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09/11/2014 15:01 EDT
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announce a final rule today that will require employers to report when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.
09/11/2014 11:04 EDT
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising Rhode Islanders to take steps to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes. 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...

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09/02/2014 11:35 EDT
Clinics listed as "community clinics" are open to students, faculty, and staff, as well as to the families of students, faculty, and staff. People must be six months of age and older to be vaccinated against the flu.
05/06/2014 09:24 EDT
Rhode Islanders 45 years of age and older with arthritis are much more likely to have had a fall-related injury in the past year than people without arthritis in this age group, according to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among people with arthritis, 15% reported having a fall related injury in the past year compared to 7% of people without arthritis.
04/29/2014 13:08 EDT
America's PrepareAthon! is a nationwide campaign for action to promote emergency preparedness and resilience in communities across the country. The campaign is intended to increase the number of people who are prepared for hazards and disasters that could happen in their community; know how to be safe and mitigate damage; take action to increase their preparedness; and participate in community planning.
04/25/2014 10:42 EDT
Once again, police departments and law enforcement agencies across Rhode Island will participate in the very popular Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 26th. Between 10AM and 2PM on April 26, bring your unwanted prescription drugs to a collection site near you. See http://www.riag.ri.gov/takeback/index.php for more information.
04/24/2014 09:05 EDT
Many restaurants across Rhode Island will participate in the annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser on Thursday, April 24th to help support HIV/AIDS services through AIDS Project Rhode Island (APRI). The Dining Out for Life annual fundraising event concept is simple: eat at a participating restaurant on Thursday, April 24 and those restaurants will donate a portion of proceeds to AIDS Project Rhode Island, a division of Family Services of Rhode Island. Some venues are participating for lunch and/or dinner, and some are participating for both meal services or food sales from the day. For more information or to see the list of participating restaurants, visit: http://www.diningoutforlife.com/providence/restaurants
03/17/2014 12:41 EDT
Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD, has issued emergency regulations aimed at preventing opioid overdose deaths by expanding access to the overdose antidote, naloxone (also known as Narcan), and establishing procedures for its administration to a person experiencing an overdose.
03/05/2014 16:22 EST
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a healthcare professional with clinical expertise and skill in breastfeeding and lactation management. An IBCLC works with healthcare providers, mother-to-mother peers, certified lactation counselors and other lactation supporters to ensure mothers and families meet their breastfeeding goals. Rhode Island has a number of IBCLCs working within our state's birthing hospitals, healthcare centers, social service programs, and private practices. Contact your local WIC clinic (health.ri.gov/find/wicagencies) or Home Visiting provider (health.ri.gov/find/firstconnectionsproviders) to find one in your town. Did an IBCLC help you, or someone you know, be successful at breastfeeding? Take a moment to say thank you!
02/27/2014 14:44 EST
Office Minority Health (OMH) is offering Mini-Grants for FY2014 to qualified community-based coalitions and networks to support programs that provide health information, education and risk reduction activities to reduce the risk of premature death and preventable disease in minority populations.
02/25/2014 16:40 EST
Come learn about Rhode Island's most common weather emergencies and ways to become personally prepared. For people with disabilities, chronic conditions, functional needs, access needs, other special needs and their caregivers. Workshops are free and run March-May. Registration required.
02/21/2014 17:34 EST
The public is welcome to attend Triple Decker, a one-hour performance, with music, of the history of a fictional triple decker tenement in South Providence. The performance will be followed by a discussion on health disparities and how factors such as poverty, pollution, public transportation, and the availability of healthy food affect health. A networking event will be held after the discussion. (February 27 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.; The Providence Marriott; 1 Orms Street, Providence). The event is free of charge, but registration is required. Register at: bit.ly/1okT7FI

Health Advisories

Beaches

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09/02/2014 12:00 EDT
The Rhode Island Beach Season ended on Monday, September 1st and licensed beaches are currently closed. For more information on beach closures or the Beach Program, please check here or call 401-222-7727.

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08/28/2014 16:00 EDT
08/26/2014 16:00 EDT
08/15/2014 16:30 EDT
08/14/2014 16:30 EDT
08/13/2014 16:30 EDT
07/31/2014 16:30 EDT
07/30/2014 16:30 EDT
07/25/2014 16:30 EDT
07/24/2014 16:30 EDT

Ongoing Beach Advisories

Statewide

The Department of Health discourages water contact in areas within 200 feet of a running storm drain and in or near areas where water seeps from the ground. These waters may contain high levels of harmful bacteria, which may cause illness.

Areas to Avoid after Heavy Rains

The Department of Health discourages swimming, surfing, and other full body contact activities in Upper Narragansett Bay, North of Conimicut Point for a minimum of 3 days areas after heavy rains. These waters are directly affected by discharges from area wastewater treatment facilities and/or stormwater drains. After a heavy rain, high levels of harmful bacteria in these waters may cause illness.

Portsmouth Park & Island Park

The Department of Environmental Management has documented evidence of human sewage in storm drain outfalls and groundwater seeps along the shoreline of Portsmouth Park the southern portion of "Blue Bill Cove" at Island Park. more Though water quality data at nearby monitoring stations may indicate safe swimming, pollution sources are variable and may cause localized areas of contamination. Use shellfish closure areas as a guide for affected waters to avoid.

Immunization

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09/05/2014 11:14 EDT
State-Supplied Vaccine providers will be able to order influenza vaccine beginning Monday, September 8th at 10 a.m. Orders can be placed through OSMOSSIS, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH)'s vaccine ordering and management system. In their initial orders, healthcare providers will be able to order up to 50% of the vaccine that they pre-booked for the entire influenza season (unless supply does not allow). Once providers receive 50% of the vaccine that they pre-booked, they will be able to order on a dose-for-dose replenishment basis (based on the doses they report as having administered). Providers will not be able to order influenza vaccine more often than once every five business days. A practice cannot place a new vaccine order until it has recorded its prior order in OSMOSSIS as "received". Influenza vaccines currently available for order: Fluzone 0.25ml - ages 6-35 months; Fluzone 0.5ml - ages 3-18 years; Flumist - ages 2-18 years; Fluarix - Older than 19 years. Influenza vaccines NOT YET available for order: Flulaval - ages 19+ and Medicare Fee-for-Service patients; Fluzone High Dose - ages 65+ and Medicare Fee-for-Service patients
09/05/2014 11:11 EDT
Rhode Island's immunization regulations requiring doses of HPV vaccine will be in place for the 2015-2016 school year. For the 2015-2016 school year, the regulations will only affect 7th grade students. In subsequent years, doses of HPV vaccine will be required for 8th and 9th grade students. - Sept. 2015: at least 1 dose of HPV vaccine required for students entering 7th grade - Sept. 2016: at least 2 doses of HPV vaccine required for students entering 8th grade - Sept. 2017: at least 3 doses of HPV vaccine required for students entering 9th grade

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09/05/2014 11:10 EDT
Although Rhode Island's immunization regulations will not require a first dose of HPV vaccine for students entering 7th grade until 2015, healthcare providers are urged to take advantage of visits with 6th grade students this year to begin the series. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend starting the series at 11 or 12 years of age.
08/05/2014 09:16 EDT
HEALTH has updated its immunization regulations for preschools, schools, colleges, and universities.
08/05/2014 09:14 EDT
All practices enrolled in the State-Supplied Vaccine program will be notified once influenza vaccine is available and ready to order through OSMOSSIS.

Infectious Disease

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09/29/2014 11:33 EDT
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Children's Hospital Colorado to investigate a cluster of nine pediatric patients hospitalized with acute neurologic illness of undetermined etiology. The illness is characterized by focal limb weakness and abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on MRI. These illnesses have occurred since August 1, 2014 coincident with an increase of respiratory illnesses among children in Colorado. The purpose of this HAN Advisory is to provide awareness of this neurologic syndrome under investigation with the aim of determining if children with similar clinical and radiographic findings are being cared for in other geographic areas. Guidance about reporting cases to state and local health departments and CDC is provided. Please disseminate this information to infectious disease specialists, intensive care physicians, pediatricians, neurologists, radiologists/neuroradiologists, infection preventionists, and primary care providers, as well as to emergency departments and microbiology laboratories.
09/12/2014 19:09 EDT
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with hospitals and local and state health departments to investigate recent increases in hospitalizations of patients with severe respiratory illness. Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) has been detected in specimens from children with severe illness in Missouri and Illinois. Investigations into suspected clusters in other jurisdictions are ongoing. The purpose of this HAN Advisory is to provide awareness of EV-D68 as a possible cause of acute unexplained respiratory illness, and to provide guidance to state health departments and health care providers. Click on the link above to read the full advisory.

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09/04/2014 13:43 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health and Rutgers Global Tuberculosis Institute have scheduled this continuing medical education conference on tuberculosis (TB) epidemiology, contact investigations, infection control, diagnosis, and treatment. Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits are available for physicians and nurses.
09/03/2014 16:51 EDT
This conference call will occur on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. Phone: 888-801-6157; Passcode: 83431968. Summary: Given the ongoing concern about the albeit remote possibility of a case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) appearing in Rhode Island, HEALTH would like to offer the opportunity for primary care and community health center clinical staff to ask questions of the subject matter experts in its Division of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology about current guidance and Rhode Island's ongoing preparations.
09/03/2014 11:15 EDT
In response to the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued within this document: (1) Advice for Students and Faculty Arriving to U.S. Campuses from Countries where the Ebola Outbreaks are Happening, (2) Advice for Students, Faculty, and Staff Who Have Recently Traveled to Countries Where the Ebola Outbreaks Are Happening, and (3) summary and other related updates.
08/28/2014 17:32 EDT
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with other U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, and other domestic and international partners in an international response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This document summarizes key messages about the outbreak and the response. It will be updated as new information becomes available and distributed regularly. Please share the document with others as appropriate.
08/26/2014 11:19 EDT
Rhode Island clinicians, school-nurse teachers, travelers, and the general public may visit health.ri.gov/ebola for information, CDC links, posters, flyers, archived webinars, and other resources related to Ebola virus disease, including for the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Scroll to the bottom of the page to select topics and resources that have been organized for specific audiences.
08/04/2014 11:47 EDT
Summary: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners to better understand and manage the public health risks posed by Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). To date, no cases have been reported in the United States. The purpose of this health update is 1) to provide updated guidance to healthcare providers and state and local health departments regarding who should be suspected of having EVD, 2) to clarify which specimens should be obtained and how to submit for diagnostic testing, and 3) to provide hospital infection control guidelines. U.S. hospitals can safely manage a patient with EVD by following recommended isolation and infection control procedures.
07/29/2014 10:14 EDT
Distributed via the CDC Health Alert Network; July 28, 2014, 16:30 ET/4:30 PM ET; CDCHAN-00363... Ebola Virus Disease Confirmed in a Traveler to Nigeria, Two U.S. Healthcare Workers in Liberia... Summary: Nigerian health authorities have confirmed a diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in a patient who died on Friday in a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, after traveling from Liberia on July 20, 2014. The report marks the first Ebola case in Nigeria linked to the current outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Health authorities also reported this weekend that two U.S. citizens working in a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, have confirmed Ebola virus infection. These recent cases, together with the continued increase in the number of Ebola cases in West Africa, underscore the potential for travel-associated spread of the disease and the risks of EVD to healthcare workers... Click on the link above to read the complete advisory.
07/15/2014 16:46 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health and Rutgers Global Tuberculosis Institute have opened registration for this continuing education conference on tuberculosis (TB) epidemiology, contact investigations, infection control, diagnosis, and treatment. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, September 23, 2014 (1 p.m - 8:30 p.m) at the Providence Marriott Downtown, Providence, RI. Continuing education credits are available for physicians and nurses. See complete brochure in the adjoining link for details.To register, visit http://www.eventbrite.com/e/rhode-island-tb-update-tickets-11793684227. For assistance, send an email to Rajita Bhavaraju at bhavarrr@rutgers.edu.
07/15/2014 14:54 EDT
Summary: The current Ebola outbreak, which started in Guinea and has spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, is the deadliest in recorded history. Approximately 15,000 Rhode Island residents are of Liberian descent, and travel back and forth from their country of origin. Importation of Ebola cases to Rhode Island is considered unlikely. However, out of an abundance of caution, it is important to recognize this high-risk sub-population in Rhode Island and take steps to educate travelers of risk and prevention, as well as keep a high index of suspicion when returning travelers from an endemic area present to healthcare settings with infectious disease symptoms.
07/15/2014 14:50 EDT
Since May 17, the Rhode Department of Health has confirmed imported cases of the chikungunya virus involving travelers who returned from the Caribbean Islands, including the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne arboviral infection continue to be seen throughout the Caribbean islands. Chikungunya should be considered in travelers returning from these outbreak areas and presenting with characteristic clinical features, in the first week to 14 days after return. This advisory provides important updated guidance for Rhode Island clinicians on: Laboratory testing; Reporting laboratory-confirmed cases; Caribbean outbreak background, travel advisories, and other important CDC links.

Contact

401-222-2577 Fax: 401-222-2488

Drinking Water Quality

RSS
09/25/2013 13:09 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (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.
09/25/2013 09:37 EDT
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.

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09/25/2013 09:36 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (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.
10/31/2012 16:02 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing cautionary boil water advisories for certain water systems in Charlestown (Castle Rock Condominiums, Carousel Marketplace, Charlestown Commons, Lakeview LLC and Charlestown Early Learning Center), Chepachet (Chimera Inc), Exeter (Shady Acres, Inc.), and Glocester (The Village on Chopmist Hill) as a result of loss of system pressure.
05/11/2012 09:26 EDT
HEALTH has a new Drinking Water Watch system, an online database that contains information about public water systems in Rhode Island. Updated daily by the Rhode Island Office of Drinking Water Quality, available information includes test results for bacteriological, organic and inorganic chemistry, monitoring frequency and histories of violations. The Drinking Water Watch system can be accessed at https://dwq.health.ri.gov:8443/DWW/

Emergency Procedures

Contact

June Swallow

Food Protection

Food and Drug Administration Recall

09/26/2014 15:29 EDT
(Manchester, CT) Bravo of Manchester, CT is recalling select lots of Bravo Turkey and Chicken pet foods for dogs and cats because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

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09/26/2014 13:37 EDT
Whole Foods Market is recalling "Plain Streusel Coffeecake" produced and sold in the Bedford, Massachusetts location due to an undeclared tree nut allergen. The product has a "Sell By" date between September 19 and September 30, 2014.
09/26/2014 12:22 EDT
DOMINGUEZ FOODS WASHINGTON INC. of Zillah, Washington is recalling "SU COCINA" PAN MOLIDO (Plain Bread Crumbs) because it may contain undeclared WHEAT, WHEY (MILK), and SOY. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to wheat, milk, or soy run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.
09/24/2014 15:41 EDT
The ORIGINAL SOUPMAN of Staten Island, New York, is recalling some of its LOBSTER BISQUE in Tetra Pak cartons because due to human error some cartons were printed omitting that, in addition to lobster, the product also contains shrimp, as well as perch and tilapia in its lobster base. Only people who have allergies to shrimp (Crustaceans) run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.
09/24/2014 10:09 EDT
Gold Star Smoked Fish Corp., located at 570 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231, is recalling Cold Smoked Steelhead in Vacuum Pack with blue and gold label due to contamination or possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
09/22/2014 15:04 EDT
Glaser Organic Farms has been notified by its supplier of a recall of Organic Carob Powder due to possible health risks related to Salmonella contamination. Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometime fatal infections in young children, frail, or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems.
09/22/2014 13:15 EDT
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today alerted consumers to undeclared eggs in “Coconut Bun”, packaged and distributed by Golden King Bakery located at 90 Bowery, New York, NY 10013. No illnesses have been reported to date to the Department in connection with this product.
09/20/2014 05:31 EDT
Today, Mars Chocolate North America announced a voluntary recall of its M&M Brand Theater Box 3.40 oz UPC #40000294764 with the following lot numbers... This theater box item within these lot codes may contain product containing peanut butter without listing on the ingredient label on the outside cardboard box. The inside package is correctly labelled with ingredients and allergy information.
09/18/2014 15:28 EDT
S&S Food Import corp. is recalling all packages of Uneviscerated Dried Roach (Vobla) with the following package code “Best Before 06.05.2015”. The Uneviscerated Dried Roach (Vobla) was sampled by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets food Inspectors during a routine sanitary inspection.
09/16/2014 10:12 EDT
Gel Spice Company, Inc., of Bayonne, NJ, is issuing a voluntary recall notice for 16,443 cases of Fresh Finds-Ground Black Pepper, 3.53 oz, plastic jars, because it has the possibility to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
09/15/2014 15:38 EDT
Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. of Tracy, CA has been notified that specific lots of “Expo Fresh” Roma tomatoes supplied to Taylor Farms Pacific may be contaminated with Salmonella as a result of routine testing. No illnesses have been reported.

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Federal Food Safety Alert

09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Creminelli Fine Meats, LLC, a Salt Lake City, Utah, establishment, is recalling 31 pieces (approximately 101 pounds) of fully-cooked-not-shelf-stable, ready-to-eat pork roast products because they were produced under the wrong Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan and for mislabeling

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09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Fran's Fryers, a Milford, Texas, establishment, is recalling approximately 251 pounds of various raw poultry products because they were produced without the benefit of federal inspection.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Reser's Fine Foods is expanding its recall of chicken, ham and beef products to include all products produced between Oct. 10 and Oct. 25, 2013.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Reser's Fine Foods, a Topeka, Kan. establishment, is expanding its recall of chicken, ham and beef products to include all products produced between Sept. 5 and Oct. 9, 2013.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Garden Fresh Foods, a Milwaukee, WI. establishment, is recalling approximately 103,080 additional pounds of ready-to-eat chicken and ham products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Costco, in Coon Rapids, Minn., is recalling an undetermined amount of lean fresh ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Reser's Fine Foods, a Topeka, Kan. establishment, is recalling approximately 22,800 pounds of chicken, ham and beef products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Garden Fresh Foods, a Milwaukee, WI. establishment, is recalling approximately 6,694 additional pounds of ready-to-eat chicken and ham products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The company is recalling these products in addition to the 19,054 pounds of similar products that were recalled on Sept. 25, 2013.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Junction Pizza, a Grey Eagle, Minn. establishment, is recalling approximately 17,194 pounds of frozen pizza products that contain soy lecithin, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product labels.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Garden Fresh Foods, a Milwaukee, Wisc.establishment, is recalling approximately 19,054 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken and ham products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
09/30/2014 11:45 EDT
Campbell Soup Supply Company LLC, a Paris, TX establishment, is recalling 1,920 cans (approximately 1,740 pounds) of SpaghettiOs with Meatballs due to misbranding and undeclared allergens.

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Archives

Recent

09/24/2014 16:00 EDT
Providence -- The Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in Spectacle Pond in Cranston and Turner Reservoir, Central Pond, Lower Ten Mile River, and Omega Pond in East Providence because a blue-green...
09/24/2014 11:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health today received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a confirmed case of enterovirus D68 infection (EV-D68) involving an adult. The adult, who was recently hospitalized, has since improved and been discharged. This...
09/22/2014 16:30 EDT
Today, Mars Chocolate North America announced a voluntary recall of its M&M'S® Brand Theater Box 3.40 oz UPC #40000294764 with the following lot numbers: 417DH4JP09 417EM4JP10 417FM4JP09 418AG4JP10 418BG4JP10 418CG4JP10 418DM4JP09 418EG4JP10 419AM4JP09 417EG4JP09 417FG4JP09...
09/18/2014 16:00 EDT
Providence - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises all parents and healthcare providers to be aware of symptoms of respiratory illness caused by Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) and to promote good hand hygiene to protect against EV-D68, as well as other seasonal illnesses such as...
09/16/2014 10:45 EDT
Gel Spice Company Inc., of Bayonne, NJ, has issued a voluntary recall notice for 16,443 cases of Fresh Finds Ground Black Pepper in 3.53-oz. plastic jars because it has the possibility to be contaminated with Salmonella. The product was distributed nationwide via Big Lots Retail Stores Inc.,...
09/16/2014 09:30 EDT
Immunization rates for child and teenagers in Rhode Island are among the highest in the country, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month. The data were gathered through the National Immunization Survey, an annual study conducted...
09/12/2014 16:00 EDT
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is notifying health care professionals and consumers about safety concerns with all sterile-use drug products made and distributed by Downing Labs LLC, doing business as NuVision Pharmacy, in Dallas Texas. Because NuVision Pharmacy is licensed in Rhode Island...
09/11/2014 09:15 EDT
Providence -- The Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in Mashapaug Pond in Providence because a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom has been detected in the waters of the reservoir and pond.
09/09/2014 15:00 EDT
Providence -- The Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in Turner Reservoir and Central Pond in East Providence because a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom has been detected in the waters of...
09/09/2014 10:45 EDT
Yesterday, Mars Chocolate North America announced a voluntary recall of its TWIX® Brand Unwrapped Bites 7 oz. Stand Up Pouch with the code date: 421BA4GA60. Fewer than 25 cases of the stand-up pouches in this single lot code may contain product containing peanuts and eggs without listing them on
09/04/2014 17:45 EDT
Kraft Foods Group has voluntarily recalled 7,691 cases of select varieties of regular Kraft American Singles Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product. A supplier did not store an ingredient used in this product in accordance with Kraft's temperature standards. While unlikely, this could create...
08/28/2014 09:30 EDT
Listening to Residents Helps Rhode Island Nursing Homes Continue to Outperform the Nation Quality of life and care for Rhode Island seniors and their families reach above average marks, making the state a more desirable place for elders Providence, Rhode Island, August 28, 2014 – Nursing...
08/27/2014 16:15 EDT
The Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in J.L. Curran Reservoir in Cranston because a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom has been detected in the waters of the reservoir. Following a...
08/22/2014 11:00 EDT
Beginning today (August 22, 2014) the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is thought to be the first state to make data from its Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) available to the public on the Department's website. Rhode Islanders will be able to learn what percentage of prescribers are
08/15/2014 14:45 EDT
PROVIDENCE -- On Thursday, August 14, 2014, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Office of State Medical Examiner (OSME) took into custody three bodies that had been found at a storage unit in Johnston rented by Alfred Pennine, the Pennine Funeral Home director who died last month....
08/14/2014 11:45 EDT
PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) encourage residents to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases after this week's hard rains by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Personal...
08/08/2014 16:30 EDT
HEALTH and BHDDH Issue Warning About Spike in Drug Overdose Deaths Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports 17 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths some with paraphernalia at the scene in the month of July and the first week of August. While these numbers are preliminary
08/06/2014 09:30 EDT
PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has awarded more than $2 million in new funding to eight community-based agencies to provide evidence-based home visiting services for pregnant women and families with young children in Rhode Island. Through the federal Maternal, Infant,...
08/05/2014 11:00 EDT
PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition (RIBC) will hold a family-friendly event, "Born to Breastfeed," at the Roger Williams Park Zoo on Wednesday, August 6, from 5-9 p.m. The event is being held in conjunction with WHO/UNICEF World Breastfeeding Week. During the event, families can...
08/01/2014 09:15 EDT
As of today, August 1, 2014, Rhode Island has begun screening all infants born in the state for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). This Immunodeficiency is a rare disease that causes dangerously low levels of white blood cells, which protect the body from infection. Babies with SCID appear...

2013

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 /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: /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 (CDCs 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/sex/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.
  • 2012

    Laromme Brand Vanilla Rugelach Recalled Due to Undeclared Eggs

    01-08-2012

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

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

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


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

    01-09-2012

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH to Host Pertussis Vaccination Clinic in Barrington

    01-10-2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

    01-11-2012

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

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

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


    Hospital Conversion Application Deemed Complete

    01-18-2012

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Reports Update on Barrington Pertussis Outbreak

    01-18-2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

    01-24-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Rhode Island Achieves 100% Newborn Screening Rate in 2011

    01-30-2012

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

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

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


    DEM and HEALTH Warn of Possible Rabies Exposure at Kennedy Plaza

    02-01-2012

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

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

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

    HEALTH and DEM make the following recommendations:

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

    Rhode Island Municipalities to Hold Pertussis and Flu Clinics

    02-07-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    02-14-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The report is available online.


    Rhode Island Lauded for Top Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Rates

    02-16-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    02-22-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    02-24-2012

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Receives Support From The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation

    02-27-2012

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

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

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

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


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

    02-27-2012

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Hires Chief Administrative Officer for Medical Board

    02-29-2012

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Announces End of Barrington Pertussis Outbreak

    02-29-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Adult Adoptees May Request Copies of Original Birth Certificates

    02-29-2012

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

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

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


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

    03-12-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    03-13-2012

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Reports Varicella Activity in Four Rhode Island Communities

    03-15-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Launches Statewide "Live Smoke Free RI" Campaign

    03-20-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    04-02-2012

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

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

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

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

    The Veterans' Free Nicotine Patch Campaign begins today.


    HEALTH Now Recruiting Public and Professional Nursing Board Members

    04-10-2012

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

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

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


    State 2012 Air Quality Alert Program Enters Busy Season

    05-01-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    05-03-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Now Recruiting Pharmacy Board Members

    05-03-2012

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

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

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


    HEALTH Recognizes the Importance of Public Health Nursing

    05-10-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH announces new online resources to monitor drinking water quality

    05-10-2012

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

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

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

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


    East Providence Named a 'HeartSafe' Community

    05-15-2012

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

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

    HeartSafe communities must meet a number of criteria to earn the designation, including offering CPR classes, placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) throughout the community and on emergency response vehicles, training first responders, creating effective emergency response plans for municipal and school buildings, and evaluating the community's response to cardiac emergencies.

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


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

    05-15-2012

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

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

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

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

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

    Shellfish grown and produced in Rhode Island are not affected.

    No illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island.


    Dare to Dream Student Leadership Conference Unique to Students with Disabilities

    05-21-2012

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

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

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

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


    Bagged Salad Recalled Due to Potential Listeria Contamination

    05-22-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    05-23-2012

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

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

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

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


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

    05-25-2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

    05-31-2012

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

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

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


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

    06-01-2012

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

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

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

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


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

    06-22-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in these areas and experience any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

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


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

    06-27-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Orders Immediate Closure of Bristol Bakery

    07-13-2012

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

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

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


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

    07-13-2012

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

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

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

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

    No illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island.

    Shellfish grown and produced in Rhode Island are not affected.


    HEALTH to Hold Pertussis Vaccination Clinics in North Kingstown

    07-17-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Reminds Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves From Mosquito Bites

    07-18-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    07-23-2012

    PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in the waters of Melville Pond in Portsmouth, which is experiencing a blue-green algae bloom that may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in Melville Pond until further notice. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins, so owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. In addition, people should not drink water or eat fish from the pond.

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

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

    With the weekend forecast of warm temperatures and sunshine - conditions favorable to algae growth - DEM warns that blue-green algae blooms may be evident in other freshwater lakes and ponds in the state. People are advised to avoid contact with waters that exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese.


    HEALTH and Providence Water Supply Board Announce Joint Initiative

    07-27-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Free Skin Cancer Screening July 29 at Roger Wheeler State Beach

    07-27-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Recommends Re-Opening of Atlantic Beach Club Beach

    07-28-2012

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


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

    07-31-2012

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Advocacy and Equity Commission Seeks Public Members

    08-07-2012

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

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

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

    Commissioners will serve a three-year term.


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

    08-07-2012

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Advises Consumers About Limited Reichel Foods Recall

    08-07-2012

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

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

    Products subject to the voluntary recall include:

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

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

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

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


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

    08-07-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    08-09-2012

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

    The specific products being recalled include:

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

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

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

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

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


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

    08-15-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in these areas and experience any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

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


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

    08-15-2012

    PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in the waters of Mashapaug Pond in Providence, which is experiencing a blue-green algae bloom that may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in Mashapaug Pond until further notice. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins, so owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. In addition, people should not drink water or eat fish from the pond.

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

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

    Warm temperatures and sunshine produce conditions favorable to algae growth. DEM warns that blue-green algae blooms may be evident in other freshwater lakes and ponds in the state. People are advised to avoid contact with waters that exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese.


    HEALTH Advises Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves From Mosquito Bites

    08-17-2012

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

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

    All Rhode Islanders are encouraged to:

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

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


    HEALTH Offers Tips for a Healthy, Successful School Year

    08-27-2012

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

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

    HEALTH encourages all parents to:

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

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

    08-28-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in these areas and experience any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.


    HEALTH Encourages Rhode Islanders to Enjoy a Healthy Holiday Weekend

    08-30-2012

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

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

    All Rhode Islanders are encouraged to:

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

    HEALTH Advises Consumers to Be Aware of Product Recalls

    08-30-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    09-04-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    No illnesses have been reported to date.


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

    09-04-2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

    09-05-2012

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

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

    All four bodies of water are experiencing a blue-green algae bloom that may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in these waters until further notice. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins, so owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. In addition, people should not drink water or eat fish from the affected waters.

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

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

    Warm temperatures and sunshine produce conditions favorable to algae growth. DEM warns that blue-green algae blooms may be evident in other freshwater lakes and ponds in the state. People are advised to avoid contact with waters that exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese.


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

    09-06-2012

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

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

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

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in this area and have experienced any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with untreated waters in this area should contact their veterinarian.

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


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

    09-10-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    HEALTH Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus Infection

    09-11-2012

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Advises Cookout Attendees of Possible Listeria Contamination

    09-11-2012

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

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

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

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


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

    09-12-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    HEALTH Advises Consumers Not to Eat Salata Frescolina Brand Ricotta Cheese

    09-12-2012

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Names Keough to Nursing Director Post

    09-13-2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

    09-14-2012

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

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

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

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with water from these ponds should contact their veterinarian.

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

    Warm temperatures and sunshine produce conditions favorable to algae growth. DEM warns that blue-green algae blooms may be evident in other freshwater lakes and ponds in the state. People are advised to avoid contact with waters that exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese.


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

    09-14-2012

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

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

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

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

    HEALTH Reports Providence County Case of West Nile Virus Infection

    09-18-2012

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Recognizes Dr. James Padbury for Newborn Screening Work

    09-19-2012

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

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

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


    HEALTH Grants Hold On BCBSRI Material Modification Application

    09-20-2012

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Awards Funding for Evidence-Based Home Visiting Services

    09-21-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    09-21-2012

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

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

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

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in these areas and experience any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

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


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

    09-24-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    09-24-2012

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

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

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


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

    09-24-2012

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

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

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with water from this reservoir should contact their veterinarian.

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

    Warm temperatures and sunshine produce conditions favorable to algae growth. DEM and HEALTH warn that blue-green algae blooms may be evident in other freshwater lakes and ponds in the state. People are advised to avoid contact with waters that exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese.


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

    09-24-2012

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Reports Bristol County Case of West Nile Virus Infection

    09-25-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    09-25-2012

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

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

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

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

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


    Rhode Island Remains National Leader in Childhood, Adolescent Vaccinations

    09-26-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Reports Washington County Case of West Nile Virus Infection

    09-27-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Launches Flu Vaccination Campaign With Statehouse Kick-Off

    10-01-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    DEM ANNOUNCES EEE FOUND IN MOSQUITOES TRAPPED IN TIVERTON

    10-01-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    10-03-2012

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

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

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

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

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

    10-04-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    10-05-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    10-05-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Holds Flu Immunization Clinic at Crossroads Rhode Island

    10-25-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    10-26-2012

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

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

    WHO SHOULD ENROLL

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

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

    HOW TO ENROLL

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

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

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


    Hurricane Sandy and Private Water Wells

    10-26-2012

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

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

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

    Emergency Chlorination Process

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

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

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

    10-29-2012

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

    Food Safety:

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

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

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

    People With Medical Devices Requiring Electricity:

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

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

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

    Prescription Medications:

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

    Generator Safety:

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


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

    10-29-2012

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

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


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

    10-29-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    10-31-2012

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

    Charlestown:

    * Castle Rock Condominiums, 401-463-8448

    * Carousel Marketplace, 401-578-4171

    * Charlestown Commons, 401-364-3388

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

    Chepachet: Chimera Inc., 401-783-4538

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

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

    HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking, or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

    The water systems have experienced low or no water pressure, which can affect water quality and safety. Low or no pressure makes a water system vulnerable to contamination, inviting bacteria and other contaminants. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

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


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

    11-01-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    11-01-2012

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

    Charlestown:

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

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

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

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

    Exeter:

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

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

    Foster:

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

    Hopkinton:

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

    Little Compton:

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

    North Smithfield:

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

    Richmond:

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

    Wakefield:

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

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

    HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking, or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

    The water systems have experienced low or no water pressure, which can affect water quality and safety. Low or no pressure makes a water system vulnerable to contamination, inviting bacteria and other contaminants. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

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


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

    11-02-2012

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

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

    Although cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths combine to produce conditions generally unfavorable to algae growth, HEALTH and DEM warn that blue-green algae blooms may still be evident in some freshwater lakes and ponds throughout the state. People are advised to continue to avoid contact with waters that exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface, and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese.

    Blue-green algae, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. These toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects may include stomachache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage.

    People who experience these symptoms and have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in waters with a suspected cyanobacteria bloom should contact their healthcare provider. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with potentially affected waters should contact their veterinarian. People that come into contact with potentially affected waters should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, and wash their clothes.


    Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Lifted for Six Water Systems

    11-02-2012

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

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

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


    Four Additional Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Lifted for Water Systems

    11-05-2012

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

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

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


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

    11-05-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Three Cautionary Boil Water Advisories Lifted for Water Systems

    11-07-2012

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

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

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


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

    11-08-2012

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

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

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

    * Carousel Marketplace, Charlestown;

    * Wolf Rock Country Kitchen, Exeter;

    * The Village on Chopmist Hill, Glocester;

    * YMCA Camp Fuller, Wakefield.

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


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

    11-09-2012

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

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

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

    * Carousel Marketplace, Charlestown;

    * The Village on Chopmist Hill, Glocester;

    * YMCA Camp Fuller, Wakefield.

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


    Rhode Island Municipalities to Hold Vaccination Clinics

    11-09-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    11-14-2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

    11-14-2012

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

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

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

    * The Village on Chopmist Hill, Glocester;

    * YMCA Camp Fuller, Wakefield.

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


    Governor Chafee proclaims November 14 World Diabetes Day in Rhode Island

    11-14-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    11-14-2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

    11-20-2012

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

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

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


    HEALTH Commends RIC for Smoke-Free Policy

    11-21-2012

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

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

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

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


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

    12-05-2012

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH Declares Flu to Be Widespread in Rhode Island

    12-06-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    12-10-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Learn more about HEALTH's strategies for reducing HIV transmission in Rhode Island to zero, as well as its programs for HIV prevention and care, at /programs?parm=15/


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

    12-14-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    12-14-2012

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

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

    The comment period will close on January 2, 2013.


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

    12-14-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Visit /foodprotection/about/illness/for more information about foodborne illness.


    HEALTH Commends Public Housing Authorities For Going Smoke Free

    12-19-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Get Immunized Against Influenza To Protect Yourself and Your Family

    12-19-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    12-20-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


    HEALTH launches personal story campaign to encourage smokers to quit

    12-28-2012

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

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

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

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

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


    13 Ways to Stay Well in 2013

    12-31-2012

    Resolve today to make 2013 a year of better health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    2011

    Salad Mix Recalled Due to Listeria Contamination

    01-21-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that a sample of Northeast Spring Mix salad mix sold at McQuade’s Market in Jamestown has tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. This product is manufactured by Northeast Fresh in Chelsea, Massachusetts. HEALTH is working to determine if this product was distributed elsewhere in the state.

    The product that tested positive for listeria was sold in seven-ounce bags and has a product code of Jan15/457034.

    No listeria illnesses have been reported in association with this recall. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

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


    WIC Efforts Support Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding

    02-18-2011

    For mothers enrolled in the WIC program, breastfeeding upon returning to work or school may now be just a little bit easier.

    WIC’s recent expansion of its breast pump program now provides hospital-grade breast pumps to eligible mothers at no charge. The hospital-grade breast pumps help mothers who are returning to work or school to pump breast milk more efficiently and encourages the mother to breastfeed for a longer period of time. Complementing this program was the announcement last week from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that breast pumps can count towards medical deductions and money from flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can be used to purchase breast pumps.

    “Breastfeeding protects mothers and their children from numerous health risks and results in significant cost savings for families, the healthcare system, and employers,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “As the Surgeon General’s report emphasizes, it is important to focus on those barriers that make it difficult for women to breastfeed. WIC’s breast pump program makes it easier for women to continue breastfeeding after they return to work or school.”

    Healthy Babies, Happy Moms (HBHM) works with HEALTH to provide hospital-grad electric breast pumps for eligible WIC mothers.

    In January, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin released The Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. This report urges healthcare providers, employers, insurers, policymakers, researchers, and the community to take 20 steps to support mothers in reaching personal breastfeeding goals.


