivery and identify improvement opportunities," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health. "We publish these data to help Rhode Islanders compare nursing homes and choose the right facility for themselves or their loved ones.""Resident care has always been our number one priority and to that end we collectively embraced culture change," said LeadingAge RI Executive Director James P. Nyberg. "The dignity and self-determination associated with individualized care plans has improved resident satisfaction, which has translated into satisfied families of residents. The results of this survey provide a subjective indicator that residents and their families value the type of contributions we have been making.""Ultimately, the highest test of quality of a product or service is the level of satisfaction of the end user," said Virginia Burke, CEO/President of the Rhode Island Health Care Association (RIHCA). "The fact that the residents and families involved with Rhode Island's skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities rated their experience so highly, speaks volumes about the commitment of our providers. Even more impressive is the fact that 2012 marked the eighth consecutive year that Rhode Island's satisfaction survey results surpassed the national average." RIHCA is the state's largest professional organization of skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities with 64 member facilities throughout the state.

Satisfaction is one quality indicator available to help consumers make informed decisions about nursing home selection. "A positive satisfaction score reflects well on an individual nursing home and the staff that is providing care," said Gail Patry, Senior Director, Program Management at Healthcentric Advisors and Chair of the public reporting program's Nursing Home Subcommittee.

This information is available as a result of a collaboration of all licensed nursing homes in Rhode Island; the Rhode Island Health Care Association; LeadingAge Rhode Island; the Alliance for Better Long Term Care; the Rhode Island Department of Human Services; the Rhode Island Department of Elderly Affairs; the Rhode Island Long Term Care Coordinating Council; and the Rhode Island Department of Health's contractor, Healthcentric Advisors.

HEALTH Warns Consumers Not to Eat Certain Farm Rich Products Due to Possible Health Risk

03-29-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health advises consumers that they should not eat certain Farm Rich brand frozen chicken quesadilla and various other heat treated, not fully cooked frozen mini meals and snack items because they may be contaminated with E. coli O121. Since the recalled products were distributed to Walmart stores nationwide, they may have been shipped to stores in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Infection with E. coli O121 can result in dehydration, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal cramps 2-8 days (3-4 days, on average) after exposure to the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. Symptoms of HUS may include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin tone, fatigue, small, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth, decreased urination, and swelling. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.The following products are subject to U.S. Department of Administration (USDA) recall:

  • 7.2-oz. cartons of Farm Rich mini pizza slices with cheese pepperoni and sauce in pizza dough, UPC code 041322376909 with a best by date of May 15 or May 16, 2014.
  • 22-oz. cartons of Farm Rich mini pizza slices with cheese pepperoni and sauce in pizza dough, UPC code 041322356437 with a best by date of May 15 or May 16, 2014.
  • 18-oz. bags of Farm Rich mini quesadillas with cheese, grilled white meat chicken in a crispy crust, UPC code 041322356352 with a best by date of May 14, 2014.
  • 21-oz. bags of Farm Rich philly cheese steaks with cheese, beef & onions in a crispy crust, UPC code 041322356345 with a best by date of May 13, 2014.

Each product package above contains the establishment number "EST. 27232" or "P-27233" inside the USDA mark of inspection.

In addition, the following products, which fall under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jurisdiction, are also being recalled. HEALTH is issuing this news release to make the public aware that these products are also considered potentially adulterated and should be properly discarded or destroyed.

  • 22-oz. cartons of Farm Rich mozzarella bites in a pizzeria style crust, UPC code 041322374431 with a best by date of May 19, 2014.
  • 7-oz. cartons of Farm Rich mozzarella bites in a pizzeria style crust, UPC code 041322376916 with a best by date of May 19, 2014.
  • 22-oz. bags of Market Day Mozzarella Bites, UPC code 041322804358 with a best by date of May 12, 2014.

The products subject to recall were produced between Nov. 12, 2012 and Nov. 19, 2012 then distributed for retail sale nationwide. USDA and the establishment are concerned that some product may be present in household freezers.

Consumers with questions regarding the recall should contact the company's consumer line at (888) 220-5955 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday or visit the company website at www.farmrich.com. Media with questions regarding the recall should contact the company's vice president of communications, Dwight Gram, at (716) 878-8749.

Rich Products Corporation Expands Voluntary Recall of Farm Rich and Market Day products

04-04-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health advises consumers that Rich Products Corporation of Buffalo, New York, which previously announced a voluntary recall of certain Farm Rich- " and Market Day- " products, is expanding its voluntary recall to include all products produced at its Waycross, Georgia plant with "Best By" dates ranging from January 1, 2013 to September 29, 2014 due to possible contamination with Escherichia coli O121 bacteria ("E. coli O121").

The expanded recall is in addition to products recalled by the company on March 28, 2013. The products were distributed nationwide and may be found in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.Consumers who have purchased recalled products and have questions should contact Rich's Consumer Relations at 1-888-220-5955 or visit www.farmrich.com. Products recalled include:

Foodservice Products

  • The production date range for these products is: Julian Dates 15821182 to 15823088.
  • Product Code Product Description Julian Dates UPC Code
  • 65232 Farm Rich Whole Grain Rich Pepperoni Pizzata 10/2.5lb 15821182 - 15823088 10041322652321
  • 65233 Farm Rich 1 oz. Better For You Pizza Dipper 5/5lb. 15821182 - 15823088 10041322652338
  • 65234 Farm Rich Turkey Pizzata 9/3lb. 15821182 - 15823088 00041322652348
  • 65265 Farm Rich 2 oz. Stuffed Crust Pizza Dippers 2 oz.10/2.7lb. 15821182 - 15823088 10041322652659
  • 65268 Farm Rich 1 oz. Stuffed Crust Pizza Dippers 1/25lb. 15821182 - 15823088 10041322652680
  • 65278 Farm Rich 2 oz. Better For You Pizza Dipper 2oz. 10/2.7lb. 15821182 - 15823088 00041322652782
  • 65282 Pepperoni Pizzata 1/24.75lb. 15821182 - 15823088 00041322652829
  • 65292 Farm Rich Handheld Stuffed Pepperoni Pleezer 10/2.57lb. 15821182 - 15823088 10041322652925
  • 65302 BBQ Chicken Sandwich Melt 10/2.5lb. 15821182 - 15823088 00041322653024
  • 65303 Meatball Marinara Sandwich Melt 10/2.5lb 15821182 - 15823088 00041322653031
Consumer Brands Products
  • Product Code Product Description Julian Dates UPC Code Case Code Best By Date
  • 32521 Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites 44 oz. cartons 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 32521 1 1 00 41322
  • 32521 8 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 32522 Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites 44oz. cartons 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 32521 1 1 00 41322
  • 32522 5 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 36450 Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites 22 oz bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 37813 2 1 00 41322 36450 7 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 36633 Farm Rich Pizza Slices 22 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35603 1 1 00 41322 36633 4 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 36450 Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites 22 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 37433 1 1 00 41322
  • 36450 7 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 37455 Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites 2 lb. cartons 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 37455 4 1 00 41322
  • 37455 1 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 35611 Farm Rich Mini Quesadillas 20 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35611 6 1 00 41322
  • 35611 3 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 35618 Farm Rich Philly Cheese Steaks 21 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35618 5 1 00 41322
  • 35618 2 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 35622 Farm Rich Mini Bacon Cheeseburgers 21 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35622 2 1 00 41322
  • 35622 9 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 35631 Farm Rich Mini Quesadillas 18 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35611 6 1 00 41322
  • 35631 1 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 35633 Farm Rich Mini Pizza Slices 22 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35603 1 1 00 41322
  • 35633 5 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 37433 Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites 22 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 37813 2 1 00 41322
  • 37433 9 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 55312 Schwan's Mini Meatball Sandwiches 1 lb. bags 3G1182XXXX - 3G3088XXXX 0 72180 55312 6 1 00 72180 55312 3 N/A
  • 61008 Schwan's Baked Mozzarella Bites 22 oz. bags 3G1182XXXX - 3G3088XXXX 0 72180 61008 9 1 00 72180 61008 6 N/A
  • 35635 Farm Rich Mini Quesadillas 18 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35635 2 1 00 41322
  • 35635 9 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 35643 Farm Rich Mini Pizza Slices 22 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35643 7 1 00 41322
  • 35643 4 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 37690 Farm Rich Mini Pizza Slices 7.2 oz. cartons 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 37690 9 1 00 41322
  • 37690 6 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 35634 Farm Rich Philly Cheese Steaks 21 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 35634 5 1 00 41322
  • 35634 2 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 37443 Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites 22 oz. bags 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 37443 1 1 00 41322
  • 37443 8 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 37691 Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites 7 oz. cartons 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 37691 6 1 00 41322
  • 37691 3 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014
  • 80435 Market Day Mozzarella Bites 22 oz. cartons 15821182 - 15823088 0 41322 80435 8 1 00 41322
  • 80435 5 Jan. 1, 2013 - Sept. 29, 2014

No illnesses linked to this recall have been reported in Rhode Island.

The CDC has reported 24 cases of E. coli 0121 in 15 states. Symptoms of the illness include mild to severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Blood is often seen in the stool. Usually little or no fever is present. Although most healthy adults recover completely within five to 10 days, certain individuals can develop a complication called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which can cause the kidneys to fail. HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition could lead to serious kidney damage and even death.

HEALTH Approves Certification of Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center

04-04-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health today authorized the certification of the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center for operation of a Medical Marijuana Compassion Center in Providence. The Slater Compassion Center will notify the Department of Health regarding the date that the sale of medical marijuana will begin. The certification, effective April 4, 2013, will expire on April 3, 2015.

HEALTH Accepting Applications for Health Professional Loan Repayment Program

04-11-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health has announced that the 2013 Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program application cycle is open through May 3, 2013. The program offers health education loan repayments to eligible health professionals who serve in a variety of disciplines, including primary care, dentistry, and mental health, that have made a two-year commitment to practice in underserved communities in Rhode Island. The Health Professional Loan Repayment Board will review and evaluate all applications received from healthcare professionals and sites to determine program eligibility based on regulations and the availability of funding. A total of $250,000 has been allocated to the State of Rhode Island for eight to 10 awards, which are expected to be announced by the end of May 2013. "This program is designed to address health disparities by improving access to care in underserved communities," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "I began my career working with underserved populations and it was both a humbling and inspiring experience. I encourage Rhode Island's health professionals to consider making this commitment to equitable access to healthcare." Funding for this year's program came from local partners and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration. Local partners contributing a total of $125,000 include the Rhode Island Health Center Association, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Blue Cross & Blue Shield, United Health Care and the Rhode Island Foundation.

"The recruitment and retention of health professionals is a critical need for Rhode Island to provide comprehensive medical services, particularly in communities where access to care is difficult. The loan repayment program is a critical tool necessary to help ensure an adequate supply of professionals," said Jane A. Hayward, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association.

Director of HEALTH to Participate in 'Dining Out for Life' Event

04-24-2013

PROVIDENCE - Michael Fine, M.D., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health , will take part in Dining Out for Life on Thursday, April 25, a nationwide annual fundraising event that benefits licensed AIDS service agencies in cities throughout the United States. Participating restaurants throughout Rhode Island will donate a percentage of purchases tomorrow to AIDS Project RI, which offers HIV/AIDS care and preventive services to Rhode Islanders. "I encourage all Rhode Islanders to join me in supporting the work of AIDS Project RI by dining out at one of the state's many participating restaurants," said Dr. Fine. "HEALTH values its collaboration with this respected community partner and looks forward to working together to get the number of new HIV cases in Rhode Island to zero." HEALTH's goal with its community partners is to reduce the number of new HIV cases in Rhode Island until there are no new cases. To accomplish this goal, HEALTH works with many statewide community partners to encourage HIV testing for all Rhode Islanders. HEALTH has also created a drink coaster for use in area restaurants and bars. The coaster, part of HEALTH's ongoing social marketing campaign emphasizing routine HIV testing for all adults and sexually active teens, features a QR code that when scanned with a smart phone app takes users to information about the importance of HIV testing, as well as sites offering HIV tests. "All Rhode Islanders should know their HIV status, and these coasters are a great way to remind all healthy adults to get tested," Dr. Fine said. "Events such as Dining Out for Life also remind us that the fight against HIV and AIDS is far from over."

Dr. Dennehy Named CDC Childhood Immunization Champion for Rhode Island

04-25-2013

PROVIDENCE - Rhode Island professor and infectious disease specialist Penelope Dennehy, M.D. has been selected as the state's 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Childhood Immunization Champion. CDC launched this annual award program to honor immunization champions in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia during National Infant Immunization Week. Dr. Dennehy was nominated from a pool of healthcare professionals and other immunization leaders, all of whom have made significant contributions to childhood immunization in Rhode Island. Dr. Dennehy is the director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Hasbro Children's Hospital and a professor of Pediatrics at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School. "I am honored to be named Rhode Island's CDC Childhood Immunization Champion. We owe the success that we have had in immunizing infants and children in Rhode Island to thousands of committed, dedicated healthcare professionals in our state," said Dr. Dennehy. "We will continue to work together to make sure that all Rhode Island children are fully immunized against every vaccine-preventable disease." Dr. Dennehy sits on numerous boards and panels that aim to improve immunization rates in Rhode Island, including the Rhode Island Department of Health's Vaccine Advisory Committee, the Rhode Island Hospital Immunization Task Force, and the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Additionally, she is renowned for her research in the epidemiology and etiology of viral gastroenteritis and viral respiratory disease, rotavirus disease and prevention, and the testing of vaccines and immunobiologics for prevention of rotavirus, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus. "Through her lifelong passion for childhood immunization, Dr. Dennehy is an inspiration to her colleagues in healthcare," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Her work as a researcher and on the front lines at Hasbro Children's Hospital is protecting children and saving lives." National Infant Immunization Week is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases. In addition to launching a social media campaign for National Infant Immunization Week, HEALTH partnered with students at the Rhode Island Nurses Institute Middle College Charter School to develop a children's book about the importance of immunization.

Pawtucket Red Sox to Receive State's 'Safe Place for Teens to Work' Award

04-29-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health will award the State's Safe Place for Teens to Work Award to the Pawtucket Red Sox at a pre-game ceremony at McCoy Stadium tomorrow. The award recognizes the Pawtucket Red Sox's commitment to providing teenagers with a place to work that is safe and healthy, and allows them to remain focused on their studies. This is the fifth time that the Pawtucket Red Sox have received the Safe Place for Teens to Work Award. The organization employs approximately 280 teenagers annually. "A part-time job is a great way for teenagers to learn lessons about responsibility and hard work, but nothing is more important than teenagers' safety and their academics," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "The Pawtucket Red Sox clearly understand this and are setting an example for the type of commitment that employers should be making to their teenage employees." The game against the Columbus Clippers will begin at 12:05 p.m. The ceremony will take place at 11:40 a.m. The ceremony at McCoy Stadium comes two weeks after the end of Teen Worker Safety Week in Rhode Island. To raise awareness about the hazards that teenagers may face in the workplace, Governor Lincoln Chafee declared April 14-20, 2013 Teen Worker Safety Week in Rhode Island. Worksite injury and illness rates for teenagers are higher than injury and illness rates for members of any other comparably-sized age bracket in the American workforce. Reasons for these elevated rates of injury and illness include lack of worker experience, inadequate training, and the reluctance that some teens feel about speaking up when they are in unsafe situations. During the next eight months, HEALTH's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 21(d) Consultation Program will roll out a teen worker safety education campaign in English and Spanish. To receive the Safe Place for Teens to Work Award, employers must have (among other requirements):

  • A policy that requires teenagers' shifts to end no later than 11:30 p.m. on school nights
  • A safety training program for teenagers before teenagers begin their jobs
  • Policies that prevent teenagers from operating dangerous equipment
  • Policies that prevent teenagers from being unsupervised at work
  • A supervisor older than age 18 on duty at all times
  • A strict policy against workplace violence and sexual harassment

Attorney General and HEALTH Issue Notice of Public Informational Meeting Regarding the Affiliation of The Memorial Hospital to Care New England

05-02-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Office of Attorney General (RIAG) and the Rhode Island Department of Health will hold a public informational meeting concerning the proposed affiliation of The Memorial Hospital. Notice is hereby given that the Department of Attorney General and the Department of Health are each in receipt of expedited review initial applications for a hospital conversion filed by The Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Southeastern Healthcare System, Inc, and Care New England Health System. The expedited review initial applications were accepted for review by HEALTH on April 4, 2013 and RIAG on April 15, 2013, and are available as follows:

  • Department of Health: http://www.health.ri.gov/programs/hospitalconversionsmerger/
  • Department of Attorney General: http://www.riag.ri.gov/civil/healthcare/reviews.php
  • The public is invited to attend the public informational meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at the Joseph Jenks Junior High School, 350 Division Street, Pawtucket. Public comment will be accepted during the scheduled public informational meeting.
  • The public informational meeting is scheduled for: 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, 2013. RIAG and HEALTH will also accept written comments.