    HEALTH Issues Warning About Risks of Mercury Following Childhood Poisoning

    02-28-2011

    On Friday, a child from Cumberland was admitted to Hasbro Children’s Hospital with elevated levels of mercury. The child was treated and is being monitored by physicians. Staff at the Department of Health (HEALTH) traced the source of the exposure to the family’s residence and then worked with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to identify the exact location of the mercury contamination and remove it. HEALTH expects the mitigation to be completed this week. No other residents of the multi-family unit had symptoms of mercury poisoning and initial laboratory tests do not show that others have elevated mercury levels. Additional environmental testing confirmed that the mercury contamination did not spread beyond the home, so HEALTH does not believe anyone else in the community is at risk from this incident.

    Common sources of mercury are older thermometers, thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, and botanicals that may be used for religious or cultural traditions. Mercury cannot always be seen in these products, so people are not always aware of the danger.

    “People may have items in their home or may be using products that contain mercury and not even know it,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Exposure to mercury, especially for children, can have harmful physical or neurological effects. We want people to understand the dangers of exposure to mercury and we want people to stop using any product that contains mercury.”

    Symptoms of mercury exposure can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes, and eye irritation. Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to mercury should contact their healthcare provider.


    Rhode Island Department of Health Launches New Quitline for Smokers

    02-28-2011

    On March 1, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) will launch an improved quitline service for smokers. 1-800-Quit-Now is a national quitline system that refers callers to free resources in their local communities. The program currently helps 45 million Americans who use tobacco.

    With 1-800-Quit-Now, smokers in Rhode Island, as well as family and friends seeking to support them, have a new ally in their struggle to end their dependence on tobacco. The toll-free quitline will serve as a single point of access to individualized guidance from qualified cessation specialists. Callers will also have access to support services such as counseling and nicotine replacement therapy.

    “Giving up tobacco is hard to do, but every day, people are taking the first step to better health by calling a quitline,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. “Quitlines are proven to be effective in helping smokers quit and remain tobacco-free. 1-800-Quit-Now has been successful in other states, and we look forward to similar outcomes in Rhode Island.”

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70 percent of current smokers want to quit, but less than five percent are actually successful in quitting on their own. Studies show that “quit success” increases with an effective, proven tobacco treatment protocol. Cigarette smoking and tobacco use are the leading causes of preventable death and disease in the United States. In Rhode Island, tobacco use accounts for more than 1,700 deaths each year.

    1-800-Quit-Now was developed by the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines, CDC, National American Quitline Consortium, and the National Cancer Institute.

    Also on March 1 is the Rhode Island Tobacco Cessation Summit. The Summit brings together Rhode Island community leaders, elected officials, government agencies, academics, and business leaders to develop a plan to coordinate statewide tobacco treatment efforts. Dr. Howard Koh, United States Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services, will deliver the keynote address.


    Arnica Flower Labeled as Food Seasoning Can Be Lethal if Ingested

    03-02-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that packages of Arnica Flowers sold at Price Rite grocery store in Cranston are mislabeled and should not be eaten or mixed with food or beverages.

    This product was manufactured by NACfoods and distributed in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. It was sold in 0.25-ounce bags and has an item code of 508. There have been no reported illnesses associated with this product.

    If ingested, arnica can cause dizziness, tremors, vomiting, and heart irregularities. Large doses can be fatal. Anyone who bought this item should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.


    Department of Health to Announce Decision on Compassion Center(s) on March 15

    03-07-2011

    Department of Health (HEALTH) Interim Director Michael Fine, MD, today announces a one-week postponement in the naming of qualified applicant(s) for registration as a Compassion Center. Fine is in his first full week at HEALTH and, as the person ultimately responsible for the decision on qualified applicants, he requires additional time to thoroughly review all 18 applications. Additionally, discussions of and preparation for the budget have consumed much of Fine’s first week as Interim Director. The Medical Marijuana Program and the anticipated Compassion Center(s) will impact HEALTH’s budget, and those implications must be considered before a final decision is made.

    “HEALTH staff have been working diligently on the review of the 18 applications and we are dedicated to maintaining the highest integrity of the decision-making process,” Fine said. “This has been a challenging budget season requiring much of the Department’s focus and energy. In order to make an informed decision about such a complex issue, I will need a few more days to finalize the Department’s decision on Compassion Centers. We are firmly committed to making a decision by March 15.”

    In October, HEALTH estimated that it would take between four to six months to review the applications and render a decision. With a decision now expected on March 15, the Department is still within that timeframe.


    Department of Health Approves Consolidation of Open Heart Surgery at The Miriam, Rhode Island Hospitals

    03-08-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has approved a request from Lifespan to consolidate open heart surgery services offered at both Rhode Island Hospital and at The Miriam Hospital to a single site at Rhode Island Hospital. Included in the conditions of approval are:

    --Lifespan hospitals must offer to enroll patients in Current Care.

    --Lifespan must report to HEALTH, within six months, the current race, ethnicity, and gender distribution of all open heart surgery patients.

    --Rhode Island Hospital must report to HEALTH, annually, utilization data of its cardiology clinic.

    “The number of open heart surgeries performed in the last decade has significantly declined,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “I believe this is a result of a successful, long-term collaboration of public health and primary care. At the same time, we also want to ensure that all Rhode Islanders, including those who are low income or uninsured, continue to have access to this life-saving service.”


    Department of Health Announces Decision on Compassion Center Applicants

    03-16-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announces that 3 of the 18 applicants have been approved to apply for registration certificates to run a compassion center. The three applicant(s) selected are Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, Inc.; Summit Medical Compassion Center; and The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center.

    “After a thorough and thoughtful review of all applications, HEALTH determined that these three applicant(s) were best able to offer safe, conveniently located options for patients currently enrolled in the medical marijuana program,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine. “ HEALTH is charged with protecting the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders. We will continue to work with the compassion centers and providers to assure good outcomes for patients.”

    Before opening for business, a compassion center must be inspected by HEALTH staff and receive a certificate of occupancy from the respective municipality where it is located. In addition, all staff, board members and volunteers of each compassion center must be registered with HEALTH’s medical marijuana program. For the complete rules and regulations pertaining to compassion centers, visit http://sos.ri.gov/documents/archives/regdocs/released/pdf/DOH/5923.pdf

    In order to purchase medical marijuana from a compassion center, a patient must designate a compassion center as a caregiver. (A patient can designate up to two caregivers.)


    All Baked Goods from DeFusco Bakery Recalled Due To Unsafe Handling Practices

    03-25-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of a recall of all baked goods sold at DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston and in Cranston. During an inspection of the Johnston store, HEALTH staff found pastry cream that is used in zeppoles and clairs was stored at unsafe temperatures and there were unsanitary conditions in the store. Baked goods made at the Johnston store are sold in both locations. In addition, zeppoles were sold at all Crugnale Bakery locations.

    The owner of DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston has voluntarily closed until further notice.

    Anyone who purchased baked goods from DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston or Cranston or zeppoles from any Crugnale bakery should discard any uneaten product.

    Food that is improperly stored can cause illness. The most common symptoms of foodborne illness are nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten baked goods purchased from DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles purchased from Crugnale’s Bakery and has gotten sick should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.


    HEALTH Investigating Salmonella Outbreak Possibly Associated with Baked Goods

    03-26-2011

    HEALTH Investigating Salmonella Outbreak Possibly Associated with Baked Goods

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella, possibly related to yesterday’s recall of baked goods, including zeppoles. HEALTH has received reports of 19 people who are ill, with a common characteristic among many as having consumed zeppoles from DeFusco’s Bakery. Nine of the 19 people have tested positive for Salmonella and 13 people have been hospitalized. HEALTH's Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Office of Food Protection, and the State Laboratory continue to investigate the source of the illness and are working to identify additional retail outlets where DeFusco’s sells cream pastries.

    To date HEALTH has learned that zeppoles from DeFusco’s Johnston store are sold at all DeFusco’s locations. All five Crugnale Bakery locations in Providence, East Providence, North Providence, Cranston, and Cumberland also sold DeFusco’s zeppoles from March 16 through March 20. HEALTH food inspectors also believe that zeppoles from DeFusco’s are sold at Calvitto’s in Narragansett and Sal’s Bakery in Providence, based on information from DeFusco’s owner.

    Anyone who purchased baked goods from any DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles from any of the above locations should immediately discard any uneaten product. Anyone who has eaten baked goods purchased from DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles purchased from any of the above locations and has gotten sick (especially with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) should contact their healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and treatment.

    The average incubation period for Salmonella is one to three days after eating contaminated food. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and fever and usually last for four to seven days. People who are at higher risk for developing more serious symptoms are young children, the elderly and anyone who is immunocompromised.

    Yesterday the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced a recall of all baked goods sold at DeFusco’s Bakeries following an inspection of the Johnston store where the pastries were made. HEALTH staff found pastry cream that is used in zeppoles and clairs was stored at unsafe temperatures as well as unsanitary conditions in the store. The owner of DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston (the production facility) voluntarily closed the bakery until further notice.


    Update: HEALTH Investigating Salmonella Outbreak Possibly Associated With Baked Goods --Additional Bakeries Identified

    03-26-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella, possibly related to yesterday’s recall of baked goods, including zeppoles. HEALTH has received reports of 19 people who are ill, with a common characteristic among many as having consumed zeppoles from DeFusco’s Bakery. Nine of the 19 people have tested positive for Salmonella and 13 people have been hospitalized. HEALTH's Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Office of Food Protection, and the State Laboratory continue to investigate the source of the illness and are working to identify additional retail outlets where DeFusco’s sells cream pastries.

    To date HEALTH has learned that zeppoles from DeFusco’s Johnston store are sold at all DeFusco’s locations; Calvitto’s in Narragansett; Sal’s Bakery in Providence; Focaccia World in Johnston; and American Bakery Supplies, a distributor in West Warwick. All five Crugnale Bakery locations in Providence, East Providence, North Providence, Cranston, and Cumberland also sold DeFusco’s zeppoles from March 16 through March 20.

    Anyone who purchased baked goods from any DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles from any of the above locations should immediately discard any uneaten product. Anyone who has eaten baked goods purchased from DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles purchased from any of the above locations and has gotten sick (especially with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) should contact their healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and treatment.

    The average incubation period for Salmonella is one to three days after eating contaminated food. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and fever and usually last for four to seven days. People who are at higher risk for developing more serious symptoms are young children, the elderly and anyone who is immunocompromised.

    Yesterday the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced a recall of all baked goods sold at DeFusco’s Bakeries following an inspection of the Johnston store where the pastries were made. HEALTH staff found pastry cream that is used in zeppoles and éclairs was stored at unsafe temperatures as well as unsanitary conditions in the store. The owner of DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston (the production facility) voluntarily closed the bakery until further notice.


    HEALTH Expands Investigation of Salmonella Outbreak -- Updated List of Zeppole Vendors

    03-27-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) continues its investigation of an outbreak of Salmonella, possibly related to zeppoles. HEALTH has now received reports of 25 people who are ill throughout the state, with a common characteristic among many as having consumed zeppoles from DeFusco’s Bakery. 13 of the 25 have tested positive for Salmonella and 10 people have been hospitalized (note, yesterday's press release incorrectly stated that 13 people had been hospitalized when the correct number was 10).

    The most likely cause of illness is consumption of zeppole pastries that came in contact with raw eggs. Pastry shells from DeFusco's had been stored in used egg crates, which could have exposed the shells to infected raw eggs. HEALTH's Office of Food Protection continues working to identify all bakeries that sold zeppoles made by DeFusco's and is also looking into the source of the eggs. HEALTH's State Laboratories are working through the weekend to test food samples in order to pinpoint the exact source of illness.

    HEALTH has now learned that American Bakery Supplies, a distributor in West Warwick, purchased zeppoles from DeFusco's. The company then distributed the pastries to Roch's Market in West Warwick; Meal Works in Coventry; and Touch of Class Catering in West Warwick. Meal Works (a catering company) served these zeppoles at events on March and 18 at West Warwick Manor Senior Center, St John and Paul Church in Coventry, Sparrow Point (senior facility) in West Warwick, and Crescent Park Manor in Riverside.

    Zeppoles from DeFusco’s Johnston store were also sold at all DeFusco’s locations; Colvitto’s Bistro in Narragansett (note, yesterday's press release incorrectly listed the bakery's name as Calvitto's in Narragansett); Sal’s Bakery in Providence; and Focaccia World in Johnston. All five Crugnale Bakery locations in Providence, East Providence, North Providence, Cranston, and Cumberland also sold DeFusco’s zeppoles from March 16 through March 20.

    During this investigation HEALTH also discovered unsafe food storage practices at Buono's Bakery in Providence. Their zeppole, cream puff, and clair shells were also stored in used egg crates, which could lead to contamination from raw eggs.

    People are advised to immediately discard all baked goods from any DeFusco's ; zeppoles from any of the above locations; and zeppoles, cream puffs, and clairs from Buono's Bakery in Providence.

    Anyone who has eaten any of the above-mentioned products and has gotten sick (especially with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) should contact their healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and treatment.

    Because foods of animal origin, including eggs, may be contaminated with Salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat or raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. In addition, raw eggs and uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods in order to avoid cross-contamination. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. Boxes that contained eggs or raw meat product should never be used for any other purpose. People should wash their hands before handling food, and between handling different food items.


    HEALTH Recognized for Highest Childhood Flu Vaccination Rates in the Country and Outstanding Adolescent Immunization Rates

    04-04-2011

    On March 28, 2011, the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (HEALTH) Office of Immunization received two awards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the National Immunization Conference in Washington, D.C. The first award was for the highest influenza vaccination coverage rate in the country for children thus far this influenza season. The second award was for outstanding overall adolescent immunization coverage rates.

    Through December 2010, Rhode Island immunized 74.9% of children ages 6 months – 17 years against influenza. This was the highest rate in the country for this age range and almost twice the national average of 44.1%. Rhode Island was also one of two states recognized for its outstanding adolescent vaccination coverage rates for 2009.

    In 2009, Rhode Island had near-top rankings for tetanus, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine coverage rates. Rhode Island’s tetanus vaccination rate was 91.4% (compared to the national average of 76.2%), the state’s meningitis vaccination rate was 75.7% (compared to the national average of 53.6%), and the state’s HPV vaccination rate was 68.3% (compared to the national average of 44.3%). Rhode Island’s overall adolescent vaccination coverage rate was 78.5%.

    “Young adults are being vaccinated against serious diseases before they leave high school thanks to the dedication of Rhode Island’s pediatricians, family physicians, school personnel, and many other unsung heroes,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. “As proud as I am of these numbers, we still have more work to do. Our goal is to have 90% of adolescents vaccinated against all vaccine-preventable disease.”

    In an effort to reach this goal, HEALTH opened its Vaccinate Before You Graduate (VBYG) program to all high school students this year. VBYG, which was previously only open to high school seniors, makes vaccines for nine vaccine-preventable diseases available to students at school-based clinics. Additionally, seasonal flu vaccine was offered to all school-aged children in Rhode Island at school-based vaccination clinics this year for the first time.

    Data used to determine vaccination rates was gathered through the CDC’s National Immunization Survey (NIS). The NIS is administered annually by the CDC.


    North Kingstown, Pawtucket, South Kingstown Receive Healthy Living Grants

    04-07-2011

    Safe and available sidewalks. Healthy foods being sold at neighborhood stores. Clean parks and bike paths for children and adults. These are just three examples of things that can promote healthy eating and increased physical activity.

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that North Kingstown, Pawtucket, and South Kingstown will each receive a grant to create policies that promote active, healthier lifestyles in an effort to prevent and reduce obesity. The grants total $225,000 and were awarded through HEALTH’s Healthy Places by Design project.

    “Almost 30% of Rhode Island children, ages 10 to 17, are overweight or obese,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Less than half of adults engage in regular physical activity. To fight the obesity epidemic, we need cities and towns to make policy changes on the local level. We have to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

    These three communities will work to improve the health of their residents through community planning and the built environment. Community planning can include new or updated zoning policies or ordinances. A community’s built environment is man-made items like buildings, roads, playgrounds, sidewalks, or landscaping. Given the substantial effect of a community’s built environment on the health of its residents. HEALTH is starting to focus more attention on improving the built environment as a means of obesity prevention. These changes will make it easier for people to choose healthier behaviors, like playing in the neighborhood park instead of playing computer games.

    Funding for this initiative comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) award to Rhode Island. In addition to the grant money, the three municipalities will receive technical assistance from HEALTH and the Rhode Island Division of Planning. Funds will be allocated over the next year.


    Isolated Case of Measles Confirmed in Foreign Visitor to RI

    04-15-2011

    On Wednesday, April 13, a primary care provider notified the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) of a suspected case of measles. The patient, a woman in her 20s, is from Europe. She arrived in New York on Tuesday and traveled by car to Rhode Island. After seeking treatment for symptoms of fever and rash, an astute physician notified HEALTH about a potential case of measles. The diagnosis was rapidly confirmed by serologic testing.

    On Thursday, HEALTH immediately notified neighboring states and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC will work with airport officials to identify and notify passengers who were on the same flight as the woman. Because of the early detection of the case, control measures were put in place immediately. The patient was isolated on a voluntary basis and has been extremely cooperative. HEALTH is ensuring that people who may have been exposed to measles is receiving a dose of measles-containing vaccine within the recommended 72 hours of exposure.

    “Although measles can be a very serious disease, the quick response by the physician and by HEALTH staff prevented this from spreading,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Because we got lab results so quickly, we are still within the timeframe where measles vaccine is recommended. This also serves as a reminder that everyone – children and adults – should be up to date on all recommended vaccinations.”

    Measles is a highly-contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. The symptoms usually begin about 7-14 days after a person is infected, and include blotchy red rash, fever, cough, runny nose, red/watery eyes, aches, and small white spots in the mouth. The disease can be prevented by the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Because routine MMR vaccination of children is required in the United States, measles is considered to be eradicated here. Measles remains common in many places worldwide.


    Updates in Salmonella Outbreak Investigation

    04-18-2011

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is providing the following updates in the ongoing investigation of the Salmonella outbreak:

    - All remaining food and environmental samples taken from DeFusco’s bakery have tested negative for Salmonella.

    - HEALTH has issued a compliance order to DeFusco’s bakery that both the Johnston and Cranston locations remain closed until HEALTH approves reopening. The compliance order also states that DeFusco’s must get written permission from HEALTH before selling or discarding any bakery equipment and must provide any information related to the investigation that HEALTH requests.

    - HEALTH has issued compliance orders to all employees of DeFusco’s bakery requiring them to submit stool samples for testing at HEALTH’s lab.


    Pawtucket Red Sox Organization Receives Second Safe Place for Teens to Work Award

    04-21-2011

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented the Pawtucket Red Sox (Paw Sox) organization with the Safe Place for Teens to Work certification and award. This is the second time the Paw Sox have earned this award, and it is the only company in the state that has achieved this status.

    “Providing teenagers with a safe place to work is important,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Having a part-time job is a wonderful learning opportunity; however, there also needs to be a good balance between work and school. We applaud the Paw Sox organization for being an example of best practices in the workplace.”

    In order to receive the Safe Place for Teens to Work certification and award, employers must meet certain requirements, including:

    - No teenager works late on a school night.

    - Teenagers receive safety training before starting employment with the company.

    - Teenagers do not operate equipment that is considered dangerous.

    - Teenagers do not work alone or unsupervised.

    - A supervisor, older than age 18, is on duty at all times.

    - A strict policy against workplace violence and sexual harassment is maintained and enforced.

    This award and designation is presented in conjunction with the local Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 21(d) Consultation Program.


    Consumer Satisfaction with Rhode Island Nursing Homes Outperforms National Rates

    04-25-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released the results of the 2010 survey on resident and family satisfaction with nursing home care Rhode Island. For the fifth consecutive year, this annual survey indicates that nursing home care, on average, surpassed the national standard. In Rhode Island, 92% of residents and of family members rated their satisfaction with the facility as either “Good” or “Excellent.” In comparison, 89% of residents and 87% of family members in the national database gave such positive ratings.

    “These comparative data show that nursing homes’ continued focus on quality of life and the individual choices of residents is important and valuable,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “That 92% of residents and family members would recommend their nursing home to anyone needing skilled care testifies to the quality of nursing homes in our state.”

    Together with publicly available information about care outcomes, the satisfaction scores provide additional information consumers can use to make informed choices when selecting a nursing home. “This process allows individuals to give feedback about nursing homes,” said Gail Patry, Director of Long Term Care at Quality Partners of Rhode Island and Chair of the public reporting program’s Nursing Home Subcommittee. “The data also help nursing homes monitor their own residents’ experiences.”

    This project is the result of a collaboration by all of the 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 Department of Health's contractor, Quality Partners of Rhode Island.


    Chocolate Easter Bunnies Recalled Due to Undeclared Allergen

    04-28-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that A & J Bakery, located at 1458 Park Avenue in Cranston, is voluntarily recalling chocolate five-ounce Easter bunnies that were sold in cellophane bags with no labels and were purchased in the store because they may contain the undeclared allergen of milk. (None of these chocolate bunnies was sold over the internet.) People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

    HEALTH received a complaint on Tuesday that someone had eaten a chocolate bunny and had an allergic reaction. A & J Bakery is cooperating fully with HEALTH’s investigation. There were no unsold chocolate bunnies at the bakery; however anyone who has a milk allergy and still has a chocolate bunny from A& J Bakery that fits the above description should not eat it. (People who do not have a milk allergy can eat the chocolate bunny.)


    Study Shows Partial Lead Service Line Replacements Reduce Lead Levels

    05-04-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today released the results of its study on the effects partial replacement of lead service lines has on the levels of lead in drinking water. The study demonstrates that replacing even portions of underground water pipes (service lines) made of lead results in significantly lower levels of lead in drinking water. Of the homes that participated in the evaluation, the total amount of lead at the tap dropped between 35 and 80 percent. HEALTH also found that flushing water taps inside the home when water has not been used for several hours or when work has been done on the plumbing can help to reduce lead levels in drinking water.

    “These results show that after portions of service lines are replaced, the lead levels are significantly lower,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “This is good news. We still recommend that the service line from the street to the house should also be replaced to completely eliminate any lead-containing service lines, but we also realize that not every property owner can afford to pay for that to be done.”

    The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that all community water systems with lead exceeding the action level replace seven percent of lead service lines every year. Providence Water Supply Board began replacing lead service lines in 2006, and to date, has replaced more than 30% of them.

    To help reduce lead in drinking water, HEALTH recommends:

    - Run water from the faucet until it is cold before using it for drinking or cooking.

    - Do not use hot water from the faucet for drinking, cooking or making baby formula. (Lead in pipes is more likely to mix with hot water.)

    - Replace lead pipes and plumbing fixtures in your home.

    - Remove and clean aerators from time to time during the year or after plumbing work has been done in your home.


    Seasonal Reports of Rabies Exposures on the Rise

    05-12-2011

    The Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise Rhode Islanders that the seasonal increase in reports of potential rabies exposures has started. Most recently, there were several people in Hopkinton who were evaluated for exposure to a fox, and six people were treated.

    “Every spring and summer there is an increase in calls from the public about potential exposure to rabid animals,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Although there have been no cases of human rabies in Rhode Island, it is common in many wild animals (such as bats, raccoons, foxes and strays) so people are at risk. It is important to use common sense when dealing with domestic, stray or wild animals. The fact that we have had no human cases reflects our State’s aggressive approach to evaluating each potentially risky exposure and for timely vaccination to prevent rabies.”

    Avoid getting rabies or having to get the multi-injection treatment series. Protect yourself and your family.

    1. If you have been scratched or bitten by any animal (even your own pet), have touched an animal you do not know, or see a bat in your home, contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours. HEALTH is the only agency that can authorize the use of rabies vaccine.

    2. Do not touch or pet stray animals, wild animals, or animals that you do not know. If you see a domestic animal (cat or dog) that is acting strangely or you think is a stray, call your local police department.

    3. If your pet has been in a fight with another animal or pet or has open wounds after being outside, try to avoid touching them and keep them isolated as much as possible. If you must touch them, wear gloves. Call your vet to see if your pet needs a booster dose of rabies vaccine and report the incident to your local police department.

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    4. Do not feed any stray domestic or wild animals. Feeding stations tend to attract all types of animals and can present an opportunity for transmission of rabies to people or other animals when an animal with rabies is attracted to a feeding station.

    5. Report wild animals that are displaying unusual behavior to DEM at 222-3070. Unusual behavior can include aggression, loss of fear, loss of coordination, apparent blindness, seizures, extreme depression, or coma.

    6. Cover and secure any trash that is outside. Trash can be a food source for stray or wild animals.

    7. Make sure your pet(s) are up to date on their rabies vaccination. If you are not sure about your pet’s vaccination status, call your vet and check.

    8. Bat proof your home. Bats are most active during the summer. If there is a bat in your house, try to confine the bat to one room. (Close all doors and windows.) Do not go back into the room until the bat is caught. For information on how to bat proof your home, call a licensed professional.

    9. If you cannot reach a licensed professional to catch a bat, HEALTH and DEM recommend that to safely catch a bat so that it can be tested for rabies, put on leather gloves and slowly approach the bat when it lands. Place a clear, see-through container over the bat. Slide a lid under the container to trap the bat inside. Securely tape the lid to the container, and punch small holes in the lid so the bat can breathe. Contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours to make arrangements for rabies testing.

    Rabies is a virus that is transmitted to humans or other mammals through the saliva of an infected animal. The virus usually enters the human body through a break in the skin (bite, scratch) or by coming in contact with an infected animal’s saliva and then unknowingly touching your eyes, nose, or open wound.

    Bat rabies is highly transmissible to humans, and can be transmitted without being bitten or scratched by the bat. As a result, many times the rabies vaccinations are recommended if there is no visible bite mark and the bat is not available for testing. Timely vaccination after rabies exposure is 100% effective in preventing human rabies. Once there is disease onset, the illness is almost always fatal.


    Physician Use of Health Information Technology (HIT) on the Rise

    05-23-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has released the results of its 2011 survey of physician HIT use. The number of Rhode Island-licensed physicians using HIT (including electronic health records and e-prescribing) has increased nearly 12% since 2009.

    Of the 2,132 physicians who responded (63% response rate), 81% reported having electronic health records (EHRs) in one or more office location. Physicians who did not respond to the survey are counted as not having EHRs; therefore, the state’s overall EHR adoption rate of 51% is similar to the national average of 48%.

    “We are pleased to see that more physicians have EHRs,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Increased use of EHRs lays a strong foundation for creating the ability to practice population-based primary care. When used to its fullest potential, EHRs can help a physician identify specific areas for improvement and implement preventive measures. This is one more way that primary care providers can partner with HEALTH to improve the health of all Rhode Islanders.”

    Insurers and policy makers use survey results in their efforts to support statewide HIT use, and consumers can check if an individual provider uses EHRs.

    Federal and state resources are available to help healthcare providers implement EHRs.

    This project, led by HEALTH and Quality Partners of Rhode Island, reflects input from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan, Rhode Island Quality Institute, UnitedHealthCare of New England, and other healthcare leaders in the state.


    FDA Advisory on Use of SimplyThick for Premature Infants

    05-23-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) informs consumers that the FDA has advised parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers to not feed SimplyThick, a thickening agent used for management of swallowing disorders, to infants born before 37 weeks. Use of this product may cause necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is a life-threatening condition that can cause inflammation and destruction of an infant’s intestinal tissue.

    FDA has received reports of infant illness from at least four medical centers throughout the country. As of May 20, FDA has received reports of 15 cases of NEC and two deaths of premature infants who were fed SimplyThick for varying amounts of time. The product was mixed with breast milk or with infant formula.

    FDA is investigating the link between SimplyThick and the illness and deaths and will provide updates as more information is available.

    Symptoms of NEC can include a bloated abdominal area, feeding intolerance, greenish-tinged vomit and bloody stools. Any parent who has an infant with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider immediately. Any parent who has questions about the use of this product should contact their healthcare provider.


    2011 Cancer Summit to Focus on Personalized Medicine

    06-01-2011

    Just as every individual’s fingerprint is unique, the genetic fingerprint and management of each case of cancer is also unique. Slight differences can determine how well a patient’s cancer might respond to a specific treatment. Physicians in Rhode Island and across the country are now utilizing the personalized medicine model to help in the fight against cancer. Personalized medicine allows physicians to customize the treatment plan an individual patient receives.

    Healthcare providers, patients, survivors, and caregivers are invited to learn about the topic of Personalized Medicine at the 2011 Rhode Island Cancer Summit. The day-long Summit will be held on June 16. There is no charge to attend the Summit; however pre-registration by June 9 is required. To view the agenda or register, visit http://2011rhodeislandcancersummit.eventbrite.com or call 222-7899.

    “The fight against cancer is a team effort, and we need to learn about any new tool designed to assist us,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. ““While cancer prevention efforts like smoking cessation, good nutrition and increased physical activity are important, learning about current research is important too.”

    Angiogenesis Foundation President and Medical Director William Li, MD will discuss the critical role that personalized medicine plays in the fight against cancer. Following the presentation, a panel of local experts will discuss the issue on an individual level.

    “Nearly everyone has been effected by cancer,” said Linda Dziobek, Chairperson of The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island. “ Whether we are a provider, a patient or a caregiver, we want the best treatment option possible for the patient. The focus of this summit is to help all Rhode Islanders understand this treatment model and how it can benefit our friends and family members.”

    Funding for this conference is from a cooperative agreement award from The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and is presented by The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island. The Partnership is a statewide coalition that has come together to provide input into the planning and implementation of programs and services around comprehensive cancer control.


    Middletown Doctor Honored for Measles Diagnosis, Preventing Spread of Disease

    06-03-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH)’s recent Provider Immunization Awards Breakfast was highlighted by the presentation of a Director’s Award to Dr. Paul Del Guercio, a family physician who practices in Middletown. Dr. Del Guercio’s swift diagnosis of a case of the measles in his office in April and immediate reporting to HEALTH helped prevent the spread of this highly contagious respiratory disease.

    “Dr. Del Guercio’s vigilance and sound judgment make him a hero to Rhode Island’s community of healthcare providers,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “His actions demonstrate the importance of collaboration between providers and HEALTH in the prevention of communicable disease.”

    Dr. Del Guercio received his Director’s Award at the event on May 26 in Warwick.

    On April 13, Del Guercio notified HEALTH of a suspected case of measles. The patient, a woman in her 20s, was from Europe. She had arrived in New York days earlier and traveled by car to Rhode Island. Del Guercio’s diagnosis was quickly confirmed by serologic testing. Measles can be prevented by the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Because routine MMR vaccination of children is required in the United States, measles cases are rarely seen anymore but remain common in many places worldwide.

    “This incident reminds us that everyone – children and adults – should be up to date on all recommended vaccinations,” added Fine.

    HEALTH presented several other awards at the Provider Awards Breakfast. Fifteen practices were acknowledged for outstanding immunization coverage rates of their patients between 24 and 36 months of age. Many other healthcare providers were recognized for outstanding practices in the reporting, documentation, storage, and handling of vaccine.


    Department of Health Recommends “Smart Scheduling” to Schools, Municipalities

    06-21-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is advising school and municipal officials to institute “smart scheduling” of outdoor activities during the summer and fall months to avoid mosquito bites and tick bites. Any outdoor activity planned for dawn, dusk or evening should be relocated or rescheduled.

    “HEALTH sent an advisory to all schools and municipalities earlier this month regarding smart scheduling,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Ticks and mosquitoes can carry serious diseases like West Nile Virus (WNV), Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), or Lyme Disease. These diseases can cause serious illness and even death. It has been a wet spring, so HEALTH anticipates that the mosquito population will increase this summer and fall.”

    All Rhode Islanders should take the proper precautions to avoid mosquito and tick bites.

    Protect yourself from mosquito bites

    - Use bug spray with DEET (N, Ni-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.

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

    - Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.

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

    Protect yourself from tick bites

    - Use bug spray with DEET.

    - 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 recommended tick prevention treatments.

    Eliminate mosquito and tick breeding grounds

    - Get rid of items around your yard that collect water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!

    - Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.

    - Clean your gutters so they can drain properly.

    - Remove water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.

    - Keep brush and leaves cleared from your yard and keep lawns mowed.

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

    Most people who are infected with WNV after a mosquito bite will not have any type of illness. People who do develop symptoms may have fever, headache and body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection of WNV or EEE (also from mosquito bites) include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, or paralysis. The elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness with WNV and EEE. Symptoms of Lyme Disease can include a “bullseye” rash around the tick bite, joint swelling or pain, stiff neck, numbness in the face, or forgetfulness. Anyone who has these symptoms after a mosquito or tick bite should contact their healthcare provider.


    Whitmarsh STD Clinic to Close June 30

    06-24-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that the Whitmarsh Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Clinic located at 557 Broad Street in Providence will be closing as of June 30, 2011. For years, the Whitmarsh Clinic has been funded by HEALTH and managed by the Providence Community Health Centers (PCHC). This funding will end due to cuts in the state budget, and consequently, the Whitmarsh Clinic will close. The clinic offered screening and treatment services for sexually transmitted diseases.

    HEALTH and PCHC have been working cooperatively on a patient care transition plan so that current Whitmarsh Clinic patients can continue to receive treatment services. HEALTH is hosting a Community Information Session on Tuesday, June 28 at 8:30 a.m. in the Department of Health auditorium, on the Cannon Building’s lower level, to discuss the plan and get input from provider and community stake holders. This session is open to the public.

    Any current or past Whitmarsh Clinic patient who would like to request a copy of his or her medical record should call Providence Community Health Centers at 444-0400, extension 3136.


    DOLE Italian Blend Salad Recalled Due to Possible Health Risk from Listeria

    06-24-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of Dole Italian Blend Salad that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The Food and Drug Administration initially reported that the affected salads were not distributed in Rhode Island; however, it was determined that the salads have been distributed to Rhode Island through Walmart’s distribution system in Maine and may have been distributed to other retailers. Consumers are advised to check their refrigerators for the product as they may have been sold in other stores.

    Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that can cause foodborne illness in a person who eats a food item contaminated with it. Symptoms of infection may include fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If it spreads to the nervous system symptoms may include headache, stiff neck or confusion. The illness primarily impacts pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems. Most healthy adults and children rarely become seriously ill.

    The voluntary recall affects 2,880 cases of DOLE" Italian Blend salad with Use-by Date of June 19, 2011, UPC code 7143000819 and Product Codes 0049A157201A, 0049A157201B, 0049A157202A, 0049A157202B, 0686A157202A, 0686A157202B and 442 cases of Kroger Fresh Selections Italian Style Blend salad with Use-by-Date of June 19, 2011, UPC code 1111091045 and Product Codes A157201A & A157201B.

    No other Dole or Kroger salads are included in the recall. Only the specific Product Codes, UPC codes and June 19, 2011 Use-by-Date of Italian Blend salads identified above are included in the recall.

    No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall.

    Consumers who have any remaining product with these Product Codes should not consume it, but rather discard it.


    Applying for a Civil Union License

    07-06-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), Office of Vital Records reminds Rhode Islanders that as of July 2, 2011, the State of Rhode Island enacted a law (R.I. Gen. Laws Section 1-15-3.1) that recognizes and legalizes civil unions.

    A license for a civil union must be obtained from a city or town hall. Rhode Island residents can apply for a civil union license in the city or town of residence of the individual(s). Non-Rhode Island residents must apply for a civil union license in the city or town where the ceremony will take place.


    HEALTH Issues Warning About Eating Raw Shellfish

    07-15-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has received a report of a laboratory-confirmed case of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection in a male in his 70s who ate raw clams earlier this month. HEALTH is not certain where the clams were harvested. The man was treated and is recovering.

    HEALTH recommends the following to all Rhode Islanders:

    - Do not eat raw oysters, clams, mussels, or shellfish.

    - 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.


    Department of Health and Division of Elderly Affairs Issue Heat Advisory

    07-19-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs (DEA) are issuing a joint heat advisory to remind people of precautions to take in extreme heat. High temperatures are predicted through the weekend, so it is especially important that all Rhode Islanders take the following precautions:

    - Stay out of the direct sun. Seek shaded or air conditioned areas such as libraries or malls. A regularly updated list of cooling centers is available by calling 222-5960/RI Relay 711, 462-3000, or 462-4444.

    - Whenever possible, schedule outdoor events (public gatherings, sporting events) early in the morning when it’s cooler and the air quality is better.

    - Drink plenty of fluids. (Avoid alcohol and caffeine.)

    - Wear light-colored, light-weight clothing. Use hats with brims and sunscreen for more protection.

    - Elderly, small children and people with chronic health conditions are more vulnerable to the heat. Call and check on friends, family and neighbors.

    - Anyone showing signs of heat stroke (altered mental state, not sweating, nausea) should seek medical attention immediately.

    “It is important that we all use caution and common sense during extreme heat,” said Director of Health Michael Fine. “As a community we need to be particularly aware of those who are most at risk.”

    “We want to ensure that all elders are safe in their community during this period of extreme heat,” said Director of Elderly Affairs Catherine Taylor. “Anyone who has elderly friends, family or neighbors should make a plan to call and check in with them on a regular basis throughout the week.”