HEALTH Kicks off National Nurses Week with Celebration at the State House

05-06-2013

On the first day of National Nurses Week, HEALTH held a celebration to pay tribute to the important role nurses play in the delivery of healthcare. The highlight of the event was the recognition of Mary Donnelly, the state's longest-serving public health nurse, as she retires from her career in public health nursing on Block Island after 54 years of service. First Lady, Stephanie Chafee; Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Steven Costantino; Lt. Governor, Elizabeth Roberts; Director of Health, Michael Fine; and leaders from the state's nursing community came together to honor the work and contributions of Rhode Island's talented nurses, including recognition of the exemplary career of Public Health Nurse Mary Donnelly.

Simple precautions help protect against warm-weather health risks

05-10-2013

PROVIDENCE - With increasing participation in outdoor activities, the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) remind all Rhode Islanders to begin taking precautions to protect themselves against warm-weather health hazards, including animal, tick and mosquito bites. "Although it's early in the warm-weather season, it's not too early to begin thinking about personal protection against tick and mosquito bites, about protecting ourselves and our families from animal bites," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "We see these health threats every year, and a few simple actions can help keep Rhode Islanders safe from tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and from rabies exposure." "As part of their normal seasonal routine, Rhode Islanders can protect themselves from exposure to West Nile Virus and EEE by avoiding mosquito bites and eliminating mosquito breeding grounds," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "At this time of year, residents are encouraged to remove anything in their yard that holds standing water and to make sure their gutters are clean so that they drain properly. Mosquitoes breed in standing water and just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes." To help protect themselves and their families from ticks and mosquitos, Rhode Islanders should:

  • Dress for protection. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks during outdoor evening activities or when spending time in areas where ticks are common.
  • Use bug spray. Use mosquito and tick repellent with DEET during outdoor activities, particularly at dusk and during evening hours, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Time activities for maximum protection. If possible, minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
  • Inspect pets. Dogs that spend time outdoors can bring ticks into a home. Use a veterinarian-approved tick repellent on dogs and inspect animals for ticks.
  • Evaluate the environment. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens.
  • Remove any standing water around yards and houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding.

To help protect themselves and their families from dangerous animal bites, Rhode Islanders should:

  • Vaccinate all pets against rabies. Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. If a pet has a wound of unknown origin, wear gloves when tending to the pet.
  • Avoid contact with wildlife and stray animals. Do not attempt to pet, feed, or capture a wild or stray animal. Call the local animal control officer for assistance.
  • Contain all garbage around your home. Keep all trash tightly secured, preferably in an indoor location such as a garage or shed.
  • Bat-proof your home. Bats can enter a structure through open or damaged louver vents or windows, through cracks, or under loose shingles. Caulk any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch, and use window screens, chimney caps, and draft guards beneath doors to attics. Consider hiring a licensed professional to secure the home against bats.

"With improving weather, we encourage all Rhode Islanders to get outside for some physical activity," said Dr. Fine. "A few precautions, including wearing sunscreen, will help make sure that outdoor time is as safe as possible."

HEALTH Investigating New Synthetic Drug

05-10-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health , with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is beginning an investigation into a cluster of deaths that appear to be related to the use of a new synthetic drug. In light of this situation, HEALTH and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) are encouraging Rhode Islanders to be aware of Narcan (Naloxone), an antidote to opioid abuse that is available without a prescription. "Although the information we have at this time is quite limited, out of an abundance of caution, we feel it's important that all Rhode Islanders be aware of this potential threat, but more importantly, of the availability of Narcan," said Michael Fine, M.D. "A drug overdose is often a life-or-death situation and Narcan is a valuable resource that can help save lives." The Office of the Medical Examiner has noted 10 deaths since early March of patients who appear to have died with this new synthetic substance in their bodies. Most of these patients are from the northern Rhode Island area, and appear to have been intravenous drug users. Narcan is available at four Walgreens Pharmacies in Warwick as part of a pilot project for the dispensing of naloxone to patients by pharmacists who have a collaborative agreement with practitioners at the Miriam Hospital. Addiction and the potential for overdose are serious health threats among Rhode Islanders who use illicit drugs or abuse prescription medications. "BHDDH shares the Department of Health's concern for this potential threat and stands ready to provide assistance to those in need," said BHDDH Director Craig Stenning. "We encourage individuals with substance use disorders, their families and loved ones, and involved professionals to seek the treatment that could save lives."

HEALTH Encourages Hepatitis C Testing for All Baby Boomers

05-17-2013

PROVIDENCE - In recognition of National Hepatitis C Testing Day on Sunday, May 19, the Rhode Island Department of Health encourages all Rhode Islanders born between 1945 and 1965 to be tested for Hepatitis C at least once, or more often if they have known risk factors. Baby Boomers are five times more likely than others to be infected with Hepatitis C, and people with Hepatitis C often have no symptoms. "We estimate that 11,000 Rhode Islanders of all ages are infected with the Hepatitis C virus," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Many of these people don't know they are infected. That's why being tested for Hepatitis C is critical to ensuring the good health of Rhode Islanders as they grow older." Hepatitis C is treatable with medication if it is caught early enough. Testing is crucial because many of those infected with the virus can live for decades without feeling sick. Untreated Hepatitis C has been linked to liver cancer and other liver disease. Baby Boomers are at particular risk because many are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s, when rates of Hepatitis C were highest. Some may have become infected from contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992 and universal precautions for healthcare workers were adopted. Others might have become infected with the virus through injecting drugs or through sexual activity. "I encourage all Rhode Islanders to be tested," said Dr. Fine. "A simple blood test will help protect you from complications of a virus that is often treatable."

Bring Sunscreen, Leave Cigarettes at Home as State Beaches and Parks Open This Weekend

05-24-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) remind all Rhode Islanders to bring the sunscreen (at least 30 SPF), but leave cigarettes at home as state parks and beaches open for the summer season this Memorial Day weekend. The two agencies have joined forces to post signs educating the public about a voluntary smoke-free beaches and parks policy designed to reduce toxic cigarette litter and ensure a healthy smoke-free environment for all. "There is no safe level of second-hand smoke," said Michael Fine, M.D. "We want all Rhode Islanders to understand the health impacts of second-hand smoke exposure and to do their part to help their fellow Rhode Islanders live healthy smoke-free lives." "Cigarettes are the number-one source of litter on beaches and they take years to break down," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "They can also sicken children and wildlife that may ingest butts left in the sand. A still-smoldering cigarette butt can also cause a burn if it is stepped on with bare feet." In addition to leaving tobacco at home, beach-goers should leave pets at home, too. No animals are allowed on any state bathing beach between April 1 and September 30, including after hours. Pet waste can pollute beaches and cause illness. During beach season, HEALTH's Beach Monitoring Program routinely tests water quality at all state beaches.

HEALTH Approves Certification of Greenleaf Compassion Center

05-29-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health today authorized the certification of the Greenleaf Compassion Center for operation of a Medical Marijuana Compassion Center at 1637 West Main Road in Portsmouth. The Greenleaf Compassion Center will notify the Department of Health regarding the date that the sale of medical marijuana will begin. The certification, effective May 29, 2013, will expire on May 29, 2015.

HEALTH Identifies New Synthetic Drug As Acetyl Fentanyl

05-30-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health , with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an independent testing laboratory, has identified a new synthetic opiate that appears to have been related to a series of recent deaths as Acetanilide, n-1-Phenethyl-4-Piperidyl. This new synthetic drug, known as acetyl fentanyl, is an illicit synthetic opiate with properties similar to morphine. This drug is not FDA approved, is not commercially available, and is not prescribed by physicians. The Office of the Medical Examiner has now noted 11 deaths of patients who appear to have died with this substance in their bodies during a time period spanning early March to mid-April. In addition, the Medical Examiner today confirmed a twelfth related death that occurred on May 16. Most of these patients were from the northern Rhode Island area, and appear to have been intravenous drug users. "Identifying the chemical composition of this drug is an important step in protecting the health and safety of Rhode Islanders," said Michael Fine, M.D. director of HEALTH. "Addiction is a chronic disease that has taken the lives of too many Rhode Islanders. It is important to know that there is help for those who suffer from this chronic disease." "The risk of overdose is very real for individuals addicted to opioids," said Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Director Craig Stenning. " We continue to urge individuals with substance use disorders to seek the support and treatment they need to recover. It is important to remember that behavioral health is essential to health, treatment is effective and people do recover."

Those who are addicted to drugs or who know someone who is addicted should educate themselves about the use of Narcan (Naloxone), an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. Narcan, which can be used in an emergency situation to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdose, is available at four Walgreens Pharmacies in Warwick as part of a pilot project for the dispensing of Naloxone to patients by pharmacists who have a collaborative agreement with practitioners at the Miriam Hospital.

City Park and Conimicut Point Beaches Unsuitable for Swimming Due to High Bacteria Counts

05-31-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health has determined that water quality at both City Park Beach and Conimicut Point Beach in Warwick is unsuitable for swimming due to high bacteria counts. Although neither facility has officially opened for the 2013 bathing season at this time, HEALTH officials have begun monitoring water quality and will continue to do so. Officials will make a recommendation regarding suitability for swimming when the areas are determined to be safe.

HEALTH Confirms Two Additional Deaths Linked to Acetyl Fentanyl

06-14-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health has confirmed two additional deaths linked to Acetanilide, n-1-Phenethyl-4-Piperidyl - ” also known as acetyl fentanyl - ”an illegal synthetic opiate with properties similar to morphine. These most recent deaths, which bring the total number of deaths linked to this drug in Rhode Island to 14, occurred on May 26, 2013 in two individuals who were transported from the same residence in southern Rhode Island. "While final cause of death is still pending further toxicology testing, it is anticipated that acetyl fentanyl will be a significant factor in these deaths," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. The Rhode Island State Health Laboratories identified this drug as Acetanilide, n-1-Phenethyl-4-Piperidyl - ” or, acetyl fentanyl - ” on May 30, 2013. This drug is not FDA approved, is not commercially available, and is not prescribed by physicians. The Office of the Medical Examiner initially noted 10 deaths of patients who appear to have died with this substance in their bodies during a time period spanning early March to mid-April, and later confirmed an eleventh death during the same time period, as well as a twelfth related death that occurred on May 16. Most of these patients were from the northern Rhode Island area, and appear to have been intravenous drug users. Dr. Fine said it is important that Rhode Islanders understand that drug addiction is a very serious chronic disease for which help and treatment resources are available. He added that those who are addicted to drugs or who know someone who is addicted should educate themselves about the use of Narcan (Naloxone), an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. Narcan, which can be used in an emergency situation to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdose, is available at four Walgreens Pharmacies in Warwick as part of a pilot project for the dispensing of Naloxone to patients by pharmacists who have a collaborative agreement with practitioners at the Miriam Hospital. A list of resources that can assist with drug dependence and addiction can be found at http://www.bhddh.ri.gov/SA/application.php

HEALTH Launches New Web Pages to Talk About the Dangers of Second-hand Smoke Outdoors

06-24-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health Tobacco Control Program (TPC) has launched new pages on www.livesmokefree.ri.gov to help readers understand the dangers of second-hand smoke in public places like outdoor dining establishments and beaches. "Second-hand smoke, even outside, is toxic," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Smoking in outdoor public places, such as restaurant patios, parks, and beaches, has harmful health impacts on others, even in fresh-air environments. There is simply no safe place to smoke." The new Web pages share results from recent public opinion surveys conducted by HEATH and other community organizations, as well as data on second-hand smoke particulates in outdoor areas, links to cessation services, and other helpful resources. The www.livesmokefree.ri.gov site originally launched back in 2012, with a focus on adopting smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing. Information, which is also available in Spanish, is targeted to housing authorities, landlords, and tenants. Earlier in the spring, HEALTH launched a Facebook Page, facebook.com/livesmokefreeri, which provides facts about second-hand smoke and the benefits of going smoke free, and serves as a sounding board for Rhode Islanders to discuss the issue.

'Know Your Status' on National HIV Testing Day

06-25-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health encourages all Rhode Islanders to know the facts about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and get tested as part of their routine medical care. Thursday, June 27, is National HIV Testing Day, on which all individuals ages 13 to 64 are encouraged to get tested for HIV to know their status. An estimated 1 in 5 people infected with HIV in the U.S. right now does not yet know that he or she has the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "I encourage all teens and adults to speak with their doctor about getting tested for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases during their regular check-ups," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Knowing your status is vital to protect you and those closest to you. With early treatment and continued care, people infected with HIV can live long, healthy lives, and avoid infecting their partners." The CDC estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S., 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 goal of the Rhode Island Department of Health is to eliminate new HIV infections in Rhode Island by 2017," said Dr. Fine, adding that there were 78 new HIV cases reported in Rhode Island in 2012, down from 97 in 2011. "This goal is an important part of our efforts to make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation." Rhode Islanders who do not have a primary care doctor, who lack insurance, or who are concerned about out-of-pocket costs for testing may take advantage of free or low-cost HIV testing offered through HEALTH's year-round partnerships with organizations like AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, and MAP Behavioral Health Services. Such community-based agencies also offer testing for Hepatitis C and vaccinations to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Some agencies will offer extended testing hours or other special events during the week of June 23-30 to accommodate additional patients seeking HIV testing or those with questions. More information about testing sites can be found on the HEALTH website.

HEALTH Approves Affiliation of Memorial Hospital and Care New England

06-26-2013

PROVIDENCE - Michael Fine, M.D., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health , announced that HEALTH has rendered two decisions that will affect the affiliation of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island and Care New England Health System. HEALTH approved both the Change in Effective Control application, which was recommended for approval yesterday by the Health Services Council, and the Hospital Conversion application. HEALTH approved both applications with conditions. "HEALTH staff has worked diligently to review these applications quickly and thoroughly," said Dr. Fine. "After completing its review, HEALTH has determined that the criteria for approval of these applications have been met."

HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels

06-27-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health advises Rhode Islanders that they should not consume certain products manufactured by Scenic Fruit Company of Gresham, Oregon. The company announced today that it is voluntarily recalling 5,091 cases (61,092 eight-ounce bags) of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels, after it was determined that the product has the potential to be contaminated with Hepatitis A virus. Products were shipped from February 2013 through May 2013 to UNFI distribution centers in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington State. The product was sold in Rhode Island at Eastside Marketplace in Providence and The Green Grocer in Portsmouth. Woodstock Organic Pomegranate Kernels are sold in eight-ounce (227 gram) re-sealable plastic pouches with UPC Code 0 42563 01628 9. Specific coding information to identify the product can be found on the back portion of these pouches below the zip-lock seal. The following lots are subject to this recall:

  • C 0129 (A,B, or C) 035 with a best by date of 02/04/2015
  • C 0388 (A,B, or C) 087 with a best by date of 03/28/2015
  • C 0490 (A,B, or C) 109 with a best by date of 04/19/2015

Consumers should not eat this product. The product should be disposed of immediately. Rhode Island is cooperating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)s ongoing investigation. No illnesses are currently associated with this product. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from exposure to the Hepatitis A virus, including from food. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. Illness generally occurs within 15 to 50 days of exposure and includes fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool. In rare cases, particularly in those with a pre-existing severe illness or those who are immune-compromised, Hepatitis A infection can progress to liver failure. Individuals experiencing symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their physician.

HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Certain Olives Sold at Ocean State Job Lot Stores

07-01-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health advises consumers not to eat Mediterranean Olives: Calcidica Sweet (Brand: Bel Frantoio) sold at any Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL) stores. OSJL is voluntarily recalling the product after HEALTH staff discovered that these products were not handled appropriately to prevent production of the toxin that causes botulism. Mediterranean Olives: Calcidica Sweet, produced by Bel Frantoio and packaged in 34-oz. plastic containers, were sold in OSJL stores in New York and throughout the Northeast (Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine). This product is being voluntarily recalled because it is labeled "Keep Refrigerated," but was sold at room temperature, making it susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum. Other olive products produced by Bel Frantoio that were sold at Ocean State Job Lot, as well as other brands of olives, do not currently pose a safety issue. This recall applies only to this product sold at Ocean State Job Lot.

This product sold elsewhere, where refrigerated, is safe for consumption. Ingestion of botulinum toxin from improperly stored foods can lead to serious illness and death. Anyone who has eaten this product and has experienced 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, immune-compromised, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to foodborne illness. No illnesses associated with this recall have been reported at this time.

HEALTH Urges People to Take Precautions for a Safe and Healthy Fourth

07-03-2013

HEALTH Urges People to Take Precautions for a Safe and Healthy Fourth HEALTH wants everyone to enjoy a safe and healthy Independence Day holiday. As preparations for festivities begin, people should take precautions to avoid illness and injury.

Food Safety

Warm temperatures provide the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness - especially in chicken and poultry. Raw poultry, beef, and other meats can be naturally contaminated with bacteria that cause acute illness like vomiting, but can also lead to hospitalization or death. Young children, pregnant mothers, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to foodborne illness. When preparing meats, keep hands, utensils, and food surfaces clean to avoid contaminating other foods, like salad and sliced vegetables. Never put food on a surface that has touched raw meat. Always keep raw meat cold in the refrigerator, and don't let juices drip onto other foods and surfaces. Marinate meat in the refrigerator and take it out just before you are ready to grill it. Though poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, you can't tell if it's fully cooked by just looking. Use a food thermometer to make sure the food reaches 165- ° F. Don't let raw chicken touch other foods on the grill and don't use the marinade that you used for raw chicken on the chicken when it is cooking. Never place cooked meat back on the same plate or cutting board that held raw food.

Fireworks

Consumers who decide to purchase legal fireworks are urged to follow these safety tips to avoid injuries and burns:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers.
  • Always have an adult closely supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

Sun Safety

Protect yourself from exposure to the sun's rays and reduce your risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and heat stress.

  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection before you go outside, even on cloudy days.
  • Reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating or after staying outside for more than two hours.
  • Wear clothing, sunglasses, and a hat with a wide brim to protect exposed skin.
  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Avoid Ticks and Mosquitoes

To prevent tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, use an appropriate insect and tick repellent (with 20% DEET) and apply it properly. You can also treat clothing with the repellent. Prime mosquito-biting hours are usually dusk to dawn, but ticks are out at all times.

  • Wear long sleeved clothing and pants, in addition to insect repellent, to protect yourself from bites.
  • Avoid tick-infested areas (especially areas with leaf-litter and high grasses).
  • After coming indoors, shower as soon as possible and check your body for ticks.

HEALTH To Hold Meeting for Public Comment on St. Joseph Center for Health and Human Services' Plan to Eliminate Obstetric Services

07-03-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health will hold a meeting for public comment on a plan proposed by St. Joseph Center for Health and Human Services (CharterCARE Health Partners) to eliminate obstetric services at OB/GYN clinics located at 21 Peace Street in Providence and 40 Broad Street in Pawtucket. Administrative review of the plan for closure began on June 25, 2013 and the Director of Health has 90 days to make a decision.

The public meeting will be held on Thursday, July 11, 2013 from 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. at the Rhode Island Department of Health, Department Operations Center (Lower Level) 3 Capitol Hill, Providence, Rhode Island.

HEALTH Welcomes Pet Therapy Dogs for Eighth Consecutive Year

07-03-2013

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health kicked off its continuing partnership with a group of credentialed family therapy dogs and their guardians. Beginning today, and every Tuesday throughout the month of July, dogs and employees from the Windwalker Humane Coalition for Professional Pet Assisted Therapy will be on site to greet visitors in HEALTH's lobby. This is the eighth year that Windwalker members have been welcomed by HEALTH. "Pets impact health in positive ways," said Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD. "Pets can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, decrease feelings of isolation and sadness, and contribute to a person's overall sense of well-being." The dogs and their guardians are all graduates of the Professional Pet Assisted Therapy University Certificate Program at the Community College of Rhode Island. Windwalker members provide Professional Pet Assisted Therapy in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and anywhere the therapy is needed. The pets provide incentive for those they meet to perform physical therapy exercises, go for walks, and they provide comfort and socialization for those in need. They also give children learning to read the comfort and confidence-building opportunity to read to a pet. The long-standing relationship between Windwalker and HEALTH began in 1993, when then Director of Health, Patricia Nolan, MD, started a committee to study Pet Assisted Therapy.

HEALTH Expands Recall Advising Consumers Not to Eat Bel Frantoio Olives Sold at Ocean State Job Lot Stores

07-05-2013

PROVIDENCE--The Rhode Island Department of Health is expanding the recall from earlier this week advising consumers not to eat Mediterranean Olives: Calcidica Sweet (Brand: Bel Frantoio) sold at any Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL) stores. In addition to these sweet olives, HEALTH now warns consumers not to eat any Bel Frantoio brand olives sold at any Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL) stores. OSJL is recalling these products after HEALTH staff discovered that, as with the Calcidica Sweet olives, the Calcidica Salted Bel Frantoio olives were also not handled appropriately to prevent production of the toxin that causes botulism. Mediterranean Olives: Calcidica Sweet and Calcidica Salted, produced by Bel Frantoio and packaged in 34-oz. plastic containers, were sold in OSJL stores in New York and throughout the Northeast (Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine). These two types of olives are being voluntarily recalled because they are labeled "Keep Refrigerated," but were sold at room temperature, making them susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum. Other olive products produced by Bel Frantoio that were sold at Ocean State Job Lot, as well as other brands of olives, do not currently pose a safety issue. However, HEALTH recommends and Ocean State Job Lot has voluntarily recalled ALL Bel Frantoio olives, and customers are encouraged to return any Bel Frantoio olives to Ocean State Job Lot for a refund. Although there are no safety issues with other types of Bel Frantoio brand olives they do require refrigeration, contrary to the label on the top of the container which states "Refrigerate after opening". OSJL will give a refund to anyone who returns any olives with that brand name. For more information, contact the Ocean State Job Lot Customer Service Center at (401) 295-2672, Option 6. These products sold elsewhere, where refrigerated, are safe for consumption.

Ingestion of botulinum toxin from improperly stored foods can lead to serious illness and death. Anyone who has eaten the recalled product(s) and has experienced 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, immune-compromised, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to foodborne illness. No illnesses associated with this recall have been reported at this time.

HEALTH Closes Spring Lake Beach in Burrillville to Swimming

07-07-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health has recommended the closure of Spring Lake Beach Facility (50 Old Hillside Drive, Glendale, RI) to swimming after a group of people who swam there on July 4 became ill with bloody diarrhea. HEALTH has not yet identified the source of the illness, but has taken water samples to test for bacteria. This facility has no history of high bacteria counts. HEALTH is investigating what may have caused the illness. It appears that no one had consumed food prepared at the Spring Lake facility, but out of an abundance of caution, HEALTH's food inspectors were on site this morning. Water test results are expected early tomorrow afternoon, as the testing process takes 24 hours. Anyone who recently swam at Spring Lake and is experiencing diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, or vomiting should see his or her doctor.

HEALTH to Hold Meeting on Licensure Applications for Landmark Medical Center and Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island

07-08-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health will hold the first meeting of the Project Review Committee-I of the Health Services Council on the applications of Prime Healthcare Services - Landmark, LLC, Prime Healthcare Services, Inc., Prime Healthcare Holdings, Inc., and Prime Healthcare Management, Inc. for changes in effective control of Landmark Medical Center, a 214-bed hospital in Woonsocket, and Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island (Northern Rhode Island Rehab Management Associates, LP), an 82-bed rehabilitation hospital center in North Smithfield. The meeting will be held on July 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm at the Rhode Island Department of Health, Department Operations Center (Lower Level), 3 Capitol Hill, Providence, Rhode Island. A formal review of the licensure applications began on July 1, 2013 and will conclude within 90 days.

85 Cases Now Identified in Spring Lake Beach Investigation

07-08-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health is continuing its investigation of diarrheal illness that apparently began at Spring Lake Beach Facility in Burrillville. Since late Saturday night, HEALTH has received reports of 85 illnesses, with 10 resulting in hospitalization. About 80% of those who are sick are under age 18. The vast majority of those reporting illness swam at Spring Lake Beach on July 4. Following these reports, HEALTH closed the beach and collected water samples on the morning of Sunday July 7. Those results, available today, showed no evidence of bacterial (fecal) contamination in the swim area. Additional water samples were collected Monday and the beach will remain closed pending the results of the testing today. Testing for specific bacteria is pending. Prior to Sunday, routine testing of the water occurred on July 1. Those samples also showed no evidence of contamination. HEALTH is still awaiting lab results of stool samples obtained from ill patients in order to identify what exactly is making people sick. Those results are expected as early as tomorrow afternoon. Anyone who recently swam at Spring Lake and is experiencing diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, or vomiting should see his or her doctor.

HEALTH Reports Shigella Sonnei as Cause for Diarrheal Illness Linked to Spring Lake Beach, Reopens Beach

07-09-2013

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health reported that stool specimens from 19 of the patients who became ill with diarrheal illness after swimming at Spring Lake Beach on July 4, are positive for the bacterium Shigella Sonnei. HEALTH began investigating the outbreak of gastrointestinal illness associated with the public swimming area on July 6. To date, 92 individuals have been identified as ill and 16 have been hospitalized with bloody diarrhea. All swam at Spring Lake Beach in Burrillville on July 4. HEALTH believes that Shigella came from fecal contamination of the water on that date. Approximately 80% of the people who are ill are children under 18 years of age. Hospitalized cases at Hasbro Children's Hospital are recovering well and no severe illness has been reported in adults. "Anyone who recently swam at Spring Lake and is experiencing diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, or vomiting should see his or her doctor," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health. Most people infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting one to three days after exposure, and most infections are not severe and last between 48 and 72 hours. Mild episodes do not require antimicrobial therapy. Because some people may not show signs of illness for between one and three days, HEALTH expects we may see a few new cases. HEALTH is reopening Spring Lake beach for swimming beginning tomorrow, as water test results from Sunday and Monday show no evidence of fecal coliform bacteria. In addition, Shigella does not survive outside the body for long periods and does not survive in warm temperatures. The water temperature in Spring Lake has been high over the last several days. "Town officials from Burrillville were extremely helpful throughout this investigation," said Dr. Fine. "I thank them for their cooperation and assistance." All licensed beaches in Rhode Island are now open for swimming. (Oakland Beach in Warwick, which had been closed since late June because of high bacteria counts, also is reopening on July 10).

What Sick People Should Do

  • People who are sick should wash their hands often and avoid food handling in the family and work environment.
  • People with active diarrhea should be kept out of school, day-care, camp, work, and community activities until completely free of diarrhea.
  • Anyone who recently swam at Spring Lake and is experiencing diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, or vomiting should see his or her doctor.

United Healthcare to Pay Administrative Penalty Under Consent Agreement with HEALTH

07-12-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health has entered into a Consent Agreement with United Healthcare of New England, Inc. and United Healthcare Insurance Company. Under the terms of the agreement, United will pay an administrative penalty in the amount of $500,000 for its failure to file a material modification application with the Department of Health prior to entering into a prescription drug benefit administration agreement with OptumRX, Inc. United notified the Department that it had entered into a prescription drug benefit administration agreement with OptumRX, Inc. on February 6, 2013, but did not file an application for material modification until June 3, 2013. "This agreement reflects HEALTH's priority of protecting the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders by bringing closure to this situation with minimal disruption to the public," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "The ways in which plans deal with their network and their utilization review process has a direct impact on providers and consumers and for that reason, HEALTH's regulations must be followed." Under the terms of the agreement, HEALTH has provisionally approved United's application for a material modification pending full review and a decision by the Department. This provisional approval will remain in effect until HEALTH completes a full review and renders a decision on the application, which will occur on or before October 1, 2013. HEALTH's review process will also include a public comment period and may include a public hearing at the Department's discretion.

HEALTH Advises Precautions for Prevention of Shigellosis Spread

07-12-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health is urging all Rhode Islanders to take a few simple precautions to protect themselves from shigella infection. HEALTH is making this recommendation after nearly 150 people have been reported ill with shigellosis, a diarrheal illness recently linked to Shigella Sonnei bacterium. An initial cluster of 134 cases was reported among individuals who swam at Spring Lake Beach on July 4. An additional 14 cases have been reported in people who swam at Wallum Lake during the past few days, and additional cases have also been reported in Rhode Island residents who swam in nearby Massachusetts. "It is important for people to know that shigellosis is being reported in northern Rhode Island," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Fortunately, good hand washing, avoiding swimming if you've been ill with diarrhea and staying home for 48 hours after you no longer have diarrhea are effective ways to help prevent the spread of shigellosis." HEALTH began investigating an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness associated with Spring Lake Beach on July 6. The beach, which showed no evidence of fecal coliform bacteria in recent test results, has been re-opened for swimming. HEALTH has since received reports of additional shigellosis cases associated with swimming in lakes in northern Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts. Most people infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting one to three days after exposure. Most infections are not severe and last between 48 and 72 hours. Mild episodes do not require antimicrobial therapy.

To protect yourself from shigellosis, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and before eating or preparing food. For the protection of everyone, avoid swimming if you have or have recently (within the last 48 hours) had diarrhea. Also, children who are not yet toilet trained and attend daycare should be kept home if they have diarrhea, and for 48 hours after the diarrhea clears. If you are ill with diarrhea, wash your hands often, avoid preparing food for others for at least 48 hours after you are free from diarrhea, and stay home from school, work, camp, daycare or other community activities until you have been completely free of diarrhea for 48 hours. If someone in your home is ill with diarrhea, clean frequently with a bleach solution, especially bathrooms and frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, telephones and remote controls. People who develop symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever or vomiting should contact their doctor.

HEALTH Urges Precautions to Prevent Heat-related Illness

07-15-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health urges all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves against the extreme heat forecasted for the coming week with a few simple health precautions. "Extreme heat can be quite dangerous, particularly for our young and elderly Rhode Islanders," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "It's important to check on each other, stay well hydrated, limit exposure to heat, and to be vigilant for signs of heat-related illness." To protect yourself and your family from heat-related illness, take the following precautions:

  • Drink more water than usual, and don't wait until you're thirsty to drink more fluids. Avoid alcohol or liquids that contain high amounts of sugar.
  • Check on friends and neighbors, particularly those who are caring for young children and those who are elderly.
  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If you don't have air conditioning at home, head to a community-based cooling center, such as a shopping mall or library, if possible.
  • Stay out of the sun. Find a shaded area where you can sit and relax, particularly during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Add a hat if you must be outside.
  • Limit outdoor activities, especially at mid-day. If you exercise outdoors, move your workout to a morning or evening time, take it indoors to an air-conditioned environment, or try swimming, which is a great summer exercise. If you work outside, wear sunscreen (re-apply frequently), pace your activity, stay hydrated, and check on co-workers.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down, particularly if you're unable to move to an air-conditioned location.
  • Avoid turning on your oven, if possible. It will make your house hotter.
  • Never leave young children or pets in parked cars, even with the windows down.

Heat-related illness, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, are of particular concern during periods of extreme heat. Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale or clammy skin, a fast or weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. Individuals who have any of these symptoms should move to a cooler location, lie down, loosen clothing, sip water, and apply cool, wet cloths to help cool the body down. Seek medical attention if vomiting begins. Heat stroke symptoms include high body temperature (above 103 degrees F), hot, red, dry or moist skin, rapid and strong pulse, and unconsciousness. This is a medical emergency and 911 should be called immediately. Individuals experiencing heat stroke symptoms should be moved to a cooler environment. Apply cool cloths or place the person into a cool bath to lower body temperature.