    Five Water Systems Recognized for Fluoridation Work

    07-28-2011

    Five Water Systems Recognized for Fluoridation Work

    The Rhode Island Department of Health announces that five public water systems in the state received a Water Fluoridation Quality Award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bristol County Water Authority, Newport Water Department, North Tiverton Fire District, Pawtucket Water Supply Board and Providence Water Supply Board were recognized for maintaining an approved level of fluoride in the water in 2010.

    Fluoride in water prevents tooth decay in children and in adults and has been recognized by the CDC as one of the10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Water fluoridation is a safe, effective, and inexpensive method of preventing decay. For every dollar invested in fluoridation, nearly $38 is saved on dental costs.

    “We congratulate these water systems on being recognized for their contributions to public health prevention efforts,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Their efforts to maintain fluoride in the water supply helps to prevent tooth decay for more than 135,000 Rhode Islanders.”

    In 2001, the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services recommended that communities either adopt or maintain fluoridation of public drinking water supplies, and the last five U.S. Surgeons General have recommended community water fluoridation as a safe, healthy, and effective public health intervention.


    UPDATE: State Notified of Sewage Discharge Into Blackstone River in Woonsocket Following Excavation-Related Line Break

    08-01-2011

    PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is investigating the overflow of 920,000 gallons of partially-treated sewage from the site of the former Seville Dye in Woonsocket into the Blackstone River in Woonsocket. The discharge occurred at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 31 when a construction contractor reportedly inadvertently broke a sewer line while digging a trench during demolition at the former Seville Mill property. This event is unrelated to the June 30, 2011 overflow at the Woonsocket Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility.

    Based on information received by the DEM, an estimate of 920,000 gallons of partially-treated wastewater entered the Blackstone River before crews were able to stop the overflow. A DEM inspector was sent onsite and has begun an investigation of the event.

    As a precaution, the Department of Health (HEALTH) and DEM are advising people to refrain from consuming fish and engaging in activities that involve coming in contact with water along the Blackstone River in Rhode Island, such as fishing, swimming, and paddling. This advisory is in effect until sunrise on Tuesday, August 2.


    Rhode Islanders Urged to Bat Proof Homes

    08-09-2011

    The Department of Health (HEALTH) advises Rhode Islanders that the seasonal increase in reports of potential rabies exposures continues, and recently, there have been a number of exposures to bats throughout the state.

    “When the outside temperatures increase, we tend to see bats leave attics and go into other cooler areas of houses,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “We want to remind people to bat proof their homes and to continue to use common sense when dealing with domestic, stray or wild animals. Bat rabies is highly transmissible to humans, and can be transmitted without being bitten or scratched by the bat. As a result, when we receive reports of potential exposure to a bat, the rabies vaccinations are recommended even if there is no visible bite mark or if the bat is not available for rabies testing.”

    Bat Rabies Prevention

    - Hire a licensed professional to bat proof your home. For a list of licensed professionals.

    - If there is a bat in your house, try to confine the bat to one room (close all doors and windows) and call a licensed professional to remove the bat(s). Do not go back into the room until the bat is caught. Keep all pets away from the bat.

    - If you cannot reach a licensed professional to catch a bat, HEALTH and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) recommend that to safely catch a bat so that it can be tested for rabies, put on leather gloves and slowly approach the bat when it lands. Place a clear, see-through container over the bat. Slide a lid under the container to trap the bat inside. Securely tape the lid to the container, and punch small holes in the lid so the bat can breathe. Contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours to make arrangements for rabies testing.

    - If you have been scratched or bitten by a bat or any other animal (even your own pet), have touched an animal you do not know, or see a bat in your home, contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours. HEALTH is the only agency that can authorize the use of rabies vaccine. If there is any possibility your pet animal(s) had any contact with a bat, call your local animal control officer or police department.

    - Use screens on any open windows. Repair holes in screens.

    General Rabies Pevention

    - Do not touch or pet stray animals, wild animals, or animals that you do not know. If you see a domestic animal (cat or dog) that is acting strangely or you think is a stray, call your local animal control officer or police department.

    - If your pet has been in a fight with another animal or pet or has open wounds after being outside, try to avoid touching them with bare hands and keep them isolated as much as possible. If you must touch them, wear rubber gloves. Immediately report the incident to your local animal control officer or police department. If necessary seek treatment from a veterinarian and make sure you tell your veterinarian that your pet was injured by another animal.

    - Do not feed any stray domestic or wild animals. Feeding stations tend to attract all types of animals and can present an opportunity for transmission of rabies to people or other animals when an animal with rabies is attracted to a feeding station.

    - Report wild animals that are displaying unusual behavior to DEM at 222-3070. Unusual behavior can include aggression, loss of fear, loss of coordination, apparent blindness, seizures, convulsions, extreme depression, or coma.

    - Cover and secure any trash that is outside. Trash can be a food source for stray or wild animals. Animals infected with rabies are likely to be attracted to unsecured trash.

    - Make sure your pet(s) are up to date on their rabies vaccination. If you are not sure about your pet’s vaccination status, call your vet and check.

    Rabies is a virus that is transmitted to humans or other mammals through the saliva of an infected animal. The virus usually enters the human body through a break in the skin (bite, scratch) or by coming in contact with an infected animal’s saliva and then unknowingly touching your eyes, nose, or open wound. Timely vaccination after rabies exposure is 100% effective in preventing human rabies. Once there is disease onset, the illness is almost always fatal.


    HEALTH Says Slight Breastfeeding Rate Increases Are Not Enough

    08-11-2011

    Breastfeeding is a low-cost, effective strategy to reduce a child’s risk of obesity, diabetes, infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A recent article from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores the importance of breastfeeding and the need for increasing breastfeeding rates across the country.

    In 2008 in Rhode Island, the breastfeeding rates at six months and 12 months were 38% and 19.3% respectively compared to the national rates of 44.3% for six months and 23.8% for 12 months. In 2000, the state’s breastfeeding rates were slightly higher than the national rates. (35.7% at six months and 18.6% at 12 months in Rhode Island versus 34.2% at six months and 15.7% at 12 months, nationally)

    “In the last decade, the state’s overall breastfeeding rates have improved slightly,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “But these increases are not enough. Rhode Island has not kept pace with the national increase in breastfeeding rates. We need to renew our commitment to increasing breastfeeding rates to reach the Healthy People 2020 goals of 60.6% at six months and 34.1% at 12 months. Breastfeeding is an important public health intervention in the fight against obesity and to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.”

    The CDC also reports that changing maternity care practices at hospitals has the biggest impact on increasing short-term and long-term breastfeeding rates. A primary focus of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition (RIBC) is to work with the state’s seven birthing hospitals to better support breastfeeding mothers and infants. Earlier this month, Dr. Alison Stuebe presented at grand rounds at Women & Infants Hospital and at Rhode Island Hospital about how to empower women to breastfeed and the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding.

    HEALTH and RIBC also facilitate a statewide maternity care practices work group. The group includes representatives from all seven birthing hospitals, and has sent members to a regional breastfeeding summit to learn about best practices. Birthing hospitals can also look to HEALTH for guidance on breastfeeding policies and procedures, provider continuing education, and technical assistance for Baby Friendly applications.


    Department of Health Recognizes Community Health Center Week

    08-11-2011

    This week (August 7 – 13) marks 46 years of community health centers (CHC) providing primary medical, dental, behavioral, and social services to individuals and families who have limited medical resources or who are uninsured. In Rhode Island, 27 community health center sites serve more than 120,000 Rhode Islanders every year and provide more than 500,000 patient visits.

    “Community health centers are a critical piece of the primary care network in this state,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Every day, the staff work to provide quality health care and to reduce health disparities that affect racial and ethnic minority groups, the poor and the uninsured. As healthcare continues to move towards a primary-care centered model, community health centers will undoubtedly expand their role in the healthcare system.”

    Health centers were established in 1965 by the Office of Economic Opportunity as a component of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. The first community health centers were in nearby Boston and in Mississippi. Today, community health centers operate at more than 8,000 locations in every state and territory.


    HEALTH and DEM Confirm Highlands J Virus in Westerly Mosquito Pool

    08-16-2011

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces this season’s first mosquito-borne virus isolation. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Laboratory isolated Highlands J (HJ) virus from a pool of 17 mosquitoes collected August 9 at Chapman Swamp in Westerly. HJ is a disease of birds; it does NOT affect humans. The presence of HJ virus indicates that environmental conditions are appropriate for transmission of other mosquito-borne viruses, such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). The finding is not unexpected at this time, as mosquito-borne viruses become more prevalent during the late summer and early fall every year.

    With the recent heavy rainfall, DEM and HEALTH officials remind Rhode Islanders 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.

    Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds from yards by removing anything that holds standing water, such as old tires, buckets, junk and debris, clean gutters so that they drain correctly, and properly maintain swimming pools. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes. Avoid mosquito bites by using screens on windows and doors, covering up at dawn and dusk, and putting mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages when they are outside. Also, use mosquito repellent, but with no more than 30 percent DEET. Do not use repellent on infants.

    Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at HEALTH’s 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.

    This year, to date in Rhode Island, no mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis.


    HEALTH Recommends Beach Closings/Openings

    08-16-2011

    Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) officials recommended re-opening EASTON'S BEACH in NEWPORT for swimming. This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season.

    HEALTH recommended the closure of ATLANTIC BEACH CLUB BEACH in MIDDLETOWN, GODDARD MEMORIAL STATE PARK in WARWICK, SCARBOROUGH STATE BEACH NORTH in NARRAGANSETT, SCARBOROUGH STATE BEACH in NARRAGANSETT, THIRD BEACH in MIDDLETOWN and WARREN TOWN BEACH in WARREN to swimming due to high bacteria counts. Officials will continue to monitor the water quality and recommend re-opening when the areas are safe for swimming. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.

    The following beaches are still closed:

    GOVERNOR NOTTE PARK BEACH in NORTH PROVIDENCE


    HEALTH Recommends Beach Openings

    08-17-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommended re-opening SCARBOROUGH STATE BEACH in NARRAGANSETT and WARREN TOWN BEACH in WARREN for swimming. This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season.

    The following beaches are still closed:

    ATLANTIC BEACH CLUB BEACH in MIDDLETOWN

    GODDARD MEMORIAL STATE PARK in WARWICK

    GOVERNOR NOTTE PARK BEACH in NORTH PROVIDENCE

    THIRD BEACH in MIDDLETOWN


    HEALTH Recommends Beach Openings

    08-19-2011

    Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) officials recommended re-opening ATLANTIC BEACH CLUB BEACH in MIDDLETOWN, GODDARD MEMORIAL STATE PARK in WARWICK and THIRD BEACH in MIDDLETOWN for swimming. This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season.

    The following beaches are still closed:

    GOVERNOR NOTTE PARK BEACH in NORTH PROVIDENCE.


    HEALTH Recommends Beach Closings

    08-19-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends the closure the closure of CONIMICUT POINT BEACH and OAKLAND BEACH, both in WARWICK, to swimming due to high bacteria counts. Officials will continue to monitor the water quality and recommend re-opening when the areas are safe for swimming. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.

    The following beach is still closed:

    GOVERNOR NOTTE PARK BEACH in NORTH PROVIDENCE.


    Department of Health Suspends Physician’s License

    08-22-2011

    On August 11, 2011, the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (HEALTH) Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline began an investigation of a patient complaint against Dr. Afshin Nasseri.

    The Board’s investigation revealed that the physician had given the patient an injection of Midazolam during an office visit, the patient’s medical record was incomplete, and the physician was not following the conditions specified in an agreement that he had made with the Physician Health Committee of the Rhode Island Medical Society. (Midazolam is a sedative that is most commonly used prior to endoscopy or colonoscopy procedures. One of the side effects of this sedative is temporary amnesia.)

    The Board determined that the continuation of the practice of medicine by this physician would constitute an immediate danger to the public, and the Board suspended Dr. Nasseri’s license to practice medicine in Rhode Island.

    HEALTH is not aware of any other complaints against this physician; however, if any patient of Dr. Afshin Nasseri received, or thinks they may have received, an injection that sedated them and/or caused temporary amnesia, contact the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline’s Complaint Unit at 401-222-2507. All complaints will be investigated on an expedited basis.


    HEALTH Reminds Rhode Islanders About Food Safety, Special Needs Emergency Registry

    08-25-2011

    In addition to basic preparedness for the effects of Hurricane Irene, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is especially concerned with safe food handling and storage and people with special healthcare needs.

    Food Safety

    HEALTH reminds Rhode Islanders to continue to follow safe food storage and handling practices before, during, and after a hurricane. If there is a power outage, perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and soft cheeses can start to grow bacteria that could make people sick. If the power is off for more than two hours or the temperature in the refrigerator is above 40F, perishable foods might spoil. HEALTH’s Office of Food Protection recommends people do the following before a power outage:

    - Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting.

    - Put a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer.

    - If your freezer is not full, put containers of water in the freezer. (A full freezer will stay cold for a longer period of time.)

    - Write down the time that the power goes out.

    - Avoid opening refrigerator and freezer doors.

    When the power is restored:

    - Check thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer.

    - If the temperature is above 40F in the refrigerator or freezer, throw away perishable food.

    - If food in the freezer is between 0F and 40F, it can be properly cooked and consumed.

    - Do not taste food to check if it has spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out!

    Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry

    Any Rhode Islander with special healthcare or mobility needs is strongly urged to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Registry as soon as possible. The Registry is designed to identify individuals who require special assistance during emergencies. Enrollment in the Registry does not guarantee assistance, but allows first responders to appropriately plan, prepare for, and respond to the needs of the community.


    Health Announces all Rhode Island Beaches to be Closed Sunday Until Further Notice Due to Effects of Hurricane Irene

    08-27-2011

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Based on the bacterial issues that may arise from the effects of Hurricane Irene, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that all Rhode Island bathing beaches will be closed as of Sunday, August 28, 2011. Officials will assess the beach water quality on Monday to determine when beaches may re-open. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.

    PLEASE NOTE: BEACH STATUS MAY CHANGE ON A DAILY BASIS.


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

    08-27-2011

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) urges those with special healthcare needs to enroll in the Special Needs Emergency Registry in advance of Hurricane Irene. 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 Hurricane Irene. HEALTH is working with municipalities to provide as close to real time information as possible in advance of the hurricane.

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

    Should someone with life-sustaining medical equipment need to go to a shelter, emergency medical assessment teams will be available to create a care plan for that individual. Those planning to go to a shelter should bring at least a three (3) day supply of medications.

    WHO SHOULD ENROLL

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

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

    HOW TO ENROLL

    to complete an enrollment online, where the information is added into the registry immediately. A printable form is available on the website and can be returned by mail.

    If an individual cannot complete the enrollment form themselves, a family member or caregiver can enroll the individual 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.


    Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Issued for East Smithfield Water District

    08-28-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a precautionary boil water advisory for North Providence customers of the East Smithfield Water District. 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.

    Only customers who live on the following streets in North Providence are impacted: North Elemore Avenue, Sherri Drive, Joyce Drive, Wendi Drive, Lori Drive, Polly Drive, Julia Drive, Wood Heaven Blvd., Esther Drive, Karen Drive, Sherwood Avenue, Robert Drive, and Barbara Ann Drive.

    Damage to one pump in the system from the storm may cause loss of water pressure. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible. North Smithfield customers of the East Smithfield Water District are also urged to conserve water until water pressure is restored.

    This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. North Smithfield customers of the East Smithfield Water District asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

    For information, contact the East Smithfield Water District at 231-0510.


    HEALTH Gives Recommendations for Safety After Hurricane Irene

    08-29-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds everyone that even though the storm and adverse weather have passed, there are still health and safety issues that may impact the public.
    Food Safety: When in doubt, throw it out!

    With more than half of the households in the state without power, it is important to prevent getting sick from food that has spoiled.

    • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain cold temperatures.
    • The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if the doors are not opened. A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for about 48 hours. (24 hours if it is half full)
    • If the temperature in your refrigerator or freezer goes above 40 degrees, throw away perishable foods like beef, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and soft cheeses.
    • Food can be safely refrozen if it still has ice crystals on it or has stayed below 40 degrees.
    • You cannot see, smell or taste bacteria that may be growing on spoiled food.
    • When in doubt, throw it out!

    Medication that needs to be refrigerated

    • Insulin does not have to be refrigerated. It is more important that insulin does not get too hot or does not freeze. Insulin can be kept at room temperature for up to seven days. If insulin becomes lumpy, granular, or forms a deposit of small particles on the wall of the vial that does not disappear with gentle shaking, do not use it.
    • If your medication must be refrigerated, and your power has been out for more than 24 hours, call your pharmacist to refill your prescription.
    • If your power has been out for less than 24 hours, ask a friend or family to allow you to move your medication to their refrigerator.
    • If your medication must be refrigerated, do not put it in a cooler with ice packs. The medication could freeze and become ineffective.

    Life-sustaining medical equipment or devices: Use emergency rooms for life-threatening emergencies.

    • If you are without power and have a medical device that requires electricity to work, call 211 for evaluation and possible referral to a shelter or a hospital.
    • If you go to a shelter or other healthcare facility, bring all your medications and all of your medical devices with you.
    • Use the emergency room if you have a life-threatening emergency.

    Prevent injuries during storm cleanup

    • Do not attempt to clear downed power lines. Report downed power lines to your utility providers and let them remove or fix downed wires.
    • If using power tools to remove branches from your property, wear safety goggles, construction helmets, and chainsaw chaps. Before trying to move or cut tree limbs, make sure there are no wires in the limbs. If you have little or no experience using a chain saw, hire a licensed professional to remove tree limbs and downed trees from your property.
    • If you are using a generator, make sure it is properly ventilated.
    • DO NOT use charcoal grills indoors.

    Flooded Private Wells

    Private wells that have flooded (wells that have standing water around them) should be considered contaminated. People with flooded wells should take the following precautions:

    • Boil water for one minute before drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.
    • Get well water tested for coliform bacteria as soon as possible. Lab tests usually take about three days, but it may take longer for you to get the results depending on which lab you use. Continue to boil water until you get your test results back and the water has been deemed safe for consumption.
    • Once flood waters have receded, your well will need to be disinfected with chlorine and tested before you begin drinking it again.

    DEM, HEALTH Work to Open Beaches As Soon As Possible

    08-29-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) reports that East Matunuck, Misquamicut, Roger Wheeler, Salty Brine, and Scarborough State Beaches are expected to re-open as early as tomorrow (Tuesday) once public safety concerns have been addressed and the areas are deemed safe for public access.

    The Rhode Island Department of HEALTH (HEALTH) recommends that the following bathing beaches will remain closed for swimming:

    - Barrington Town Beach

    - Bristol Town Beach

    - City Park Beach, Warwick

    - Conimicut Beach, Warwick

    - Goddard State Park Beach, Warwick

    - Governor Notte Park Beach, North Providence

    - Oakland Beach, Warwick

    - Warren Town Beach

    HEALTH officials will continue to assess water conditions and will have representative samples of water quality results late Tuesday afternoon. All other bathing beaches are open to swimming.

    According to (DEM), all state beaches remain closed today for debris cleanup and because of strong riptides and currents.


    HEALTH Issues Precautionary Boil Water Advisories

    08-29-2011

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

    HERITAGE PARK HOME CO-OPERATIVE

    TIVERTON, RHODE ISLAND

    401-642-7853

    GLENDALE WATER ASSN

    GLENDALE, RHODE ISLAND

    401-567-5400

    SAUGATUCKET SPRINGS

    HOPKINTON, RHODE ISLAND

    401-941-2900

    OAKLAND ASSOCIATION, INC

    OAKLAND, RHODE ISLAND

    401-568-3695

    MOBILE VILLAGE, INC.

    EXETER, RHODE ISLAND

    401-397-4062

    BLUEBERRY HEIGHTS HOUSING COOPERATIVE

    WEST GREENWICH, RHODE ISLAND

    401-479-2730

    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. This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. For general information about drinking water, contact HEALTH’s Information Line at 1-800-942-7434, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or visit http://water.epa.gov/drink/emerprep/emergencydisinfection.cfm

    WATER CONSERVATION ADVISORY

    A request to conserve water must be distributed when water systems are without power, but have not lost pressure (below 20 psi), and when water systems are relying on a generator to supply power. Water conservation is necessary so that a sufficient supply of water and a satisfactory pressure can be maintained, and in the case of the use of a generator, so that it can be operated efficiently.

    If water pressure drops below 20 psi, contaminants may be introduced into the water system through backflow by back-pressure or back-siphonage.


    HEALTH Reminds Consumers, Food Establishments of Safe Reopening Procedures

    08-30-2011

    Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) estimates that 2,000 food establishments have lost power at some point during Tropical Storm Irene. Rapid inspections are underway across the state to ensure that perishable foods are not being sold at locations that do not have power.

    A post-storm inspection from HEALTH is not required for food establishments to open. Food establishments are required to abide by the Food Code, which includes the required use of thermometers to ensure safe food temperatures. Licensed food establishments that serve potentially hazardous foods are also required to employ a Certified Food Safety Manager.

    HEALTH allows food establishments to be open to sell non-perishable foods and drinks such as water and canned foods, but expects the establishments to discard perishables that have been exposed to unsafe temperatures.

    Prior to Tropical Storm Irene, HEALTH posted on its website and issued guidance to food establishments reminding them that perishable food must be discarded if the temperatures of these foods exceed 40F. If foods are stored at unsafe temperatures, bacteria that can make people sick can start growing. If consumers notice any potential food code violations, they should report it to the Office of Food Protection at 222-2749.

    Food establishments are reminded that the following basic conditions must be verified prior to resuming food preparation and/or sale of potentially hazardous foods:

    • All unsafe potentially hazardous food has been discarded.

    • Electricity and gas services have been restored.

    • All circuit breakers have been properly reset.

    • All equipment and facilities are operating properly, including: lighting, refrigeration, hot holding, ventilation, and bathrooms.

    • Hot and cold potable water, within appropriate water pressure range, is available for hand washing and proper dish washing.


    HEALTH Tracking Healthcare Provider Office Closures, Providing Guidance

    08-30-2011

    HEALTH is aware that many healthcare provider practices are closed due to power outages caused by Hurricane Irene. Because providers are a critical partner of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and an essential part of the state’s public health infrastructure, HEALTH is working with the state’s electric companies to convey the importance of restoring power to providers as quickly as possible. HEALTH is asking healthcare providers to do the following:

    Contact HEALTH if you are not opening your practice

    Please call the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-8022 to let us know if you were forced to shut your practice due to a power outage.

    Make sure you have safe vaccine storage during power outages

    Vaccine providers who have lost power and do not have an emergency vaccine storage plan can contact the Wellness Company at 401-228-8270 to make arrangements to store your vaccine. (Please note that there is a charge for this service from The Wellness Company.) Providers will need to transport their vaccine using proper storage and handling procedures to the Wellness Company in Providence.

    Additional questions?

    Should you have any questions or concerns about storm-related issues, please e-mail HEALTH at primarycare@health.ri.gov


    Department of Health Urges Rhode Islanders to Be Safe During Storm Aftermath

    08-30-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders that while many people remain without power, it is important to continue to be vigilant about prevention of illness or injury.

    Food Safety in Restaurants

    HEALTH estimates that approximately 25% of food establishments have been without power at some point during or after the storm. A post-storm inspection is not required for food establishments to reopen. Food establishments are required to abide by the Food Code, which includes the required use of thermometers to ensure safe food temperatures. Licensed food establishments are also required to employ a certified food safety manager during all shifts while the establishment is opened. If consumers notice any potential food code violations, they should report it to the Office of Food Protection at 222-4729.

    Prevent Carbon Monoxide Posioning

    - If you are using a generator, make sure it is properly ventilated and that you follow all instructions for generator use.

    - DO NOT use charcoal grills indoors.

    - Check to make sure that carbon monoxide detectors in your home have fresh batteries.

    Chain Saw Safety

    If using power tools during removal of branches from your property:

    - If you have little or no experience using a chain saw, hire a licensed professional to remove tree limbs and downed trees safely from your property.

    - Wear safety goggles, construction helmets, ear protection, and chainsaw chaps.

    - Before moving or cutting tree limbs, make sure there are no wires tangled in the limbs.

    Check on Family, Friends, and Neighbors

    A significant number of people in the state lost power during or after Tropical Storm Irene. People who are homebound, have special healthcare needs, or who live alone may need assistance. HEALTH urges all Rhode Islanders to call or visit family, friends, or neighbors who might need help. If you have no power, take a few minutes to visit with your neighbors. Good relationships are good health. If you find someone who needs shelter or power for life-sustaining medical devices, call 211 for assistance.


    HEALTH Recommends Beach Openings

    08-30-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommended re-opening the following beaches for swimming:

    • Barrington Town Beach, Barrington

    • Bristol Town Beach, Bristol

    • City Park Beach, Warwick

    • Conimicut Point Beach, Warwick

    • Goddard Memorial State Park Beach, Warwick

    • Oakland Beach, Warwick

    • Warren Town Beach, Warren

    This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season.

    The following beach is still closed:

    • Governor Notte Park Beach, North Providence

    PLEASE NOTE: BEACH STATUS MAY CHANGE ON A DAILY BASIS.


    HEALTH Reminds Swimming Pool Owners to Ensure Water Safety following Power Outages

    08-31-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all swimming pool owners and operators affected by a power outage to take steps to ensure the safety of their pool water.

    While the power is out

    During a power outage, swimming pool recirculation and purification systems cannot properly filter and disinfect pool water. This can lead to unsafe conditions, such as high levels of bacteria in the water. Never use your pool if the filter system is not working or if the bottom of the pool is not clearly visible due to green or cloudy water.

    Once power is restored

    If your pool’s filtering system has been off for more than 24 hours, take the following actions to disinfect your water before using the pool:

    • Raise and maintain the pool’s free residual chlorine concentration at 10 parts per million (ppm). Use chlorine-shock tablets, liquid chlorine, or bleach. Prepare tablets according to the instructions. (Most require you to dissolve the tablets in water before placing them in the pool.)

    • Turn on the pool’s filter and allow it run for one turn over (usually eight hours). If using a chlorine-shock solution, slowly pour it in front of the return line fitting. This will help disperse the chlorine shock throughout the pool.

    • Maintain the pH of pool water between 7.2 and 7.8.

    • Adjust the pool’s Total Alkalinity to between 80 ppm and 150 ppm.

    • Vacuum the pool if necessary.

    • Backwash the filter until water runs clear out the waste line.

    • Reduce the pool’s free residual chlorine to a concentration between 1.0 ppm and 5.0 ppm.

    If cloudy or green water remains in the pool, repeat treatment. For additional pool water safety guidance, call the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-5960 (Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or contact your local pool professional.


    Adult Adoptees May Request Copies of Original Birth Certificates Beginning July 2012

    08-31-2011

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

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


    HEALTH Recommends Beach Closings

    08-31-2011

    The Department of Health (HEALTH) recommended the closure of the following beaches to swimming due to high bacteria counts:

    - Fort Adams Beach, Newport

    - Mackerel Cove Beach, Jamestown.

    Officials will continue to monitor the water quality and recommend re-opening when the areas are safe for swimming. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.

    The following beach is still closed:

    - Governor Notte Park Beach in North Providence

    PLEASE NOTE: BEACH STATUS MAY CHANGE ON A DAILY BASIS.


    HEALTH, DEM Urge Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves from Mosquito-Borne Viruses after Recent Storm

    09-01-2011

    With heavy rainfall from the recent storm, the Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) remind Rhode Islanders to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Personal protection is the most effective way to protect against diseases like West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

    Mosquito-borne viruses become more prevalent during the late summer and early fall every year. A big rainstorm makes it easier for mosquitoes to breed and increases the risk of infection. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, and within days, hundreds of adult mosquitoes emerge.

    Protect yourself from mosquito bites

    - Use bug spray with DEET (N, Ni-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants, and make sure to follow all the directions that come with the bug spray.

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

    - Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.

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

    Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds

    - Get rid of items around your yard that collect water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!

    - Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.

    - Clean your gutters so they can drain properly.

    - Remove water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.

    - Keep brush and leaves cleared from your yard and keep lawns mowed.

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

    This summer mosquitoes in southern Bristol County in Massachusetts have tested positive for WNV and EEE. The first human case of WNV in Connecticut was reported earlier today. Also today, Rhode Island DEM identified the first mosquito pool that tested positive for WNV.(The mosquito pool was in Providence.) No mosquito pools have tested positive for EEE in Rhode Island.


    HEALTH, DEM to Discuss State Mosquito Prevention Efforts

    09-08-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) want to update Rhode Islanders about current mosquito prevention and surveillance activities. The state of Massachusetts had its first human death from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) earlier this week. In Rhode Island, the first positive West Nile Virus (WNV) mosquito pool was reported September 1.

    “We expect to see mosquito pools test positive for mosquito-borne diseases like WNV and EEE at this time of year,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “We are also are on a heightened alert because of the EEE death in nearby Massachusetts. HEALTH continues to work closely with our colleagues at DEM and will be meeting tomorrow (Friday) to assess human risk and to recommend next steps.”

    Between June and October every year, HEALTH and DEM collaborate to do mosquito pool testing and surveillance across the state. DEM has distributed larvicide to municipalities and to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for use in storm drains to prevent mosquito larvae from hatching.

    In anticipation of increased mosquito activity in the late summer and fall, HEALTH recommended in June that school and municipal officials institute “smart scheduling” of outdoor activities during the summer and fall months to avoid mosquito bites. Any outdoor activity planned for dawn, dusk or evening should be relocated or rescheduled. All Rhode Islanders are also reminded to use bug spray with DEET, remove standing water from yards and public gathering areas, and avoid outdoor activity at dawn and at dusk.

    “We want to keep Rhode Islanders informed about steps we are taking to help prevent mosquito-borne illnesses,” Fine said. “The recommended next steps will be shared after tomorrow’s meeting.”


    HEALTH, DEM Recommend Continued Surveillance, Personal Protection, Smart Scheduling

    09-09-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) met earlier today to assess human risk for mosquito-borne illness and to recommend next steps. Based on mosquito surveillance information from Rhode Island and from colleagues in Connecticut and Massachusetts, HEALTH and DEM recommend continued weekly trapping and surveillance.

    “We have not had any mosquito pools in Rhode Island test positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE),” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Traps in eastern Connecticut near state borders have not identified EEE-positive mosquito pools either. We do want all Rhode Islanders, especially people who may spend a lot of time outside, to be vigilant about using bug spray with DEET, avoiding outdoor activity at dawn and at dusk, and removing standing water from yards and public gathering areas. HEALTH and DEM will be continuously evaluating mosquito surveillance results.”

    HEALTH reminds all school and municipal officials to institute “smart scheduling” of outdoor activities during the coming months to avoid mosquito bites. Any outdoor activity planned for dawn, dusk or evening should be relocated or rescheduled. HEALTH will be communicating directly with municipal officials about the importance of smart scheduling.

    “We have had record amounts of rain this week,” Fine said. “We encourage everyone to take a few minutes this weekend, walk around your yard, and get rid of any standing water in birdbaths, lawn furniture, swimming pool covers, or toys. Help your friends and family do the same.”


    HEALTH Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus

    09-14-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports that a man in his 50s from Providence County was diagnosed with West Nile Virus (WNV). HEALTH’s laboratory confirmed the diagnosis. The man first developed symptoms on August 25 and was hospitalized the same day. He has recovered and has been discharged from the hospital.

    “This is yet another reminder that this is the time of year when there are more mosquitoes and Rhode Islanders are at increased risk for exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses like WNV,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “It is imperative that anyone who spends a lot of time outside use bug spray with DEET. When possible, it is best to avoid outdoor activity at dawn and at dusk when mosquitoes are most active. It is also important to make sure there is no standing water in our yards or in other public gathering places.”

    To date this year, there has been one mosquito pool in Rhode Island that has tested positive for WNV. No mosquito pools in the state have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).


    Pharmaceutical Company Issues Voluntary Recall of Oral Contraceptives

    09-20-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of a voluntary recall by Qualitest Pharmaceuticals of eight different oral contraceptives (birth control pills). A packaging error may result in women getting the wrong dose and could put women at risk for unintended pregnancy. In addition, the packaging error makes the lot number and expiration date unreadable.

    Recalled products were distributed in Rhode Island. The following products are included in the recall:

    - Cyclafem 7/7/7

    - Cyclafem 1/35

    - Emoquette

    - Gildess FE 1.5/30

    - Gildess FE 1/20

    - Orsythia

    - Previfem

    - Tri-Previfem

    Many of these products are approved generic versions of name-brand birth control products. Women are urged to check the name on the product they have been given to see if they have a recalled product. (You may have discussed a brand-name product with your doctor; however your prescription was filled with the generic equivalent.) A complete list of the effected lot numbers is posted at http://www.qualitestrx.com/pdf/OCRecall.pdf

    The packaging defects do not pose any immediate health risk to patients. Women who have one of the recalled products should call their healthcare provider right away and use a non-hormonal form of birth control, such as a condoms, to prevent an unintended pregnancy. Pharmacies have been asked to contact women who may have received one of the recalled products.


    HEALTH Promotes National Falls Prevention Awareness Day

    09-22-2011

    Prevention workshops and balance demonstration events to be held statewide

    Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for people 65 and older. Every year, more than 18,000 older Americans die because of a fall. In Rhode Island, falls-related injuries are the cause of 2,370 hospitalizations and more than 100 deaths. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is promoting Falls Prevention Awareness Day on the first day of fall, September 23, at locations throughout the state.

    Safe Rhode Island, HEALTH’s injury prevention program, will be co-sponsoring several events for older adults across the state to promote awareness and prevention around the issue of falls. Events will include falls prevention education, or balance and strength training such as Tai Chi, Zumba, and yoga. A limited number of complimentary night lights along with educational brochures will be given out at all events. The night lights turn on automatically when it is dark, thereby decreasing the risk of falls by providing light to dark areas in a home.

    “Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits among Rhode Islanders 65 and older,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “It is estimated that one out of every three older adults will fall each year. We need to raise awareness of preventive measures that can keep seniors safe in Rhode Island.”

    HEALTH recommends that older adults take steps to reduce the risk of falling by engaging in physical activities that include balance, strength training, and flexibility components. They should also consult with their healthcare provider about getting a falls risk assessment, having their medications reviewed periodically, getting their eyes checked annually, and making sure their home environment is safe and supportive.

    Falls prevention awareness activities are being held throughout the months of September and October. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted:

    • September 23 from 9:00-11:00 a.m. at West Bay Manor Health Center, 2783 W Shore Road Warwick: Falls Prevention Presentation led by URI School of Pharmacy

    • September 23 from 9:00-11:00 a.m. at Benjamin Church Senior Center, 1020 Hope Street, Bristol: Falls Prevention Presentation led by URI School of Pharmacy

    • September 23 at 10:00 a.m. at Woonsocket Senior Center, 84 Social Street, Woonsocket: Exercise class with a focus on balance and strengthening

    • September 23 at 10:00 a.m. at the Warren Senior Center, 20 Libby Lane, Warren: Falls Prevention Workshop led by MaryBeth Lescault, RN

    • September 23 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the Pilgrim Senior Center, 27 Pilgrim Parkway, Warwick: Falls Prevention Workshop, including Balance and Gait Screening by the VNA of Care New England

    • September 23 from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at the Edward King House Senior Center, 35 King Street, Newport: Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi demonstrations; Balance and Gait Screening by Heatherwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Lifeline Services

    • September 23 at 10:30 a.m. at Johnston Senior Center, 1291 Hartford Avenue, Johnston: Gaining Strength Through Weight Training Workshop

    • September 23 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Leon Mathieu Senior Center, 420 Main Street, Pawtucket: Falls Prevention Presentation led by URI School of Pharmacy

    • September 23 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at The Center at South Kingstown, 25 St. Dominic Road, Wakefield: Falls Prevention Presentation led by URI School of Pharmacy

    • September 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Middletown Senior Center, 650 Green End Avenue, Middletown: Falls Prevention Discussion group led by Jenny Durante from Heatherwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

    • October 11 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the Buttonwoods Community Center, 3027 West Shore Road, Warwick: Falls Prevention Workshop, including Balance and Gait Screening by the VNA of Care New England

    • October 13 from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Woodlawn Gardens, 160 High Street, Pawtucket: A Safety Presentation for the 50 Plus Community

    • October 18 from11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Middletown Senior Center, 650 Green End Avenue, Middletown: Fear of Falling and Staying Safe at Home

    • October 26 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the East Providence Senior Center, 610 Waterman Avenue, East Providence: Falls Prevention Workshop, including Balance and Gait Screening by the VNA of Care New England

    • October 27 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence: Falls Prevention Workshop, including Balance and Gait Screening by the VNA of Care New England (*residents only)


    DEM, HEALTH Issue Advisory for Five Urban Ponds

    09-26-2011

    People Advised to Avoid Recreational Activities in and to Keep Pets Away from Slater Memorial Park Pond in Pawtucket, Mashapaug Pond, Roger Williams Park Ponds in Providence, and Spectacle Pond and J.L.Curran Reservoir in Cranston

    PROVIDENCE -The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in waters affected by blue-green algae blooms. Slater Memorial Park Pond in Pawtucket, Mashapaug Pond and Roger Williams Ponds in Providence, and Spectacle Pond and J.L. Curran Reservoir in Cranston, are experiencing algal blooms which discolor the water, giving it a characteristic green tint. These blooms may form naturally-occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in these waters until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from any of these ponds. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. It is is likely that the recreational advisory will remain in effect through the end of the year.

    The algae blooms in four of the five ponds were discovered during screening-level monitoring conducted at 11 ponds over the past week by a DEM contractor evaluating the extent and presence of blue-green algae blooms. The bloom in the fifth pond, J.L. Curran Reservoir, was reported to DEM by a volunteer with the Pawtuxet River Authority. DEM is conducting analysis of water samples from these five ponds to determine the predominant types and number of blue-green algae present, and measure the levels of algae toxin in the water. No evidence of blue-green algae blooms was observed in the other seven ponds monitored (Fenner Pond in Cranston, Lake Washington in Glocester, Warwick Pond in Warwick, Valley Falls Pond in Central Falls and Lincoln, Breakheart Pond in Exeter and West Greenwich, Trustom and Barber Ponds in South Kingstown). These 11 ponds were selected for the screening-level monitoring based upon historic incidences of blue-green algae blooms and or elevated water column concentrations of phosphorus or chlorophyll a.

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes, and irritation of the nose, eyes, and or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water

    containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are more at-risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

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

    It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other areas of Rhode Island, or may occur in the future at one of the seven ponds monitored where there was no evidence of a bloom. People are advised to avoid contact with waters which exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact Brian Zalewsky in DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 ext. 7145.


    Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in Slack Reservoir

    09-27-2011

    The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in Slack Reservoir in Smithfield and Johnston because a blue-green algae bloom has been detected in the northern portion of the reservoir.

    Following a report received by DEM over the weekend, staff from the Office of Water Resources took water samples in Slack Reservoir yesterday that confirmed the presence of blue-green algae in the water body. Little Beach, a town beach located off Terrace Drive in Smithfield, was experiencing an algal bloom that discolored the water, giving it a characteristic green tint. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in Slack Reservoir until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from the reservoir. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. It is likely that the recreational advisory will remain in effect through the end of the year.

    Slack Reservoir is the sixth water body in the state where blue-green algae blooms have been found this year. Last Friday, DEM and HEALTH advised people to avoid recreational activities in waters affected by blue-green algae blooms, which include Slater Memorial Park Pond in Pawtucket, Mashapaug Pond and Roger Williams Ponds in Providence, and Spectacle Pond and J.L. Curran Reservoir in Cranston.

    The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes, and irritation of the nose, eyes, and or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are more at-risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage.

    People who have been swimming or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

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

    It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other areas of Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waters which exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water’s surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact Brian Zalewsky in DEM’s Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 ext. 7145 or by e-mail at brian.zalewsky@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.


    Make Your Home Suicide-Proof: HEALTH Launches Campaign to Educate Parents About Youth Suicide

    09-28-2011

    Most parents appreciate the importance of childproofing or fireproofing their homes. However, many parents of teens may not realize the simple steps that they can take to insure that their homes are suicide-proof.

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), in conjunction with The Center to Prevent Youth Violence (CPYV) is launching a campaign to help educate parents about the dangers of firearms or prescription medications being in the home may pose and the potential that teens may use them to attempt suicide.

    The Suicide-Proof Initiative is a statewide campaign including TV and radio public service announcements, as well as educational materials being distributed through partners such as pediatricians, family physicians, mental health clinicians and schools. The campaign also includes a newly launched website, www.suicideproof.org that features valuable information on how to suicide-proof your home and provides access to downloadable brochures and posters in English and Spanish.

    “Simple, practical actions combined with providing a strong support network for teens can help keep kids safer,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Rhode Islanders ages 15 to 24. Prescription drugs are one of the most common methods of intentional injuries for teens. Parents should keep prescription medications in a secure location and should safely discard any unused or expired medications.”

    “CPYV is very pleased to be partnering with HEALTH on this vitally important initiative,” said CPYV Executive Director and Co-Founder Dan Gross. “We need to educate parents about the very real things we can all do to help prevent more tragic suicides. In four out of five youth suicides involving firearms, the weapon was owned by a family member. Parents need to know that just by removing or locking a firearm they can greatly reduce the risk of a suicide in their home. It is very gratifying to know that this initiative will help make homes safer and, ultimately, will help save lives.”


    Department of Health Hires Chief Medical Examiner

    09-28-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to announce the hire of Christina Stanley, MD, as Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Rhode Island. Stanley will start on October 9.

    Stanley comes to Rhode Island after serving as Chief Deputy Medical Examiner for the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office since 2002. From 1997 to 2002, she worked as a Deputy Medical Examiner in the same office. She is board certified in anatomic pathology, forensic pathology and neuropathology.

    “We are very pleased that Dr. Stanley will be joining us at the Office of the State Medical Examiner,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Dr. Stanley brings a combination of solid professional experience and the unique expertise of neuropathology. The hiring committee was impressed with the public health leadership role that Dr. Stanley played in identifying and responding to an increasing trend of deaths from methamphetamine. We look forward to her leading the Office of the Medical Examiner and to her joining us as part of the public health leadership team in Rhode Island.”

    While in California, Stanley also oversaw the forensic pathology training program for the two pathology residency programs in San Diego and was a lecturer at University of California San Diego School of Medicine. She completed her undergraduate degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received her medical degree from University of California at San Diego.


    Organic Grape Tomatoes Recalled Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination

    09-30-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Andrew Williamson Fresh Brand organic grape tomatoes may be contaminated with salmonella. At this time, HEALTH does not have information that these products were shipped directly to Rhode Island; however they were distributed in nearby Connecticut and New York.

    The following products are being recalled:

    - Organic grape tomatoes, 10.5-ounce plastic, clam shell shaped containers with the UPC code 033383655925

    - Organic grape tomatoes, 7-ounce plastic, clam shell shaped containers with the barcode 20025465; marketed under Fresh & Easy brand

    The label on both of the products contains the words limited edition and product of Mexico.

    If consumers have any recalled product, they should throw it away or return it to the store where they bought it. If you purchased recalled product in Rhode Island, please report it to HEALTH’s Office of Food Protection at 222-2749. No illnesses have been reported in association with this recall.

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

    Consumers can contact the company at 619-661-6000, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., pacific time, or email questions to info@andrew-williamson.com


    Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry Celebrates 10,000th Enrollee

    10-03-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) announce that the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry has reached 10,000 enrollees.

    %quot;We saw a large number of people enroll in the Registry prior to and during Tropical Storm Irene,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Storms are not the only reason people lose power and we want to continue the trend of being prepared. We are pleased that people are taking the opportunity to identify themselves as requiring assistance prior to an emergency. It allows first responders to have an overall view of what might be needed in their community."

    Developed by HEALTH and RIEMA, the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry allows for the voluntary enrollment of Rhode Islanders with disabilities, chronic conditions, and other special healthcare needs who may require special assistance during emergencies. Enrollment in the Registry does not guarantee assistance, but it does help municipal officials understand what the needs are in their communities. Local emergency responders are able to access the information of those who have self-identified as needing assistance in an emergency.

    “The Registry won’t get your power back on,” said Edward Johnson, acting executive director of RIEMA. “Instead, it helps first responders determine what medical equipment or medications people will need to bring to a shelter, and how to communicate with them. It also helps them determine whether a person can be moved to a shelter or will need the care only available in a hospital setting.”


    Department of Health Urges Rhode Islanders to Get A Flu Shot

    10-04-2011

    It’s easy, it’s safe, and this year, the supply is plentiful. What is it? The seasonal flu vaccine. Today, First Lady Stephanie Chafee and Health Director Michael Fine each rolled up one sleeve to get their annual flu vaccination.

    “This year, there is absolutely no excuse for any Rhode Islander to go unvaccinated,” said Fine. “Primary care physicians have vaccine. Hospitals have vaccine. Mass vaccinators have vaccine. More than 400 schools around the state are hosting flu clinics. Getting a flu shot every year is the easiest, most effective way to protect you and your family from the flu. You may get a little achy or have a runny nose after a flu shot, but there is absolutely no way to get the flu from a flu vaccination. The flu is serious and will usually keep you out of work or school for five to seven days.”

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone older than six months of age should get a flu vaccination every year. Only children who are younger than nine years of age and did not get a flu vaccination last year will need to get two doses this year. (Prior years of flu vaccination do not impact number of doses given for these children.) Anyone age nine or older will only need one dose of flu vaccine.

    During the upcoming flu season, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is putting special emphasis on getting the elderly (age 65 and older) and healthcare workers vaccinated. “Our flu vaccination coverage rates for the 65 and older population have dropped in recent years,” said Fine. “We need to protect the elderly and get our numbers back to the top ranking we had in the past. For healthcare workers, our goal this year is to have 80% vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease to their patients.”


    HEALTH and DEM Remind Rhode Islanders of Benefits of Locally-Grown Food

    10-07-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) remind Rhode Islanders of the benefits of locally-grown foods sold at farmers’ markets throughout the state. While the farmers’ market season is winding down for some vendors, there are still a number of markets selling local produce.

    “Farmers’ markets promote sustainable local agriculture by supporting our farmers and providing healthy and delicious produce for Rhode Islanders to enjoy,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Locally-grown corn, apples, pumpkins, squash, and potatoes are just some of the healthy food products produced at Rhode Island farms and currently in peak supply at farmers’ markets and roadside stands across the state.”

    Many people confuse farmers’ markets with outdoor festivals. This weekend’s Scituate Art Festival, which in past years has exceeded 300,000 visitors, will again feature cooked and prepared regional and ethnic food served by vendors from around the region. HEALTH’s Office of Food Protection will be on hand to provide guidance to vendors on proper food production and handling practices.

    “The Scituate Art Festival is a great event that people come to from far and wide, and we want festival visitors to feel safe about the food items that will be available,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Our staff will provide guidance for food vendors on what they can and can’t do in regards to serving food to the public.”


    HEALTH Touts Five Millionth Childhood Immunization Entered

    10-11-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that the five millionth pediatric vaccination was recently recorded in HEALTH’s Childhood Immunization Registry (KIDSNET).

    “We are very proud of reaching this milestone,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Since 1997, HEALTH has worked with healthcare providers across the state to get vaccination histories entered into KIDSNET. It allows us to see who might not be protected from serious diseases. During an outbreak or epidemic, it is a valuable tool in helping identify vulnerable individuals. In both situations, KIDSNET can help us assure that all Rhode Island children are vaccinated and protected from disease.”

    In addition to childhood and adolescent immunization information, KIDSNET keeps records of other preventive services such as newborn screening, home visiting, and screening for lead poisoning. KIDSNET is a confidential, computerized child health information system. It helps families, healthcare providers, schools, and other community partners assure that all children are as healthy as possible by getting the right health screenings and preventive care at the right time.


    Salted, Smoked, Split Herring Recalled Due to Risk of Botulism

    10-12-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of salted, smoked, split herring that may be contaminated with botulinum spores. A routine sample collected at a retail store by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets found the product to be uneviscerated. Clostridium botulinum spores are more likely to be concentrated in the viscera than any other portion of the fish.

    It is unknown whether the product was sold in Rhode Island, but it was distributed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The product was distributed in 18 lb wooden boxes (40-60 count) and packaged by retail stores in various weight ranges from lb to 1.5 lb.

    Botulinum spores can cause Botulism, a serious and potentially fatal food-borne illness. Botulism can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

    The product is being recalled by CFE International, Canadian Fish Exporters, Inc. of Auburndale, MA. The product’s lot number is 1171, Plant Code is 2406, and producer is Leslie Leger & Sons, Ltd. Cap Pele, NB, Canada.

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

    Consumers are cautioned not to use this product, even if it does not look or smell spoiled, and it should be returned to the place of purchase. Consumers with any questions can contact: James Scannell/Jeffrey Long, CFE International Canadian Fish Exporters, Inc. 134 Rumford Avenue, Suite 202, Auburndale, MA 02466-1377 or by telephone 617-924-8300 between 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.


    Office of Attorney General, Department of Health Receive Hospital Conversion Application From Steward Health Care and Landmark Medical Center

    10-17-2011

    The Office of Attorney General (RIAG) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announce that on Friday, October 14, 2011 the two offices received the Hospital Conversion Application for Steward Health Care System LLC, Steward Medical Holdings LLC, Blackstone Medical Center, Inc., Blackstone Rehabilitation Hospital, Inc., and Jonathan N. Savage, Esq. in his capacity as the court-appointed Special Master for Landmark Health Systems, Inc., Landmark Medical Center and Northern Rhode Island Rehab Management Associates, L.P. d/b/a Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island.

    Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 23-17.14-7, The Hospital Conversion Act, RIAG and HEALTH have 30 days to determine if the application received is complete. If the application is not deemed complete, the applicant will receive a written specification itemizing the additional information the applicant is required to provide.


    HEALTH Encourages Parents to Choose Beverages With Less Sugar

    10-17-2011

    It’s hard to imagine eating a spoonful of sugar; however, soda and fruit-flavored drinks are filled with sugar and can add hundreds of calories to your diet each day. Extra calories can mean weight gain and increased risk for obesity and heart disease. In a new effort to highlight health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is posing a bold question to parents: “You wouldn’t let your kids eat this much sugar. So, why let them drink it?” HEALTH’s new awareness campaign starts today and runs for three months. The campaign includes messages in English and in Spanish.

    The campaign’s signature image –a spoon nearly overflowing with sugar about to go into a child’s mouth – is a reminder that a variety of beverages, including soda, fruit-flavored drinks, and sports drinks, can lead to obesity and related health problems. The ad urges Rhode Islanders to Cut Back the Sugar. One Drink at a Time.

    “Sugar-sweetened beverages have become an unhealthy part of our everyday diet,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “On average, adults in America are drinking 46 gallons of sugar-sweetened beverages every year. That is the equivalent of eating 40 pounds of sugar. Drinking beverages loaded with sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.”

    The campaign will help educate people about the health risks associated with sugary drinks and emphasize substituting healthier drinks, such as water or small portions of 100% fruit juice, for nutritionally void beverages. The campaign also promotes decreasing the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages.

    “By reducing the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in our own cafeteria and vending machines, we are aiming to lead by example,” said Fine. “Americans consume 250 to 300 more calories each day than we did 30 years ago, and nearly half of those extra calories come from sugar-sweetened beverages. We want to help employees and visitors make the healthy choice by making it the easy choice.”


    HEALTH Warns Consumers of Undeclared Peanuts in One Day’s Production of Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars

    10-21-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) warns consumers of a potential undeclared allergen in a single day’s production of General Mills Chocolate flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars. Product produced on this date may have been packaged incorrectly, and may contain sensitive ingredients not listed on the box’s ingredient label, including the potential allergen peanuts.

    A production error resulted in a limited number of properly labeled, individually wrapped Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bar packages being inserted into 5-count boxes labeled as Chocolate Flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars.

    There have been no reports of allergic reactions or illnesses associated with this product, however, the possibility of an unlabeled allergen makes this a Class One recall under Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

    This voluntary recall includes only 5-count boxes of Chocolate Flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars with the following “Better if Used By” date printed on the top of the box:

    19MAY2012BV

    Individually labeled foil packages of Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars are visibly different from the Chocolate flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars product depicted on the incorrect box. Rather than containing Chocolate flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars, the box could contain Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars.

    Consumers allergic to peanuts, or who are unsure of whether they are allergic to peanuts, should not consume Fiber One 90-Calorie products from 5-count boxes bearing the Better if Used By date 19MAY2012BV on the top of the box, and should contact General Mills for replacement or a full refund.

    No other varieties or production dates of Fiber One products are affected by this recall. Consumers requesting refunds or calling with further questions should contact General Mills Consumer Services at 1-800-231-0308.


    Attorney General and HEALTH Announce the Chemicals Used in “Bath Salts” Now Under Federal Control and Regulation

    10-21-2011

    Department of Health Initiates Process to Regulate in Rhode Island

    Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced that the chemicals used in "Bath Salts” are now under federal control and regulation.

    Please note: Traditional bath salts, such as Epsom salts and other bath and beauty products, do not contain the chemicals that are now under federal regulation. The newly-regulated chemicals are found in products with the street name “bath salts” and “plant food” and are often sold in head shops, smoke shops, some convenience stores and online.

    Earlier today, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control three synthetic stimulants (Mephedrone, 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone) used to make products marketed as “bath salts” and “plant food.” Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals, or the products that contain them, illegal in the United States. The DEA formally published the announcement in the Federal Register.

    Under the Rhode Island Uniform Controlled Substances Act, Article 21-28-2.01(2)c, the publication of such notice in the Federal Register and notice to HEALTH will start the 60-day period to regulate these substances under state law as well.

    Through the DEA’s emergency scheduling authority, these chemicals will be controlled for at least 12 months, with the possibility of a six month extension. They are designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I status is reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

    “Rarely does a new drug come on the market that has such devastating and damaging effects as ‘bath salts’ have in the United States,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “The designation of the compounds as Schedule I controlled substances will get this dangerous and deadly product off the shelves and give our law enforcement personnel the tools they need to effectively go after those who illegally sell and distribute the product.”

    “Nationally, bath salt abuse has led to increased emergency room visits, violence, and death,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “The federal ban on these dangerous unregulated substances will help Rhode Island address the serious public health consequences of substance abuse which injures and kills too many Rhode Islanders and impacts too many Rhode Island families.”

    These bath salts, which are sold under names such as "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," Vanilla Sky," and "Bliss," are used as recreational drugs, being injected, snorted or smoked.

    Medical authorities have stated that psychological side effects include extreme anxiety and paranoia, delusional thinking, and visual and auditory hallucinations. Physical side effects include dramatically increased blood pressure and heart rates, and chest pains so severe some users feared they were dying. Moreover, the drug poses new risks for law enforcement in subduing those under the influence of bath salts.

    The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that in 2010 poison control centers took 303 calls about bath salts. However, in the first seven months of 2011, poison control centers had received more than 4,000 calls related to these products.

    Since the drugs made their debut on American soil in January 2011, 37 states have banned the sale of bath salts, either through legislation, emergency orders of designated agencies, or by executive order.


    National Food Day Celebrates Importance of Eating Healthy Foods

    10-24-2011

    Apples, carrots, berries, cucumbers, and tomatoes are just some of the stars of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (HEALTH) celebration of National Food Day. Food Day is a grassroots mobilization for healthier diets and improved food policies.

    “Available, affordable, and locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables help Rhode Islanders stay healthy,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “A healthier diet combined with more physical activity will help Rhode Islanders reduce their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.”

    HEALTH is also an active member of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, and today, the Council is presenting its Statewide Food Assessment. The assessment identifies and evaluates the strengths and challenges of availability of and access to health food in the state. School districts are recognized for their effort to serve locally-grown produce in their lunch programs.

    “We applaud all of the schools for providing healthier lunches for students,” Fine said. “This report makes it very clear that our next challenge is to assure that it is easy for every community and every person in this state to buy healthy food. HEALTH will continue to work closely with the Food Policy Council to address that.”

    Other members of the Food Policy Council are hosting events for Food Day that include healthy eating workshops, film nights, flash mobs, locally-sourced cafeteria meals, and poster contests. To see the full list of Food Day Events, visit Food Day RI or National Food Day.


    Nike All-American Sandwich Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

    10-24-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Nike All-American sandwich may be contaminated with bacteria that cause Listeria. This product was sold at WalMart in Coventry, Cranston (Plainfield Pike), North Smithfield, and Westerly.

    The recalled product is made by Landshire company. It is a pre-packaged, individually wrapped, white packaged sandwich. The sandwich weight is 7.25 ounces and has the UPC code of 0 9748801741 5 and a lot number of 11 237 6.

    No other products made by Landshire are included in this recall, and there have been no illnesses reported that are related to this recall.

    Anyone who has purchased a recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Anyone who has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.


    RECALL EXPANDED: Nike All-American and Nike Super Poor Boy Sandwiches Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

    10-27-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Landshire of St. Louis, MO has expanded its recall of the Nike Sandwich as a precautionary measure to include 17,305 cases. The expanded recall includes the addition of the Nike Super Poor Boy Sandwich as well as increased production dates of the Nike All-American Sandwich. The products may contain Listeria Monocytogenes.

    Listeria Monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Anyone who has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

    The following products are subject to recall:

    Landshire Nike All-American

    Landshire Nike Super Poor Boy

    Production lot codes affected by the recall are from 11 237 6 through 11 285 6

    The lot number is printed in black ink on the side or back of the individual packaged sandwich. The 237 indicates the beginning Julian date and 285 indicates the ending Julian date of the lot #’s being recalled.

    The Nike All-American sandwiches were distributed Nationwide at Convenient Stores, Wholesale Food Distributors and Retail Supermarkets.

    The sandwich subject to the recall is: Landshire Nike All-American and Landshire Nike Super Poor Boy. This is a pre-packaged, individually wrapped sandwich. Sandwich weight is 7.25 ounces (206 grams). The Nike All-American UPC code is 0 9748801741 5 and the Nike Super Poor Boy UPC code is 0 9748800001 1. The Nike Super Poor Boy sandwich may also be sold in a 2-count pack and an 8-count pack. The 2-count pack Nike Super Poor Boy UPC code is 0 9748800765 2 and the 8-count pack Nike Super Poor Boy UPC code is 0 9748800712 6.

    No confirmed illnesses have been reported.

    Consumers who have purchased the Nike All-American or Nike Super Poor Boy are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Landshire at 314-925-4009.


    HEALTH, Providence School District Cooperate to Contain Mumps

    10-27-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces the successful containment of a cluster of two cases of mumps among staff at a Providence school.

    HEALTH received a report on October 17 that two staff members at a Providence school had been diagnosed with mumps. In addition, one of these staff persons conducted an in-service training while infectious. HEALTH worked with the Providence Public School Department to evaluate who may have been exposed to the two staff members. HEALTH’s Division of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology determined that 14 staff members at the school and 18 other adults from other schools who attended the in-service training may have been exposed. All 32 staff members were offered a booster dose of mumps-containing vaccine.

    Immunization records of all students were reviewed, and all students at the school were up to date on their mumps vaccine series and were at no risk for catching or spreading the mumps virus.

    “Due to the swift and cooperative response of HEALTH and Providence school officials, we are confident that we were able to prevent the spread of disease,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “This is a reminder to all Rhode Islanders of the importance for children, adolescents, and adults to be up to date on all recommended vaccinations. Vaccinations prevent the spread of disease and save lives.”

    “Both Mayor Taveras and I are pleased with the cooperation and collaboration between the school district and HEALTH,” Superintendent Lisi said. “Our school nurse-teachers acted quickly and effectively to address this issue, with the tremendous support of HEALTH, and ensured the safety and wellbeing of our children and staff. This episode highlights the importance of childhood immunization and of careful record collection by our schools.”

    Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands and is generally self-limiting. It is contagious from person to person through respiratory droplets, and usually occurs in children 5 to 15 years of age, but is more likely to cause serious problems in adults. There is no specific treatment for mumps, but it can be prevented. Vaccinations typically are given to children in a two-dose series – the first at 12-15 months of age and the second between ages 4-6. On average, there are one to four reported cases of mumps in Rhode Island each year.


    Butter Cookies Recalled Due to Possible Bacillus Cereus Contamination

    10-31-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Rich Fields brand tins of butter cookies may be contaminated with Bacillus cereus. These cookies were distributed nationwide by Rite Aid.

    The recalled product comes in 12-ounce tins with either a decorative castle or Christmas design and the product is sold only in Rite Aid stores. The recalled products have a UPC code of 01249596519 or 88411804619. No other Rich Fields or Rite Aid brand products are included in this recall.

    Anyone who has purchased a recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    Bacillus cereus can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Anyone who has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.


    HEALTH Suspends License of Dermatologist

    11-01-2011

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today summarily suspended the medical license of Dr. Nomate Kpea because HEALTH determined that continuation of practice by Dr. Kpea would constitute an immediate danger to the public. Dr. Kpea was a dermatologist with multiple offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

    Dr. Kpea abandoned patients from his practice when he left the country, and he failed to provide any form of continuity of care for his patients. In addition, Dr. Kpea has unanswered complaints at HEALTH’s Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline and malpractice complaints in Superior Court.

    HEALTH has been told that patient medical records and pathology slides have been kept at two former office locations; however, both buildings have been foreclosed upon by the lender that holds the mortgage on the properties. It is Dr. Kpea's responsibility to make individual medical records available to his patients. HEALTH is working with Dr. Kpea’s attornies and the lender to determine how and when patient medical records will be made available and to ensure that Dr. Kpea fulfills his obligations to his patients.

    Patients of Dr. Kpea can call HEALTH’s Emergency Information Line at 222-8022 for recorded updates as they become available.


    HEALTH Investigates Prescription Errors at Lifespan Hospitals

    11-02-2011

    On October 31, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) received a report from Lifespan that there was a problem with the hospitals’ electronic medication discharge information system. Patients who were prescribed sustained-release or enteric-coated medications may have received a prescription for a different form of the medication.

    This incident affects some inpatients and observation patients discharged from Newport Hospital since January 2011; from The Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island/ Hasbro Children’s Hospital since February 2011; and from Bradley Hospital since July 2010. Lifespan estimates that 2,000 patients may have been effected.

    “This incident is a prime example of the risks involved in care transitions for hospital patients, especially since primary care providers now rarely attend their own patients in the hospital,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “This underscores the need for a more robust team approach for care transitions. HEALTH is working closely with Lifespan to investigate this incident and do a root-cause analysis.”

    Lifespan is contacting all patients that may have been effected. Patients who were effected are being told to call their primary care provider and ask for a medication review. Patients who do not have a primary care provider can go to one of the Lifespan hospitals for a medication review at no cost to the patient. Lifespan has agreed to bear the cost of any office visits associated with this incident and for any incorrect medications that a patient purchased.


    First Lady, Director of Health to Hold Flu Vaccination Clinic for the Uninsured

    11-03-2011

    First Lady Stephanie Chafee, a registered nurse, and Director of Health Michael Fine, MD will be vaccinating Rhode Islanders at a no-cost flu vaccination clinic on Saturday, November 12.

    Both Chafee and Fine are, in particular, urging Rhode Islanders without health insurance to be vaccinated against the flu at the clinic. The clinic will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of Life Christian Assembly in Providence. No one will be charged for a vaccination at the clinic, whether or not they have health insurance.

    “Anyone can get the flu, and the flu will keep you home from work or school for at least a week,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “The flu is a serious illness and can be even more serious for the elderly, the very young, and anyone who has a chronic illness. The lack of health insurance or a fee for vaccine administration should not prevent Rhode Islanders from taking this essential step to protect themselves and their family members. Everyone should be vaccinated against the flu, particularly pregnant women, healthcare workers, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.”

    The church is located at 1860 Westminster Street, in the Olneyville section of Providence. Both adults and children are welcome, but children must be older than six months of age to be vaccinated. People who attend the clinic are asked to use the church’s Troy Street entrance. The clinic will be held on the first level of the church (the facilities are wheelchair accessible). People who are insured are asked to bring their insurance cards.

    Any child who cannot attend the clinic on November 12 can attend a school-located flu vaccination clinic. (If the date of a child’s school-located flu vaccination clinic has already passed, that child’s parent or guardian should contact the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-5960.) There are no fees or insurance requirements at school-located flu vaccination clinics.

    For information about influenza or clinic schedules, contact HEALTH’s Information Line at 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.


    Unique Date Not a Reason for a C-Section

    11-10-2011

    Friday’s date, 11/11/11, is not surprisingly a popular date for special occasions. It is an interesting and unique date to have for a wedding anniversary, but it is, however, not a reason to plan a medically unnecessary C-section.

    C-sections pose increased health and safety risks for mother and child and are almost four times as costly as vaginal deliveries. C-sections involve major abdominal surgery, and are associated with higher rates of surgical complications and repeat hospitalizations for the mother. In addition, a newborn delivered by C-Section is more likely to require care in a neonatal intensive care unit.

    “A pregnancy is considered full term at 39 weeks,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Medically unnecessary C-sections performed before 39 weeks contribute to the public health problem and long-term consequences of premature birth. C-sections should only be performed when they are absolutely, medically necessary.”

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rhode Island’s C-section rate jumped from 17.7% in 1996 to 32.2% in 2007, an increase of 82%. In 2010, the C-section rate was approximately 33.5%. According to March of Dimes data, the cost of a pre-term birth is almost $65,000, compared to the cost of just more than $15,000 for a full-term birth.


    HEALTH, Providence Public School Department Announce Pertussis Vaccination Clinic

    11-18-2011

    * Note to Editors: Some media outlets have previously reported an incorrect time for this clinic. Please note the correct time listed below and make corrections accordingly.

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Providence Public School Department will hold a vaccination clinic for pertussis ("whooping cough") at the Gilbert Stuart Middle School (GSMS) from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, November 21 for students, families, staff and faculty of the school. There is no out-of-pocket cost for the vaccine. Those with health insurance are asked to bring their insurance cards to the clinic.

    On November 15, one case of pertussis was reported involving a GSMS student. The student and 22 other close contacts of the student were offered antibiotics as a standard precaution.

    Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by coughing. Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes worse over one to two weeks. Symptoms can include a long series of coughs (coughing fits) followed by a whooping noise or a fever. (Older children, adults, and very young infants may not develop the whoop.) People with pertussis may develop a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty breathing. The cough is often worse at night, and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to treat pertussis.

    Infants less than one year of age, and particularly under six months, are most likely to experience severe illness if they develop pertussis. All close contacts of infants should be vaccinated with one dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine. Close contacts can include parents, grandparents, siblings, and child care workers. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Infants with any coughing illness should be promptly evaluated by their doctor.

    In 2010, a typical year, there were 44 reported cases of pertussis.


    First Lady, Lieutenant Governor, Director of Health Celebrate Rhode Island's Status as First "Bag-Free" State in the Nation; Initiative Aimed to Increase Breastfeeding Rates

    11-28-2011

    An event today at the State House celebrated Rhode Island's status as the first state in the nation to eliminate the distribution of free infant formula that is not medically necessary to postpartum women at hospital discharge. During the month of October, Landmark Medical Center and Memorial Hospital joined Kent, Newport, South County, Westerly, and Women & Infants Hospitals in eliminating the distribution of formula bags.

    Today's event featured Rhode Island's First Lady, Stephanie Chafee; Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Roberts; Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD; and Co-chair of Ban the Bags, Marsha Walker.

    "As the first 'bag-free' state in the nation, Rhode Island will have healthier children, healthier mothers, and a healthier population as a whole," First Lady Stephanie Chafee said. "This is a tremendous accomplishment, one that should make Rhode Islanders feel very encouraged and proud."

    "I want to thank the leadership at the Health Department and at our area hospitals for taking this very important step towards supporting breastfeeding," said Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts. "Although numerous barriers to breastfeeding remain, we are overcoming these challenges by working together to support new mothers in making this decision."

    "This is a huge accomplishment for Rhode Island's birthing hospitals," said Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD. "I commend all of them for taking this significant step to increase breastfeeding. We realize that on some occasions, formula may be medically necessary; however, when possible, breastfeeding is the healthiest choice as it has many positive health effects for both mothers and babies. In addition, breastfeeding results in significant cost savings for families, the healthcare system, and for employers."

    Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding during infancy protects babies from necrotizing enterocolitis (a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in preterm infants), lower respiratory infections, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and helps to prevent children from becoming overweight or obese during childhood and later in life.

    In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relased a Vital Signs report focused on hospital support for breastfeeding. The CDC reported that changing maternity care practices at hospitals has the biggest impact on increasing short-term and long-term breastfeeding rates. A primary focus of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition (RIBC) is to work with the state's seven birthing hospitals to better support breastfeeding mothers and infants.

    The latest Rhode Island data from 2008 show that 70.4% of women breastfed immediately postpartum, 38% of women breastfed at six months postpartum and 19.3% at 12 months postpartum. The fact that the birthing hospitals have eliminated unnecessary formula giveaways is expected to contribute to increasing the state's breastfeeding rates to reach the Healthy People 2020 goals of 81.9% of women breastfeeding immediately postpartum, 60.6% of women breastfeeding at six months postpartum and 34.1% at 12 months postpartum.

    HEALTH and RIBC facilitate a statewide maternity care practices work group. The group includes representatives from all seven birthing hospitals, and has sent members to a regional breastfeeding summit to learn about best practices. Birthing hospitals can also look to HEALTH for guidance on breastfeeding policies and procedures, provider continuing education, and technical assistance in applying to become "baby friendly" through the United Nations Children's Fund/World Health Organization Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.


    Report Spotlights First Ever State-Level Data on Youth Suicide

    12-01-2011

    The Rhode Island Child Death Review Team (CDRT) released its first report featuring state-level data on youth who died by suicide. The Youth Suicide Issue Brief examined suicides by people younger than age 24 from 2005 to 2010. During that period, 77 Rhode Island youths died by suicide and for each and every completed suicide, hospitals responded to more than 100 suicide attempts.

    Rhode Island recently received national attention because its residents have high rates of mental illness, suicidal thoughts, and behaviors. The state's suicide rates have been increasing at a steady rate for the last five years, and Rhode Island's suicide rates are now comparable to the national average for the first time in recent history. Youth are particularly vulnerable to suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among Rhode Islanders ages 15-24. In the past three years, Rhode Island has witnessed an increase in suicides among the very young (younger than15).

    "We all need to work together so that Rhode Island's youth have an opportunity to reach their potential," said Director of Health Michael Fine. "One completed suicide is too many, and an increase in suicides among our very young is unacceptable. We must start to reverse that trend now."

    The CDRT found that mental health problems are the primary risk factor for suicide attempts. One in five children (ages 9-17) in Rhode Island has a diagnosable mental health disorder; however, four out of five with a disorder do not receive treatment. Other risk factors include a previous suicide attempt; talking about suicide in person or on social media; getting a firearm or pills; giving away prized possessions; increased risk taking; preoccupation with death; depression; withdrawing from activities and friends; expressions of hopelessness; and anxiety.

    Because more than 75% of youth who died by suicide had told someone they were thinking about suicide or had previously attempted suicide, the CDRT's primary recommendation is to take all warning signs seriously. Other key recommendations that are based on the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention include:

    - Increase support for, and access to, mental health and crisis intervention resources

    - Improve visibility of existing resources and behavioral health services

    - Reduce access to lethal means of suicide

    - Develop and implement strategies to reduce the stigma associated with seeking services for mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention.

    The CDRT is comprised of a statewide team of experts that meets monthly with the Chief Medical Examiner, Christina Stanley, MD, to review all cases of child deaths and to identify system issues that can be addressed proactively to prevent similar deaths from occurring. The team includes experts from HEALTH, Education (DOE), DCYF, the Office of the Attorney General, Rhode Island Student Assistance Services, Visiting Nurses Association of Rhode Island, pediatricians, and law enforcement representatives.


    Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, Dr. Benilda Seballos

    12-08-2011

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation and Dr. Benilda Seballos with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

    The Gemma Foundation supports HEALTH's Women's Cancer Screening Program (WCSP) by helping to educate Rhode Island women about the importance of breast cancer screening. Through the agency's outreach efforts of the Gloria Gemma Breast Bus, women who meet the eligibility requirements are referred to the WCSP for no-cost breast and cervical cancer services. In addition, the Gemma Foundation provides financial support to expand the services of the WCSP and covers the cost of mammograms for Rhode Island women who are between the ages of 40 and 49.

    Dr. Seballos is a primary care physician at Thundermist Health Center and is the Champion for Change there. She organizes motivational, education sessions – in English and in Spanish – for her patients with diabetes. This year, Seballos arranged access to the farmer's market by providing vouchers to her patients so they could purchase healthy, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. She has also organized walking groups for her patients and often joins her patients for the neighborhood walks.

    "We rely heavily on the hard work and dedication of our community partners," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "In the absence of local public health departments in this state, our community partners are the front line of public health. I am so pleased to be able to recognize these efforts that complement what we do here at HEALTH."

    HEALTH presents Community Partnership Awards on a quarterly basis to individuals and to organizations in the community. To view a list of past recipients, visit


    Director of Health Presents Awards to Two Hospitals for Staff Flu Vaccination Efforts

    12-08-2011

    In celebration of National Flu Vaccination Week, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Director Michael Fine, MD, recognized Lifespan Employee Health and Women & Infants Hospital for their efforts to increase employee influenza vaccination rates in their respective facilities. These are the first Director's Awards that have been presented for support of HEALTH's mission and public health goals to prevent disease and to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of Rhode Island.