HEALTH Urges Use of Proper Procedures for Safe Handling of Shellfish

07-20-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health urges all Rhode Islanders who fish in local waters to be sure they are following proper procedures for safe handling of shellfish. This recommendation is made after HEALTH received a report of an individual who became ill due to Vibrio parahaemolyticus after consuming shellfish caught at Sand Hill Cove in the Point Judith Pond area. "We encourage Rhode Islanders who like shellfish to continue to enjoy eating them," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "It's important that those who catch their own shellfish take the necessary steps to protect themselves from illness." To safely enjoy shellfish, HEALTH makes the following recommendations:

  • Do not eat raw oysters, clams, mussels, or shellfish.
  • Bring a cooler and ice packs with you while fishing so that all shellfish can be cooled immediately.
  • Cook all shellfish thoroughly. For shellfish in a hard shell (clams, oysters, mussels), boil for five minutes after the shells open or steam for 9 minutes after the shells open. Do not eat clams, oysters, or mussels that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters for at least 3 minutes or fry in oil that is 375 degrees for 3 minutes.
  • Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
  • Clean surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils after they have come in contact with raw shellfish or shellfish juices.
  • Harvest shellfish from approved areas only and refrigerate shellfish immediately.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills. The illness is usually mild or moderate, although some cases may require hospitalization. Symptoms usually last two or three days. Children, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system can develop more serious symptoms. Anyone who has eaten raw or improperly cooked shellfish and has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

HEALTH Expands Maternal and Child Home Visiting in Rhode Island

07-22-2013

PROVIDENCE, RI - The Rhode Island Department of Health has expanded voluntary home visiting services for prenatal women and families with children younger than three as a result of funding through the Affordable Care Act. "There is strong evidence that high-quality home visiting services during pregnancy and the first years of a child's life have long-lasting benefits for the child's development and for the physical, emotional, and economic well-being of families," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Rhode Island is fortunate to be able to expand these important services to more families and make this public investment in our future generation." Studies show that families who receive evidence-based home visiting services have higher rates of breastfeeding, well-baby care, and health insurance coverage. Such programs have also demonstrated improvements in school readiness and achievement for children. In West Warwick, Family Service of RI will provide the Healthy Families America (HFA) program. Blackstone Valley Community Action Program and Federal Hill House will run the Parents as Teachers (PAT) program in Providence. The home visitors in both programs work with a family until the child is three years old and will meet wherever is most comfortable for the family, usually in the home. HEALTH has also awarded continued funding for First Connections, the backbone of Rhode Island's comprehensive support system for pregnant women and families with young children. First Connections is a short-term home visiting program staffed by nurses, social workers, and community health workers that offers assistance with infant feeding and referrals to community providers, among other services. During the past five years, HEALTH-funded First Connections agencies have provided home visits to more than 17,000 children statewide. Services for HFA in West Warwick and PAT in Providence are expected to begin in the fall of 2013. First Connections services will be available statewide. To request a home visit now or to refer a pregnant woman or family for home visiting services, call the HEALTH information line at (401) 222-5960 and ask about First Connections or see www.health.ri.gov/find/firstconnectionsproviders for a list of providers. To learn more about home visiting in Rhode Island, see www.health.ri.gov/homevisiting

HEALTH and DEM Officials Seek Individuals Who May Have Had Physical Contact With Black-and-White Calf in Tiverton

07-25-2013

PROVIDENCE - Following the sudden death of a young calf in a pasture adjacent to Gray's ice cream in Tiverton, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health are advising any individuals who may have touched the animal to contact HEALTH. On July 15, a Massachusetts resident was bitten by a calf that was in a small pasture adjacent to the ice cream shop at 16 East Road in Tiverton. Massachusetts Public Health authorities were notified of the bite and the incident was then reported to RI DEM. RI DEM in turn notified the Tiverton Animal Control Officer, who issued an order of quarantine for the animal since all bites from mammals are considered potential rabies exposures. The three-month-old black-and-white steer, known as Oreo, was then placed into quarantine by construction of a barrier that prevented any contact with the public. The animal was found dead on July 21 while still under the 10-day quarantine period. The calf's owner promptly notified Tiverton authorities on July 21 upon finding the animal dead. DEM was not notified of the animal's death until July 24. DEM attempted to obtain tissues from the animal for rabies testing, but the animal's condition was too decomposed to test. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, public health officials are considering that this animal may have died from rabies and are viewing anyone that had contact with the animal's saliva from July 5 through July 21 as potentially at risk for being exposed to rabies, and are recommending that they be evaluated for post-exposure vaccination by public health authorities. Members of the public should note that the calf was removed from direct public contact on July 16, and that only the animal's handlers may have been exposed during the period from July 16 through July 21. Nationwide, cattle and cats are the domestic animal species that are most frequently infected with rabies. Transmission of rabies from an infected cow to a human is very rare, but possible. People usually contract rabies through a bite from an infected animal, but there are other ways that they can be exposed, such as through saliva from an infected animal getting into an open wound or into a person's eye or mouth. Without proper treatment for rabies exposure, rabies can develop and the infection is virtually always fatal. Proper post-exposure vaccination can prevent infection and death. Rhode Island residents who had contact with this calf between July 5 and July 21 should contact the Rhode Island Department of Health at 222-2577. Massachusetts residents that had contact with the animal are asked to call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800. HEALTH staff will assess each individual's level of contact with the animal and determine whether any contact may have resulted in potential rabies exposure. If HEALTH determines that contact did result in potential exposure, HEALTH will recommend treatment. When administered properly, post-exposure treatment for rabies will prevent any person who was exposed to the virus from developing the disease and prevent death. Gray's Ice Cream is a popular location for tourists and local residents. Public health officials are working under the assumption that there are a large number of people who may have visited the store between July 5 and July 16 and touched the suspect calf. Rhode Island public health officials are also working with their counterparts from Massachusetts since Gray's commonly draws customers from nearby Massachusetts.

DEM And HEALTH Announce Death of Second Calf in Tiverton

07-26-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health have announced that a second calf housed in a pasture adjacent to Gray's Ice Cream in Tiverton has died. DEM has obtained tissues from the animal for rabies testing, which will be conducted at the State Health Laboratory. Results from that testing are expected to be available tomorrow. There is no change in the earlier guidance issued for Rhode Island residents who had physical contact with the black-and-white calf between July 5 and July 21. Those individuals should contact HEALTH at 222-2577.

Testing Shows No Rabies in Second Tiverton Calf; Health Advisory Remains in Place for Those Who Had Physical Contact With Black-and-White Calf

07-27-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health have reported that laboratory testing has confirmed that a brown calf that died on July 26 in Tiverton did not have rabies. The calf had been housed in a pasture adjacent to Gray's Ice Cream. Cause of death for this calf is pending, but rabies infection has been ruled out as a cause of death. Although test results show that this particular calf did not have rabies, HEALTH officials have not changed the guidance issued for individuals who had physical contact between July 5 and July 21 with a black-and-white calf housed in a pasture adjacent to Gray's. The tissues of that animal were too decomposed to test for rabies infection. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, officials advise anyone who had physical contact with the black-and-white calf between July 5 and July 21 to contact HEALTH at 222-2577 for evaluation of their potential rabies exposure. Members of the public should note that the black-and-white calf was removed from direct public contact on July 16, and that only the animal's handlers may have been exposed during the period from July 16 through July 21. Any individual who had physical contact with the calf prior to July 5 is not at risk for rabies from that contact.

HEALTH, DEM Issue Blue-Green Algae Advisories for Roger Williams Park Ponds and Mashapaug Pond

07-30-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) have issued health advisories for Roger Williams Park Ponds and Mashapaug Pond because of blue-green algae blooms in both bodies of water. Rhode Islanders are urged to avoid recreational activities in both bodies of water, which are located in Providence. The blue-green algae blooms in Roger Williams Park Ponds and Mashapaug Pond, also known as cyanobacteria, may produce naturally occurring algal toxins. Until further notice, people should avoid:

  • Swimming in these ponds
  • Boating in these ponds
  • Fishing in these ponds
  • Eating fish caught in these ponds
  • Allowing pets to enter into or drink from these ponds

Algae blooms can be dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface, or they can form under water. They are bright green and often resemble green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after blue-green algae blooms are no longer visible. 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 aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Individuals who come into contact with blue-green algae blooms in Roger Williams Park Ponds or Mashapaug Pond should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible and wash their clothes. Anyone who is experiencing the symptoms listed above after coming into contact with an algae bloom should contact their healthcare provider. Pets are at greater risk because they are more likely to swim in or drink the contaminated water. If pets come into contact with the water, people are advised to rinse the animal with clean water to prevent them from licking the potential toxins, and to contact their veterinarian if they become ill after swimming in a pond experiencing a cyanobacteria bloom. HEALTH and DEM have notified Providence officials of the algae blooms and are working with the city to ensure that those around the bodies of water are aware of the potential danger posed by the blooms.

'Born to Breastfeed' Event Offers Education and Entertainment at Roger Williams Park Zoo

08-01-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition (RIBC), in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Health , will hold a family-friendly event, "Born to Breastfeed," at the Roger Williams Park Zoo on Wednesday, Aug. 7, from 5-9 p.m. The event is being held in conjunction with WHO/UNICEF World Breastfeeding Week. During the event, families can view zoo exhibits and participate in fun family activities while learning about breastfeeding from educational tables and lactation consultants, who will be on hand to answer questions and provide information. "Breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "It protects babies from infections at the earliest stages of their lives, and can decrease their risk of developing obesity in adolescence and adulthood. Plus, it helps their moms lose weight faster - ” all at a lower cost than formula feeding. We invite all Rhode Islanders to come out to the zoo to learn more about breastfeeding and get their questions answered. Breast is best!" The event will take place rain or shine. Most zoo exhibits will remain open throughout the evening, with storytelling, face painting, and music taking place throughout the zoo. Cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages three to 10 years old. Children younger than three may attend for free. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at the Women & Infants Nursing Moms shop. For more information or to order tickets, contact event@ribreastfeeding.org. In addition to this event, more local support for pregnant women and nursing mothers is available, including:

  • Women enrolled in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program can obtain breastfeeding information and one-on-one assistance from lactation consultants and peer counselors. Contact your local WIC agency or visit www.health.ri.gov/find/wicagencies to learn more.
  • Any pregnant woman or new mom in the state can get breastfeeding support through the First Connections home visiting program. Contact your local First Connections agency to learn more or visit www.health.ri.gov/find/firstconnectionsproviders for a list.
The RIBC is a non-profit coalition of community organizations dedicated to promoting and supporting breastfeeding in Rhode Island, thereby improving the health and well-being of women and children.

HEALTH Advises Restaurants and Markets to Not Use Certain Lots of Oysters and Clams due to Connecticut Shellfish Closure and Recall

08-05-2013

The Rhode Island Department of Health advises restaurants, markets, and consumers that raw and undercooked oysters and hard clams harvested from waters with specific lot numbers in Norwalk and Westport, Connecticut have been implicated as the source of a number of illnesses related to the naturally occurring bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus. These bacteria can cause serious illness that may require hospitalization. Among the distributors who received the recalled shellfish was a distributor in Rhode Island, American Mussel. Affected harvest dates are 7/3/13 through 8/2/13. The original shipper numbers associated with this recall are listed below; however, not all product associated with these shippers is being recalled. The harvest location on the tag and shipping records and invoices must be reviewed in order to determine if the shellfish is affected by this recall. The list of states and dealers receiving product is expected to grow as the product is shipped through the distribution chain. HEALTH is working with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and affected shippers to determine where product was shipped and to notify potential recipients. This recall only affects oysters and clams harvested from Connecticut waters with the specific lot numbers listed below. It does not include other products shipped by American Mussel or other identified shippers. In addition, the recall does not include any oysters or clams from Rhode Island waters. If recall shellfish are identified, place the shellfish under embargo, clearly identifying that they are not to be sold. Notify the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture at 203-209-4023 if this product is identified so the department can include the shellfish in the recall tally. Vibrio parahaemolyticus symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills. The illness is usually mild or moderate, although some cases may require hospitalization. Symptoms usually last two or three days. Children, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system can develop more serious symptoms. Anyone who has eaten raw or improperly cooked shellfish and has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

To date, seven cases of Vibrio have been reported in Rhode Island this year, with two of these cases consuming shellfish from the affected area. Licensed CT Original Shippers (Harvesters) Associated with Recall:

  • CT 69 SS Norm Bloom and Son
  • CT 100 SS Hillard Bloom Shellfish
  • CT 38 SS Michael Oravez
  • CT 1247 SS A.C. Stabell *In state only
  • CT 154 SS Tallmadge Land and Sea
  • CT 136 SS Pramer Oyster

Affected Harvest dates: All shellfish harvested from the following listed areas between 07/03/13 and 08/02/13

Species:

  • Eastern Oyster (a.k.a. Blue Point Oysters), all sizes, all quantities
  • Hard clams, all sizes, all quantities

Affected Harvest Locations: Please keep in mind that all of this information may not be present on each tag that you review, and the information may be in a different order than it appears below. For example, CT 79 Westport may read Westport Lot 79, CT or L-79 Westport, or simply L-79 with no town designation.

  • CT 20 Westport
  • CT 21 Norwalk
  • CT 67 Westport
  • CT 71 Westport
  • CT 73 Norwalk
  • CT 79 Westport
  • CT 105 Westport
  • CT 109 Norwalk
  • CT 123 Westport
  • CT 171 Westport
  • CT 173 Westport
  • CT 207 Westport
  • CT 253 Norwalk
  • CT 254 Westport
  • CT 255 Norwalk
  • CT 268 Westport
  • CT 270 Norwalk
  • CT 595C Westport
  • CT 595D Westport
  • CT 599 Westport

This investigation is ongoing, and HEALTH will provide more information as it becomes available.

DEM and HEALTH Announce Test Confirms Death Of Calf Is Not A Public Health Risk

08-15-2013

PROVIDENCE - The results of an animal autopsy performed on the brown calf that was housed in the pen adjacent to Gray's Ice Cream in Tiverton, and which was euthanized on July 26th, showed no evidence that the calf posed any public health threat. The testing, which was conducted at the University of Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Lab, determined that this calf's condition was due to complications from parasites that do not cause illness in humans. Therefore, there is no risk to the public who may have had contact with this animal. On July 26th the owner of the brown calf reported to the Rhode Island State Veterinarian that the calf was in poor health. This report came only a few days after a black-and-white calf housed in the same pen had died while under quarantine for observation for rabies. Unfortunately, the cause of the black and white calf's death was not able to be determined, but since he died while under quarantine for rabies observation, public health authorities are acting out of an abundance of caution, in treating the death as though he was infected with rabies and making appropriate recommendations regarding treatment of those people who were considered to be potentially exposed after being screened. The Rhode Island Department of Health is still recommending that anyone who has begun rabies treatment as a result of being assessed for exposure, should complete the treatment.

HEALTH Announces Recipients of Health Professional Loan Repayment Program Awards: Five Rhode Island Non-Profits Support Initiative

08-20-2013

Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Health today announced the recipients of the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program during a State House ceremony that also honored the program's funders. "Thank you to the five funders, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Rhode Island Health Center Association and United Healthcare Community Plan, for coming together to support an initiative that brings medical services to Rhode Island's underserved communities," Governor Chafee said. "And, congratulations to Jane Hayward for her leadership role and dedication to reviving the loan repayment program, which in addition to helping individuals and families in our state, provides eligible health professionals with the ability to repay their education loans." The mission of the program is to improve access to care; to retain healthcare providers in underserved communities; and address health professional shortages that cause disparities in health. Loan re-payment awards to eligible health professionals are given by the Health Professional Loan Repayment Board. "This program plays a vital role in ensuring access to primary care and other healthcare services for underserved Rhode Islanders," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "In addition, this commitment to serve by these new health professionals provides an important perspective on health disparities and on the link between access to primary care and improved health outcomes." Eligible health professionals make a two-year commitment to practice in medically underserved communities as identified through the Health Professional Shortage Area process. They serve in a variety of disciplines, including primary care, dentistry, and mental health. During the State House ceremony, funders of the program were recognized for their support and contributions. Past recipients spoke about their experiences working with underserved populations. Jane Hayward, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association, was honored for her efforts in obtaining matching contributions from community partners, including United Healthcare Community Plan, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Foundation. Additionally, Hayward secured funding that allowed the state to re-establish the program.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Rhode Island Health Center Association and United Healthcare Community Plan each contributed $25,000 to the fund. "Loan repayment is an important tool to help recruit primary care professionals in Rhode Island," Hayward said. "I am so pleased that we were able to bring together five organizations that understand the importance of primary care. This is one way we can help support efforts to recruit and retain talented healthcare professionals to work in underserved communities in Rhode Island." This year's loan repayment recipients include: Dr. Eric N. Berard, Thundermist Health Center of Woonsocket; Registered Nurse Alice S. Eyo, Blackstone Valley Community Healthcare of Pawtucket; Dr. Altug Koymen, Providence Community Health Centers at Capitol Hill; Dr. David A. Sam, Notre Dame Ambulatory Center of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island; Nurse Practitioner Nicole J. Saquet, Providence Community Health Centers at Olneyville; Nurse Practitioner, Adedamola Solawon, Thundermist Health Center of West Warwick; and Dr. Emily M. White, Providence Community Health Centers at Prairie Avenue.

DEM, HEALTH Report Two Positive West Nile Virus Findings in Mosquitoes Trapped in Charlestown and West Kingston

08-29-2013

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health announce that two samples of mosquitoes collected on August 19 have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). These findings are not unexpected at this time of the year. Test results on the remaining 140 pools of mosquitoes collected on August 19 are pending at the RI Health Department laboratory. One sample, or pool, of mosquitoes was collected in the Cross Mills area of Charlestown, and was a species that can bite both birds and humans. Given this positive finding, DEM and HEALTH are advising individuals attending the RI Rhythm and Roots Music Festival this weekend in Charlestown's Ninigret Park to take extra care to avoid mosquito bites. The second positive WNV mosquito pool was collected in West Kingston and was a species that feeds exclusively on birds. This year, to date in Rhode Island, three pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus and no mosquitoes have tested positive for EEE. There have been no reported 2013 cases of WNV or EEE in humans in Rhode Island at this time.

Throughout the mosquito season, which typically lasts through the first hard frost, residents are encouraged to protect themselves by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as WNV and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection. To help protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illness, Rhode Islanders should:

  • Dress for protection. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks during outdoor evening activities.
  • Use bug spray. Use mosquito and tick repellent with no more than 30 percent DEET during outdoor activities, particularly at dusk and during evening hours, when mosquitoes are most active. Do not use repellent on infants. Instead, put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
  • Time activities for maximum protection. If possible, minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
  • Evaluate the environment. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens. Remove any standing water around yards and houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the RI Department of Health laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary. Test results from mosquitoes trapped this week will be included in next week's announcement. Positive mosquito test results will generally trigger additional trapping to assess risk.

Rhode Island Long Term Care Mutual Aid Plan to conduct mock evacuation exercise with healthcare facilities

08-30-2013

Providence, RI - The Rhode Island Long Term Care Mutual Aid Plan (LTC-MAP / www.mutualaidplan.org/RI) will be conducting mock facility evacuation scenarios in long-term care facilities on September 11 and 13, 2013. Although rare, the evacuation of a healthcare facility is a complex event requiring significant coordination with the municipality, regional partners, and the state. The focus of these exercises is to evaluate the interaction of the LTC-MAP members in preparation for internal events (fire, power failures, etc.) and external events (hurricanes, ice storms, tornadoes, etc.). The focus will be on communications, tracking of evacuated residents, and handling an influx of residents at receiving facilities.

The exercises include operations coordinated out of a simulated "Disaster Struck Facility", where mock residents will be staged awaiting transportation to "Resident Accepting Facilities" within the LTC-MAP. The Department Operations Center (DOC) at the Rhode Island Department of Health will be activated to ensure accountability for all facilities and house a Long Term Care Group specifically focused on providing information and support to the nursing homes. Volunteers will play the role of mock residents being evacuated from and to various nursing homes.

The exercises are a joint effort by the LTC-MAP members, Russell Phillips & Associates, HEALTH, the Rhode Island Health Care Association, LeadingAge Rhode Island, and local fire departments, EMS, and emergency management officials.

Date & Time of Exercise -- Region -- Disaster Struck Facility -- City:

  • September 11, 2013 -- 9:00am-12:45pm -- Northern -- Cedar Crest Nursing Centre -- Cranston
  • September 13, 2013 -- 9:00am-12:45pm -- Southern -- Saint Elizabeth Home -- East Greenwich

    About the LTC- MAP:

    This plan works to prepare all of the long-term care facilities to stand together in a disaster with pre-event planning for evacuation and resource/asset support. The objectives of this plan are to have a Memorandum of Understanding/Agreement among all ninety (90) long-term care facilities (LTCFs) in Rhode Island to provide mutual aid for each other during an emergency and to have a coordinated plan that outlines the actions and information needed before, during, and after any major emergency event.

    DEM, HEALTH Report EEE and West Nile Virus Findings in Mosquitoes Trapped in Great Swamp in West Kingston

    09-04-2013

    PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health announce that test results from two mosquito pools, or samples, from a trap set in the Great Swamp in West Kingston have been confirmed positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). It is the first time this year that EEE has been positively identified in Rhode Island, although it is presumed likely to be present in other areas of the state. The positive EEE result was found in a pool of 37 mosquitoes trapped on August 26 and was of the Culex species that bites both birds and mammals. In addition to the EEE finding, WNV was found in a pool of 50 mosquitoes also trapped on August 26 in Great Swamp and was of the Culiseta species that feeds almost exclusively on birds. As a result, DEM will be setting extra mosquito traps in the South County area for increased assessment. A third mosquito pool, which was from a trap set in Chapman Swamp in Westerly, has been confirmed positive for Highlands J Virus. The positive Highlands J result was from a species of mosquitoes that bites birds. Highlands J virus is a bird disease that doesn't affect humans, but which is an indicator that environmental conditions are appropriate for the transmission of other mosquito-borne viruses. These findings are not unexpected at this time of the year. Test results on the remaining 147 mosquito pools from 33 traps set statewide during the week of August 26 are pending at the RI Department of Health laboratory. This year, to date in Rhode Island, four pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus and one pool of mosquitoes has tested positive for EEE. There have been no reported 2013 cases of WNV or EEE in humans in Rhode Island at this time. Throughout the mosquito season, which typically lasts through the first hard frost, residents are encouraged to protect themselves by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as WNV and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection. To help protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illness, DEM and Health strongly recommend that Rhode Islanders should:

    • Dress for protection. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks during outdoor evening and early morning activities.
    • Use bug spray. Use mosquito repellent with no more than 30 percent DEET during outdoor activities, particularly at dawn, dusk, and evening hours, when mosquitoes are most active. Do not use repellent on infants. Instead, put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Time activities for maximum protection. If possible, minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
    • Evaluate the environment. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens. Residents and facility groundskeepers should immediately look for and empty standing water following heavy rain, and ensure rain gutters are clear of debris that might trap water. Remove any standing water around yards and houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

    Because horses are susceptible to West Nile Virus and EEE, Rhode Island horse owners are reminded that safe and effective vaccines are available to protect their horses. Horse owners should check with their veterinarian to ensure that their horses are properly immunized.

    Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the RI Department of Health laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary. Test results from mosquitoes trapped this week will be included in next week's announcement. Positive mosquito test results will generally trigger additional trapping to assess risk.

    HEALTH Urges Rhode Islanders to Prepare for Emergencies

    09-06-2013

    Hurricanes. Blizzards. Extended power outages. These are all emergencies that can happen here in Rhode Island. September is National Preparedness Month, and the Rhode Island Department of Health reminds everyone to prepare now. "Now is the perfect time to think about what you'll need in an emergency," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Decide what needs to be in your emergency kit and put all of those supplies together. If you already have an emergency kit, replace any items that are missing, broken or unsafe to use." While your emergency kit should include enough basic supplies to support each member of your household for at least three days, HEALTH recommends that the following items be included in an emergency kit to support your health:

    • Three-day supply of all medications (prescription and non-prescription)
    • List of all medications, and specific doses, that you take
    • List of all healthcare providers and their contact information
    • Extra pair of glasses
    • Extra batteries for hearing aids or other medical equipment
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes
    • First aid kit
    • Healthy, non-perishable food items like canned fruit with no added sugar, tuna fish, peanut butter, or low-fat/low-sugar granola bars
    • Water (one gallon per person per day)

    HEALTH, DEM Encourage Rhode Islanders to Take Precautions to Prevent Tick-Borne Disease

    09-09-2013

    With the population of ticks on the rise in Rhode Island, the Departments of Health and Environmental Management (DEM) urge Rhode Islanders to protect themselves from tick bites when enjoying the outdoors. "Many of us know someone affected by Lyme disease, so any increase in the tick population is of concern," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "While we have observed higher numbers of deer ticks over the past two years, our primary care system is well-equipped to care for people who may need treatment for Lyme disease. Early diagnosis and treatment are important, but reducing exposure to ticks remains the best defense against Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections." "DEM shares a common interest with the Department of Health in preventing tick bites," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "One of DEM's most important missions is to provide families with fulfilling outdoor experiences. However, the challenge lies in keeping them safe - tick safe - while they are there. We've learned that we need to take several approaches to deal with this concern, including partnerships, public education, and deer population control. As the deer population increases, so do the number of ticks, evidence that deer control is a key factor in the fight against ticks. DEM continues to focus on managing the antlerless deer population to keep the deer herd in balance with habitat and the concerns of residents." Tick populations are increasing in nearly every area of the state. All Rhode Islanders should take steps to improve their "tick literacy" and protect themselves from tick bites.

    • Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors. Wear light-colored clothing. Tuck pants into socks so that ticks do not crawl under clothing.
    • Check yourself and your family daily for ticks, especially if you spend a lot of time outside in grassy or wooded areas. Don't forget to check your pets, too, and use products that rapidly kill or repel ticks on pets. Deer ticks, the kind that carry Lyme disease, are often small (popp yseed-sized) in their nymphal (immature) stage.
    • Consider wearing tick-repellant clothing when going outside in tick habitat and treating your yard with tick-killing insecticides.
    • If you find a tick, properly remove it with tweezers. Tick removal within 24 hours of attachment can prevent Lyme transmission.

    Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that spread through the bite of an infected tick. Symptoms of new onset Lyme disease can include a 'bullseye" rash anywhere on the skin, facial or Bell's palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face), severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), pain and swelling in the large joints (such as knees), shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, and heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat. Anyone with symptoms of Lyme disease should contact their healthcare provider.

    HEALTH is able to make estimates of the annual incidence (number of newly diagnosed cases) of Lyme disease and other tick- and vector-borne diseases across Rhode Island. HEALTH estimates that approximately 800 cases of new Lyme infection occur every year. HEALTH also monitors the capacity of the medical care system to respond to population health challenges.

    DEM, HEALTH REPORT EEE FINDINGS IN MOSQUITOES TRAPPED IN TIVERTON AND CHAPMAN SWAMP IN WESTERLY

    09-10-2013

    PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health announce that test results from two mosquito pools, or samples, from traps set on September 3 in Tiverton and Westerly have been confirmed positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). It is the second time this year that EEE has been positively identified in Rhode Island, although it is presumed likely to be present in other areas of the state. The positive EEE results were from a pool of mosquitoes trapped in the northern area of Tiverton and in Chapman Swamp in Westerly. Both positive findings were of the Culiseta species that feeds exclusively on birds. As a result, DEM will be setting extra mosquito for increased assessment. In addition, two mosquito pools - one trapped in Tiverton and one trapped in a remote area of northwestern Hopkinton close to the Connecticut border - have been confirmed positive for Highlands J Virus. The positive Highlands J results were from a species of mosquitoes that bites birds. Highlands J virus is a bird disease that doesn't affect humans, but which is an indicator that environmental conditions are appropriate for the transmission of other mosquito-borne viruses. These findings are not unexpected at this time of the year. Test results on the remaining 103 mosquito pools from 33 traps set statewide during the week of September 3 are pending at the RI Department of Health laboratory. This year, to date in Rhode Island, four pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) and three pools of mosquitoes has tested positive for EEE. There have been no reported 2013 cases of WNV or EEE in humans in Rhode Island at this time. Human cases of WNV and EEE have been reported in nearby states. There has been one confirmed case of WNV in Massachusetts, and two deaths from WNV in New Jersey. Vermont has had one death from EEE. WNV is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes and can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). Anyone living in an area where WNV is present in mosquitoes can get infected. EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors. Infants and the elderly are at greatest risk for serious complications. There is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms. Throughout the mosquito season, which typically lasts through the first hard frost, residents are encouraged to protect themselves by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as WNV and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection.

    To help protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illness, DEM and Health strongly recommend that Rhode Islanders should:

    • Dress for protection. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks during outdoor evening and early morning activities.
    • Use bug spray. Use mosquito repellent with no more than 30 percent DEET during outdoor activities, particularly at dawn, dusk, and evening hours, when mosquitoes are most active. Do not use repellent on infants. Instead, put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Time activities for maximum protection. If possible, minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
    • Evaluate the environment. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens. Residents and facility groundskeepers should immediately look for and empty standing water following heavy rain, and ensure rain gutters are clear of debris that might trap water. Remove any standing water around yards and houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

    Because horses are susceptible to West Nile Virus and EEE, Rhode Island horse owners are reminded that safe and effective vaccines are available to protect their horses. Horse owners should check with their veterinarian to ensure that their horses are properly immunized. Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the RI Department of Health laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary. Test results from mosquitoes trapped this week will be included in next week's announcement. Positive mosquito test results will generally trigger additional trapping to assess risk.

    DEM, HEALTH REPORT WEST NILE VIRUS CONFIRMED IN MOSQUITOES TRAPPED IN BARRINGTON

    09-11-2013

    PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health announce that test results from one mosquito pool, or sample, from a trap set on September 3 in Barrington has been confirmed positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). It is the fourth time this year that WNV has been positively identified in Rhode Island, although it is presumed likely to be present in other areas of the state. The positive WNV result was from a pool of mosquitoes trapped near Barrington High School and was of the Culex species that feeds on birds and mammals. Yesterday DEM and Health announced confirmation of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in mosquitoes trapped on September 3 in northern Tiverton and in Chapman Swamp in Westerly. In addition, it was announced that two mosquito pools - one trapped in Tiverton and one trapped in a remote area of northwestern Hopkinton close to the Connecticut border - were confirmed positive for Highlands J Virus. The positive Highlands J results were from a species of mosquitoes that bites birds. Highlands J virus is a bird disease that doesn't affect humans, but which is an indicator that environmental conditions are appropriate for the transmission of other mosquito-borne viruses. As a result, DEM will be setting extra mosquito traps for increased assessment. These findings are not unexpected at this time of the year. Test results on the remaining 102 mosquito pools from 33 traps set statewide during the week of September 3 are pending at the RI Department of Health laboratory. This year, to date in Rhode Island, four pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) and three pools of mosquitoes has tested positive for EEE. There have been no reported 2013 cases of WNV or EEE in humans in Rhode Island at this time. Human cases of WNV and EEE have been reported in nearby states. There has been one confirmed case of WNV in Massachusetts, and two deaths from WNV in New Jersey. Vermont has had one death from EEE. WNV is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes and can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). Anyone living in an area where WNV is present in mosquitoes can get infected. EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors. Infants and the elderly are at greatest risk for serious complications. There is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms. Throughout the mosquito season, which typically lasts through the first hard frost, residents are encouraged to protect themselves by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Mosquito biting activity can be expected to be unseasonably high during these unusually warm evening temperatures today and tomorrow. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as WNV and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection. To help protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illness, DEM and Health strongly recommend that Rhode Islanders should:

    • Dress for protection. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks during outdoor evening and early morning activities.
    • Use bug spray. Use mosquito repellent with no more than 30 percent DEET during outdoor activities, particularly at dawn, dusk, and evening hours, when mosquitoes are most active. Do not use repellent on infants. Instead, put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Time activities for maximum protection. If possible, minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.