    Earlier this flu season, Lifespan's approach to encouraging staff to get flu vaccinations was declared a best practice by HEALTH. Lifespan hospitals required staff to choose one of four options: get a flu vaccination at work; provide documentation to employee health of a flu shot from another healthcare provider or public clinic; provide documentation from a healthcare provider that there is a medical reason for not getting a flu shot; or sign a declination form that specifies the reason for refusal. Lifespan's new policy was distributed to other healthcare facilities to use as a model in their own workplace.

    At Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, it is a requirement that all eligible new employees must receive a flu vaccination. In addition, the hospital has instituted a friendly competition to see which unit or department can achieve the highest percentage of staff who are vaccinated.

    "It is essential that all healthcare workers get vaccinated," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Getting a flu shot every year is the easiest and most effective way to protect yourself, your family, and your patients. There is still plenty of available flu vaccine, and it is not too late to get vaccinated. I commend these hospitals for making the extra effort to protect their staff and their patients."


    HEALTH Recruiting for its Professional Licensure Boards:

    12-12-2011

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced that the Department is looking for new participants to sit on a number of its boards that license, certify, and discipline a variety of health professionals, facilities, and organizations. Many of these groups (e.g. doctors, nurses, hospitals, and nursing homes) provide direct healthcare services. Others, such as hairdressers, must take certain steps to protect the health of their clients or the environment. The Department wants to expand involvement in the boards that oversee these professionals and entities to more appropriately represent minority populations. Board members represent both licensed healthcare professionals and the general public. All of the boards require participation from public members and most of the boards carry a three-year term.

    "The purpose of our boards is to protect the public by establishing standards for training and conduct; reviewing license applications; and investigating and disciplining cases of professional misconduct," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We want the makeup of our boards to look like the makeup of our state. Traditionally, our boards have not been as diverse as we'd like, so we are reaching out widely to engage new members. This is a great opportunity to get involved in our state's public health infrastructure and process."

    HEALTH will begin the recruitment process by accepting applications, through the end of the year, for the following Boards:

    - Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline

    - Board of Physician Assistants

    Each board has its own requirements, duties, and meeting schedules. For more information, specific requirements of each board, and to supply a letter of interest and resume, visit HEALTH's website.


    From DEM: Rabid Cat Confirmed in Smithfield

    12-16-2011

    The Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people in the area of Birch Road in Smithfield that an owned pet cat that succumbed while exhibiting signs of rabies has been confirmed positive for rabies. The cat is described as an eight year-old female orange-gray calico or tiger cat. Anyone who may have had contact with this cat should contact HEALTH for evaluation at the following numbers: 222-2577 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 272-5952 if calling after hours or over the weekend.

    If you have a domestic animal that may have had contact with this cat, you should contact Smithfield Animal Control at 233-1055 so that an animal control officer can evaluate.

    According to RI State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM of DEM's Division of Agriculture, this particular rabies case is unusual for the state in that it occurred in an owned/pet cat that was allowed to go outdoors. There is no verifiable proof that this cat has ever been vaccinated against rabies. As a result of this cat contracting rabies, there have been at least 20 possible human exposures and at least one other household pet (a dog) that has been exposed. Eleven individuals have been treated with rabies vaccine so far, and additional assessments are in

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

    Make sure your dogs, cats, and ferrets are properly vaccinated against rabies. It is the law.

    Avoid all contact with stray or free-roaming domestic animals.

    Avoid all contact with wild animals.

    Secure all trash so that animals will not be attracted to it.

    Do not feed animals outdoors as this feeding will attract other animals. This is especially dangerous when feeding large numbers of free-roaming cats.

    Call HEALTH if you have had any contact with a stray or free roaming domestic animal, or a wild animal.

    Call your local animal control officer if an animal you own has had contact with a stray or free roaming domestic animal, or wild animal.


    Rhode Island Earns Honor Roll Ranking for School Asthma, Allergy Policies

    12-21-2011

    For the fourth consecutive year, the State of Rhode Island has been named to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation's (AAFA) State Honor Roll. AAFA scores each state based on its asthma and allergy policies for schools. Overall, Rhode Island meets 16 of 18 core policy standards and 10 of 15 extra credit indicators and is one of only six states named to the honor roll. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) works collaboratively with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to address asthma and allergy policies in the state's schools.

    "We are pleased that the joint efforts of HEALTH and RIDE have been recognized," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Allowing students to carry prescribed medication with them at school and use it when they are having an asthma attack or an allergic reaction is important because the faster the medicine is used, the faster the student can get relief. Restrictions on the amount of time school buses may idle their engines results in our kids having cleaner air to breathe."

    The State prohibits smoking in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at school-related functions. Each school or school district must provide tobacco cessation funding or activities for school faculty and staff. HEALTH and RIDE works closely with partners in the medical and environmental health communities to inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies and programs to support children with asthma.

    "One of our goals as we work together to transform education in Rhode Island is to ensure that all of our schools are healthy and safe learning environments for students and for staff members," said Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist. "We are pleased to be on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation Honor Roll, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners at HEALTH to make sure our schools are great places for teaching and learning."

    Future work for asthma prevention includes implementing the requirements for schools to adopt the programs like Tools for Schools to engage parents and school staff in maintaining healthy school environments. For information on Tools for Schools visit http://epa.gov/iaq/schools/. To see the complete list of criteria for which the State received credit, visit http://tinyurl.com/cdzyrna


    Landmark, Steward Granted Two-Week Extension to Submit Complete Application

    12-22-2011

    Today the Department of the Attorney General (AG) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) determined that the hospital conversion application submitted by Steward Health Care System and Landmark Medical Center, and related affiliates, remains incomplete.

    In an effort to keep this application moving forward, the AG and HEALTH have given a two-week extension to the transacting parties to produce the requested information and documents to allow the formal review of the application.

    "This is a one-time extension that takes into consideration and recognizes the importance of Landmark Hospital to the Woonsocket community and the three years that the hospitals have been in a court-appointed special mastership," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We are providing this opportunity as a continuation of our collaborative efforts to assure that essential healthcare services in northern Rhode Island remain available."

    The AG and HEALTH have identified issues that have not been sufficiently addressed by the transacting parties in the initial application. With this extension, the requested information is due by January 11, 2012.

    2010

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

    01-05-2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    01-07-2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Health Department Receives Donation of Seasonal Vaccine

    01-08-2010

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

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

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

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

    01-11-2010

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

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

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

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

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

    National Walking Champion Opens Eat Smart Move More Summit

    01-12-2010

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

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

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

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

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

    Heluva Cold Pack Cheese Products Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

    01-13-2010

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

    The products involved in this recall include:

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

    These are the only products involved in this recall.

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

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

    Department of Health Encourages Employers to Hold H1N1 Vaccination Clinics

    01-14-2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    01-21-2010

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

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

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

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

    01-21-2010

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

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

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

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

    Department of Health Warns of Possible Salmonella Contamination in Daniele, lnc. Peppered Salami Products

    01-25-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that there is currently a national investigation of a salmonella outbreak possibly linked to salame products manufactured by Daniele, Inc. As a result of this investigation, Daniele Inc. has decided to voluntarily recall all of their peppered salame products.

    Sweet Sopressata in Daniele Deli Selection, produced by Daniele Inc. was tested and found to be positive for Salmonella. This product was not distributed in Rhode Island; however, it was sold at Costco stores. Daniele Inc. has been working diligently with HEALTH and USDA to help identify the source of the contamination.

    HEALTH has also been working with the CDC, USDA, and FDA on a broader investigation of a national salmonella outbreak. Preliminary results indicate that eleven ill individuals had consumed salame products from Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack. This has not been confirmed as the cause of their illness. In response to the investigation, Daniele Inc. is voluntarily issuing a recall of all peppered products.

    HEALTH continues to work closely with USDA, FDA and CDC to identify the source of the Salmonella outbreak and the Salmonella contamination. The Salmonella found in the Daniele product does not appear to be the same as the cause of the outbreak.

    Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

    HEALTH advises Rhode Islanders not eat peppered salame products produced by Daniele Inc.

    All of the recalled products will have EST. 54 or EST. 9992 inside of the USDA seal. The list of recalled products is as follows:

    • Daniele Deli Selection (20oz)
    • Daniele Surtido Fino Italiano (454g)
    • Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack (16 oz)
    • Dietz and Watson Artisan Collection Party Platter Pack (8 oz)
    • Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack (8oz)
    • Daniele Gourmet Combo Pack (16 oz)
    • Daniele Surtido Fino Italiano (340g)
    • Daniele Brand Gourmet Pack (Emballage Assorti Gourmet Italian) (500g)
    • Boars Head All Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper) (8oz)
    • Daniele All Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper) (10oz)
    • Daniele Pepper Salame (catch weight)
    • Black Bear Baby Genoa Pepper Salame (9oz)
    • Dietz & Watson Artisan Collection Baby Genoa Pepper Salame (catch weight)
    • Daniele Deli Selection (20 oz)
    • Daniele Gourmet Italian Deli Selection (600g)
    • Daniele Salame Bites Pepper Salame (7oz)
    • Daniele Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper (catch weight)
    • Daniele Gourmet Deli Selection (Assortment De Fines Charcuterie Italienne) (400g)
    • Daniele deli Selection (32oz)

    Department of Health Applauds Tobacco Control Legislation That Closes Loophole

    01-27-2010

    With the passage of Rhode Island House Bill #5607 and Senate Bill 408aa, it will be more difficult for tobacco vendors to skirt the law. This bill prevents any tobacco vendor who has an outstanding fine from getting a new license for the same location before the fine is paid. The bill also prohibits multiple licenses at the same address by the same owner.

    When a business owner who has a tobacco sales license illegally sells tobacco or tobacco products to minors (anyone younger than 18), they may be fined or have their license suspended. Before this bill was passed, there was a loophole that allowed the license holder to apply for and receive a new tobacco sales license before the fine was paid.

    If a business owner is selling tobacco or tobacco products to minors, they are breaking the law and making it easier for youth to develop a dangerous, addictive habit said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Historically, control and oversight of tobacco licensing has not been as stringent as we would like it to be. This bill holds licensees accountable for their illegal actions and makes it more difficult for minors to have access to tobacco or tobacco products.

    This bill was sponsored by the lat Representative Thomas Slater; Representatives Grace Diaz and Anastasia Williams; and Senator Juan Pichardo. In addition support for this bill was given by The American Lung Association, the Woonsocket Prevention Task Force, and other community advocacy organizations.

    Rhode Island Department of Health Issues Health Advisory Against Using Folk Remedy for Morning Sickness

    01-28-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) warns consumers not to use a folk remedy designed to relieve the symptoms of morning sickness. This product is called by several names including Nzu, Poto or Calabash Chalk. These products may be sold as a large pellet or in bulk and they resemble clay.

    HEALTHs laboratory testing has confirmed elevated levels of lead and unsafe levels of arsenic in these products. (Samples that were tested showed lead levels ranging from 5 ppm to 29 ppm.) These products were found at God Is Able African Market (743 Cranston Street), Jamal and Jamel Variety Store (750 Cranston Street), Cranston Variety (306 Cranston Street) and Toofs Market (611 Charles Street).

    HEALTH has removed these products from shelves at the above-named stores. Any other store that carries these products should stop selling them immediately. Any consumer who has purchased this product should discard the product and stop using it.

    Lead exposure is of special concern to pregnant women and young children because it can inhibit development of the nervous system, affecting intelligence and behavior. Concerns about the safety of this product were identified by the Childhood Lead Action Project .

    Lead can be present in a wide variety of consumer goods, especially those imported, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Calabash Chalk is just one example of a preventable source of lead exposure. This also serves as a reminder that families need to make sure that all young children are screened for lead poisoning.

    Update in National Salmonella Outbreak Investigation

    01-28-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces today that ground black pepper samples from an open container at Daniele Inc. has tested positive for salmonella. Further lab testing also shows that the ground pepper contains the same strain of salmonella that is associated with a national outbreak. This brand of ground pepper was only distributed to Daniele, Inc. in Rhode Island.

    Because the sample was from an open container of ground pepper, it is considered to be probable as the source of the outbreak. Additional samples of ground pepper from closed containers at Daneile Inc., the distributor and the importer are being tested by HEALTH and FDA.

    No additional items have been added to the recall list because of this finding. Consumers are advised to not eat the products listed below. HEALTH continues to work closely with CDC, FDA and Daniele Inc. to confirm the source of the outbreak.

    Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

    All of the recalled products will have EST. 54 or EST. 9992 inside of the USDA seal. The recalled products include:

    • Daniele Deli Selection (20oz)
    • Daniele Surtido Fino Italiano (454g)
    • Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack (16 oz)
    • Dietz and Watson Artisan Collection Party Platter Pack (8 oz)
    • Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack (8oz)
    • Daniele Gourmet Combo Pack (16 oz)
    • Daniele Surtido Fino Italiano (340g)
    • Daniele Brand Gourmet Pack (Emballage Assorti Gourmet Italian) (500g)
    • Boars Head All Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper) (8oz)
    • Daniele All Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper) (10oz)
    • Daniele Pepper Salame (catch weight)
    • Black Bear Baby Genoa Pepper Salame (9oz)
    • Dietz & Watson Artisan Collection Baby Genoa Pepper Salame (catch weight)
    • Daniele Deli Selection (20 oz)
    • Daniele Gourmet Italian Deli Selection (600g)
    • Daniele Salame Bites Pepper Salame (7oz)
    • Daniele Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper (catch weight)
    • Daniele Gourmet Deli Selection (Assortment De Fines Charcuterie Italienne) (400g)
    • Daniele deli Selection (32oz)

    Salmonella Outbreak Update

    02-03-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that recent test results strongly suggest black pepper is the source of the Salmonella outbreak associated with Daniele Inc. Daniele purchased black pepper from two different distributors (Mincing Oversees Spice Company and Wholesome Spices) who buy imported black pepper. Samples of pepper from both distributors have tested positive for Salmonella. All other tests of employees and the facilities are negative at this time. These findings are consistent with Daniele Inc.s history of no Salmonella findings by in-house testing and USDA periodic testing. No additional food items have been added to the recall list.

    As part of the outbreak investigation, it was determined that both distributors who supplied black pepper to Daniele imported pepper from common sources.

    These recent findings show that black pepper used during the manufacturing process at Daniele was the likely source of this outbreak, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This outbreak only underscores the importance of closely monitoring food that is imported from other countries as they may not have the same food safety standards as we do.

    Daniele now purchases black pepper that has already been treated to assure the elimination of Salmonella and other infectious organisms. Daniele is testing all lots of new products before they leave the manufacturing plant for distribution. In addition, the company continues to clean and sanitize all areas and equipment to ensure safe products.

    HEALTH is working with FDA to determine any other distribution of this black pepper in Rhode Island.

    Health Department Assesses Hospitals Capital Investment

    02-04-2010

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released Hospital Capital Investment in Rhode Island (2008). This report is one measure of the financial health of hospitals in the state. This report analyzes each hospitals available capital (physical property and assets) and capital improvements. In turn, each hospitals capital is evaluated based on how well they could support their individual improvement projects and what their financing costs were. In addition, a snapshot summary of each hospitals capital is included.

    Compared to other hospitals in the Northeast, hospitals in RI used less debt to finance their capital assets (47% versus 61%), and had lower capital-related fixed expenses (4.4% versus 5.7%). However, hospitals in RI may have to invest in new capital sooner than their regional peers because, on average, their physical plants are older (13.1 years versus 10.8 years). Hospitals in RI have less capacity to finance new capital (2.1 versus 2.7 debt service coverage values), and, on average, have generated fewer revenue dollars for each invested dollar ($2.50 versus $2.62).

    Overall, these measures suggest that the independent hospitals (Landmark, Memorial, Roger Williams, South County, St. Joseph, and Westerly) will have a more difficult time making capital investments than Care New England (Butler, Kent, and Women & Infants), or Lifespan (Bradley, Miriam, Newport, and RI Hospital) hospitals.

    Two Rhode Island Communities Awarded HeartSafe Certification

    02-05-2010

    On National Go Red Day, Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that two communities Warwick and Westerly have earned HeartSafe certification. This program is designed to help communities give people a better chance of surviving a heart attack or other cardiac emergency. HeartSafe communities must meet a number of criteria including offering CPR classes, placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) throughout the community and on emergency response vehicles, training first responders, creating effective emergency response plans for municipal and school buildings, and evaluating the communitys response to cardiac emergencies.

    Heart disease is the number one killer in Rhode Island and in the country, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. If someone is having a heart attack, the goal is to give them the best chance of survival. We applaud Warwick and Westerly for making this a priority in their community. We hope that other cities and towns in Rhode Island will do the same.

    The HeartSafe Community program is a collaboration of HEALTH and the American Heart Association. The HeartSafe Community certification is valid for three years.

    Health Department Cannon Building Closed to Public on Monday, February 8 Due to Flooding

    02-07-2010

    The Cannon Building of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) at 3 Capitol Hill in Providence will be closed to the public tomorrow, Monday, February 8 due to flooding from burst pipes of the building's chiller. HEALTH employees who work in the Cannon Building are asked to report to work tomorrow at the Department of Administration Cafeteria at 8:30 a.m., prior to going to their offices. It is recommended that they wear casual clothes, as many of them will need to identify documents and equipment that have been damaged. Employees should be aware that the building will be very warm on Monday due to the fans that are drying the building.

    Updates as to when the building will open to the public will be provided as soon as possible. Public services affected by the closing are the Office of Vital Records, where people obtain birth, death, and marriage records; the Office of Professional Licensing; and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vendor services.

    The Medical Examiner's Office and the HEALTH Laboratory are housed in a separate building, which is not affected. That building will remain open for business as usual.

    Department of Health Cannon Building Remains Closed to Public

    02-08-2010

    The Cannon Building of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) at 3 Capitol Hill in Providence will remain closed to the public on Tuesday, February 9 due to flooding from burst pipes of the buildings chiller.

    Cosmetology exams scheduled for Tuesday, February 9 (9 a.m. and 1 p.m.)will be held in Conference Rooms A and C at the Department of Administration, 1 Capitol Hill, Providence.

    Updates as to when the building will open to the public will be provided on a regular basis. The Medical Examiners Office and the HEALTH Laboratory are located in a separate building and were not affected by the flooding.

    Health Department Email System Partially Down

    02-09-2010

    The Cannon Building of the Health Department (HEALTH) remains closed to the public today due to flooding from a burst pipe. In addition, many employees are not connected to the email system and will not be able to send or receive email. HEALTH will provide an update on the situation before the end of the day.

    H1N1 Flu Vaccination Clinic in Narragansett Canceled For February 10

    02-09-2010

    The H1N1 flu vaccination clinic that was scheduled for tomorrow, February 10, at Narragansett High School has been canceled due to the threat of inclement weather.

    Narragansett High School, located at 245 South Pier Road in Narragansett, will host a make-up clinic on February 17. This free, public clinic will operate from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.

    All of the free, public clinics for H1N1 flu vaccine that cities and towns throughout the state are hosting are only open to people who are 18 years of age and older. Individuals interested in getting vaccinated against H1N1 flu do not need to make appointments, show insurance cards, or present identification at clinics. Individuals can attend any clinic, regardless of where they live.

    Cities and town throughout the state will host seven additional free, public clinics for H1N1 flu vaccine. To find a clinic see the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH)s website (www.health.ri.gov). To search by zip code for a retail store or pharmacy that is offering H1N1 flu vaccine, in addition to Rhode Islands public clinics, see the Flu Vaccine Locator on HEALTHs website. Some of these retail stores and pharmacies may charge small administrative fees.

    Department of Health Cannon Building Remains Closed to Public; Cosmetology Exams Canceled

    02-09-2010

    The Cannon Building of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) at 3 Capitol Hill in Providence will remain closed to the public on Wednesday, February 10 and Thursday, February 11 due to flooding from burst pipes of the buildings chiller.

    Additionally, HEALTH has canceled the cosmetology exams scheduled for Wednesday, February 10 due to the threat of inclement weather. These exams will be rescheduled. Once the dates, times, and locations of the rescheduled exams are finalized, HEALTH will contact exam participants directly.

    Providers, partners and the public should be aware that some employees do not have access to e-mail and others may have unpredictable access to e-mail. Anyone who needs to contact HEALTH should do so by phone.

    First Floor of Department of Healths Cannon Building to Reopen Friday

    02-11-2010

    On Friday, February 12, the first floor of the Department of Healths (HEALTH) Cannon Building will reopen to the public. Services open to the public on the first floor are the Office of Vital Records (12:30 4 p.m.) for birth, death and marriage certificates; the Office of Health Professionals Licensing; and the Office of Emergency Medical Services. All floors of the Cannon Building will reopen to the public on Monday, February 15. (State offices are open on Monday, February 15.)

    The Cannon Building has been closed to the public since Monday, February 8 due to flooding from burst pipes of the buildings chiller.

    Providers, partners and the public should be aware that some employees do not have access to e-mail. All employees have access to their voice mail.

    The Medical Examiners Offices and the HEALTH Laboratory are located in a separate building and were not affected by the flooding.

    Department of Health Encourages Rhode Islanders to Take Advantage of Remaining Free Public H1N1 Clinics

    02-12-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds Rhode Islanders that there are still a number of free public H1N1 vaccination clinics to take place over the next two weeks. All Rhode Islanders are encouraged to get vaccinated against H1N1, even those who consider themselves healthy. Seven more free public clinics are scheduled on weekends and weekdays between now and February 27. A schedule with clinic dates, locations, and hours of operation is available on HEALTH’s website .

    These clinics are free of charge, and no appointments are necessary. Individuals must be 18 years of age or older to be vaccinated at these clinics, but they need not be residents of the city or town in which the clinic is being held. No identification or insurance information is required. In addition to these free public clinics hosted by municipalities, H1N1 vaccine is also available at physician offices and at other clinics hosted by mass immunizers. There may be a charge for administration at other clinics.

    H1N1 flu is a potentially dangerous virus and we expect to see another surge of illness in the coming months, said Director of Health, Dr. David Gifford, M.D., MPH. Any adult who has not yet been vaccinated against H1N1 should take advantage of this opportunity to attend one of the free public clinics. The more people who get vaccinated against H1N1, the less likely it is that we will see a third wave of illness this spring.

    Since mid-January, HEALTH, in coordination with its municipal partners has held several public H1N1 vaccination clinics throughout the state. To date, approximately 380,000 Rhode Islanders have been vaccinated against H1N1, and of those, almost 17,000 were vaccinated at the free public clinics.

    HEALTH Sees Increase In Norovirus Outbreaks

    02-23-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises people that there has been an increase in the number of laboratory-confirmed norovirus outbreaks in the state. HEALTH regularly investigates reports of norovirus clusters in licensed facilities and investigates illness complaints associated with food establishments or other licensed facilities. Since January 1, five long-term care facilities and three schools have reported noro-like illness. HEALTH laboratories have confirmed norovirus in four of these facilities. (Results from two institutions are pending.) In addition, HEALTH has investigated reports of noro-like illness at three food establishments and confirmed norovirus at one establishment.

    Norovirus is a common illness, and like H1N1, frequent handwashing with warm water and soap or an alcohol hand gel is essential to stop the spread of the illness, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. When there was increased H1N1 illness, there was not any norovirus illness. Rhode Islanders must continue to be vigilant about handwashing to prevent the spread of norovirus, H1N1 and many other illnesses.

    To prevent the spread of norovirus:

    • Wash hands with soap and warm water after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
    • If you are sick, do not touch ready-to-eat food with your bare hands. In a food establishment, utensils or gloves are required to be used for handling ready-to-eat foods.
    • If you are a food handler, a healthcare worker or a daycare worker who has symptoms of norovirus, report the illness to your employer, go home and stay out of work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.
    • Thoroughly clean and sanitize surfaces after someone is sick with norovirus. Use a bleach-based household cleaner. Wash and wipe down the toilet area, faucets and other hard surfaces with a mixture of one tablespoon of bleach to 3 cups of water. If cleaning up vomit or stool, use two tablespoons of bleach to 1 cup water.
    • Dispose sewage properly.
    • Avoid eating raw shellfish. (The water it came from could be contaminated with norovirus from raw sewage in the water.)

    Norovirus is a common viral illness that is spread from hand to mouth. Symptoms usually last 24-48 hours and include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

    Rhode Island Earns Recognition for Dental Health Policies That Benefit Children

    02-25-2010

    For children, oral disease can mean living with pain, missing valuable school time, challenges in learning, impaired nutrition and health, and sometimes even death. The Cost of Delay: State Dental Policies Fail One in Five Children, a report released this week by Pew Center on the States, highlights the efforts of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) and community partners to develop and implement programs and policies to increase oral health capacity and improve oral health care for low-income children in Rhode Island.

    The report focuses on five areas of success in Rhode Island:

    • The number of dental providers that provide services to children with Medicaid coverage increased from 27 to 269 since 2006.
    • More than half of the high-risk schools in the state have a school-based dental program that provides services such as dental exams, cleanings and sealants for children.
    • Nearly 85% of Rhode Islanders have drinking water with fluoride. Fluoride is a proven, cost-effective way to prevent cavities.
    • The Rhode Island Medicaid program pays providers for early, preventive dental health care. Through RIte Smiles, dental providers can be reimbursed forpreventive dental services for children by the time the first tooth comes in.
    • Rhode Island currently ranks sixth in the nation for the percentage of Rhode Island children younger than age 21 enrolled in the Medicaid program that receive dental care, with 46%, up from 38% in 2006.

    These results are a testament to the hard work of the RI Oral Health Commission, the staff, and our community partners to address critical oral health issues that affect children in our state, said Secretary of Health and Human Services Gary D. Alexander. Weve made excellent progress in increasing access to dental care for children on Medicaid and also by encouraging parents to bring their child to the dentist at an earlier age.

    Preventive oral health care is critical to good, lifelong general health, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD. MPH. With all of our community partners, we have made significant improvements that will benefit children enrolled in the states Medicaid program. However, our work is not done. We need to continue to recruit oral health providers and adopt new practice rules for hygienists in school sealant programs.

    Food Recall Confirms Source of Salmonella Was Not At Daniele

    02-25-2010

    Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that distributor Wholesome Spice has recalled all lots of 25-pound boxes of crushed red pepper sold from April 6, 2009 through January 20, 2010 due to possible Salmonella contamination. This product was distributed in the Northeast. It was not sold in retail outlets to consumers.

    Test results of Daniele employees and of the physical plant indicated that an outside source of Salmonella was likely, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This recall confirms that the source of the Salmonella was from outside of Danieles manufacturing plants. HEALTH will continue to work with CDC, FDA and USDA on this national outbreak investigation and recall.

    Department of Health Submits Regulations for Compassion Centers

    02-26-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today submitted revised Rules and Regulations Related to the Medical Marijuana Program to include provisions for compassion centers. The revised regulations will become effective on March 18, 2010. To view the new regulations, visit http://sos.ri.gov/documents/archives/regdocs/released/pdf/DOH/5923.pdf.

    HEALTH will begin accepting compassion center applications on March 18. The closing date for applications is May 17, 2010. HEALTH may approve up to three applications for a compassion center. All applications must meet minimum requirement before being considered for approval.

    Salmonella Recall at Ritaccos Market in Westerly, RI

    03-05-2010

    Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that Ritaccos Market, 84 Oak Street, Westerly, RI is voluntarily recalling all ready-to-eat dry cured sausage products manufactured at the facility because they may be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious, and sometimes fatal, infections in young children, elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. These products are being recalled out of an abundance of caution, and there are no known illnesses associated with these products at this time. Consumers may return these items to Ritaccos market for a refund.

    The recall was initiated after a soprosata (sopressata) sample collected by the Rhode Island Department of Health tested positive for Salmonella typhimurium. This sample was collected during an investigation into contamination of pepper with Salmonella. HEALTH has yet to determine the source of the soprosata contamination, and is working with the firm to implement systems to ensure that all products are safe.

    CDC Reports Mumps Outbreak in Northeast

    03-12-2010

    CDC, in collaboration with public health officials in numerous states in the Northeast, continues to investigate a multi-state mumps outbreak. Most of the current cases were among Hasidic (Jewish) populations in New York and New Jersey. (This outbreak is also occurring among members of the same population in Israel.) Rhode Island has not documented a case associated with this outbreak.

    The onset of Passover (March 30 April 5) means there is potential for travel across the country and internationally, thus increasing the risk of spreading mumps. All Rhode Islanders, both children and adults, should make sure they are up to date on their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination before traveling and/or gathering for the upcoming holiday.

    Mumps is a virus that initially can cause symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. These symptoms are usually followed by the painful swelling of the salivary glands under the ears or jaw on one side or both sides of the face. Anyone who has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

    Mumps is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The spread of mumps can be prevented by:

    • Washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
    • Not sharing eating utensils.
    • Cleaning surfaces that are touched frequently (doorknobs, railings, phones, keyboards).

    Department of Health Recommends Closing All Beaches

    03-30-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends the closure of all beaches in the state. High volumes of rain have caused many sewer systems to overflow into Narragansett Bay.

    Although beaches are not yet open for swimming, some Rhode Islanders surf at area beaches.

    Beaches will remain closed until further notice.

    Flood Safety Reminders

    03-31-2010

    Recent high volumes of rain are causing flooding and sewer system overflow in the state. Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders of precautions to take during floods:

    • Avoid contact with floodwater when possible. Floodwaters may contain raw sewage or other hazardous substances.
    • Avoid surfing or boating in floodwaters.
    • Do not allow children or pets to wade in or play in floodwater.
    • Do not expose open cuts or wounds to floodwaters. Floodwaters can cause an infection in an open wound.
    • Do not eat any food that has come in contact with floodwater.
    • Conserve water whenever possible to minimize sewage overflow. (Limit toilet flushing and avoid using dishwashers and washing machines.)
    • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or are standing in water.
    • Do not walk in moving water. Six inches of moving water can knock a person over.
    • Avoid driving through flooded areas.
    • Remove wet carpets, furniture or bedding as soon as possible.
    • To avoid mold growth, dry out any flooded areas within 48 hours.
    • Make sure any important medical documents are in waterproof containers.

    HEALTH Issues Safety Information for Private Well Owners Due to Flooding

    03-31-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) wants private well owners to be aware of safety concerns due to the continued flooding in the state. Private wells that have flooded (wells that have standing water around them) should be considered contaminated. People with flooded wells should take the following precautions:

    • boil water for one minute before drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.
    • get well water tested for coliform bacteria as soon as possible. As list of certified laboratories that provide testing can be found on HEALTH's website at: /labs/waterlabs.php Lab tests usually take about three days but it may take longer for you to get the results depending on which lab you use. Continue to boil water until you get your test results back and the water has been deemed safe for consumption.
    • once flood waters have receded, your well will need to be disinfected with chlorine and tested before you begin drinking it again.

    Currently, there are no Boil Water Advisories for public water systems related to the flooding.

    HEALTH Issues Safety Information for Cleaning Following Flooding

    03-31-2010

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing the following information about how to safely clean up your home if you have had flooding. You will need to clean and dry your house and everything in it. Cleaning properly will remove hazards from bacteria and viruses, and drying will prevent problems from mold. Follow the guidance below when cleaning out your basement or home:

    1. Flood water can contain sewage, so you will need to throw away anything that was wet with flood water and can't be cleaned.
      For insurance purposes, take photographs of all the damaged property that you must throw away.
    2. Clean safely.
      • In order to protect yourself from germs in the water, mold on surfaces and the chemicals in cleaning supplies, cover your body. Wear pants, long sleeves, boots, and rubber gloves.
      • Protect your eyes, nose and lungs.
      • Buy goggles and an N-95 respirator at the hardware store and use them when working in flooded areas or cleaning mold.
      • Use soap or cleaning products with a disinfectant for killing germs. Never mix bleach with other cleaning supplies in the same bucket.
      • Open windows and use fans to pull fumes from your work area.
      • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you are done cleaning.
    3. Dry flooded areas thoroughly. Areas that stay wet or damp for more than 48 hours can grow mold.
      • If carpets, clothing, paper, and other absorbent materials cannot be completely dried, it is best to throw them out.
      • Run bathroom and kitchen ventilators to keep the air moving in your home.
      • If there is no standing water and it is safe to use electric appliances, use fans to help dry damp areas. Fans mounted in windows and blowing out will not blow dust or mold spores about in living areas.
      • Do not pump water out into the sewer system as it will worsen problems we are already having throughout the state with sewage treatment. Water should be pumped out into your yard or into storm water drain pipes.
      • Once things are properly cleaned (disinfected) and dried they should be safe from bacteria and viruses.
    4. Get help.
      • If there is a large amount of mold or flood damage, you may want to hire a professional to help you clean up. Ask your homeowner insurance company for a recommendation.
      • People with asthma, allergies or other breathing problems may be more sensitive to mold. Talk to your medical provider if you aren't sure whether it is safe for you to clean up after a flood.
      • Get more information:
    5. Homeowners and tenants: www.health.ri.gov/brochures/SomeFactsAboutMold.pdf , www.epa.iaq/flood
    6. Employers and workers: www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib101003.html

    HEALTH Issues Safety Reminders for First Responders During Flood Response Activities

    03-31-2010

    The Rhode lsland Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds anyone participating in flood response activities to take precautions when working in floodwater. Floodwaters may contain raw sewage or other hazardous substances that can cause infections such as E. coli, Hepatitis A, or Tetanus.

    Seek first aid or medical treatment if you experience the following symptoms after working in a contaminated area: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle aches, fever, abdominal cramps, skin rashes, dizziness, or fatigue. If skin is broken and has come into contact with contaminated material and it has been five years since your last Tetanus shot, you should talk to your healthcare provider about receiving another Tetanus vaccination. Please note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend an updated Tetanus vaccination every 5 years for healthcare providers and every 10 years for the general public. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends a 5-year vaccination interval for first responders.

    First responders should take the following additional precautions during flood response activities: Hand Washing

    • To avoid exposure to waterborne illness, wash your hands with soap and clean, running water or use alcohol-based hand gels before work and meal breaks, at the end of work shifts, and after handling contaminated clothing or equipment.
    Protective Clothing
    • If you will be working in or near a flooded area, wear chemical-resistant outer clothing, boots, protective eye goggles, and plastic or rubber gloves. Protective clothing is especially necessary when working in flooded areas with known chemical storage or chemical release hazards.
    • If possible, layer latex disposable gloves over cut-resistant gloves. Avoid touching your face with contaminated gloves and properly discard or disinfect gloves after use.
    • Do not place equipment or clothing that has come into contact with contaminated floodwater in personal vehicles.
    • If possible, shower and launder contaminated clothing before returning home.
    • Other Hazards
      • If working in or around flooded homes or buildings, minimize exposure to mildew and mold by wearing N-95 masks, if available. If N-95 masks are not available, surgical masks can be worn. Wear gloves and eye protection as well.
      • Discard mold-damaged materials in plastic bags and clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water.
      • Be aware of exposure to potential chemical or electrical hazards when participating in flood response activities. If working with portable generators, keep them dry and follow instructions for proper handling and safety. Never use a generator indoors or in poorly ventilated areas, due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Place portable generators outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents.
      • If working near roads or highways, remain aware of work zones and traffic control plans and the locations of signs, cones, barrels, and barriers.
      • Ground may become saturated with water during heavy flooding, causing sinkholes and unstable terrain. Be aware of these hazards when working in water trenching operations or flooded areas.

      Rhode Island Tops the Nation for H1N1 Vaccine Coverage

      04-01-2010

      Results released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show, as a region, New Englands H1N1 vaccination coverage rates were consistently the highest in the nation. In fact, the New England regions vaccination rates were the highest in the country in six of seven target populations surveyed.

      Rhode Island led the nation in vaccination coverage rates for children ages six months through 17 years of age (84.7%) and adults age 25 to 64 with chronic health conditions (57.5%). Overall, Rhode Island is estimated to have the highest H1N1 vaccination coverage rate in the country for anyone age 6 months and older at 38.8% versus the national median of 23.9%.

      The most notable success is in the coverage rates of children ages six months through 17 years. New Englands coverage rate of 56.5% was the highest in the country with the median national H1N1 vaccination coverage rate of 36.8%. New England also reached significantly more individuals ages 25-64 who have health conditions who put them at higher risk for developing complications from H1N1 influenza 46.5% - versus the national median of 33.2%.

      These numbers show that we were reaching the people who most needed to be protected, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Since the beginning of the pandemic in April 2009, the New England Health Officers spoke on a regular basis to share information and to discuss policies and strategies. It was this continued collaboration that was key to a successful H1N1 response.

      We are very grateful for the thousands of Rhode Islanders who worked hard to make sure that as many people as possible were offered vaccine, said Gifford. Our successes in the H1N1 response serve as a best practice for the country.

      The data are from a national telephone survey conducted by CDC through the months of December, January, and February.

      While we seen very few cases of H1N1 in Rhode Island since the beginning of the year, H1N1 virus is still circulating in the country, especially in Southeastern United States. Anyone who has not been vaccinated, especially those likely to travel outside of the state, should contact their healthcare provider.