    Evaluate the environment. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens. Residents and facility groundskeepers should immediately look for and empty standing water following heavy rain, and ensure rain gutters are clear of debris that might trap water. Remove any standing water around yards and houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

    Because horses are susceptible to West Nile Virus and EEE, Rhode Island horse owners are reminded that safe and effective vaccines are available to protect their horses. Horse owners should check with their veterinarian to ensure that their horses are properly immunized. Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the RI Department of Health laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary. Test results from mosquitoes trapped this week will be included in next week's announcement. Positive mosquito test results will generally trigger additional trapping to assess risk.

    DEM, HEALTH report EEE found in Mosquitos trapped in Exeter

    09-18-2013

    PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health announce that test results from one mosquito pool, or sample, from a trap set on September 9 in Exeter has been confirmed positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).It is the fourth time this year that EEE has been positively identified in Rhode Island, although it is presumed likely to be present in other areas of the state. The positive EEE result was from a pool of mosquitoes trapped in the eastern area of Exeter and was of the Culiseta species that feeds exclusively on birds.

    Last week DEM and HEALTH announced that two pools of mosquitoes trapped during the week of September 3 were confirmed positive for EEE, and that one pool was confirmed positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). Test results from the remaining 102 mosquito pools from 33 traps set statewide during the week of September 3 are negative for both WNV and EEE. As a result, DEM will be setting extra mosquito for increased assessment. These findings are not unexpected at this time of the year. Test results on the remaining 126 mosquito pools from 33 traps set statewide during the week of September 9 are pending at the RI Department of Health laboratory. This year, to date in Rhode Island, four pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for WNV and four pools of mosquitoes has tested positive for EEE. There have been no reported 2013 cases of WNV or EEE in humans in Rhode Island at this time. Human cases of WNV and EEE have been reported in nearby states. There have been three confirmed cases of WNV in Massachusetts, and two deaths from WNV in New Jersey. Vermont has had one death from EEE.

    WNV is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes and can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). Anyone living in an area where WNV is present in mosquitoes can get infected. EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors. Infants and the elderly are at greatest risk for serious complications. There is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms.

    Throughout the mosquito season, which typically lasts through the first hard frost, residents are encouraged to protect themselves by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as WNV and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection.

    To help protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illness, DEM and Health strongly recommend that Rhode Islanders should:

    • Dress for protection. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks during outdoor evening and early morning activities.
    • Use bug spray. Use mosquito repellent with no more than 30 percent DEET during outdoor activities, particularly at dawn, dusk, and evening hours, when mosquitoes are most active. Do not use repellent on infants. Instead, put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Time activities for maximum protection. If possible, minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
    • Evaluate the environment. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens. Residents and facility groundskeepers should immediately look for and empty standing water following heavy rain, and ensure rain gutters are clear of debris that might trap water. Remove any standing water around yards and houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

    Because horses are susceptible to West Nile Virus and EEE, Rhode Island horse owners are reminded that safe and effective vaccines are available to protect their horses. Horse owners should check with their veterinarian to ensure that their horses are properly immunized. Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the RI Department of Health laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary. Test results from mosquitoes trapped this week will be included in next week's announcement. Positive mosquito test results will generally trigger additional trapping to assess risk.

    DEM, HEALTH report WEST NILE VIrus findings in Providence, East Providence, and North Kingstown

    09-18-2013

    PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health announce that test results from three mosquito pools, or samples, from traps set on September 9 have been confirmed positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). The positive WNV results were from mosquitoes trapped in the Smith Hill area of Providence, in the southern section of East Providence, and in central North Kingstown. All of the mosquitoes were of the Culex species that feeds on birds and mammals. WNV is presumed likely to be present in other areas of the state.

    Yesterday DEM and Health announced confirmation of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in mosquitoes trapped on September 9 in Exeter. These findings are not unexpected at this time of the year. Test results on the remaining 123 mosquito pools from 33 traps set statewide during the week of September 9 are pending at the RI Department of Health laboratory. This year, to date in Rhode Island, seven pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for WNV and four pools of mosquitoes has tested positive for EEE. There have been no reported 2013 cases of WNV or EEE in humans in Rhode Island at this time. Human cases of WNV and EEE have been reported in nearby states. There have been three confirmed cases of WNV in Massachusetts, and two deaths from WNV in New Jersey. Vermont has had one death from EEE.

    Because horses are susceptible to West Nile Virus and EEE, Rhode Island horse owners are reminded that safe and effective vaccines are available to protect their horses. Horse owners should check with their veterinarian to ensure that their horses are properly immunized. Yesterday the Connecticut Department of Agriculture confirmed the state's first reported case of EEE in a horse this year. The two-year old miniature horse was from nearby Griswold, Connecticut and had not been vaccinated against EEE or WNV.

    WNV is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes and can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). Anyone living in an area where WNV is present in mosquitoes can get infected. EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors. Infants and the elderly are at greatest risk for serious complications. There is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms. Throughout the mosquito season, which typically lasts through the first hard frost, residents are encouraged to protect themselves by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Warm evenings, if and as they occur, will continue to be of concern for mosquito biting activity until the first hard frost. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as WNV and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection. To help protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illness, DEM and Health strongly recommend that Rhode Islanders should:

    • Dress for protection. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks during outdoor evening and early morning activities.
    • Use bug spray. Use mosquito repellent with no more than 30 percent DEET during outdoor activities, particularly at dawn, dusk, and evening hours, when mosquitoes are most active. Do not use repellent on infants. Instead, put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Time activities for maximum protection. If possible, minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
    • Evaluate the environment. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens. Residents and facility groundskeepers should immediately look for and empty standing water following heavy rain, and ensure rain gutters are clear of debris that might trap water. Remove any standing water around yards and houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

    Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the RI Department of Health laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary. Test results from mosquitoes trapped this week will be included in next week's announcement. Positive mosquito test results will generally trigger additional trapping to assess risk.

    Health Responds to Recent Binge Drinking Incident

    09-20-2013

    In response to the recent "I'm Shmacked" event at the Roxy nightclub and tonight's "Barstool Blackout" event at the Dunkin Donut Center in Providence, the Department of Health has reached out to and requested a report from Rhode Island colleges and universities to better understand what each campus is doing to educate their students about "binge drinking". Binge drinking is a problem in Rhode Island and the state was recently ranked 36th out of 50 states for binge drinking according to the United Health Foundation America's Health Rankings.

    In a letter sent to university and college presidents, HEALTH requested a partnership with each institution of higher learning in collaboration with the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals and the Department of Transportation. Each president was also asked to respond to the letter with information about any on- or off-campus efforts to address binge drinking. "We all need to work together to reverse this trend now", said Director of Health Michael Fine. "The unintended consequences of binge drinking among college age students including poor health, poor academic achievement, and increased risk of violence and suicide, pose too great of a burden on our society to be ignored."

    Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with an estimated 85,000 attributable deaths in 2000. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA), 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, more than 690,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and 599,000 students suffer from unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.

    Boil Water Advisory Issued for Kent County Water Authority, City of Warwick Water -Potowomut section

    09-23-2013

    The Rhode Island Department of Health is issuing a boil water advisory for customers of the Kent County Water Authority and for Potowomut customers of the City of Warwick Water. 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. Restaurants and food handlers in the affected area should use bottled or boiled water and purchased ice for food preparation until further notice. School children in the affected area should bring bottled or boiled and cooled water to school with them to drink. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible. Water Authority officials estimate that 25,000 people are impacted by this advisory. HEALTH expects the boil water advisory to be in place for a minimum of four days - until the water authorities have three consecutive days of water test results that are within acceptable standards. Customers of the effected areas are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

    (NOTE: This boil water advisory does not effect Kent County Water Authority customers in the Oaklawn section of Cranston or customers in the Brookfield Plat in West Warwick on the following streets: Alden Drive, Brookdale Drive, #3 - #61 Crossland Rd., Bambino Field on Crossland Road, Enfield Drive, Fernwood Drive, Glendale Drive, Hopedale Drive, Janet Drive, Linden Drive, Maryland Drive, Maywood Drive, Midway Drive, Oakland Drive, Overhill Drive, #855 - #1027 Providence St., Shortway Drive, Steven Drive, Suncrest Drive, and Woodland Drive.)

    HEALTH Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus Infection

    09-24-2013

    The Rhode Island Department of Health reports that a 33-year-old Exeter resident was diagnosed with viral meningitis caused by West Nile Virus (WNV). The individual first developed symptoms on September 11. "This is yet another reminder that this is the time of year when there are infected 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." The individual was admitted to South County Hospital on September 13. He was discharged on September 17 and is now at home recovering. 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.

    Rhode Island Ranks High in Health Systems Performance for Those with Low Incomes

    09-24-2013

    Rhode Island ranked seventh overall and fourth in New England in a recent report detailing how well the nation's healthcare systems serve low income individuals. According to The Commonwealth Fund's Scorecard on State Health System Performance for Low-Income Populations, 2013 Rhode Island scored very well in three out of four of the report's core areas. "The system is working here in Rhode Island," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "This would not be possible if it weren't for the strong commitment of our health care professionals and institutions, and the dogged determination of our community health centers to care for the undeserved." Based on data from a number of sources, the report assessed a total of 30 indicators of access, prevention and quality, potentially avoidable hospital use, and health outcomes. In these areas Rhode Island ranked eighth for the overall lifetime health, fifth for prevention and treatment, 11th in access and affordability, and 29th in potentially avoidable hospital use for those with low incomes. "There is still room for improvement but the Rhode Island Department of Health is committed to making sure we protect the health and safety of all Rhode Island communities," Dr. Fine said. "Avoidable hospital use can be improved by our continued vigilance to reduce risks to health from unsafe homes, communities, or behaviors. This will result in a healthier overall population and reduce health care costs over time." Steven M. Costantino, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said, "The Commonwealth Fund's Scorecard is yet another affirmation that ambitious reforms in Rhode Island's Medicaid program, aimed at improving the quality of health, and life overall, for our low income individuals and families, the elderly and the disabled, are having their desired effect. And now, with the expansion of Medicaid to cover more of our residents, and with other initiatives such as the re-balancing of long-term services and supports that increase the use of home and community-based services for seniors and disabled adults, we are able to increase the scope and effectiveness of services that improve the health and independence of thousands of our residents." The highest ranking states include Hawaii (1st), Wisconsin (2nd), Vermont (3rd), Minnesota (4th), Massachusetts (5th), and Connecticut (6th). According to the report, if Rhode Island improved to the level of the best performing state, there would be 46,844 more insured adults, 3,251 additional older adults would receive preventive care, and there would be 393 fewer hospitalizations for potentially preventable conditions. The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation working towards a high-performance healthcare system, released the report to identify opportunities for states to improve how their health systems serve their low-income populations and to provide benchmarks of achievement tied to the top-performing states.

    HEALTH Launches Flu Vaccination Campaign with Statehouse Kick-Off

    09-24-2013

    The Rhode Island Department of Health launched its annual flu immunization campaign with a kick-off event today at the Rhode Island State House. The dangers of the flu and importance of being vaccinated were discussed by Director of Health Michael Fine, MD, First Lady Stephanie Chafee, and Pablo Rodriguez, MD. Dr. Rodriguez is the Chairman of the Women & Infants Health Care Alliance, the Chairman of Latino Public Radio, and the President and CEO at Women's Care. "If there is one thing we learned last year, it is that flu seasons can be unpredictable. The flu hit us early and it hit us hard. Flu shots are the best way to keep yourself safe and to protect those around you," said Dr. Fine. "Last year, almost 500,000 Rhode Islanders were immunized against flu. That's a great start, but it means we're only halfway there!" Doctors recommend flu vaccination for everyone older than six months of age. The flu is a serious illness that can even make healthy people very sick. Last year in Rhode Island, the flu sent 831 people to the hospital. In a very bad season the flu can cause as many as 160 deaths in Rhode Island. Flu vaccinations protect both the people who are vaccinated and the people around them by preventing the spread of the virus. Flu vaccination is particularly important for pregnant women, senior citizens, healthcare workers, and people with chronic medical conditions. Examples of chronic medical conditions include diabetes, cancer, and asthma.

    All Rhode Islanders are urged to see their doctors to be vaccinated against the flu. Children can also be vaccinated at public clinics and at school-based clinics. Adults can also be vaccinated at pharmacies, public clinics, and some school-based clinics. "It's especially important that healthcare workers, 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." Dr. Rodriguez highlighted the importance of vaccination for pregnant women. The event on Tuesday was broadcast live on Latino Public Radio. At several points throughout the event Dr. Rodriguez addressed listeners in Spanish, reminding them about the importance of vaccination and addressing some common misconceptions about flu vaccine. For more information about flu vaccine or to find out where to get vaccinated, call 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.

    Tests from Kent County Water Authority negative for a second day; Water advisory remains in effect

    09-24-2013

    Tests results for water from the Kent County Water Authority revealed no signs of coliform bacteria on Tuesday. This was the second consecutive day that test results revealed no signs of coliform bacteria in the system's water. The Rhode Island Department of Health and the Kent County Water Authority issued a boil water advisory on Sunday for customers of the Kent County Water Authority and for Potowomut customers of the City of Warwick Water. This was after tests had revealed the presence of coliform bacteria, which indicates the potential presence of disease-causing organisms. The boil water advisory will remain in effect until samples taken on three consecutive days are within acceptable standards. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking, or bathing of infants continue to 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.

    Restaurants and food handlers in the affected area should use bottled or boiled water and purchased ice for food preparation until further notice. School children in the affected area should bring bottled or boiled and cooled water to school with them to drink.

    (NOTE: This boil water advisory does not affect Kent County Water Authority customers in the Oaklawn section of Cranston or customers in the Brookfield Plat in West Warwick on the following streets: Alden Drive, Brookdale Drive, #3 - #61 Crossland Rd., Bambino Field on Crossland Road, Enfield Drive, Fernwood Drive, Glendale Drive, Hopedale Drive, Janet Drive, Linden Drive, Maryland Drive, Maywood Drive, Midway Drive, Oakland Drive, Overhill Drive, #855 - #1027 Providence St., Shortway Drive, Steven Drive, Suncrest Drive, and Woodland Drive.)

    Boil Water Advisory Lifted for Kent County Water Authority, City of Warwick Water - Potowomut section

    09-25-2013

    The Rhode Island Department of Health is lifting the boil water advisory that has been in place for customers of the Kent County Water Authority and for Potowomut customers of the City of Warwick Water since Sunday. The boil water advisory is being lifted because samples from the Kent County Water Authority have been within acceptable standards for three consecutive days. "The response to this incident demonstrates just how well Rhode Island's water systems and the public health system work," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Health. "At the first hint of a problem the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Kent County Water Authority responded to make sure that Rhode Islanders were not put in harm's way. Our state has some of the cleanest, best water in the country, and this type of collaboration is one reason why." An investigation is still underway to determine why an initial test revealed the presence of coliform bacteria, which indicates the potential presence of disease-causing organisms. The tank that the positive sample was taken from will remain off-line while the investigation continues. Affected customers should take certain precautions now that the advisory has been lifted. Precautions for residential customers, Refrigerators with water dispensers/ice machines: Water dispensers/ice machines must be cleaned and sanitized before use. Follow the manufacturer's suggested sanitizing procedures in the operator's manual. Procedures should include the following minimum requirements:

    • Flush water dispenser for 3-5 minutes to purge the line;
    • Run the ice machine for a minimum of 30 minutes;
    • Discard the first batch of ice that is made; and
    • Wash and sanitize the bin area.
    • All external filtering devices associated with ice machines should be sanitized. Filter cartridges should be changed.
    • Water treatment units: Replace any water treatment filter cartridges.
    • Faucets and taps: Any faucets or taps that have not been used during the water advisory should be flushed for 10 minutes to ensure that any contamination that may be present is removed.

    Special instructions for food establishments

    Soda dispensers: Follow the manufacturer's suggested sanitizing procedures in your operator's manual, or contact the soda company that installed the dispenser(s) to have them cleaned and sanitized.

    Vending machines: Contact the company that installed the vending machine to have the machine properly cleaned and sanitized. This only applies to vending machines that are directly connected to the water system and are used to manufacture food.