      Guidance for Food Establishments

      04-01-2010

      In response to flooding, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is ordering all food facilities that meet any of the following criteria be closed until approved for reopening by the HEALTH:

      • Drinking water well serving the food establishment was flooded
      • Any part of the food establishment was flooded
      • Sewage backed up into the facility
      • Sewage from the food facility is flooding into someones basement or in the vicinity of the food establishment
      • Customers or staff need to walk through sewage contaminated water to get into the facility
      • Plumbing does not drain and toilets are not usable by staff
      • There is no power

      Should any of these conditions exist, the food establishment must close and obtain permission from HEALTH prior to reopening.

      In addition to the above, there is high potential for illness due to Norovirus and other disease- causing organisms from exposure to contaminated flood waters. Individuals who are ill with vomiting or diarrhea should not work in food establishments, healthcare or child care for a minimum of 48 after symptoms stop.

      Any questions concerning these matters should be directed to the Office of Food Protection at 222-2749. Food establishment wells that were flooded should be reported to the Office of Drinking Water Quality at 222-6867. Guidelines for cleanup after flooding can be obtained on the HEALTH website.

      HEALTH Confirms the Safety of Public Drinking Water and Reminds Residents to Conserve Water in Areas Affected by Flooding and Sewer System Overflow

      04-01-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds Rhode Islanders that water from municipal public water systems is safe to drink. Rhode Island has separate systems for public drinking water and for sewer treatment. Flooding has had minimal effect on the public drinking water systems. If a Boil Water Advisory is enacted, this information will be posted to HEALTH’s website . There are currently precautionary Boil Water Advisories related to the flooding at four very small public water systems: Lindhbrook Water Company, Meadowlark, Inc., Ashaway Line and Twine, and Nuweetooun School at Tomaquag Museum. People who are supplied water from these water systems should boil their water for one minute before using it for drinking and cooking until the Boil Water Advisory has been lifted.

      Private wells that have been flooded (wells that have standing water around them) should be considered contaminated.

      Residents of areas where sewage treatment and pumping plants are not working properly due to flooding (Warwick and West Warwick) are reminded to conserve water whenever possible. Limit toilet flushing and showering, and avoid using dishwashers and washing machines. These appliances all drain water into the sewage treatment system. Continual use could cause sewage backup and overflow. Also, people should not drain sump pumps into toilets, tubs, or sinks. Drain them instead into your yard or storm water drains.

      HEALTH Reminds Anyone with Special Healthcare Needs to Enroll in Registry

      04-02-2010

      In light of recent emergency events, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) urges anyone with a disability, chronic condition, or special healthcare need to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry. The intent of the Special Needs Emergency Registry is to have a reliable system for the identification of Rhode Islanders who require special assistance during emergencies. The information provided will be shared with local and state emergency management and responders such as local town/city police or fire.

      Individuals have a choice of either registering online at www.health.ri.gov/emregistry or sending a completed Special Needs Emergency Registry Form (form is located on the HEALTH website www.health.ri.gov or by calling 401-946-9996 or RI Relay 711 TTY). If you do not register online, please mail the completed form to RIEMA, Database Manager, 645 New London Ave, Cranston, RI 02920.

      The Registry Form is available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hmong, Cambodian and Lao and in large print, CD-Rom, disc and via the HEALTH website. If you cannot fill out this form on your own, please have a family member or caregiver complete the form and submit on your behalf. Also, if more than one person from a household has a disability, chronic condition or special healthcare needs, each person should submit a separate Special Needs Emergency Registry Form.

      Once a Special Needs Emergency Registry Form is submitted, HEALTH will send a GO-KIT to your home to help you begin to prepare for an emergency.

      The Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry is a joint effort of HEALTH and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA).

      All Rhode Islanders in need of flood disaster assistance should register with FEMA at www.fema.gov or 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585).

      HEALTH Reissues Safety Reminders For First Responders To Prevent Illness

      04-02-2010

      On Wednesday the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) issued guidance for first responders participating in flood response activities to prevent illness. For this guidance, see http://www.ri.gov/press/view/11072.

      Many first responders have contacted HEALTH with specific questions about Hepatitis A. Floodwaters may contain raw sewage that can cause gastrointestinal infections such as norovirus or Hepatitis A, as well as other hazardous substances which can be harmful on contact or if inadvertently swallowed. However, Hepatitis A virus infections are not common in Rhode Island and the risk of spread through contaminated floodwaters is very low. A vaccine against Hepatitis A is available and is administered in two doses 6 months apart.

      Rhode Islanders should seek medical treatment if they experience the following symptoms after working in floodwaters: yellow skin, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or other symptoms of illness.

      HEALTH Urges Private Well Owners to Test Water After Floods

      04-07-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends that all private wells that have flooded (wells that have standing water around them) should be considered contaminated and the water should be tested.

      As soon as water has receded, the well water should be tested for coliform bacteria. If coliform bacteria are present, the well will need to be disinfected and re-tested before it can be used for drinking, cooking or brushing teeth. Until you receive test results showing there is no coliform bacteria in your well water, you should boil your water for one minute before using it for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth or bathing infants.

      Following are the labs that can test drinking water:

      • BAL, Cranston, 785-0241
      • BRC, Jamestown, 423-1825
      • ESS Laboratory, Cranston, 461-7181
      • New England Testing Lab Inc., North Providence, 353-3420
      • Northeast Environmental Testing Laboratory, Providence, 454-3400
      • Premier Laboratory, LLC; Dayville, CT; 860-774-6814
      • RI State Health Laboratories, Providence, 222-5600 (April 6 June 30)
      • RI Analytical Laboratories, Warwick, 737-8500

      All Rhode Islanders in need of flood disaster assistance should register with FEMA.

      Department of Health Issues Reminder About Beach Closings

      04-07-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders that all beaches remain closed for swimming while HEALTH does water testing. (Pet owners should not allow pets to swim at the beaches.) Recent high volumes of rain have caused many sewer systems to overflow into Narragansett Bay.

      Although beaches are not yet open for swimming, some Rhode Islanders surf at area beaches.

      Beaches will remain closed until further notice.

      Womens Cancer Screening Program to Resume Patient Services May 1

      04-08-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to announce that as a result of a $100,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor and a $10,000 donation from the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, the Womens Cancer Screening Program will be able to start offering screening and diagnostic services for breast and cervical cancer on May 1, 2010.

      We are grateful for the generosity that has been extended to HEALTH, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. In the past year, this program has seen an unprecedented increase in Rhode Island women who need these services. These donations will allow providers to resume screening and diagnostic services for women sooner than was planned.

      The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation is pleased to participate in assisting the RI Department of Health's efforts to resume breast cancer screening services to the women of Rhode Island, said Director of Development Gary Calvino, It is our belief that in these difficult financial times, federal, state, non-profit and corporate partnerships are essential. Because of our expanding efforts to educate financially challenged women about the importance of proper screenings, our Foundation understands the burden that will be added to the Women's Cancer Screening Program. In forging these partnerships, we increase the possibility of preventing this type of shortfall from happening again in 2011.

      The Womens Cancer Screening Program provides breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services for Rhode Island women ages 40 and older who are have no health insurance and whose income is less than 250% of the federal poverty level.

      Governor, Department of Health Celebrate Rhode Islands Top-Ranking H1N1 Vaccination Effort

      04-14-2010

      Today, the Office of the Governor of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recognized groups who contributed to the states top-ranked H1N1 vaccination effort. Rhode Island had the highest overall H1N1 vaccination rate, 38.8%, in the country. In addition, Rhode Island led the country in vaccinating children and high-risk individuals. Nearly 85% (84.7%) of children were vaccinated compared to the national average of 36.8%. Almost 58% (57.5%) of people in high-risk groups were vaccinated compared to the national average of 33.2%.

      These numbers show that we reached the people who most needed to be protected, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Not only did Rhode Island have high coverage rates, but our H1N1 vaccination coverage rates far exceeded national averages. The combined effort of so many people allowed us to offer vaccine to as many people as possible. HEALTH is grateful for all of the hard work and dedication that was a part of this response.

      Attendees to the recognition event included representatives from Rhode Islands colleges and universities, schools, hospitals, municipalities, state agencies, and community partners.

      Rhode Island is First New England State to Earn EPA Approval For Lead-Safe Program

      05-03-2010

      Beginning on May 1, there is one more way to keep Rhode Island children safe and healthy.

      Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is the first in New England that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authorized to manage the states Lead-Safe Remodeler/Renovator Program. This program requires that any renovation or remodeling done to homes built before 1978 be done by a licensed Lead Hazard Control Firm. This new law applies to any contractor, painter, electrician or other worker who may disturb six square feet or more of paint inside a home or 20 square feet or more of paint on the outside of a home. The new regulations also apply to all elementary schools and childcare buildings built before 1978.

      Most homes and structures built before 1978 contain lead paint. When lead paint is disturbed, the paint debris and dust can spread into the environment and could be ingested by children. Lead poisoning and elevated blood lead levels can impact the mental and physical development of children, especially those younger than six years of age. Licensed Lead Hazard Control Firms and their Lead-Safe Remodeler/Renovators are trained and certified to safely remove lead paint and other lead hazards.

      Rhode Island has had lead-safe regulations in place since 2001, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We now have the ability to ensure that only licensed Lead-Hazard Control Firms are doing work on homes built before 1978. Rates of childhood lead poisoning in Rhode Island have declined dramatically in the past 10 years; however, we need to continue to prevent this health hazard from having a negative impact on childrens learning and school performance. Of the 12,384 children who will enter kindergarten in 2011, 2.4% (302) have had an elevated blood lead level at one time.

      The recent changes to Rhode Island regulations are the result of a new EPA law that requires all states to adopt and enforce minimum national standards for renovating and remodeling pre-1978 homes or to permit the EPA to conduct enforcement. The Governor approved the delegation of authority to HEALTH, and the EPA formally delegated authority to HEALTH in late April.

      Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Dr. Joseph DiMase

      05-06-2010

      Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented gastroenterologist Dr. Joseph DiMase with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

      Dr. DiMase was concerned that there was a two-year wait for colon cancer screening exams in underserved communities. As a result, he created Screening Colonoscopies for Underserved Populations (SCUP). DiMase created a professional advisory board for SCUP, recruited physicians to volunteer their services, approached hospitals to offer time and space for procedures, and got donations of colon preparation products from the manufacturer. In addition, he works with the Rhode Island Health Center Association (RIHCA) to recruit and refer eligible patients.

      Since its inception, SCUP has provided more than 100 free procedures for uninsured, low-income adults. SCUPs goal for 2010 is to provide as many as 300 free procedures.

      Summit To Highlight the Latest Advances in Cancer Research

      05-27-2010

      Cancer is about more than just diagnosing or treating the disease. Every moment of every day, cancer research is happening all around useven here in Rhode Island. The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island invites providers, patients and survivors to attend the 2010 Rhode Island Cancer Summit on June 17, 7:30 a.m. 3:00 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.

      American Cancer Society Deputy National Vice President for Research Dr. Margaret Offermann will discuss the critical role that research plays in the fight against cancer and how personalized medicine is integrated into clinical trial research. In addition, she will explain how a clinical trial goes from concept to research to approval to implementation. Following her presentation, Dr. Offermann will moderate a panel discussion with Rhode Island cancer experts. Panelists will talk about their own research, the status of some clinical trials and about the intricacies of cancer research.

      The medical advances of tomorrow are because of the research being done today, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. While cancer prevention efforts like smoking cessation, good nutrition and increased physical activity are important, learning about current research is important too.

      Everyone has been touched by cancer, said Linda Dziobek, Chairperson of The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island. We have all experienced the effects that a cancer diagnosis has on family, friends and loved ones. The purpose of this summit is to educate everyone on the latest advances in cancer research, access to clinical trials, and how to navigate the system.

      The summit is intended for healthcare professionals, community members, cancer survivors and caregivers.

      Wolverine Joining Technologies Earns Workplace Safety Award

      06-21-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recognized Wolverine Joining Technologies in Warwick for meeting the requirements of the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). The SHARP award is presented to companies who demonstrate a history of lower average rates of workplace injury and illness than other companies in the nation. Wolverine Joining Technologies is one of only 12 companies in the state who currently hold this status.

      Wolverine Joining Technologies injury rate is 3.9 compared to the national average of 7.5. Their illness/restricted duty rate is 2.7 compared to the national average of 4.5.

      We congratulate everyone at Wolverine Joining Technologies for earning this award, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. For an employee health and safety program to be successful, there needs to be a commitment at every level of the organization. This commitment can help to prevent injuries, disabilities and even death.

      New Puerto Rico Birth Certificates Required after July 1, 2010

      06-22-2010

      As of July 1, Rhode Islands State Office of Vital Records and local clerk offices can no longer accept certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates issued before that date. The Puerto Rico government has passed a new law invalidating all birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010. After July 1, the Puerto Rico government will issue a new, more secure certificate to anyone who requests one. The law is intended to combat fraud and protect the identity and credit of all people born in Puerto Rico.

      People may need to present a certified copy of a birth certificate to apply for a marriage license or to request legal changes to birth, death, or marriage records filed in Rhode Island. Therefore, starting July 1, any Puerto Rican-born person who needs to provide their birth certificate to the State Office of Vital Records or to a local clerk office for these purposes must apply for a new certified copy from the Puerto Rico Health Department. If the certificate correction was in progress prior to July 1, 2010, then the certificate accepted at the time of the request will be considered valid for its intended purpose.

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends that anyone who needs to get a new birth certificate from Puerto Rico should plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get the new birth certificate. At this time, the Puerto Rico Health Department does not know how long it will take to process a request for a new birth certificate. According to the Puerto Rico government, if you are age 18 or older and were born in Puerto Rico, you may apply for a new copy of your birth certificate online at www.pr.gov.

      HEALTH Issues Compliance Order to OB-GYN Associates, Inc. for Use of Non-FDA-Approved Intrauterine Device (IUD)

      06-23-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline has discovered that the Rhode Island offices of OB-GYN Associates, Inc. have been purchasing non-US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved versions of the Mirena and ParaGard intrauterine devices (IUDs) from a source also not approved by FDA. (An IUD is a small, "T-shaped" device often made of flexible plastic that is inserted into a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy. The Mirena device also delivers small amounts of hormone to further help prevent pregnancy.) HEALTH estimates 400-500 women may have had this device implanted since January 2009 by OB-GYN Associates. Not all the IUDs implanted during this time period were non-FDA-approved Mirena or ParaGard IUDs.

      The use of non-FDA-approved drugs and devices is prohibited by law, except in rare circumstances (e.g. pre-approved product testing). Therefore, today, HEALTH issued a Compliance Order prohibiting OB-GYN Associates, Inc. from implanting any IUDs in patients. All physicians, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurses from the practice have been referred to their respective boards of licensure to determine their level of involvement in the use of non-FDA-approved medical devices. This morning, HEALTH confiscated all IUDs the practice had in stock at Rhode Island offices. HEALTH also is requiring the practice to notify, within 10 days, all patients who have had any non-FDA-approved IUDs implanted since January 1, 2009 and provide copies of their medical records to HEALTH. The compliance order only applies to the implantation of IUDs. The practice remains open and can continue to provide all other OB/GYN services and care.

      Our main concern is the effectiveness of these IUDs in preventing pregnancy. Because the effectiveness of non-FDA-approved devices cannot be verified, HEALTH recommends that women who may have these IUDs use another form of birth control such as condoms or abstinence, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We anticipate that many women will want to talk to their doctor about next steps, including whether the IUD should be removed. There is no immediate need for women to have them removed as the main concern is lack of effectiveness. It is especially important that women do not try to remove IUDs themselves. IUDs should only be removed by a healthcare professional. This investigation is a reminder to all healthcare providers that federal and state laws require that all drugs and devices be FDA-approved and purchased through FDA-approved sources.

      Women who had a Mirena or ParaGard IUD implanted by OB-GYN Associates after January 1, 2009, and want to receive future updates about this investigation or want to file a complaint, should call the Department of Health at 222-8022. Reproductive health specialists from Women & Infants Hospital will also be available to answer questions. The line will be staffed until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 23 and thereafter, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m. Staff speak English and Spanish. This is an ongoing investigation and HEALTH will provide regular updates to providers and patients as more information is available.

      Department of Health Issues Heat Advisory

      06-28-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a heat advisory to remind people of precautions to take in extreme heat. High temperatures and humidity are predicted into Tuesday, so it is especially important that all Rhode Islanders take the following precautions:

      • Stay out of the direct sun. Seek shaded or air conditioned areas such as libraries or malls.
      • Whenever possible, schedule outdoor events (public gatherings, sporting events) early in the morning when its cooler and the air quality is better.
      • Drink plenty of fluids. (Avoid alcohol and caffeine.)
      • Wear light-colored, light-weight clothing. Use hats with brims and sunscreen for more protection.
      • Elderly, small children and people with chronic health conditions are more vulnerable to the heat. Call and check on friends, family and neighbors.
      • Anyone showing signs of heat stroke (altered mental state, not sweating, nausea) should seek medical attention immediately.

      HEALTH Issues Compliance Orders to Two Additional OB/GYN Practices for Use of Non-FDA-Approved IUDs

      06-29-2010

      Following the Compliance Order issued to OB-GYN Associates on June 23, two other OB/GYN practices, notified the Department of Health (HEALTH) that they also have been purchasing and utilizing non-FDA-approved IUDs from international sources. After confirming each of the reports, HEALTH has issued Compliance Orders to the following practices: Bayside OB-GYN, Inc. and Center for Obstetrics & Gynecology, Inc.

      The Compliance Orders require each of the practices to stop using non-FDA-approved IUDs, notify all patients, within 10 days, who received a non-FDA-approved IUD and provide that patient list to HEALTH.

      HEALTH issued an advisory to all licensed OB/GYNs today urging any practice or healthcare professional who purchased or inserted a non-FDA-approved IUD to notify HEALTH by noon on July 2, 2010. HEALTH will confirm any additional reports received.

      Use of non-FDA-approved IUDs is illegal, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Our primary concern right now is lack of effectiveness as a form of birth control. Any patient who received a non-FDA-approved IUD needs to be informed so that she can use an alternate form of birth control such as condoms or abstinence.

      Puerto Rico Extends Validity of Birth Certificates through September 30, 2010

      07-01-2010

      Rhode Islands State Office of Vital Records and local clerk offices can now accept certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 through the end of September. The Puerto Rico government previously passed a law invalidating all birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 on that date. The government has now extended the validity of current Puerto Rico birth certificates until September 30, 2010. The purpose of the extension is to provide people born in Puerto Rico who may need a birth certificate for an upcoming transaction with a three-month window to apply for and receive a new document. The Puerto Rico government will still begin issuing new, more secure certificates to anyone who requests one starting July 1.

      People may need to present a certified copy of a birth certificate to apply for a marriage license or to request legal changes to birth, death, or marriage records filed in Rhode Island. Any Puerto Rican-born person who may need to provide their birth certificate to the State Office of Vital Records or to a local clerk office for these purposes after September 30 should apply for a new certified copy from the Puerto Rico Health Department.

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends that anyone who needs to get a new birth certificate from Puerto Rico should still plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get the new birth certificate. At this time, the Puerto Rico Health Department does not know how long it will take to process a request for a new birth certificate. According to the Puerto Rico government, if you are age 18 or older and were born in Puerto Rico, you may apply for a new copy of your birth certificate online at www.pr.gov.

      Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Issued for United Water, Narragansett Pt. Judith, Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, South Kingstown Middlebridge Water Systems

      07-06-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a precautionary boil water advisory for customers of the United Water, Narragansett Pt. Judith, Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, and South Kingstown Middlebridge water systems. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

      Water pressure in these communities dropped below acceptable limits and therefore, the likelihood for bacteria contamination increases. The water systems are working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

      All water system customers are urged to limit water usage to allow the system to restore normal water pressure. United Water and the towns of Narragansett and South Kingstown have banned all outdoor water use until further notice. In addition, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has agreed to close cold-water showers at state beaches.

      This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Customers of United Water, Narragansett Pt. Judith, and Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, and South Kingstown Middlebridge water systems are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

      Health Department Lifts Precautionary Boil Advisory for United, Narragansett Point Judith, Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, South Kingstown Middlebridge Customers

      07-08-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is notifying customers of the United, Narragansett Point Judith, Narragansett North End, South Kingstown South Shore, South Kingstown Middlebridge that the precautionary boil water advisory put in place earlier this week has been lifted. The water is safe to use for drinking, cooking and bathing infants and no longer needs to be boiled before use.

      Water testing from multiple points in the distribution system confirms that the water system does not contain bacteria. All of the water systems will resume routine testing of the water quality and will continue to report results to HEALTH.

      Customers and businesses are advised to:

      • Flush faucets that have not been used since Tuesday, July 6.
      • Replace water treatment filter cartridges.
      • Sanitize refrigerator water and ice makers.

      Enrollment Opens For Immunize For Life Vaccine Program

      07-14-2010

      The Rhode Island Department Health (HEALTH) opened enrollment today for Immunize For Life, a new, consolidated state-supplied vaccine program. This program allows healthcare providers to enroll once to order vaccine for both pediatric and adult patients.

      Pediatric healthcare providers can order all recommended vaccines for patients younger than 19 years of age. For a complete list of recommended childhood vaccines, visit:

      /programs/immunization/childhood/2010RecommendedChildhoodImmunizationSchedule.pdf. Adult healthcare providers can order influenza, pneumococcal (Pneumovax), and tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccines this year. For recommended adult immunizations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/adult-schedule.htm

      Vaccination is one of the safest and most effective ways to prevent disease among all Rhode Islanders, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. HEALTH provides these vaccines to all enrolled providers at no cost to the provider or the patient. We urge all providers to participate in this important program.

      The enrollment process must be completed online. To enroll, healthcare providers should visit https://kidsnet.health.ri.gov/vaccine. HEALTH has prepared written guidance for healthcare providers interested in enrolling for Immunize for Life. Additionally, HEALTHs Immunization Program will offer conference call training sessions to assist healthcare providers in the enrollment process.

      Phone Scam Alert: Caller Claims to be from Health Department, Tries to Extort Money from Food Establishments

      07-15-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health has received reports that several restaurants throughout the state have received telephone calls from an individual representing the State Board of Health. The caller had requested payment for a state mandated identification card. The telephone calls are a scam.

      The Department of Health does not issue or require payments for identification cards to food establishments. The Departments Food Protection Unit sends renewal notices for food establishment licenses through the U.S. Postal Service and does not call establishments for renewals.

      The Department of Health asks that those that have received similar calls to attempt to get any information possible from the caller (i.e. name, address, phone number) and to contact their local police department.

      Great Value Recalls Chicken Nuggets Sold in Coventry, RI Walmart

      07-20-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that Perdue Farms, Inc., a Perry, Georgia establishment, has recalled frozen chicken nugget products that may contain foreign materials. The product was sold at Walmart in Coventry, RI. Since July 14, 2010, approximately 400 packages of the Great Value Chicken Nuggets have been sold in Rhode Island. HEALTH recommends that the public discard the product.

      The U.S. Department of Agricultures Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) made the recall announcement today (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Recall_046_2010_Release/index.asp?s_cid=w_c_sms_cont_001).

      The products subject to recall include:

      1-POUND, 13-OUNCE BAG OF Great Value Fully Cooked Chicken Nuggets." Each bag bears the establishment number P-33944 as well as a case code of 89008 A0160 on the backside of the packaging. There is also a BEST IF USED BY date of June 9, 2011.

      The Walmart in Coventry has pulled the product from the shelf. The frozen chicken nugget products were produced on June 9, 2010.

      The Georgia company discovered small pieces of blue plastic after receiving consumer complaints. FSIS has not received any reports of injury at this time. The health risks are low. Anyone concerned about an injury from consumption of this product should contact a physician.

      Time for Decision on Compassion Center Licenses Extended

      07-27-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) needs additional time to reach a final decision on licenses for up to three compassion centers. At last months public hearing on the applicants, HEALTH anticipated that the review and evaluation would be complete by July 30.

      We want to assure that all information included in each of the 15 applications for a compassion center license is reviewed carefully and thoroughly, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Due to the larger than anticipated number of applicants and the volume of material submitted, HEALTH needs more time to complete this process. The latest we would have a final decision is early September.

      Sprouts Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

      07-30-2010

      The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers of sprout products from Specialty Farms and Natures Promise brands may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. These sprouts were sold at Stop & Shop stores in Rhode Island.

      All items being recalled have a sell-by date of 08/03/2010 or 08/01/2010. The following items have been recalled:

      Item UPC Code

      • Specialty Farms Organic Alfalfa Sprouts Blend (sell by 08/03/2010) 509800108
      • Specialty Farms Organic Sprout Salad (sell by 08/03/2010) 8192400024
      • Natures Promise 4-ounce Organic Alfalfa Sprouts (sell by 08/01/2010) 8826704741
      • Natures Promise 8-ounce Organic Alfalfa Sprouts (sell by 08/01/2010) 8826704102
      • Natures Promise 4-ounce Organic Zesty Sprouts (sell by 08/01/2010) 8826703903

      In Rhode Island, there have been no reported cases of listeria associated with this recall. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

      Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

      Iams, Eukanuba Dry Pet Food Recalled Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

      08-05-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Iams and Eukanuba brand dry pet food may be contaminated with Salmonella. These dry pet foods can be sold at veterinary clinics or pet supply retailers in Rhode Island. No canned food, biscuits/treats or supplements are included in this recall.

      Anyone who has purchased the following recalled items should throw them away immediately:

      Product Name Version "Best-By" Dates UPC Code

      • Iams Veterinary Dry Formulas All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 - 01Dec11 All UPC Codes
      • Eukanuba Naturally Wild All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 - 01Dec11 All UPC Codes
      • Eukanuba Pure All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 - 01Dec11 All UPC Codes
      • Eukanuba Custom Care Sensitive Skin All dry sizes 01Jul10 - 01Dec11 All UPC Codes

      There have been no human illnesses reported that are associated with this recall; however, people handling dry pet food can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they do not properly wash their hands after handling the pet food.

      Symptoms of salmonellosis in humans include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment. Symptoms of salmonellosis in animals include decreased appetite, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting. If your pet consumed any of the recalled food products and has these symptoms, contact your veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.

      Salad Mix Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

      08-11-2010

      The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers that some 2,825 cases of Veggie Lovers Salad from Fresh Express may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. This product was distributed in Massachusetts and most likely in Rhode Island too.

      The item being recalled has a product code of I208 and a use-by date of August 10, 2010.

      No other Fresh Express salads are included in the recall, and no illnesses have been reported in association with this recall. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

      Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

      State Health Officials in Massachusetts, Rhode Island Announce First Human Case of EEE in 2010

      08-16-2010

      The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced the first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in a person. The patient, a male in his 20's from Newport County in Rhode Island, is in critical condition at a hospital in Rhode Island. His exposure to a mosquito carrying the EEE virus likely occurred in the southeastern section of Massachusetts that has been identified as an area of elevated risk.

      The onset of his symptoms occurred on August 5, prior to that evenings start of aerial spraying in southeastern Massachusetts. Symptoms usually present themselves within two to 10 days of exposure.

      Our thoughts continue to be with this patient and his family, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. While we have not had any mosquitoes test positive for EEE in Rhode Island; this case is a reminder that everyone should continue to take steps to prevent mosquito bites and get rid of standing water on their property.

      Aerial spraying in southeastern Massachusetts conducted from August 5 August 7 has reduced the overall mosquito populations in southeastern Massachusetts (including the likely location of exposure in this case) by 80 percent and the number of mammal-biting mosquitoes by 90 percent. Mammal-biting mosquitoes pose the greatest risk to humans.

      This is a tragic reminder of the very real threat of EEE that were facing in Massachusetts, said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach, Now more than ever, its important that each of us take the simple, very effective steps to protect ourselves from getting bitten by mosquitoes.

      The last human case in Massachusetts was in 2008 and Rhode Island was in 1998. Massachusetts has confirmed 47 positive EEE pools in 2010. Rhode Island has not identified any positive EEE mosquito pools. EEE is usually spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. It is a serious disease in all ages and can even cause death in some cases.

      People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes.

      Protect yourself:

      • Use bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
      • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.
      • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
      • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.
      • Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:
      • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
      • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.
      • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
      • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.

      Help your neighbors, friends and family do the same things.

      Department of Health Confirms Listeria Contamination in Queso Fresco, Warns Public Not to Consume Queso Fresco Made by Azteca Linda Corp.

      08-23-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers not to eat queso fresco manufactured by Azteca Linda Corp. that has an expiration date of September 11, 2010. HEALTHs Laboratory confirmed that this product tested positive for the bacteria that causes listeria. HEALTH expects this product to be recalled.

      Symptoms of listeria can include fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain or diarrhea. Listeria infection can also cause miscarriages or still births among pregnant women. Young children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems can be at increased risk for more serious symptoms. Anyone who experiences these symptoms and has eaten this product should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

      DEM, HEALTH Issue Advisory for Ten Mile River, Central Pond, Turner Reservoir, Omega Pond

      08-24-2010

      The Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health (HEALTH) advise people that a recent algae bloom in the Ten Mile River, Central Pond, Turner Reservoir, and Omega Pond may form a naturally occurring algal toxin. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in these areas until further notice. In addition, people should not drink water or eat fish from any of these areas.

      During a recent sampling event, DEM observed a dense algae bloom turning the waters of Turner Reservoir a bright green color. DEM has confirmed the presence and predominance of the blue-green algae, Microcystis. These algae also referred to as cyanobacteria have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxin, Microcystin.

      Symptoms of exposure to Microcystin in humans include stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, muscle and joint pain, and irritation of the skin, eyes and throat. People who have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. People are advised to avoid contact with water if they see similar conditions (dense algae blooms, bright green colored waters) in other lakes and ponds.

      According to Rhode Island State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM, pets can also be affected by exposure to Microcystin. Pet owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. Symptoms of exposure to Microcystin in dogs can include rapid onset of lethargy, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle rigidity or convulsions.

      DEM advises that the algae bloom and the natural production of the toxin will likely resolve itself. This weeks rainfall reduced some of the toxin-producing algae. DEM will re-sample the waters and will inform the public when algae levels are low. At that time, it will be safe to resume recreational activities in these areas.

      Microcystis is a type of blue algae that grows naturally in many water bodies. Under certain conditions, such as warm weather and an abundance of nutrients in the water, the algae may undergo an explosive type of growth that is commonly referred to as an algae bloom. Within a few days, a bloom can cause clear water to become cloudy, often forming floating dense mats of algae along the shoreline. As the days get shorter and cooler, the algae are likely to dissipate. Any toxins that are in the water will decline as the algae die off.

      Azteca Linda Corp. Recalls Queso Fresco Due to Confirmed Listeria Contamination; Queso Hebra Added to Recall List Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

      08-24-2010

      Azteca Linda Corp. is recalling Queso Fresco (fresh white cheese) and Queso Hebra (fresh white string cheese) with an expiration date of September 11, 2010. The Rhode Island Department of Health Laboratory confirmed earlier this week that the Queso Fresco is contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Because the Queso Hebra was made on the same food processing equipment, it is possible that it is contaminated with listeria as well. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system.

      The products included in this recall include:

      • Queso Fresco; hard plastic, clam-shell shaped container; UPC 0 23986 92692 8, expiration date of September 11, 2010
      • Queso Hebra; net weight 14 ounces and net weight 5 pounds; labeled with the brand name Queso El Azteca, no UPC codes; expiration date of September 11, 2010

      At this time, no other Azteca Linda Corp. products are included in the recall, and no confirmed cases of listeria have been reported in association with this recall. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

      Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

      Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Poster Contest Winners, Beacon Charter School, East Bay Met School

      08-26-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented two high school student artists and their schools with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

      HEALTHs Immunization Program sponsored its first National Immunization Week poster art contest earlier this year. Students were asked to submit artwork depicting the importance of children or young adults getting vaccinated. The winning artwork was printed on posters and brochures that are being distributed to health centers, pediatricians, and family practitioners.

      Corinne Clapper is a sophomore at the East Bay Met School in Newport and Jade Shriver is a sophomore at Beacon Charter High School in Woonsocket. School Nurse Teacher Lisa Shwartz is accepting the award for East Bay Met School. Principal Dr. Robert Pilkington and Artistic Director Patricia Hawkridge are accepting the award for Beacon Charter School.

      DEM, HEALTH Issue Advisory for Melville Pond

      08-27-2010

      For the second time this week, the Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in waters affected by blue-green algae blooms. Melville Pond in Portsmouth is added to the list of waters including the Ten Mile River, Central Pond, Turner Reservoir, and Omega Pond in East Providence that are experiencing the algal blooms which may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in these areas until further notice. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. In addition, people should not drink water or eat fish from any of these areas.

      DEM has confirmed the presence and predominance of blue-green algae species in Melville Pond. These algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins, Microcystin and Anatoxin.

      The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been drinking from, swimming, or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

      If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

      With the weekend forecast of warmer temperatures and sunshine conditions favorable to algae growth DEM warns that blue-green algae blooms may be evident in other freshwater lakes and ponds in the state. People are advised to avoid contact with waters which exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the waters surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese.

      DEM advises that the algae bloom and the natural production of the toxin will likely resolve itself in a few weeks. DEM will re-sample the waters and inform the public when algae levels are low. At that time, it will be safe to resume recreational activities in these areas.

      Queseria Chipilo Recalls Cheese Products Because of Possible Health Risk

      08-28-2010

      Queseria Chipilo Recalls Cheese Products Because of Possible Health Risk

      Queseria Chipilo , Passaic, NJ has announced a recall of Oaxaca String Cheese, Queso Fresco, and Queso Fresco Hoja De Pltano. The FDA press release contains a full listing of date codes and packaging information: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm224300.htm

      The recalled cheese products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. This is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, infection can cause miscarriages and still births among pregnant women. This is a reminder that pregnant women and other people with weakened immune systems should not eat soft cheeses.

      While no illnesses have been confirmed in connection with this recall, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is investigating several illnesses. In addition, HEALTH's Office of Food Protection has sent inspectors into the community to get the recall information to Spanish markets across the state. Consumers who have purchased these products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Ground Beef Recalled Due to Possible E coli. Contamination

      08-30-2010

      The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises consumers that some 8,500 pounds of ground beef from Pennsylvania-based Cargill Meat Solutions may be contaminated with E coli. E coli is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. This product was not distributed in Rhode Island; however, it was distributed to BJs Wholesale Clubs in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

      The ground beef being recalled has a use by/freeze by date of 07/01/2010, a product code of W69032, and has the establishment number 9400 on it.

      At this time, no illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island in association with this recall. Anyone who bought this ground beef should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund. This is also a reminder that ground beef should be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

      Symptoms of E coli include diarrhea and dehydration.

      Department of Health Confirms Listeria Contamination in Queso Fresco and Ricotta Cheese

      08-30-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of additional products manufactured by Azteca Linda Corp. that should not be consumed. HEALTHs Laboratory confirmed that these two products tested positive for the bacteria that causes listeria. HEALTH expects these products to be recalled. The two products that tested positive for the bacteria that cause listeria are:

      Queso Fresco, brand name Queso El Azteca, expiration date of 09/12/2010

      Ricotta Cheese (Requeson), brand name Queso El Azteca, expiration date of 09/19/2010

      Symptoms of listeria can include fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain or diarrhea. Listeria infection can also cause miscarriages or still births among pregnant women. Young children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems can be at increased risk for more serious symptoms. Anyone who experiences these symptoms and has eaten this product should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

      Mosquito Pool in Rhode Island Tests Positive For EEE; HEALTH Recommends Smart Scheduling in Town of Westerly

      08-31-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise all Rhode Islanders that a pool of mosquitoes from a mosquito-trapping site in Westerly has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). This is the first mosquito pool this summer to test positive for EEE. To date there have been no mosquito pools in Rhode Island that have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). In Massachusetts, there has been one reported human case of EEE and one reported case of WNV after multiple mosquito pools tested positive for EEE. In eastern Connecticut, there were also mosquito pools that tested positive for EEE.

      Both of our neighboring states have mosquito pools that tested positive for EEE, so we anticipated we would see a positive mosquito pool in Rhode Island as well, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This is a reminder to all Rhode Islanders about the proper precautions to avoid mosquito bitesuse bug spray with DEET and minimize outside activities at dawn and dusk.

      The EEE-positive pool was collected from one of three traps set in Chapman Swamp in Westerly. It is not surprising to find EEE in mosquitoes in Chapman Swamp at this time of year, said DEM Mosquito Abatement Coordinator Dr. Alan Gettman. It is noteworthy that traps set in eastern Connecticut have also had mosquito pools test positive for EEE. All other mosquito traps in Rhode Island remain negative for EEE this year. DEM will set extra traps in the Westerly area to continue to monitor the mosquito population.

      Protect yourself:

      • Use bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
      • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you are outside, HEALTH strongly recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using bug spray.
      • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
      • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.

      Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:

      • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
      • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.
      • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
      • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.
      • Help your neighbors, friends, and family do the same things.

      Community Recommendations

      • Municipal and school officials in the town of Westerly should institute smart scheduling and should reschedule or relocate any outdoor activity originally planned for dawn, dusk, or evening.

      Most people who are infected with WNV or EEE will not have any type of illness. People who do develop symptoms may have fever, headache and body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, or paralysis. The elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness with WNV and EEE.

      Boil Water Advisory Issued for Prudence Island Water District

      09-03-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has issued a boil water advisory for customers of the Prudence Island Water District (PIWD). HEALTH recommends that water used for bathing of infants, drinking, making ice, brushing teeth or cooking be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water may also be used.

      Water system tests confirmed the presence of E. Coli in the public water supply. PIWD is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

      The presence of E. Coli bacteria indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. These bacteria can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or headaches. Infants, young children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system are at an increased risk for developing more severe symptoms. Consumers who experience any of these symptoms, even if tap water has been avoided, should call their healthcare provider.

      This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Customers of the Prudence Island Water District are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

      Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Issued for Middletown Water Customers

      09-04-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a precautionary boil water advisory for Middletown water customers. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking, or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

      Due to a water main break, the water pressure dropped below acceptable limits and therefore, the likelihood for bacterial contamination increases. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

      All water customers in Newport and Middletown are urged to limit water usage to allow the system to restore normal water pressure.

      This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Middletown water customers are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

      Update on Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Issued for Middletown Water Customers

      09-05-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has lifted the precautionary boil water advisory (issued on September 4) for Middletown water customers. Portsmouth customers along West Main Road who are supplied by the Newport Water System remain on a precautionary boil water advisory. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking, or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

      Due to a water main break, the water pressure dropped below acceptable limits and therefore, the likelihood for bacterial contamination increases. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

      This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Portsmouth water customers are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

      Precautionary Boil Water Advisory is Lifted for All Customers of Newport Water System

      09-05-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is notifying customers of Newport Water System that the precautionary boil water advisory put in place on September 4 has been lifted. The water is safe to use for drinking, cooking and bathing infants and no longer needs to be boiled before use.

      Water testing from multiple points in the distribution system confirms that the water system does not contain bacteria. All of the water systems will resume routine testing of the water quality and will continue to report results to HEALTH.

      Customers and businesses are advised to:

      --Flush faucets that have not been used since Saturday, September 4.

      --Replace water treatment filter cartridges.

      --Sanitize refrigerator water and ice makers.

      Mosquito Pools Test Positive for EEE and West Nile Virus

      09-08-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise all Rhode Islanders that a pool of mosquitoes from a mosquito-trapping site in Westerly has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). In addition, a mosquito pool in South Kingstown and a mosquito pool in Pawtucket each tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). This is the second mosquito pool this summer to test positive for EEE, and the first mosquito pools this summer to test positive for WNV.

      At this time of the year, we expect to see both EEE and WNV in mosquitoes, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Until the first heavy frost in the fall, all Rhode Islanders should be taking the proper precautions to avoid mosquito bites and should be removing standing water from their yards. It is likely that we will see more communities test positive as mosquitoes spread across the state.

      It is not surprising to isolate EEE from mosquitoes for the second week in Chapman Swamp, said DEM mosquito abatement coordinator Al Gettman, PhD. In addition, the West Nile virus findings are in keeping with our neighboring states surveillance information.

      Recommendations for Communities with EEE

      • Due to the findings of EEE, municipal and school officials in the town of Westerly should continue to utilize smart scheduling and should reschedule or relocate any outdoor activity originally planned for dawn, dusk, or evening.

      Recommendations for Communities with WNV

      • Municipal and school officials in the Town of South Kingstown and the City of Pawtucket should continue to encourage personal protection measures (use bug spray, wear long pants and long sleeves) and should eliminate any standing water from municipal or school property.
      • Protect yourself:
      • Use bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
      • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you are outside, HEALTH strongly recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using bug spray.
      • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
      • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.
      • Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:
      • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
      • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.
      • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
      • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.
      • Help your neighbors, friends, and family do the same things.
      • The Newport-County man who has been hospitalized with EEE since August 10 is improving and is in stable condition.

      Symptoms of EEE or WNV may include fever, headache and body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, or paralysis.

      Everyone is at high risk for serious illness from EEE, and the case fatality rate for EEE is 33%. For WNV, 80% of people who are infected do not have any symptoms; however, the elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness from WNV.

      Return of School-Based Flu Vaccination Clinics Key to Keeping Rhode Islanders Healthy

      09-09-2010

      Rhode Island is aiming to keep our school-aged children healthy this winter by offering the seasonal influenza vaccine in schools. Last year, this process helped us get the most kids vaccinated and had the unintended consequence of helping to prevent the spread of the flu to parents and grandparents. This year, HEALTH will continue the annual tradition of school-based flu vaccination clinics.

      School-based flu vaccination clinics will be offered at public, private, and parochial schools beginning in early October and running through December.

      This year, one flu shot will protect people against both seasonal and H1N1 flu, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Vaccination is still the best protection against the flu. We encourage all parents to have their child vaccinated. Vaccinating children gives us the double benefit of keeping the children protected and preventing the children from spreading flu to adults.

      In the next week, schools will be sending home detailed information about the 2010/2011 flu vaccination campaign with all students. Students must be vaccinated at the clinic offered by the school he or she attends. (Check clinic schedule for location of your schools clinic.) Parents can also bring their children to their healthcare provider to be vaccinated.

      Receiving flu vaccine at school-based clinics is voluntary and there is no out-of-pocket cost to the student or their families. In general, clinics for high school students will run during school hours and clinics for younger students will run during the evening. School administrators will contact parents and guardians with the specific information about their flu vaccination clinics.

      Students who have allergies not related to vaccine will be able to get vaccinated in the school-based clinic. Students who have severe allergies to eggs, have had a serious reaction to a previous vaccination, or have had Guillan-Barre Syndrome will need to be vaccinated by their doctor.

      None of 15 Applications Deemed Qualified to Apply for Registration

      09-10-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that after a thorough review of the 15 applications it received to be considered for compassion center registration, none of the 15 applications were deemed qualified to apply for registration as a Compassion Center.

      The applicants either failed to meet the minimum scoring requirements or they were disqualified from review for failing to comply with the application requirements. Of the 15 applications received by HEALTH, nine did not meet the minimum scoring requirements of the review process. In addition, during the review process, HEALTH received eight formal letters of concern alleging that some applications were not consistent with the requirements set forth either in the applications instructions or in the regulations. Several complaints questioned why certain applications exceeded the allowable page limit. Other complaints raised issues about zoning requirements, site control, financing issues, and residency requirements. Upon a second review of the applications, HEALTH found that some of these complaints had merit and after final review, disqualified all 15 applicants. With no qualified applicant to move forward in the process, HEALTH will reissue the Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

      In addition, while reviewing applications HEALTH found inconsistencies in the interpretations of the application requirements and parts of the application that were not in line with the enabling statute. This is the first time the Department has undergone such a process, said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We are disappointed that we could not select at least one applicant but are optimistic that by clarifying the application process we will have a clearer process going forward that will yield at least one successful application.

      HEALTH will solicit new applications with the reposting of an RFP in early October. The Department will refund the $250 application fee to each of the current applicants. Each of the applicants is eligible to apply when the RFP is reissued. The new application will not include page limits and will clearly require applicants to document their not-for-profit status. A more detailed summary of the changes to the application and process will be available once HEALTH has completed its revisions. The criteria used to review the applications are not expected to change, and the timeline will be similar. HEALTH has been working with other states with marijuana compassion centers, in particular Maine, regarding how to ensure the application and process yield safe and effective compassion centers.

      Department of Health Lauds FDAs Action Against Electronic Cigarette Vendors; Local Company Falsely Markets Product as Safe Alternative to Smoking

      09-15-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) applauds the recent enforcement action taken by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against distributors of electronic cigarettes. Last week, the FDA issued warning letters to five leading distributors for violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, including unsubstantiated health claims, deceptive marketing tactics and poor manufacturing practices. FDA also announced its intention to regulate electronic cigarettes and related products. Electronic cigarettes are sold locally by Providence-based Cigotine LLC.

      There is no reliable science to support the claims that local electronic cigarette vendors are making, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Recent research suggests that electronic cigarettes contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. In February 2009, Rhode Island and many other states asked FDA to review this product and require premarket approval of it. We are pleased that the FDA has taken these steps to combat a public health threat.

      FDA asserts that electronic cigarettes should be subject to FDA regulation as drugs because they deliver potentially harmful doses of nicotine to users a drug found to cause addiction as powerful and self-enforcing as addiction to cocaine or heroin. For a drug to gain FDA approval and make statements about its ability to prevent or treat illness or disease, it must meet strict safety, efficacy, and manufacturing standards. Because electronic cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, companies are not required to report a list of ingredients, the quantity of each ingredient or the potency of each ingredient.

      HEALTH recommends tobacco users consult with a healthcare provider or a pharmacist to identify an approved cessation therapy or contact the Rhode Island Tobacco Control Quitline at 1-800-Try-to-Stop (1-800-879-8678). Quitline services are offered at no-cost to Rhode Islanders.

      Rhode Island Adolescent Vaccination Coverage is Second Highest in Nation

      09-22-2010

      Vaccination is not just for infants and toddlers. Adolescents need vaccinations, too, for protection from serious diseases like tetanus, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV). In the recent National Immunization Survey (NIS) Teen, Rhode Island ranked second in the nation for the three vaccines routinely recommended for teens.

      In 2009, Rhode Island had near-top rankings for tetanus, meningitis and HPV vaccines. The tetanus vaccination rate was 91.4% (compared to the national average of 76.2%), the meningitis vaccination rate was 75.7% (compared to the national average of 53.6%), and the HPV vaccination rate was 68.3% (compared to the national average of 44.3%).

      These results are good news for Rhode Island, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Through a combination of HEALTHs Vaccinate Before You Graduate (VBYG) program and the work of adolescent healthcare providers, our state is protecting young adults against serious diseases before they leave high school. Our goal is to have 90% of adolescents get each of these vaccines. We have already reached this goal for the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) and hepatitis B vaccines.

      In addition to providing the recommended vaccines to all Rhode Island teens, we want to make sure that they are up to date on all immunizations and that they get a flu shot every year, said Chief of the Office of Immunization Patricia Raymond, RN, MPH. This year, for the first time, we are offering the seasonal flu vaccine to students at school-based vaccination clinics and through our VBYG program. We want to offer as many opportunities as possible to get vaccinated and stay healthy.

      The 2009 NIS for children ages 19-35 months of age also shows that for most of the recommended childhood vaccines, Rhode Island has met or surpassed the Healthy People 2010 goal of a coverage rate of 90%.

      The NIS is administered annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To view the entire NIS report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/stats-surv/imz-coverage.htm.

      Drug Take-Back Events Scheduled Across the State on September 25

      09-23-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of a drug take-back day on Saturday, September 25. These events are sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and give people the opportunity to have expired, unwanted or unused prescriptions or over-the-counter medications destroyed in a safe and environmentally sound way.

      People can bring tablets or capsules of prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. Intravenous solutions, injectable drugs, needles, and illicit drugs will not be accepted. Take-back events are anonymous and are scheduled from 10 a.m. 2 p.m. at the following locations in Rhode Island:

      • Barrington Police Department, 100 Federal Rd., Barrington
      • Bristol Police Department, 395 Metacom Ave., Bristol
      • Charlestown Police Department, 4901 Post Rd., Charlestown
      • Cumberland Police Department, 1380 Diamond Hill Rd., Cumberland
      • East Providence Police Department, 750 Waterman Ave., East Providence
      • Middletown Police Department, 123 Valley Rd., Middletown
      • Newport Police Department, 120 Broadway, Newport
      • North Providence Police Department, 1967 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence
      • Office of the Attorney General, 150 South Main St., Providence
      • South Kingstown Police Department, 1790 Kingstown Rd., South Kingstown
      • Warren Police Department, 1 Joyce St., Warren
      • Warwick Police Department, 99 Veterans Memorial Drive, Warwick
      • Woonsocket Police Department, 242 Clinton St., Woonsocket

      For information on these events or to locate events in other states, visit www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/takeback

      Falls Prevention Awareness Day Aims to Keep Seniors Safe

      09-23-2010

      Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for people 65 and older. Every year, more than 18,000 older Americans die because of a fall. In Rhode Island, falls-related injuries are the cause of 2,370 hospitalizations and more than 120 deaths. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is partnering with ten local senior centers to educate senior center members about how to prevent falls and falls-related injuries.

      In 2007, more than 11,000 adults age 65 and older had to go to the Emergency Room for injuries caused by a fall, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Many falls are preventable, and people need to learn about the simple things they can do in their own home to reduce the risk of falling.

      Studies show that a combination of interventions, including increased physical activity, annual vision checks, medication management, and home safety risk assessments, can significantly reduce falls in the older adult population. The Lowes" store located on Quaker Lane in Warwick donated 500 night lights with light sensors that will automatically turn on when it is dark. These night lights will be distributed at 10 Rhode Island senior centers on Falls Prevention Awareness Day, along with home safety checklists.

      HEALTH Calls for New Compassion Center Applications

      10-01-2010

      Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reissues a call for applications for operation of a medical marijuana compassion center. Nonprofit corporations that wish to apply may download a revised application at www.health.ri.gov/programs/medicalmarijuana. The deadline to submit the application is 12:00 noon on Friday, November 12, 2010.

      The application describes what applicants must do to be considered for a compassion center registration certificate. It has no page limit. Applicants can find a summary of other changes at www.health.ri.gov/programs/medicalmarijuana. The application review and scoring process remains the same and will include a public comment period. HEALTH expects that it will take between four and six months to review all applications.

      Our goal has been, and continues to be, assuring the safest and most effective compassion center for patients and the public, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We want to keep this process moving.

      Applicants may submit questions about the application process to compassioncenters@health.ri.gov until October 15. HEALTH will post answers to frequently emailed questions on its website.

      DEM, HEALTH, Lift Earlier Advisory for Turner Reservoir, Ten Mile River, and Omega Pond

      10-12-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announce that recent test results have led them to lift a temporary advisory issued on August 24, 2010 regarding contact with water from the Turner Reservoir, Ten Mile River, and Omega Pond.

      In August, a dense blue green algae bloom turned the waters of Turner Reservoir a bright green color. Laboratory results from tests on water samples taken at that time found unacceptable counts of blue green algae species present. These algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins, Microcystin and Anatoxin. The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water.

      The visible signs of the algal bloom are gone and sampling of water from the Turner Reservoir and Omega Pond by both the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and RI DEM indicate that blue green algae cell counts and Microcystin levels are within acceptable limits.

      Two Employers Recognized for Supporting Breastfeeding In the Workplace

      10-21-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition (RIBC) today presented Rhode Island Medical Imaging (RIMI) with a silver Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award for support of breastfeeding mothers and promoting breastfeeding among employees and clients in eight of their facilities in Rhode Island. RIMI joins 18 Rhode Island businesses and organizations that have received the award since 2006. (To see a list of all previous award recipients, visit /awards/breastfeedingfriendly/)

      It is important for all employers to continue to support breastfeeding employees, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Breastfeeding protects mothers and their children from numerous health risks and results in significant cost savings for families, the healthcare system, and employers. Breastfed children also have a lower risk for becoming overweight or obese in childhood and later in life.

      In addition, RIBC granted funds to Brown Universitys Warren Alpert Medical School and to MomDocFamily to enhance breastfeeding accommodations in their facilities. MomDocFamily is an organization of women physicians from all stages of career and training that provides mentoring on combining a medical career with motherhood. Through their partnership with Brown Medical School, MomDocFamily will use these funds to support the development of additional lactation rooms for employees in two Brown-affiliated hospitals.

      The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life and continue breastfeeding for at least a year or longer if preferred. Rhode Island breastfeeding rates have slowly risen in recent years, but still fall below Healthy People 2010 national targets, according to the recently released US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card posted at http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm.

      RIBC is a coalition of community organizations working to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding in the state. For information about the benefits of breastfeeding, visit

      Stray Cat in Coventry/West Greenwich Area Tests Positive for Rabies

      10-21-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are alerting the public that a stray calico cat that has been seen in the Route 102 (Victory Highway) area of Coventry and West Greenwich was caught and has tested positive for rabies.

      Based on reports from the public, this cat had at least three kittens. Two of the kittens have been caught and will be tested for rabies. The mother cat did attack pets and humans on Wednesday.

      HEALTH and DEM make the following recommendations:

      • If you have been exposed to or been bitten by a stray cat or any other animal, contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours. HEALTH is the only agency that can authorize the release of rabies vaccine.
      • Do not feed or handle any stray or wild animal.
      • Cover and secure any garbage that is outside. Trash can be a food source for stray or wild animals.
      • Make sure your pet(s) are up to date on their rabies vaccination.
      • If you think your pet may have been exposed to or bitten by one of these cats, contact your veterinarian and your city or towns animal control officer.

      Department of Health Issues Third Fine to Rhode Island Hospital for Failure to Follow Established Surgical Policies

      10-26-2010

      On August 9, 2010, the Department of Health (HEALTH) received notification from Rhode Island Hospital that during a neurosurgery procedure at RIH on August 4, 2010, a piece of a broken drill bit was left in the patients skull after the surgery was completed.

      HEALTH conducted a joint investigation with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and discovered that the hospital is not actively ensuring that the operating room staff is following existing hospital policy. RIHs surgical count policy states that if a surgical tool or device is unaccounted for at the end of surgery, an x-ray of the patient should be done before the patient leaves the operating room to assure that the tool or device is not inside the patient. In this incident, no x-ray was taken and the surgical count was documented as correct.

      HEALTH also found that numerous staff reports of incorrect surgical counts have gone unanswered by the hospital. Similarly, reports from nursing staff that an anesthesiologist did not wear a surgical mask in the operating room were not addressed by medical leadership.

      Due to RIHs failure to follow established policy and failure to adequately address staff reports of problems that could result in medical errors, HEALTH is fining Rhode Island Hospital $300,000. In addition, CMS has asked HEALTH to conduct a full survey of all areas of the hospital and to ensure that the hospital is in compliance with all of the Conditions for Participation for Medicare. (To view the letter to the hospital from CMS and the CMS statement of deficiencies, visit /discipline/hospitals/RhodeIslandFederalFindings201010.pdf) Two physicians and one nurse are being referred to their licensing boards for review.

      There is a troubling pattern of disregard for established policies that are designed to protect patient safety and prevent medical errors in Rhode Island Hospitals operating rooms, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. When reports from staff about problems in the operating rooms are not adequately addressed, employees are less likely to speak up and report potential problems or concerns.

      RIH must submit a plan of correction to HEALTH by November 10, 2010, and must pay the fine by November 24, 2010.

      HEALTH, DEM Lift Contact Advisory for Water at Melville Pond

      10-29-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announce that recent test results have led them to lift a temporary advisory issued on August 27, 2010 regarding contact with water from Melville Pond in Portsmouth.

      In August, a dense blue green algae bloom turned the waters of Melville Pond a bright green color. Laboratory results from tests on water samples taken at that time found unacceptable counts of blue green algae species present. These algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins, Microcystin and Anatoxin. The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes and irritation of the nose, eyes, and/or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Young children and pets are more at risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water.

      Recent sampling of water from Melville Pond by DEM indicates that blue green algae cell counts and Microcystin levels are within acceptable limits.

      HEALTH Issues Consumer Advisory About Decorative Contact Lenses

      11-05-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises Rhode Islanders that decorative contact lenses (i.e., theatrical opaque contact lenses) are being sold in Rhode Island to people who do not have a prescription. HEALTH received a report of a high-school student who had corneal abrasions and temporary vision impairment from wearing decorative contact lenses that were purchased in a convenience store. An individual must have a prescription from an eye-care professional for any type of contact lenses.

      Contact lenses that are purchased without a prescription can cause severe eye infections, corneal abrasions, or blindness. Anyone who has purchased contact lenses without a prescription should not use the product and should throw them away. Anyone who has recently used decorative contact lenses and is experiencing eye problems should contact an eye-care professional for evaluation. In addition, it is illegal for anyone to sell contact lenses to an individual who does not have a prescription for the lenses.

      HEALTH has confiscated decorative contact lenses from retail locations that were being sold without a prescription. To report eye problems due to decorative contact lenses or the sale of contact lenses without a prescription, call HEALTHs Complaint Unit at 222-5200 (Monday Friday, 8:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m.) or e-mail website@health.ri.gov

      Two Incidents of Retained Foreign Objects Reported at Women & Infants Hospital

      11-17-2010

      On September 30, the Department of Health (HEALTH) received notification from Women & Infants Hospital of two separate cases of a patient with a retained foreign object (RFO) after surgery.

      The first incident occurred on July 24 when a piece of rolled gauze was left inside a patient following a procedure to stop bleeding following a vaginal delivery. The second incident occurred on August 25 when a piece of marker thread from a surgical gauze separated and was left inside a patients abdomen following a gynecological procedure.

      HEALTH conducted an investigation and determined that during the July incident, the obstetrical team did not follow the hospitals policy about communication of patient information when the staff changed shifts resulting in the gauze roll being left in the patients vagina. During the August incident, HEALTH determined that the hospitals surgical count policy was not followed. At the conclusion of the procedure, a surgical staff member noticed that the marker thread had separated from a gauze pad used during surgery. A piece of x-ray sensitive thread was found and removed before the patient left the operating room, but an x-ray was not done to confirm that the entire piece of thread was removed.

      Seven physicians, one nurse, and one nurse anesthetist are being referred to their licensing boards for review.

      Although Women & Infants does not have a history of non-compliance with federal or state regulations or staff not following hospital policies, it concerns us that these incidents occurred, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This is a reminder that all hospital policies and procedures to prevent medical errors must be followed all the time. If surgical staff is unable to confirm that all instruments and items have been removed from a patient, an x-ray needs to be done before the patient leaves the operating room.

      Women & Infants must submit a plan of correction to HEALTH by December 2, 2010.

      Report Shows Overall Financial Health of Hospitals in Rhode Island Improves in 2009

      11-23-2010

      The 11th annual The Health of Rhode Islands Hospitals (2009), published by the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), shows that overall, the financial performance of the 13 acute-care hospitals in the state has improved. In 2009, hospitals as a whole in Rhode Island improved their collective profit margin, operating margin, and available cash.

      In 2009, continuing a strong pattern, there was wide variation in financial performance among individual hospitals. Facilities in the Care New England and Lifespan systems demonstrated significantly stronger financial stability than the six independent hospitals. All independent hospitals continued to show poor financial performance. In 2009, Landmark Medical Center operated under the control of a court-appointed special master, and St. Joseph Hospitals financial position continued to worsen. In 2009, St. Joseph Hospital became technically insolvent, and began operating with Roger Williams Hospital under the CharterCare affiliation.

      Rhode Islands 13 hospitals are a $3.2 billion-dollar industry with an annual payroll of more than $1.8 billion, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. As healthcare continues to evolve, being financially solvent remains a challenge for all hospitals, especially for the independents. At the same time, these hospitals are critical to the states healthcare system and to local economies. HEALTH will continue track the critical financial indicators to assure that Rhode Islanders have continuing access to safe, high quality acute healthcare.

      This report evaluates data from 2007 to 2009, and compares the states hospitals to other hospitals in the Northeast region and to a group of the best 10% of hospitals in the region. State-wide net income grew from $3.5 million in 2008 to $7.8 million in 2009; however, investment losses increased. Overall, six of the nine financial performance measures improved from 2008 levels. (Debt coverage, capital financing, and capital expenses weakened slightly.)

      The report also ranked individual hospitals using a combination of the nine individual measures during the time period of 2007 - 2009. The top performing hospitals were Women & Infants Hospital, Bradley Hospital, and Butler Hospital, respectively.

      Newport, South County Hospitals Have Highest Employee Flu Vaccination Rates

      11-29-2010

      In Rhode Island, the average influenza vaccination coverage rate for hospital employees is 61%. Of employees who provide direct patient care, the state average for is 56.4% for CNAs, 56.5% for nurses, and 58.4% for physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.

      During the 2009-2010 flu season, two hospitals far surpassed the state average. More than 80 percent of healthcare workers at Newport Hospital and at South County Hospital were vaccinated against seasonal flu last year, giving these facilities the highest flu vaccination coverage rates for hospitals in Rhode Island.

      Hospitals reported seasonal flu vaccination data to the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) for staff who provide direct patient care for the 2009-2010 flu season. Newport Hospitals healthcare worker vaccination rate was 86.3%, and South County Hospitals vaccination rate was 82.5%.

      We congratulate Newport Hospital and South County Hospital for protecting their healthcare workers and the patients they care for, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Increasing healthcare worker vaccination rates is a state and a national priority, and is a professional ethical responsibility. These two hospitals can serve as a model for other hospitals in the state.

      HEALTHs goal is that all hospitals have a healthcare worker vaccination rate of at least 70% every year. For the 2009-2010 flu season, Memorial Hospital had a vaccination rate of 71.8%.

      Be Healthy for the Holidays: Get a Flu Shot Now

      12-01-2010

      Wrapping presents. Decorating the house. Visiting family and friends. With the holiday season upon us and the fact that the flu virus has officially arrived in Rhode Island this year, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) strongly encourages anyone who has not already received a flu shot this season to do so as soon as possible. Flu is a serious disease and can result hospitalizations or death especially for the elderly, pregnant women or for anyone with a chronic long-term health condition or a weakened immune system. This years flu vaccine protects against H1N1 flu and seasonal flu.

      Many people travel to see family and friends during the holidays, said Gifford. Children are one of the primary spreaders of flu virus, so we recommend that all children age six months and older get vaccinated. When children are vaccinated, there is a double benefit of keeping children healthy and preventing the spread of the flu virus no other family members. After you get a flu shot, it takes your body about 7-10 days to develop immunity to flu viruses, so getting vaccinated now will help to protect you before the holidays and before the brunt of the flu season illnesses are here.

      Flu vaccine for children, adolescents, and adults is available in provider offices, at pharmacies, at public clinics, and at school-based flu vaccination clinics. (Some children may need a second dose of flu vaccine.)

      HEALTH Warns Restaurants of Phone Scam

      12-10-2010

      The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has received reports that several restaurants throughout the state have received telephone calls from someone stating he or she is from the Department of Health. The caller often is requesting personal information so an inspection can be scheduled. The information being requested could be used for identity theft. These phone calls are a scam.

      HEALTH food inspectors do not need personal information to schedule an inspection. Staff all have photo identification badges that verify they are HEALTH employees.

      Any restaurant or food establishment who receives a similar call should try to get information from the caller (callers name, address, and phone number) and then report the incident to local police.

      Update From HEALTH on UnitedHealthcare/Care New England Contract

      12-21-2010

      As of December 21, 2010, UnitedHealthcare (United) and Care New England Health System (CNE) have not reached an agreement on their contract that is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2010.

      If United and CNE do not reach an agreement by December 31, 2010, patients will still be able to use CNE providers and facilities until the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) makes a final decision on Uniteds material modification application. United has agreed to clarify this in a letter to all members.

      Any time a health insurer anticipates a significant network change offered in its health plan (such as a hospital dropping from its plan), the insurer must apply to HEALTH for approval of the material modification. Upon receipt of an application, HEALTH must review it for completeness. Once an application has been deemed complete, HEALTH has 90 days to take action and up to 30 days to post a notice for public comment. The public then has 10 days from the date of the public notice to submit written comments to HEALTH. HEALTH can only take final action on an application once the public comment period has ended.

      United has submitted an application to HEALTH; however, the application has not been deemed complete. Therefore, there is not enough time in the 2010 calendar year for HEALTH to review and act upon the application before the current contract expires. Because HEALTH has not approved the material modification application, United must continue to provide the same seamless access to CNE providers for all of its members.

    2009

    Department of Health, Department of Elderly Affairs Issue Extreme Cold Advisory

    01-14-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Elderly Affairs (DEA) are issuing a joint advisory to remind people of precautions to take in extreme cold. Frigid temperatures are predicted to start Wednesday afternoon and continue through the holiday weekend, so 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.

    2. Watch for ice that can cause falls and leave you unable to get back inside.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. Dress warmly if you are inside, especially if you are not physically active.

    6. Avoid drinking alcohol as it can lower the bodys ability to keep warm.

    7. 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 persons arms or legs.

    Exposure to lower-than-normal temperatures for even a short time can be dangerous, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. It is important that we all use caution during extreme cold, and as a community, be particularly aware of those who are most at risk.

    We want to ensure that all elders are safe in their community during the upcoming cold weather, said Director of Elderly Affairs Corinne Calise Russo. Anyone who has elderly friends, family or neighbors should make a plan to call and check in with them on a regular basis throughout the weekend.

    Flu Vaccination Is The Best Protection Against Antiviral-Resistant Flu Strains

    01-15-2009

    The Department of Health (HEALTH) wants to inform all Rhode Islanders that this year, it is even more important to get your annual flu vaccination. Recent information released from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the most common strain of the flu that is circulating this flu season is resistant to the antiviral most commonly used for treatment. According to the CDC, last year, only 11 percent of patients who were tested had a strain of the flu that was antiviral-resistant. This year, 99 percent of patients who were tested have a strain of flu that is antiviral-resistant.

    An annual flu vaccination is still the best and easiest way to protect people from the flu, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This recent finding of influenzas widespread resistance to medication makes it even more important for everyone, especially those at high risk, to get vaccinated this year.

    HEALTH provides flu vaccine for all children, adolescents and adults in the state. There is still plenty of vaccine available in the state. Typically, it takes the body 10-14 days to develop immunity after receiving a flu vaccination. Historically, flu season in Rhode Island peaks in late January and early February. Currently, there is sporadic flu activity in the state but we are seeing outbreaks in other states.

    Every year, some 36,000 people in the United States die from influenza and its complications. CDC recommends that the following groups should get a flu vaccination every year:

    • Children ages 6 months to 18 years of age.
    • Anyone age 50 or older.
    • Anyone who is a resident of a long-term care facility.
    • Anyone who has a chronic, long-term health condition such as heart or lung disease, asthma or diabetes.
    • Anyone who has a weakened immune system.
    • Any woman who is pregnant.
    • Any healthcare worker who provides direct patient care.
    • Anyone who lives with or cares for someone in one of the above categories.

    To get a flu shot, call your healthcare provider, go to the final public flu clinic.

    Update on National Salmonella Outbreak Investigation

    01-20-2009

    Today, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued updated warnings regarding an outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium. More than 400 people nationwide are believed to have become ill from eating peanut butter or products containing peanut butter that are contaminated with a particular strain of Salmonella. Four of these cases are from Rhode Island.

    CDC and FDA recommendations include:

    For consumers:

    • Do not eat products that have been recalled and throw them away in a manner that prevents others from eating them.
    • Do not eat other foods that contain peanut butter (cookies, crackers, cereal, candy or ice cream) until information is available about whether that product may be affected.

    For retailers:

    • Do not sell recalled products.
    • For directors of institutions and food service establishments:
    • Do not serve recalled products to patients.

    Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Flu Day Participants

    01-22-2009

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented 11 healthcare providers with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

    Each of the eleven providers participated in the states first Flu Vaccination Day in November and hosted flu vaccination clinics during non-traditional times that were more convenient for patients. Flu Vaccination Day gave Rhode Islanders the opportunity to protect themselves and their families from getting the flu. In addition, vaccine was offered at no charge to anyone who was uninsured. The participants included private providers, mass immunizers and pharmacies.

    The Award recipients were:

    • CCAP Family Health Services, Cranston
    • CCAP Wilcox Health Services
    • Coastal Medical, Park
    • Hillside Avenue Family and Community Medicine
    • JB Pharmacy
    • Lincoln Pediatric Associates
    • Scituate Health Alliance
    • VNA of Care New England
    • VNS of Newport and Bristol Counties
    • VNS of Greater Rhode Island
    • The Wellness Company

    Peanut Butter Products Recall Expands

    01-23-2009

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to add food products (for humans and for pets) that contain peanut butter to the voluntary recall list. As of Friday afternoon, the recall list included almost 300 products. FDA expects more products will be added to the recall list.

    Because the national investigation is ongoing and more products are being added to the recall list, FDA recommends that consumers not eat any products containing peanut butter or peanut paste. Commercial brand jarred peanut butters are not included in this recall. If there is a question about a particular product, FDA recommends a consumer check the recall list or visit the individual companys website.

    Any product that is on the recall list should be thrown away in a manner that prevents others from eating them. If a product is not on the recall list and the products manufacturer is not certain about the ingredients, FDA recommends that consumers not eat the product.

    Nearly 500 people nationwide are believed to have become ill from eating peanut butter or products containing peanut butter that are contaminated with a particular strain of Salmonella. There have been 6 deaths and 22 percent of the people who were sick had to be hospitalized. Four of these cases are from Rhode Island.

    New Site for Pawtucket. Central Falls WIC Clients' Services

    02-02-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) wants to inform Pawtucket and Central Falls Women Infant and Children (WIC) clients that as of Monday, February 2, 2009, WIC services will be available at new locations.

    On a temporary basis, Blackstone Valley Community Health Center (BVCHC) WIC clients can pick up WIC checks at the Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN) office, 175 Main Street, Pawtucket 401-727-4144 or at any other WIC site in the state. (English and Spanish staff is available at RIPIN.)

    HEALTH is in the process of establishing permanent WIC sites in Pawtucket and Central Falls. Any BVCHC clients who were in the process of enrolling in WIC should call HEALTHs Information Line at 1-800-942-434 to be redirected to another WIC site.

    Rhode Island Nursing Homes Outperform Nation in Third Statewide Report on Resident and Family Satisfaction With Nursing Home Care in Rhode Island

    02-11-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released the third annual survey on resident and family satisfaction with nursing home care Rhode Island. The survey results indicate that in 2008, nursing homes, on average, outperformed nursing homes nationwide. In Rhode Island, 91% of residents and 91% of family members rated their satisfaction with the facility as either Good or Excellent. In comparison, 87% of residents and 85% of family members in the national database rated their satisfaction as either Good or Excellent.

    These comparative data show how well Rhode Island nursing homes are doing in making improvements that focus on quality of life and the individual choices of residents, said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This process allows individuals to give feedback about nursing homes. The report provides information that will assist families in making the best choices for long-term care for loved ones.

    Together with the publicly available quality measure scores and survey performance, the satisfaction scores provide additional information consumers can use to make informed choices when selecting a nursing home. Importantly, the results also show that more than 90% of residents and family members would recommend their nursing home to people needing skilled care. This testifies to the quality of nursing homes in our state, said Gail Patry, Director of Long Term Care at Quality Partners of Rhode Island and Chair of the public reporting programs Nursing Home Subcommittee.

    This project is the result of a collaboration by all of the licensed nursing homes in Rhode Island; the Rhode Island Health Care Association; the Rhode Island Association of Facilities and Services for the Aging; 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 Department of Health's contractor, Quality Partners of Rhode Island.

    HEALTH Announces Change in Hours for State Office of Vital Records

    02-11-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that effective Monday, February 16, 2009, the State Office of vital Records is changing the hours for walk-in service and will only be open to the public Monday through Friday, 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

    HEALTH has worked with each city and town to make electronic birth records, dating back to 1980, available at most city and town halls regardless of where the birth happened in the state, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This allows more convenient access for residents and in most cases, means that people dont have to come to Providence. Requests for vital records can also be mailed to the State Office of Vital Records.

    In 2008, the Office of Vital Records assisted more than 18,000 customers in person and processed nearly 9,000 mail requests from Rhode Island and from out of state.

    Three Healthcare Professionals Sanctioned In Wrong-Site Surgery Case

    02-17-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (BMLD) and Board of Nursing, has completed its investigation of the health professionals involved in the wrong-site surgery done at The Miriam Hospital (TMH) in September 2008. Three healthcare professionals one physician and two nurses, received a sanction of reprimand. In addition, the two nurses must participate in patient safety activities on the prevention of wrong-site surgeries and present at least one lessons learned to their peers.

    Upon initial investigation of the incident in the fall, several problems in the hospitals surgery program were identified, including failure to follow TMHs policy to visually inspect the surgical site during the time-out, (which is the last step prior to starting surgery to verify the correct patient, surgery and surgical site) to use indelible ink to mark the site and to verify the original source of information related to the surgery and site

    This finding completes HEALTHs investigation of this incident, said Chief Administrative Officer of the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS. Although we determined that systemic issues contributed to this wrong-site procedure, it does not absolve healthcare professionals from individual accountability to meet acceptable standards of practice. This finding also emphasizes that the entire healthcare team has responsibility for consistently practicing patient-safety policies.

    Nurses play a critical role in ensuring everyone follows protocol and in creating a culture of patient safety, said Director of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education Pamela L. McCue, RN, MS. While we need to hold all nursing professionals accountable for their actions, our primary goal is to prevent this type of incident from reoccurring.

    HEALTH Report Shows Uncompensated Care at Hospitals Increased

    02-23-2009

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released RI Uncompensated Hospital Care (2007). The report details the amount of uncompensated care (charity care and bad debt) that hospital patients receive, the demographics of charity care patients and the financial burden of this uncompensated care on the hospitals.