    Vegetable and fish sprays: In-place spray units and units which periodically spray water on products to maintain freshness must be cleaned and sanitized prior to use. A 50 to 100 parts per million (ppm) chlorine solution or approved sanitizer should be flushed through the lines for at least 60 seconds.

    Drinking fountains: All water cooling tanks must be completely flushed out prior to use.

    HEALTH, DEM Issue Blue-Green Algae Advisories for J.L. Curran Reservoir and Melville Pond

    09-27-2013

    The Rhode Island Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) have issued Health Advisories for J.L. Curran Reservoir (located in Cranston) and Melville Pond (located in Portsmouth) because of blue-green algae blooms in both bodies of water. Rhode Islanders are urged to avoid recreational activities in these bodies of water. J.L. Curran Reservoir is also known as Spring Lake Reservoir #2 and Lower J.L. Curran Reservoir. The blue-green algae blooms, also known as cyanobacteria, may produce naturally occurring algal toxins. The Health Advisories will remain in place until November 1. During this time, people should avoid:

    • Swimming in these ponds
    • Boating in these ponds
    • Fishing in these ponds
    • Eating fish caught in these ponds
    • Allowing pets to enter into or drink from these ponds

    Algae blooms can be dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface, or they can form under water. They are bright green and often resemble green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after blue-green algae blooms are no longer visible. 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 aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Individuals who come into contact with blue-green algae blooms in J.L. Curran Reservoir or Melville Pond should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible and wash their clothes. Anyone who is experiencing the symptoms listed above after coming into contact with an algae bloom should contact their healthcare provider. Pets are at greater risk because they are more likely to swim in or drink the contaminated water. If pets come into contact with the water, people are advised to rinse the animal with clean water to prevent them from licking the potential toxins, and to contact their veterinarian if they become ill after swimming in a pond experiencing a cyanobacteria bloom. HEALTH and DEM have notified Portsmouth and Cranston officials of the algae blooms and are working with the city to ensure that those around the bodies of water are aware of the potential danger posed by the blooms.

    HEALTH Reports Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in Rhode Island Doubled Over Last Four Years

    10-09-2013

    The State Medical Examiners' Office has preliminary data that show accidental deaths caused by illicit drug overdoses nearly doubled in Rhode Islanders between 2009 and 2012. Illicit drug overdose deaths involving street drugs like heroin and cocaine increased from 53 in 2009 to 97 in 2012, according to preliminary data from the State Medical Examiners' Office. All overdose deaths, whether caused by illicit or prescription drugs, remain a leading cause of accidental death in Rhode Island, with about four overdose deaths per week investigated by the Medical Examiners. Data collected in 2013 show a reduction of accidental deaths involving prescription medications, such as Vicodin and Oxycodone. Also, alcohol was found to be a common contributing factor when combined with either illicit drugs or prescription medication. "These data give us a better understanding of how this epidemic is affecting Rhode Islanders and who is most at risk," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health . "The upward trend in illicit drug overdose deaths is especially of concern because we know that IV drugs pose other health risks, such as HIV and Hepatitis C. Thankfully, through key partnerships and effective strategies, we are making some progress in preventing prescription overdose deaths. However we still have a big drug problem in Rhode Island." On Wednesday, HEALTH and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) held a press conference to announce the findings and to raise public awareness about prevention and treatment strategies in place. They were joined by the Rhode Island State Police and other addiction recovery advocates. The State Medical Examiners' data show that contrary to common assumptions, Rhode Island's drug overdose epidemic is not limited to younger adult males. While men accounted for twice as many accidental drug overdose deaths from 2009-2012, people ages 40 through 60 accounted for most of the drug overdose deaths overall. "These data are of great concern to our department," said Craig Stenning, Director of BHDDH. "We are committed to continuing to develop effective prevention strategies and increasing access to treatment and recovery support services in an effort to help improve these statistics." In Rhode Island, three key intervention strategies have been implemented over the last year in a concerted effort to address medication addiction, illicit prescription diversion, and accidental drug overdose deaths:

  • Naloxone, a medication that reverses an overdose from opioids (e.g. heroin, morphine, oxycodone) is now available without a prescription so that a layperson can help reverse a drug overdose of a friend or loved one. Emergency medical professionals have used this safe and effective antidote for decades. In 2013, Walgreens became the first and only pharmacy chain to make Naloxone available without a prescription.
  • Rhode Island expanded its Good Samaritan Law. Callers to 911 now have immunity from prosecution if illicit drugs are involved in the emergency.
  • HEALTH launched its Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) in September of 2012. The PMP enables doctors, other prescribers, and pharmacists to monitor and protect patients from dangerous drug combinations and quantities, and helps reduce the amount of prescription drugs that can get into the hands of people without a prescription.

    HEALTH Lab Identifies Acetyl Fentanyl in Pills That Look Like Oxycodone

    10-12-2013

    The Rhode Island Department of Health State Health Laboratories has identified a new packaging, in pill form, of the synthetic drug, acetyl fentanyl. The State Lab identified the substance in pills brought in for testing to be acetyl fentanyl, the synthetic opiate identified by the Lab earlier this year that was related to 14 deaths investigated by the Office of State Medical Examiners. Acetyl Fentanyl is an illicit synthetic opiate, that is not FDA approved, is not commercially available, and is not prescribed by physicians in any form. This finding is not related to prescription oxycodone. There is no danger to people who are prescribed oxycodone by their doctors and receiving their pills from a licensed pharmacy, hospital, or other healthcare facility. "Earlier this year we identified this lethal, illicit street drug in an injectable form. We now know that it is still in Rhode Island, yet in the form of a pill that has been packaged to look like oxycodone," said Michael Fine, M.D. director of HEALTH. "With an average of four people dying per week due to drug overdoses, we need the people of Rhode Island to know what dangers are out on our streets. People who may think they are buying oxycodone on the street could actually be buying something that we know has already taken the lives of 14 people in Rhode Island." Addiction is a chronic disease, but there is help available to those who suffer from addiction. Those who are addicted to drugs or who know someone who is addicted should educate themselves about the use of Narcan (Naloxone), an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. Narcan, which can be used in an emergency situation to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdose, is available at four Walgreens Pharmacies in Warwick as part of a pilot project for the dispensing of Naloxone to patients by pharmacists who have a collaborative agreement with practitioners at the Miriam Hospital.

    Medical Board Issues Physician Guidance for Use of Social Media

    10-23-2013

    In a world of rapidly evolving information technology, the Rhode Island Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (BMLD) has created and approved policy guidance for the appropriate use of social media in the practice of medicine. Rhode Island's guidelines are based on guidance of the Federation of State Medical Boards. "Social media provides opportunities for physicians to easily communicate with patients, and to share information about health and wellness," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "However, it is imperative that these resources be used appropriately. We want to help physicians avoid unintentional professional misconduct while using social media." Some of the key points of the policy statement include:

    • Physicians should recognize that they are personally and professionally responsible for any content they post on the internet and postings may have unintended consequences.
    • A patient's right to confidentiality and privacy still exists online.
    • Physicians should not exhibit unprofessional behavior when using social media. Physicians should never use discriminatory language or practices online.

    In addition, healthcare providers should:

    • Establish separate personal and professional accounts on social media sites.
    • Review their employer's specific social media policy.
    • Make sure any staff who has permission to post on a social media account understands and agrees to any social media policy.
    • Report any unprofessional behavior to the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline.

    HEALTH Approves Prime Applications Regarding Landmark Medical Center

    10-25-2013

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Michael Fine, M.D, Director of the Rhode Island Department of 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 Prime Healthcare Services-Landmark, LLC, Prime Healthcare Services, Inc., Prime Healthcare Holdings, Inc., Prime Healthcare Management, Inc., et als. HEALTH approved both the Change in Effective Control application, which was recommended for approval by the Health Services Council, and the Hospital Conversions application. HEALTH approved both applications with a set of conditions. "We did our due diligence in reviewing these applications, and found that Prime met the criteria for approval of its applications," said Dr. Fine. "We are very pleased to welcome Prime to Rhode Island and thrilled they are joining our collaboration to make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation".

    HEALTH Issues Tips for Safe Halloween; Reminds Rhode Islanders to Get a Flu Shot

    10-29-2013

    With Halloween only a few days away, the Rhode Island Department of Health offers these tips to remind Rhode Islanders how to stay safe and healthy while preparing for Trick or Treating.

    • Be Smart With Your Treats
      • Inspect candy for signs of tampering, such as ripped packaging, pinholes, discoloring, or any other unusual appearance, before children eat it.
      • Feed children a light meal before they go trick or treating to help prevent them from snacking.
      • Do not let children eat homemade candy or baked goods.
    • Don't Forget Healthy Eating Habits: It's ok to eat sweets in moderation, but don't forget there are plenty of healthy snacks you can turn to instead of a candy bar. For example:
      • "Grab-and-go" fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, canned fruit without added sugars, and raisins
      • Washed and chopped fresh vegetables: celery, carrots, and cucumbers
      • Low-fat and fat-free milk products: yogurt without added sugars, milk, and low-fat cheeses
      • Whole-grain crackers and breads
      • Almonds and other nuts and seeds
    • Be Safe With Costumes
      • Face paint, rather than a mask, can help children see better and avoid dangerous objects such as cars and tripping hazards.
      • Follow all paint directions and never decorate your face with things that are not intended for use on skin. If decorating skin with a product you have never used before, try a dab on an arm for a couple of days to check for an allergic reaction before applying to your face
      • Decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape so children can be seen by cars.
      • Purchase only flame resistant costumes, masks, beards, and wigs. Only use decorative contact lenses if distributed by an eye care professional.
    • Be Careful Trick or Treating
      • Have children walk, not run, from house to house and use sidewalks instead of walking in the street.
      • Only let children approach houses that have outside lights on as a sign of welcome.
      • Carry a flashlight to help see and be seen.
      • Do not let children enter homes or apartments unless accompanied by an adult.
      • Be aware of obstacles on lawns, steps and porches, especially candle lit jack-o-lanterns that may be brushed by a child's costume.
    • Watch out While Driving
      • Drive slowly in residential neighborhoods.
      • Watch for trick-or-treaters at intersections, medians, and on curbs.
      • Enter and exit driveways carefully.
    • Get Your Flu Shot
      • It's not too late in the season to protect yourself and your family from the flu. In fact, now is a perfect time to be vaccinated- ”before you begin congregating with family and friends around the holidays.
    • Boston Salads and Prepared Foods Issues Recall for Prepared Salads Due to Potential Contamination with Listeria

      10-29-2013

      The Rhode Island Department of Health is advising consumers not to eat prepared, ready-to-eat salads from Boston Salads and Prepared Foods that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The company, based in Boston, MA, is voluntarily recalling products that were distributed in five New England states, including Rhode Island. The list of recalled products can be found at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm372319.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery. The Seafood and Shrimp Salad, Chef's Recipe Potato Salad, Seafood Salad, Tuna Salad and Shrimp Salad were manufactured by Boston Salads and Prepared Foods and bear the Boston Salads, Rachael's Gourmet, Dietz and Watson labels with the sell by dates stated above. Garden Tuna Salad bears the Costa Fruit Fresh Ideas label with the sell by dates stated above. There has been no illness or complaints related to this recall. Listeria monocytogenes 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. Product was distributed throughout the MA,CT,RI,VT,and ME states to wholesale and food service distributors, and retail stores. No other products or code dates were affected by this recall. Consumers who have purchased any of the suspect products are urged not to consume them and to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Questions may be addressed to Boston Salads at 617-541-9046 Monday through Friday between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm.

      HEALTH Urges Parents and Caregivers to put their Babies "Safe to Sleep" for Every Sleep

      10-29-2013

      Every year, Rhode Island babies die from sleeping in unsafe environments. During Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month this October, the Rhode Island Department of Health urges expectant parents and everyone who cares for a baby younger than age one to learn how to put their baby "safe to sleep" for every sleep. "Sudden infant death syndrome is the third-leading cause of death for Rhode Island babies, and many sudden deaths are due to how a baby sleeps," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "These sleep-related deaths are even more tragic because they could have been prevented. You can reduce the risk of sudden infant death by making sure you and everyone who cares for your baby, including grandparents, babysitters, and child care providers, follow national safe infant sleep recommendations for naps and at night." The National Institutes of Health recently launched its Safe to Sleep campaign in response to rising rates of sleep-related infant deaths over the past decade. The campaign promotes the following American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment:

      • Always place your baby on his back to sleep, for naps and at night.
      • Use a firm sleep surface, covered by a fitted sheet.
      • Have the baby share your room, not your bed. Do not let your baby sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else.
      • Keep soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, and loose bedding out of your baby's sleep area.
      • For pregnant women, get regular healthcare during pregnancy and do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs during pregnancy or after the baby is born.
      • Do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.
      • Breastfeed your baby.
      • Give your baby a dry pacifier that is not attached to a string for naps and at night. Wait until your baby is breastfeeding well before trying a pacifier.
      • Do not let your baby get too hot during sleep. Dress your baby in light sleep clothing, such as a one-piece sleeper, and do not use a blanket.
      • Follow healthcare provider guidance on your baby's vaccines and regular health checkups.
      • Avoid products (including home heart or breathing monitors) that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.
      • Give your baby plenty of Tummy Time (time on her stomach) when she is awake and someone is watching.

      HEALTH is working with home visiting agencies, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program agencies, birthing hospitals, baby stores, community-based coalitions and organizations, and the state's Child Death Review Team to raise awareness of safe infant sleep recommendations among expectant and new parents, caregivers of infants, and healthcare and social service providers. Families who would like help in their homes to create safe sleep areas for their babies can request a free home visit by calling their local First Connections agency:

      • Central Falls, Cranston, Pawtucket, Providence: Children's Friend, 401-721-6400
      • Northern Rhode Island: Family Resources Community Action, 401-766-0900
      • South County, Warwick, West Warwick: VNS Home Health Services, 401-782-0500
      • East Bay, Jamestown, Aquidneck Island: VNS of Newport and Bristol Counties, 401-682-2100

      HEALTH, Rhode Island Cities and Towns To Offer No-Cost Vaccinations at Clinics

      11-04-2013

      The Rhode Island Department of Health will be teaming up with cities and towns over the next six weeks to offer vaccinations at no cost at 19 immunizations clinics throughout the state. The clinics will also help cities and towns test their public health emergency preparedness plans. Flu vaccine, Tdap (which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), and pneumococcal vaccine (which protects against pneumonia) will be available at all locations. Insurance is not required for vaccinations, though people with insurance are asked to bring their insurance cards. The clinics are open to children and adults. They will run on individual dates from November 5 to December 14. "The flu is a serious illness that can spread easily. Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot every year. If you have not been vaccinated yet, this is a great chance to protect yourself and the ones you love," said Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. "Pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough, can also be dangerous. Pertussis often spreads from adults to infants. Anyone who is around an infant, or who will be around an infant, should get a pertussis shot. This includes pregnant women."

      Who should get a flu shot?

      • Everyone older than six months of age.
      • Flu shots are especially important for pregnant women, the elderly, healthcare workers, and people with long-term medical conditions. Examples of long-term medical conditions are asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

      Who should get a Tdap vaccination?

      • All pregnant women should receive Tdap with each pregnancy from their prenatal care provider, if they are more than 26 weeks pregnant. If a prenatal provider does not provide Tdap, a public clinic is an option to receive the vaccine.
      • Anyone who spends time with an infant.
      • Anyone 11 years of age or older who has never received a dose of Tdap.

      Who should get pneumococcal vaccine?

      • Any adult who smokes or has asthma.
      • Anyone 65 years of age or older (even if they have previously been vaccinated).
      • Babies and young children should also get vaccinated against pneumonia, however the type of pneumococcal vaccine that they receive will not be available at these public clinics. Parents should contact their children's doctors about these shots.

      People are able to receive multiple vaccines at the same time.

      HEALTH and DEM Lift Public Health Advisories Related to Cyanobacteria Blooms

      11-12-2013

      The Rhode Island Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announce that recreational contact advisories related to cyanobacteria blooms on bodies of water in the state are now lifted. Four bodies of water were affected by cyanobacteria blooms during this past summer. They were J.L. Curran Reservoir (in Cranston), Melville Pond (in Portsmouth), Mashapaug Pond (in Providence), and Roger Williams Park Ponds (in Providence). HEALTH and DEM had advised people to avoid recreational activities, such as swimming, boating, and fishing, on and around these bodies of water. Cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths produce conditions generally unfavorable to algae growth. Although HEALTH and DEM are lifting the advisories that had been placed on these bodies of water, blue-green algae blooms may still be in some freshwater lakes and ponds throughout Rhode Island. 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 or thick pea soup. Blue-green algae, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins, such 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. Pets that have come into contact with potential cyanobacteria blooms should be thoroughly rinsed with clean water.

      R.I.'s First Lady Chafee and HEALTH Urge Rhode Islanders To Be Vaccinated Against the Flu in New PSA

      11-13-2013

      In a new public service announcement (PSA) released today by the Rhode Island Department of Health , First Lady Stephanie D. Chafee is reminding all Rhode Islanders about the importance of being vaccinated against the flu before the holiday season arrives. The PSA will be airing throughout Rhode Island over the next several weeks on radio and television. It is also being posted and shared through the HEALTH's social media channels. "With the holiday season fast approaching, I want to remind all Rhode Islanders to get a flu shot, especially before you do any kind of traveling when germs are easily spread," Mrs. Chafee said. "By taking preventative measures, you and your family can avoid missing out on any celebrations. Contact the Rhode Island Department of Health to find out where you and your family can go to get vaccinated. I wish you all healthy and happy holidays." "The flu is a serious illness that can spread easily. Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot every year," said Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. "If you have not been vaccinated yet, get your flu shot today to protect yourself and the ones you love."

      HEALTH, March of Dimes Announce New Preterm Birth Initiatives

      11-14-2013

      The Rhode Island Department of Health and the March of Dimes are kicking off Prematurity Awareness Month this November with new initiatives designed to reduce preterm birth and early elective deliveries in Rhode Island. The partnership includes an educational campaign, a November 14 conference on group prenatal visits, and a November 21 Prematurity Summit. In 2010, Association of State and Territorial Health Officers President and Texas Commissioner of Health Services David Lakey, MD issued a challenge to decrease the country's preterm birth rates by 8 percent by 2014. This challenge, endorsed by the March of Dimes, would lower Rhode Island's preterm birth rate to 10.4 percent from a baseline of 11.3 percent in 2009, preventing 156 preterm births. Based on 2012 provisional data of 10.9 percent, Rhode Island is positioned to surpass the 2014 goal. "We are proud that our state's preterm birth rate is among the best in the nation, but too many babies are still born too soon each year," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health. "Now that preterm birth prevention policies and programs have begun to show success, working together and redoubling our efforts will help us make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation." "We don't know everything about preterm birth, but we know there are steps that can make a difference, such as improving access to healthcare, helping women quit smoking, and ending early elective deliveries," said Dr. Maureen Phipps, Chair, RI March of Dimes Board of Directors. "We applaud our partners in public health for taking the initiative to implement proven strategies to address this problem." Preterm birth -- before 37 weeks of pregnancy -- is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and one million babies worldwide die each year due to preterm birth. Babies who survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and others. One way state health officials are tackling the issue is by conducting an educational campaign with the March of Dimes to let pregnant women and their healthcare providers know that "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait." Through advertising and patient education, women will be advised that if their pregnancy is healthy, it's best to wait for labor to begin on its own rather than scheduling an induction or cesarean. Other initiatives helping Rhode Island women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies include a statewide Task Force on Preterm Births, efforts to enhance the delivery of group prenatal care programs, and strong advocacy efforts. Physicians, nurses, social workers, other allied health professionals, and community partners can take advantage of two preterm birth-related professional development opportunities this month. "Strength in Numbers," a conference on Thursday, November 14 at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, will share the experiences of Memorial and the March of Dimes as partners in developing a group prenatal care program. In addition, the March of Dimes will host its annual Prematurity Summit on Thursday, November 21 from 7-10am at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island. The program, titled "Reducing Premature Birth: National and Local Perspectives on Research, Policy and Community Programs," will provide continuing education credits for physicians, nurses, and social workers.

      The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.

      Smokers Urged to Take Steps Toward Healthier Lives As Part of the Great American Smokeout

      11-21-2013

      In honor of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, the Rhode Island Department of Health is reminding all Rhode Islanders about the dangers of tobacco use and the importance of quitting smoking. The observance falls on the third Thursday of November each year and encourages smokers to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking on that day.

      Flu vaccination is another important step that smokers and people who are trying to quit smoking can take toward healthier lives. Because smoking weakens the body's ability to fight off the flu, smokers may be more at risk of catching the flu. People with conditions related to smoking, such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes, are also more susceptible to serious complications from the flu.

      "By quitting smoking and getting your flu shot, you are ensuring that you will have a healthier year and a healthier life," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "You are also protecting the people you love. Vaccination against the flu will prevent you from spreading the virus to family and friends. When you stop smoking, you stop exposing those around you to the toxic effects of second-hand smoke."

      Resources to help Rhode Islanders quit smoking can be found at www.quitnowri.com

      More information about the Great American Smokeout can be found at: www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/greatamericansmokeout

      For information about the flu vaccine and to find out where to be vaccinated, call the Health Information Line: 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711

      First Lady, Director of Health to Hold Flu Vaccination Clinics at Crossroads Rhode Island and Church in Providence

      11-22-2013

      First Lady Stephanie D. Chafee and Director of Health Michael Fine, MD will be vaccinating Rhode Islanders at two no-cost flu vaccination clinics on Saturday, November 23rd and Monday, November 25th.

      • King's Cathedral: 1860 Westminster Street, Providence 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
      • Crossroads Rhode Island: 160 Broad Street, Providence 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
      Health insurance is not needed to be vaccinated at either clinic.

      "The flu is a serious illness that can keep you out of school or work for at least a week, and it spreads very easily," Dr. Fine said. "By being vaccinated, you are protecting yourself and the people you love by making sure that you won't pass the flu to them."Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone older than six months of age."The lack of health insurance or a fee for vaccination should not prevent anyone from protecting themselves and their family members," said Rhode Island's First Lady, who is a registered nurse. "Everyone should be vaccinated against the flu every year, but vaccination is particularly important for pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes."

      People who attend the clinic at King's Cathedral are asked to use the church's Troy Street entrance. The clinic at King's Cathedral is open to the public. The clinic will be held on the first level of the church (the facilities are wheelchair accessible).

      HEALTH Reminds Local Businesses to Be Safe on Black Friday

      11-27-2013

      HEALTH wants to remind local businesses of the health and safety issues associated with Black Friday retail events. HEALTH's OSHA Consultation Program has visited over 50 employers to educate them about the risks and dangers associated with crowd control management at large "door buster" opening events. Local OSHA staff have distributed the National OSHA Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers through on-site visits, answering questions about the guidelines and providing suggestions for how to best manage large crowds. They emphasize the need for training employees who work these events in order to encourage an orderly and systematic approach.

      Across the nation in past years there have been stories of dangerous, even sometimes riotous activities in large stores. However, this problem is not limited to retailers like Walmart and other "big box" stores. Over the last several years, Rhode Island has seen an increasing number of smaller retailers participating in Black Friday events. Many of these smaller facilities are lacking in adequate training and knowledge of proper crowd management techniques, don't have appropriate staff to work security, and don't have proper plans in place for large crowds.

      HEALTH encourages all retailers planning on holding a Black Friday event to consult OSHA's Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers. According to the Guidelines, crowd management plans should, at a minimum, include:

      • On-site trained security personnel or police officers;
      • Barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store's entrance;
      • The implementation of crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store;
      • Emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers;
      • Methods for explaining approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public;
      • Not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level;
      • Not blocking or locking exit doors.

      Tips for staying healthy this Thanksgiving

      11-27-2013

      The Rhode Island Department of Health encourages Rhode Islanders to take steps to make health part of their holiday this Thanksgiving. This holiday is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with people you love, which is what we mean by health. Below are some tips to stay healthy.

      Taste, don't gorge. To avoid extra calories:

      • Eat small portions.
      • Don't add extra butter or salt.
      • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
      • Don't fill up on snacks.
      • Consume alcohol in moderation (and if you do, use a sober driver).

      In addition to eating healthy, find ways to incorporate some physical activity into your holiday routine. To get moving:

      • Take a walk before or after your meal.
      • Play with the kids- ”touch football, dance, hide and seek.
      • Do something interactive with guests instead of just watching TV, like playing a game of charades.
      • If you are watching the game, take a quick walk at half-time.

      Remember to keep food safe to prevent food borne illness from ruining your Thanksgiving dinner. Be sure to:

      • Wash hands and food-contact surfaces often.
      • Keep raw meat and their juices away from ready-to-eat food.
      • Cook foods to proper temperatures. Cook turkey or stuffing to 165- °F and use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. It is recommended to cook the stuffing separately from the turkey to ensure it reaches the proper temperature.
      • Debone the turkey as soon as possible and divide it into smaller portions to cool quickly under refrigeration. Do not let turkey, stuffing, or gravy sit out at room temperature.

      HEALTH Observes World AIDS Day with Launch of "Getting to Zero" Summit and New Media Campaigns to End HIV Epidemic in Rhode Island

      11-29-2013

      PROVIDENCE - In concert with area World AIDS Day observances, the Rhode Island Department of Health unveiled three new strategies today in support of statewide efforts to end the epidemic of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Rhode Island by 2018.

      "HEALTH's 'Getting to Zero' goal is to eliminate new HIV infections and AIDS in Rhode Island within five years," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH, noting that there were 78 new HIV cases reported in Rhode Island in 2012, down from 97 in 2011. "This goal is an important part of our efforts to make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation, and we could not do this without our state and community partners, our healthcare providers, and our state's advocates for HIV prevention, testing, and care." "Getting to Zero" has served as an overarching campaign theme for HEALTH's Office of HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis and other community partners to coordinate efforts and resources to launch three new initiatives this week focused on reducing HIV transmission. To "Get to Zero" all Rhode Islanders ages 13-64 will need to be routinely tested for HIV, especially those who have risky sex or multiple partners.

      The three Rhode Island initiatives launching this week support and promote routine testing, prevention, and care to help prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs:

      • On Tuesday, Dec. 3, the state's first-ever "Getting to Zero Summit on Prevention, Testing and Care" will bring together community partners, healthcare professionals, case workers, state agencies, HIV advocates, and others to share best practices and the latest clinical guidelines for ending the transmission of HIV. The summit will include sessions on sexual health with a perspective for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the impact of the Affordable Care Act, a plenary on disrupting transmission involving sexual networks, and more.
      • A multi-media campaign based on market research in Rhode Island will promote prevention through condom use and will urge routine testing for HIV and other STDs. The first ads will appear this week to coincide with World AIDS Day.
      • A network of condom dispensers distributed by HEALTH will provide free condoms at venues such as night clubs, community health centers, and other locations across the state- ”to help remove access and cost as barriers for people who want to protect against the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

      In Rhode Island, 2,200 people are living with HIV and an estimated 400 people do not yet know they are infected with HIV. "It's important that the public knows where to get free and low-cost HIV testing, and how to get treatment if needed and to stay in treatment. Our campaigns and website will help direct and connect Rhode Islanders to these important resources, which includes our healthcare providers and community agencies who are critical in this effort," said Dr. Fine. "All Rhode Islanders should talk to their doctors about getting tested for HIV and other STDs. Knowing your status, early treatment, and continued care will help people infected with HIV to live long, healthy lives and avoid infecting their partners."

      More Resources:

      • Rhode Islanders who do not have a primary care doctor, who lack insurance, or who are concerned about out-of-pocket costs for testing may take advantage of convenient, anonymous, and free or low-cost HIV testing offered through HEALTH's year-round partnerships with organizations like AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, and MAP Behavioral Health Services.
      • To find free condom distribution sites throughout Rhode Island, or to request a dispenser for your public or private facility, health center, night club, restaurant, or other business, visit www.health.ri.gov/healthyliving/sexualhealth/about/safersex/
      • In Rhode Island, HEALTH works with the AIDS Care Ocean State (ACOS) ENCORE Program to provide needle exchange services that help reduce the risk of HIV transmission among injecting drug users (IDUs). ENCORE also offers counseling, HIV prevention and education, and referrals to substance abuse treatment and medical care facilities.

      James Palmer Named Chief, Office of Health Promotion for HEALTH

      12-13-2013

      Providence, RI - Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health today announced that James Palmer has been named Chief, Office of Health Promotion, for the Department. In this role Palmer will serve as principal Public Information Officer and oversee communications strategy for HEALTH. He will join the Department on December 16. "James brings a broad range of experience in developing and managing successful communications strategies, including work with the World Health Organization, the Global Health Council, the United States Agency for International Development, and the World Bank" said Dr. Fine. "In addition, he has considerable experience with crisis communication in health. I am confident he will help the Department reach its mission through communication with the media and the public." Since 1999 Palmer has been President of the Palmer Group, a public relations consultancy specializing in strategic leadership on public affairs, media relations, and fundraising, serving clients all over the world. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, he was sent to Beijing by WHO for his crisis communication skills and in 2009 worked at their Geneva headquarters on the H1N1 pandemic. "After working for organizations whose interest is promoting the health of whole nations and the whole world, it is a pleasure for me now to work on the same issues for the people of my home state," said Palmer.

      He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and has lived in East Greenwich for 13 years.

      Stay Safe During Extreme Cold, Winter Weather

      12-13-2013

      Providence, RI - The Rhode Island Department of Health is issuing an advisory to remind people of precautions to take in extreme cold and during winter storms. Frigid temperatures are predicted into the weekend and a winter storm is expected. It is especially important that all Rhode Islanders take the following precautions:

      1. Check on elderly family, friends and neighbors frequently. The elderly are especially susceptible to extremely cold temperatures and may not be able to shovel their own driveways and sidewalks.
      2. Watch for icy or slippery spots on driveways and walkways to help prevent injuries from slips and falls.
      3. Dress warmly if you are outside, especially if you are not physically active. Wear a coat, hat, scarf and gloves even for a short walk to a mailbox. A fall or a locked door can leave you exposed to extreme cold.
      4. When shoveling snow, don't pick up too much snow at once. Use a smaller shovel, or only fill the shovel part way if you use a large shovel. Push the snow as you shovel - it is easier on your back. If you must lift the snow, protect your back. Bend from your knees, and lift with your legs bent. Stand with your feet about hip width apart for good balance, and keep the shovel close to your body.
      5. Indoor temperatures should be set according to activity level, health and medications. A safe, fuel-saving temperature for a young, active family may be dangerous for an older person who has trouble moving or is taking certain medications.
      6. Avoid drinking alcohol as it can lower the body's ability to keep warm.
      7. Hydrate. Drink plenty of water and other non-caffeinated, no-sugar beverages. (You can get dehydrated in cold weather too.)
      8. If someone has been exposed to extreme cold and is showing signs of hypothermia (confusion, trouble walking, shivering) call 911 right away. Cover the person with a warm blanket. Do not rub the person's arms or legs.

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

      14 ways to stay healthy in 2014

      12-31-2013

      1. Spend time with people you love.
      2. Find easy and enjoyable ways to exercise 30 minutes a day.
      3. Drink water from a cup or a glass rather than a plastic bottle, and find ways to cut back the sugar, one drink at a time.
      4. Eat fruits and vegetables grown in Rhode Island to help reach or maintain a healthy weight.
      5. Dispose safely of any unused medications.
      6. Help us make sure all Rhode Islanders have a great primary care doctor with a great primary care practice near their homes.
      7. Get a flu shot, wash your hands often, and cough and sneeze into your elbow.
      8. Practice safer sex. Get tested for HIV and know when to get tested for hepatitis c.
      9. Talk to your primary care doctor about sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
      10. Finish high school and college.
      11. Never ever smoke. If you do smoke, get help quitting.
      12. Never take an opioid pain medication that is not prescribed to you, and never mix your opioids with alcohol
      13. Talk to your doctor about your plan for if and when you want to have children. If you have children, surround them with love.
      14. Take a break from the screens and devices. Visit your friends. Go to the library. Read a book.