    In 2007, patients received $49.7 million in charity care, and the net cost of this care to the hospitals was $36.5 million. In addition, charity care accounted for 1.41% of patient revenue - an increase of 32% from 2006.

    In 2007, $57.1 million worth of patient care was considered to be bad debt, and the net cost of this to the hospitals was $37.3 million. Bad debt accounted for 1.43% of patient revenue an increase of 8% from 2006.

    Our states hospitals deliver medically necessary services without regard to a patients ability to pay, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Although uncompensated care is a relatively small portion of patient revenue, we need to continue to examine how hospitals provide necessary care for the indigent while maintaining their own financial solvency. In 2007, Rhode Island had 113,000 uninsured residents, and hospitals are the healthcare providers of last resort for acute, inpatient services for the uninsured.

    New Public Breastfeeding Law Takes Effect March 1, 2009

    02-26-2009

    A new Rhode Island law that allows a woman to breastfeed or bottle-feed her child in any place open to the public will take effect on March 1, 2009. This law complements a pre-existing law that exempted breastfeeding mothers from indecent exposure laws but did not provide them with the explicit right to breastfeed a child in any public place. The new law further permits a woman to allege a violation of her civil rights if she is prevented from breastfeeding in public.

    Breastfeeding protects mothers and their babies from numerous health risks and results in significant cost savings for families, the healthcare system, and employers who support breastfeeding families, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. At a time when the state budget and healthcare system are stretched beyond capacity, promoting breastfeeding is a smart and cost-effective healthcare strategy, he said. Breastfed children also have a lower risk for becoming overweight or obese in childhood and later in life, he added.

    A breastfeeding mother needs to feed her baby whenever the baby is hungry to satisfy her baby and build up and maintain her milk supply. Because young babies need to eat from 8 to 12 times every 24 hours, breastfeeding mothers often need to breastfeed when they are away from home. "Too often, mothers are asked to stop breastfeeding, to move to a private location, or to cover themselves up when they breastfeed at a playground, at the airport, in a restaurant, or in other public places," explains Dr. Laura Viehmann, a pediatrician in Pawtucket and Breastfeeding Coordinator for the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "This law ensures that a mother who breastfeeds her child in public has the same protection as a woman who bottle-feeds her child."

    Dr. Viehmann chairs the Physicians' Committee for Breastfeeding in Rhode Island, a group of health care professionals that successfully advocated for the new law and a 2003 law that requires employers to make a reasonable effort to provide a breastfeeding mother with flexible breaks and a safe, clean, private place to pump breastmilk or breastfeed her child.

    HEALTH's Forensics Unit Receives National Accreditation

    03-05-2009

    Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced that the Forensic Sciences Unit at the State Laboratory received accreditation from Forensic Quality Services, International (FQS-I). This accreditation ensures that the Forensics Unit has met and maintains acceptable standards in the areas of safety, quality assurance, records management, laboratory equipment and evidence control. The assessment included controlled substance analysis, toxicology, biology, DNA analysis and the DNA database (CODIS).

    One of HEALTHs goals is to provide law enforcement officials, the judicial system and the general public with high-quality forensic scientific services, said Director of the State Laboratory Ewa King, PhD. This accreditation is the gold standard for measuring the quality of forensic laboratories and the achievement demonstrates that our services meet and adhere to the requirements of the forensic community.

    I commend the staff for the hard work and dedication required to reach this quality benchmark, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Our Forensics Unit has been credited with being a great asset to law enforcement. This accreditation only reinforces that.

    HEALTHs Forensic Unit receives about 6,000 cases each year from law enforcement agencies in the state.

    Report Details Impact of Sexual Orientation on Teens

    03-06-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (RIDE) released the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and unsure/questioning (LGBU) high school students. This was the first year that questions about sexual orientation appeared on the YRBS.

    The results indicate that some 10% of high school students identified themselves as gay, lesbian or unsure. Overall, LGBU students had a greater risk for 27 of 30 behaviors as compared to heterosexual students, emphasizing the need for interventions to address behavioral and mental health care needs of all youth. Key findings show that LGBU students are:

    • Four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past 12 months;
    • Almost three times more likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon at school;
    • More than twice as likely to be hit, slapped, or hurt by a girlfriend or boyfriend;
    • Three times more likely to have had forced sexual intercourse and
    • Four times more likely to have not attended school due to unsafe feelings.

    As we get feedback from LGBU students about the issues they face, HEALTH can partner with schools and community agencies to develop interventions to reduce the health risk behaviors that impact LGBU students, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH.

    Students who are healthy and who make wise decisions about their health risks and their behavior are better prepared to succeed in school and are more likely to graduate from high school, said Peter McWalters, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. I am concerned that many lesbian, gay bisexual and unsure or questioning students feel unsafe at school and often miss school because they fear for their safety. RIDE staff members will continue to work with the Statewide Task Force on LGBTQQ Youth to help alleviate these persistent problems in our schools.

    Department of Health Earns Gold Status as Well Workplace

    03-12-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced that it received recognition as a Gold Well Workplace from the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) and was ranked as one of Americas Healthiest Companies.

    HEALTH offered a self-administered health risk appraisal to help staff identify their risks; on-site aerobics, body sculpting, and yoga classes; healthy cooking demonstrations and a newsletter posted on its Intranet system. In addition, HEALTH hosted a seasonal Farmers Market, smoking cessation programs and resources, a flu clinic, stress management seminars, and health screenings.

    The evidence is clear that healthier employees are more productive employees, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We hope to set an example for Rhode Island workplaces by promoting no-cost and affordable opportunities for employees to quit smoking, to eat healthy foods or to get daily exercise.

    WELCOA is a national organization that recognizes workplaces for creative programs and policies that address the wellness needs of their employees around five areas: physical activity, healthy eating/weight management, stress management, tobacco use, and medical self-care.

    Public Encouraged to Participate in State-wide Antibiotic Dispensing Drill

    03-17-2009

    On March 20 and 21, 2009, the State of Rhode Island will conduct an exercise simulating a response to a statewide public health emergency. The purpose of the exercise is to allow responsible state and local agencies to test their ability to bring together resources, receive and distribute materiel from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), activate Point of Dispensing (POD) sites, and distribute medications to the population as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    Coordinating agencies include the Office of the Governor, Department of Health, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA), Rhode Island State Police and the Mental Health Retardation & Hospitals (MHRH).

    In addition, 10 communities and 11 hospital and treatment centers will participate in the exercise by opening and managing POD centers, which would be used to distribute medications or provide vaccine to the population. (Hospital and treatment center sites are for staff only.)

    By engaging in real-time exercise, we improve our preparedness to protect our citizens should we ever be faced with a real public health emergency, said Governor Donald L. Carcieri.

    State and local response agencies and volunteer organizations, integral to the preparation and execution of PODs, were involved in the planning of the exercise. During the exercise, they will perform their respective roles as they would during an actual emergency.

    The public is encouraged to participate in the exercise. To participate, people should show up at their local POD site between 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 21st. Individuals will receive a briefing on the simulated public health threat and receive life-saving medications. Participation should take no more than 20 minutes. Following the exercise, anyone interested in assisting at their community POD in the future should contact their municipal EMA Director. Those interested in participating who require additional information, should call their local EMA office.

    The best way for us to test ourselves is to simulate a real life situation, and public participation is critical to our success, continued Carcieri. In addition, this exercise will prepare the public should we ever be faced with a emergency of this scale.

    Funding for municipalities to develop and revise their POD plans and conduct these exercises is provided by the RI Department of Health (HEALTH) utilizing federal funding from the CDC under the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) program.

    Point of Dispensing Sites for State-Wide Drill

    03-17-2009

    The public is encouraged to participate in the state-wide exercise scheduled for Saturday, March 21. People should arrive at any of the local POD sites listed below between noon and 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Participation should take no more than 20 minutes.

    • Burrillville: Burrillville High School, 425 East Ave., Harrisville
    • Charlestown: Charlestown Community/Senior Center, 4890 Old Post Rd., Charlestown
    • Cranston: Park View Middle School, 25 Park View Blvd., Cranston
    • Cumberland: Cumberland High School, 2600 Mendon Rd., Cumberland
    • East Providence: East Providence High School, 2000 Pawtucket Ave., East Providence
    • Lincoln: Lincoln High School, 135 Old River Rd., Lincoln
    • North Smithfield: North Smithfield Junior-Senior High School, 412 Greenville Rd., North Smithfield
    • Pawtucket: Nathaniel Greene Elementary School, 285 Smithfield Ave., Pawtucket
    • Providence: Sisters Dominica Manor, 100 Atwells Ave., Providence
    • West Warwick: Wakefield Hills Elementary School, 505 Wakefield St., West Warwick

    HEALTH Sees Increase In Norovirus Cases

    03-26-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises people that there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of norovirus infections in the state. HEALTH regularly investigates reports of norovirus clusters in licensed facilities and investigates illness complaints associated with food establishments or other licensed facilities. Since January 1, 22 long-term care facilities have reported noro-like illness and HEALTH laboratories have confirmed norovirus in 14. In addition, HEALTH has investigated reports of noro-like illness at two food establishments and confirmed norovirus in foodhandlers at one.

    Norovirus is a common illness, and frequent handwashing with warm water and soap or an alcohol hand gel is essential to stop the spread of the illness, said Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS, Chief of HEALTHs Center for Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases. It is important that any food handler, healthcare worker or day care worker who has symptoms of norovirus (nausea or vomiting and diarrhea) report the illness to their employer, go home and stay out of work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.

    To prevent the spread of norovirus:

    • Wash hands with soap and warm water after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
    • If you are sick, do not touch ready-to-eat food with your bare hands. In a food establishment, utensils or gloves are required to be used for handling ready-to-eat foods.
    • If you are a food handler, a healthcare worker or a daycare worker who has symptoms of norovirus, report the illness to your employer, go home and stay out of work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.
    • Thoroughly clean and sanitize surfaces after someone is sick with norovirus. Use a bleach-based household cleaner. Wash and wipe down the toilet area, faucets and other hard surfaces with a mixture of one tablespoon of bleach to 3 cups of water. If cleaning up vomit or stool, use two tablespoons of bleach to 1 cup water.
    • Dispose sewage properly.
    • Avoid eating raw shellfish. (The water it came from could be contaminated with norovirus from raw sewage in the water.)

    Norovirus is a common viral illness that is spread from hand to mouth. Symptoms usually last 24-48 hours and include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

    HEALTH Partners Receive Award From Acting U.S. Surgeon General

    03-26-2009

    Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) congratulates Kids First and Davis Park Revitalization Project for receiving a Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future Champion Award from Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, Acting Surgeon General. Both of these HEALTH-supported projects promote healthier lifestyles for children.

    Kids First provides technical assistance to district wellness committees, hosting educational workshops and offering an annual marketplace where vendors can demonstrate healthful products. Kids First is a non-profit organization that coordinates the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition and other activities designed to promote availability of better nutrition and physical activity options for children in the schools and in the community.

    Davis Park Revitalization Project facilitates community partnerships that have resulted in the improvement of the built environment (playgrounds, sidewalks, transportation) to encourage physical activity and promote a safe neighborhood. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve the health and well-being of community residents.

    The Davis Park Revitalization Project is led by The Elmhurst Clean & Green group that was formed in 2008. The group has been working to draft and implement a rehabilitation plan for Davis Park in Providence.

    Flu Is Widespread in RI; It's Not Too Late To Vaccinate

    03-27-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports that cases of influenza illnesses in the state have been steadily increasing and as of last week, was widespread in the state. Healthcare facilities are reporting flu outbreaks and HEALTH Laboratories have confirmed the presence of antiviral-resistant influenza in Rhode Island. HEALTH tracks influenza activity in the state and reports it to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) on a weekly basis.

    The best and easiest way to protect yourself from the flu is to get vaccinated, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. There is still flu vaccine available for children and adults in the state. If you have not gotten a flu vaccination this flu season, get one now. Some of the strains of flu we are seeing are antiviral-resistant, so a vaccination is your best line of defense.

    Every year, some 36,000 people in the United States die from influenza and its complications. In the 2008/2009 flu season, 32 children in the United States have died from the flu. (Rhode Island has not had any reported pediatric deaths from flu.) HEALTH provides flu vaccine to all providers in the state at no charge.

    Anyone who wants to protect themselves from getting the flu should get a flu vaccination every year. CDC also recommends that it is especially important for the following groups of high-risk individuals to get an annual vaccination:

    • Anyone with chronic health conditions or anyone who cares for them
    • Anyone who cares for infants younger than six months of age
    • Children ages 6 months to 19 years of age
    • Any woman who is pregnant
    • Anyone age 50 and older
    • Anyone who has a weakened immune system
    • Anyone who lives in a long-term care facility
    • Any healthcare worker or household contact who provides direct patient care

    HEALTH Promotes Smoke-Free Air In Cars, Homes

    03-31-2009

    You may have seen the billboard with a dog wearing a gas mask. Or maybe you saw the picture of a young mother holding her child with a caption that reads Julie smokes two packs a day. So does her baby. These ads are part of the Rhode Island Department of Healths (HEALTH) campaign encouraging adults not to smoke in homes or in cars, especially if they have children or pets.

    Secondhand smoke is involuntarily inhaled by non-smokers. The chemicals in secondhand smoke can cause cancer for anyone. In children, it can trigger asthma attacks and cause ear infections and upper respiratory disease. In homes where smoking occurs, the rate of sudden infant death syndrome is higher than in smoke-free homes. In addition, recent studies show that secondhand smoke can cause oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs, and lung cancer in birds.

    Every year, 53,000 children in Rhode Island are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Childrens lungs are not fully developed and are more susceptible to permanent damage. Any exposure to secondhand smoke is unhealthy and dangerous, particularly to kids and pets.

    The US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) reports that secondhand smoke contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic, including more than 50 that can cause cancer. The 2006 Surgeon Generals Report entitled The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke shows that non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25-30% and lung cancer risk by 20-30%.

    Blue Cross, United Compare Favorably Against Regional Health Insurers

    04-02-2009

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner released the tenth annual RI Health Plans Performance Report (2007). This report analyzes the two largest commercial health plans in the state, Blue Cross and United, on 38 separate quality measures which they submit annually to the Department of Health. The two plans are also compared to all commercial health insurers in New England and to the best 10% of health plans in the country.

    According to the report, Blue Cross and United performed, in aggregate, somewhat better than average on quality measures when compared to New England cohorts. Blue Cross showed that 11 of 19 quality measures were equivalent to regional averages, five measures were better, and three were lower than the regional average. United showed that 12 of 19 quality measures were equivalent to the regional averages, four measures were better, and three were lower than the regional average. The report also allows for comparisons between the plans.

    These two health plans cover more than 75% of Rhode Islanders who have commercial health insurance, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Patients need to know how their health plan performs. Public reporting ensures health plans are accountable for continuous quality improvement.

    In 2007, this report demonstrated that Rhode Islanders pay less for health insurance than other New Englanders do. The average per person cost of Blue Cross commercial health insurance was 12% less than the New England average ($333 per month vs $379), while United was 14% less ($325 per month vs $379).

    The affordability quality and accessibility of our health care system is everybodys concern said Health insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller. When commercial insurers are held publicly accountable for their performance in these areas, every one benefits.

    Report Details Rhode Island Physicians' Technology Use

    04-06-2009

    Consider this you have a medical emergency in the middle of the night. Your regular physician is on vacation, and a colleague is covering the practice. That covering physician needs to have access to your medical history so he can make an informed decision about your treatment at that moment. This is one situation where an electronic medical record can make a difference in the care a patient receives.

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released two reports that show how many individual providers use Health Information Technology on a regular basis. Rhode Island is the first state in the country to measure this. Nearly 40 percent of Rhode Island physicians report using electronic clinical information systems to help care for their patients. In addition, about 25 percent of physicians transmit their prescriptions electronically, or e-prescribe.

    One of the States healthcare priorities is to use HIT to increase the efficient delivery of patient care, said HEALTH Public Reporting Program Director Samara Viner-Brown, MS. These data help us to see how many physicians are actually using HIT. Patients can see if their physician uses electronic medical records or can find a physician who uses electronic medical records.

    The survey reflects a three-year collaboration to encourage physician reporting in Rhode Island. In 1998, a legislative mandate required HEALTH to publicly report healthcare quality for licensed providers. In 2006, the law was expanded to include reports from individual physicians. HEALTH and public reporting partner Quality Partners of Rhode Island (Quality Partners) identified HIT adoption as a local priority and developed the survey to assess physicians technology use.

    "Rhode Island becomes part of a growing national trend to measure and report how physicians provide care, says Quality Partners Physician Consultant Deidre Gifford MD, MPH, one of the surveys lead authors. One thing that distinguishes our reporting program is the work of our healthcare community to align the public reporting with payment reform and direct assistance to practices in improving care delivery. When those three pieces of the puzzle are all aligned, we expect to see dramatic changes in the way that care is delivered and improved satisfaction among consumers and providers.

    The Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI) will use the survey results to evaluate local trends in HIT adoption. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and UnitedHealthCare of New England plan to use the surveys results to guide their HIT-based incentive programs.

    Were pleased to have worked with HEALTH and Quality Partners to measure Rhode Islands progress towards HIT adoption, said RIQI President and CEO Laura Adams. While we understand that technology is not a cure-all, it is certainly a critical foundation for so many of our efforts to improve healthcare quality, safety, and value.

    Sprouts Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

    04-09-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of sprout products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. Distribution of these sprouts included Shaws, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and IGA in Rhode Island.

    All items being recalled have a sell-by date code from 03/21/09 through 04/27/09 and are in four ounce plastic containers, with the exception of the 8-ounce Natures Promise Organic Alfalfa and the five-pound bag of bulk alfalfa sprouts. There have been no cases of Listeria in Rhode Island in 2009. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw away the product right away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund. The following items have been recalled:

    Item UPC Code

    • Specialty Farms Organic Alfalfa Sprouts 8192400052
    • Specialty Farms Organic Sprout Salad 8192400024
    • Specialty Farms Organic Spicy Sprouts 8192400058
    • Specialty Farms Organic Crunchy Sprouts 8192400061
    • Specialty Farms Organic Crunchy Pea Mix 8192400061
    • Specialty Farms Organic Clover Sprouts 8192400042
    • Specialty Farms Lucky Clover Sprouts 8192400091
    • Vermont Sprout House Organic Alfalfa Sprouts 2213601290
    • Vermont Sprout House Organic Clover 2213601293
    • Vermont Sprout House Organic Bean Mix 2213601180
    • Natures Promise Organic Zesty Sprouts 8826703903
    • Natures Promise Organic Alfalfa Spouts 8826704741
    • Natures Promise Organic Alfalfa Sprouts (8 oz) 8826704102
    • Natures Promise Organic Sprouts to Munch 8826704100
    • BroccoSprouts Broccoli Sprouts 1509800025
    • BroccoSprouts Salad Blend Broccoli, clover & radish 1509800026
    • BroccoSprouts Deli Blend Broccoli, clover & mustard 1509800027
    • BroccoSprouts Organic Broccoli Sprouts 100% organic 1509800118
    • BroccoSprouts Organic Deli Blend 100% organic broccoli, clover, mustard 1509800120
    • BroccoSprouts Organic Salad Blend 100% organic broccoli, clover,radish 150980119
    • 5 pound bulk alfalfa, plastic bagged sprouts in a box with sticker identifying 5 pound bulk alfalfa, julien dates 069 through 097.

    Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

    Rhode Island's Pediatric Flu Vaccination Rates Tops in Nation

    04-22-2009

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized Rhode Islands Childhood Immunziation Program for achieving the highest influenza vaccination coverage rate in the country for children ages six months to 23 months during the 2007/2008 flu season. The award was presented to the Department of Health (HEALTH) at the recent National Immunization Conference.

    HEALTH is proud to lead the nation in childhood immunization efforts, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We want to continue to do the best job of protecting our children from influenza. Many parents may think that flu vaccinations are only for the elderly. But, in fact, they are just as important for children.

    HEALTHs Childhood Immunization Program is a universal vaccine program. Through federal funding and with contributions from insurers, all recommended childhood and adolescent vaccines are available to all Rhode Island children from birth through age 18. Healthcare providers receive the vaccine at no cost from the state.

    Department of Health Closely Monitors Investigation of Swine Influenza

    04-24-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is collaborating and partnering with state, national and international agencies to monitor the investigation of the cases of swine influenza confirmed in California and Texas. There are no known cases in Rhode Island right now.

    In accordance with guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HEALTH is:

    • Maintaining open communication with the public and providers.
    • Maintaining influenza surveillance across the state at physician offices, hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care centers.
    • Staying in regular contact with CDC to monitor activity nationally and internationally.
    • Advising healthcare providers with questions to periodically check HEALTHs website () and CDCs website (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swine) for the most current information, recommendations and guidelines.
    • HEALTH will be contacting healthcare providers directly and updating the public as we receive new information.

    HEALTH Announces Fourth Probable Case of Influenza A H1N1 Virus

    05-01-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces a fourth probable case of the H1N1 virus (swine flu). A student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence is considered a probable case because the student is exhibiting symptoms of the flu and recently traveled to New York City. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will do testing to determine if this is a confirmed case. Currently, there are no confirmed cases in Rhode Island.

    The student lives off campus and does not use the universitys dining facilities. The student is being treated with antiviral medications and is resting at home. All close contacts of the student have been evaluated and those that HEALTH considers to be at high-risk were given antivirals as a precaution.

    Out of an abundance of caution, HEALTH has recommended that Johnson & Wales University cancel all classes and weekend activities at both the Providence and Harborside campuses through Sunday night. HEALTH will gather more detailed epidemiological information over the weekend and will assess whether classes and activities next week will be cancelled.

    If any Johnson and Wales student experiences flu-like symptoms (fever and cough or sore throat) and has traveled to an outbreak area, they should go to campus health services or to their primary healthcare provider.

    Emergency Registry for Rhode Islanders With Special Needs

    05-06-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) have developed a Special Needs Emergency Registry for Rhode Island residents with disabilities, chronic conditions, and special healthcare needs. Rhode Island adults and children with disabilities, chronic conditions and special healthcare needs are urged to register for the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry. For example, people who use life support systems (e.g., oxygen, respirator, ventilator, dialysis, pacemaker); people who have mobility, vision, speech, cognitive, non-verbal and other disabilities; people who are Deaf; and those with chronic conditions and special healthcare needs.

    The intent of the Special Needs Emergency Registry is to have a reliable system for the identification of Rhode Islanders that require special assistance during emergencies. The information provided will be shared with local and state emergency management and responders such as local town/city police or fire. As of today, over 4500 Rhode Islanders have enrolled in the Special Needs Emergency Registry.

    This Special Needs Emergency Registry is a major component of emergency preparedness efforts in Rhode Island, said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We have seen with other public health emergencies that people with special health care needs had trouble accessing care. By identifying people with special health care needs now, we will be able to plan more appropriately for emergencies.

    If needed during the response to the H1N1 virus (swine flu), HEALTH can use the Special Needs Emergency Registry for the following:

    • Identify Rhode Islanders with chronic conditions, special needs and disabilities who are at higher risk and/or who may need additional assistance.
    • Send direct notification or emergency alert information to Registry enrollees.
    • Maintain an ongoing list of individuals with specific chronic conditions or special healthcare needs that should be considered in the planning process.

    Individuals have a choice of either registering online at www.health.ri.gov/emregistry or sending a completed Special Needs Emergency Registry Form (form is located on the HEALTH website www.health.ri.gov or by calling 401-946-9996 or RI Relay 711 TTY). If you do not register online, please mail the completed form to RIEMA, Database Manager, 645 New London Ave, Cranston, RI 02920.

    The Registry Form is available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hmong, Cambodian and Lao and in large print, CD-Rom, disc and via the HEALTH website. If you cannot fill out this form on your own, please have a family member or caregiver complete the form and submit on your behalf. Also, if more than one person from a household has a disability, chronic condition or special healthcare needs, each person should submit a separate Special Needs Emergency Registry Form.

    Once a Special Needs Emergency Registry Form is submitted, HEALTH will send a GO-KIT to your home to help you begin to prepare for an emergency.

    Conference Features Sen. Reed as Keynote, Debut of Student Video Presentation

    05-08-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to welcome Senator Jack Reed as keynote speaker at its second annual healthy housing conference on May 11 at Quidnesset Country Club in North Kingstown. At this years conference, Stimulating Healthy Housing Senator Reed discuss federal housing initiatives and healthy housing legislation. In addition, the conference will feature the premiere viewing of Our House, Our Health, an educational video, and will showcase the efforts of fifth-grade students from Charles Fortes Elementary School. This presentation completes a series of classroom discussions and art projects about healthy bodies, healthy homes and a healthy community. Local storytellers Len Cabral and Marc Levitt are in the video.

    Healthy Housing Awards will be presented to Senator Reed; RI Kids Count and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for publishing housing facts; Chris Gorham for his work with refugee housing; and a partnership of the RI Energy Office, West Bay Community Action and the Warwick Lead Program for their Healthy Housing demonstration project.

    HEALTH Signs Consent Agreement With Rhode Island Hospital Regarding Their Wrong-Sided Surgery

    05-15-2009

    On May 11, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) was notified by Rhode Island Hospital that a wrong-site surgery had been performed that day in their pediatric surgery department.

    Preliminary findings of the hospitals surgery program include failure to follow hospital policies, inconsistent interpretation of the time out policy, inadequate ongoing physician and nurse training about policy revisions, inadequate hospital-wide prospective assessment of the time out policy as it applies to specific surgeries (e.g. oral surgery, multi-site surgery, vaginal surgery) and inadequate identification and reporting of near misses by physicians , nurses and OR staff. (Note: Near misses are defined as clinical or administrative problems that could potentially cause or contribute to medical errors that were discovered and reported before an error ever occurs.) Today, HEALTH signed a consent agreement with Rhode Island Hospital for actions they will take to address issues identified to date about this case of wrong site surgery.

    HEALTH is very concerned that this is the fourth wrong-site surgery that has occurred at this facility in recent years, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Even one occurrence is too much. As in most cases, this is not the fault of one individual nor is this fixed by just introducing a checklist. It is clear that the hospital needs to be more diligent about assuring consistent implementation of patient safety standards and continuously evaluating and improving their policy based on feedback from staff who are using the policy. In addition, it is critical that all staff demonstrate competency about using these policies and procedures.

    In response to the preliminary findings, the hospital has signed a consent agreement to:

    • Suspend surgery for each surgical discipline at least two to three hours over the next two weeks to allow staff to complete an in-depth review of their surgical safety policies and procedures.
    • Contract with a patient safety organization within 60 days to develop a robust system for reporting near misses and incorporating those findings into their existing policies and procedures.
    • Create a plan to regularly confirm that all surgical staff are current in their understanding of time out and other surgical safety policies and procedures.
    • Make further modifications to their time out procedures to clarify the visualization of the site marking by the surgical team.

    The physician involved in the incident has been referred to the respective professional Board (Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline) for investigation. No one else on the team has been referred for disciplinary action at this time.

    HEALTH reminds all patients to closely review surgery plans and their consent forms with surgeons before undergoing any type of surgery or procedure. Patients should make sure the consent forms are legible, understandable and clearly delineate the site and side of surgery without use of abbreviations. In addition, whenever possible, patients should participate with their physician in site markings prior to surgery.

    Public Informational Meetings For Hospital Conversion Application Filed By Roger Williams, St. Joseph Health Services, CharterCARE

    05-26-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of the Attorney General (AG) announce two opportunities for Rhode Islanders to give comment on the proposed conversion of Roger Williams Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island and CharterCARE Health Partners. HEALTH and AG accepted the application for review earlier this month.

    HEALTH wants Rhode Islanders to give us feedback on this proposed hospital conversion, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Public input in this first-ever hospital conversion application is extremely important.

    Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, too, stressed the importance of public input in the proposed hospital conversion, saying, In a matter that so directly impacts on medical care and health-care services in our state, its essential that members of the public make their voices heard and their opinions known. These meetings provide that opportunity.

    The public informational meetings are scheduled for:

    • Wednesday, May 27, 6-8 p.m.; Rhode Island College, Foreman Center Room C, 600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Providence
    • Wednesday, June 3, 10 a.m. noon; Rhode Island College, Gaige Auditorium, 600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Providence

    The public is also invited to submit written comments regarding the proposed hospital conversion. Written comments must be submitted by June 17, 2009.

    Reminder Of Public Informational Meeting For Hospital Conversions Application Filed By Roger Williams, St. Joseph Health Services, CharterCARE

    06-01-2009

    Reminder of Public Informational Meeting for Hospital Conversions Application Filed By Roger Williams, St. Joseph Health Services, CharterCARE

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of the Attorney General (AG) remind Rhode Islanders of the second opportunity to give comment on the proposed conversion of Roger Williams Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island and CharterCARE Health Partners. HEALTH and AG accepted the application for review in May. The initial application is available for review at /merger/stjoerogerwilliams/application/questions.pdf

    HEALTH wants Rhode Islanders to give us feedback on this proposed hospital conversion, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Public input in this first-ever hospital conversion application is extremely important.

    Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, too, stressed the importance of public input in the proposed hospital conversion, saying, In a matter that so directly impacts on medical care and health-care services in our state, its essential that members of the public make their voices heard and their opinions known. This meetings provide that opportunity.

    The second public informational meeting is scheduled for:

    Wednesday, June 3, 10 a.m. noon; Rhode Island College, Gaige Auditorium, 600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Providence

    The public is also invited to submit written comments regarding the proposed hospital conversion. Written comments must be submitted by June 17, 2009.

    Summit To Explore Cancer's Burden On Patients, Healthcare System

    06-02-2009

    In 2009, more than 6,000 Rhode Islanders will be diagnosed with cancer. These newly-diagnosed patients, their caregivers and their families will not only have to deal with procedures, treatments and medications-- they may also have to manage challenges such as prompt access to care, navigating healthcare systems or health insurance and financial issues.

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) along with community partners is presenting the 2009 Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island Summit: The Burden of Cancer in Rhode Island Partnering to Win. This full-day educational event will be held on June 11, 7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.

    Everyone has been touched by cancer, said David Rousseau, Chairperson of The Partnership to Reduce Cancer. We have all experienced the effects of the diagnosis of cancer on family, friends and loved ones. The purpose of this summit is to educate healthcare providers as well as patients, caregivers and survivors on the access to cancer care, the existing barriers and provide them with the resources needed to navigate these barriers.

    Cancer effects us all, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. While prevention efforts like smoking cessation, good nutrition and increased physical activity are important, learning about the variety of available resources is important too. There are many helpful programs whose focus is on supporting cancer patients, their families and their caregivers.

    The summit is designed for healthcare professionals, cancer patients, caregivers and family members and survivors. Registration is free but seating is limited. To register, call 401-222-7899 or email pamela.wilson@health.ri.gov by June 5.

    Funding for this conference is from a cooperative agreement award from Center For Disease Control and Prevention and is presented in collaboration with American Cancer Society, Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, National Cancer Institutes Cancer Information Service, Pfizer Oncology, Roger Williams Medical Center and Women & Infants Hospital. The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island is coalition who has come together to provide input in the planning and implementation of programs and services around comprehensive cancer control. This includes promoting cancer prevention, improving cancer detection, increasing access to health and social services, and reducing the burden of cancer.

    Rhode Island Joins Six States To Issue Advisories On Striped Bass And Bluefish Consumption

    06-03-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), in coordination with six other east coast states, reminds consumers of advisories on striped bass and bluefish consumption. These fish can contain high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

    Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware and HEALTH recommend that pregnant women, women considering pregnancy, nursing mothers and children younger than six years of age refrain from eating striped bass and bluefish. In addition, HEALTH recommends that other people eat bluefish or striped bass only once a month.

    PCB exposures are of particular concern for children during development and may affect the endocrine system and brain development. Animal studies have shown that PCB exposures can increase cancer risk.

    Fish can still be part of a healthy diet, especially when consumers pick a variety of seafood including shellfish, smaller ocean fish, canned fish and farm-raised fish.

    H1N1 (Swine) Flu Cases Escalate In RI

    06-09-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is seeing that H1N1 (Swine) flu continues to spread both locally and nationally. In Rhode Island, HEALTH has seen an increase in sporadic cases and outbreak clusters throughout the state, including in schools. As of 11 a.m., June 9, there are 39 confirmed positive cases in RI, doubling the case count in less than a week. Rhode Island and national surveillance data indicate increased infections in children, increased infections in individuals with chronic medical conditions, and a generally higher hospitalization rate of those infected. Although most illness in Rhode Island has been mild, compared to seasonal influenza, there is an increase in the number of hospitalizations. Ten of the Rhode Islanders with swine flu have been hospitalized.

    As we expected and planned, we are now seeing an increase in confirmed cases of swine flu in the state, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We are seeing more cases in schools, more hospitalizations and more individuals who have underlying medical conditions being effected. Everyone needs to continue to be vigilant about handwashing, coughing and sneezing into elbows and staying home if they are sick. We expect that this will likely continue throughout the summer and into the fall.

    In April, HEALTH strengthened its surveillance systems to monitor suspected and confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms (fever plus cough or sore throat) at physician sentinel sites, hospitals, emergency rooms, college and university health centers and in all schools (public, private and parochial). This has helped us detect the increase in cases.

    To limit the spread of any illness, HEALTH strongly recommends:

    • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.
    • Sneeze and cough into your elbow.
    • If you are sick, call your doctor and stay home from work, school or daycare for 7 days after symptoms start or at least 24 hours after symptoms stop, whichever is longer.
    • If you or someone you know is pregnant has flu-like illness (fever plus cough or sore throat), she should call her healthcare provider immediately.

    HEALTH Does Not Automatically Recommend Closing Schools

    06-16-2009

    In the past two weeks, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has seen sporadic cases and outbreak clusters of H1N1 throughout the state, including in schools. At this time in the pandemic due to the mildness of H1N1 overall, both the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and HEALTH do not recommend closing schools to prevent the spread of disease. If a schools absenteeism rate among students and staff prohibits a school from functioning effectively, school districts may consider closure as an option.

    Because we are not recommending closure of schools to prevent the spread of disease, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH a decision to close is up to the individual school district. School districts should keep in mind that unplanned closures are very disruptive to the community, and should be used as a last resort. Sporadic cases of swine flu continue to increase in the community at large, therefore minimizing the effect of closing schools on the spread of illness.

    Prevention continues to be the best option to help stop the spread of H1N1 or any other illness.

    • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gels.
    • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
    • Anyone who is sick with an Influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus cough or sore throat) stay home for 7 days after symptoms begin or until symptoms have stopped for 24 hours, whichever is longer.
    • Call your physician if you would normally do so. Current recommendations for antiviral treatment are not recommended for mild cases without underlying diseases.
    • If you are sick and would normally call the doctor, call the doctor. If your illness can be managed with fluids and rest, you do not automatically have to go to the doctor or to the ER.

    HEALTH Announces First Death Due To H1N1 In Rhode Island

    06-17-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announces the first death in Rhode Island that is linked to infection of H1N1 virus. The person, a teenage girl from Kent County had underlying medical conditions that increased her risk for serious illness from influenza.

    It is with great sadness that we have learned today of the death of a Rhode Island resident from illness associated with H1N1, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We express our sympathies to the family. While most of the cases we are seeing in Rhode Island are mild illness, there are some people that can have more severe symptoms or can die. People who have underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, immunosuppression or pregnancy are at increased risk for more serious complications from influenza.

    The things everyone should do to help prevent the spread of H1N1 or any illness are:

    • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gels.
    • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
    • Anyone who is sick with an Influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus cough or sore throat) should stay home for 7 days after symptoms begin or until symptoms have stopped for 24 hours, whichever is longer.

    As of June 17, at 3 p.m., there have been 94 confirmed cases of H1N1 in Rhode Island and 23 hospitalizations to date due to H1N1.

    HEALTH Supports New Tobacco Law

    06-23-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recognizes and applauds the significant public health achievement of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act being signed into law. This new law gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products.

    This is a major milestone in the tobacco control movement, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This legislation will allow the FDA to enforce stricter guidelines regarding tobacco advertising and promotions especially to children. Every year in Rhode Island, 1,400 children and teens become regular smokers. Many of these kids will die prematurely as a result of smoking. This law will help make it harder for youth to start smoking and make it easier for them to be a non-smoker.

    Each year, tobacco use kills more than 1,600 adult smokers in the state and 1,500 adult non-smokers due to the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke. Tobacco costs the state $506 million annually in healthcare-related costs. Rhode Island is the seventh state in the nation to go smoke-free and currently has the highest cigarette excise tax in the country at $3.46/pack.

    The new law will allow the FDA to regulate many aspects of the tobacco industry, including:

    • Ban of candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes
    • Requirement of large, graphic health warnings that cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs
    • Ban of misleading health claims such as "light" or "low-tar
    • Disclose of the contents of tobacco products, as well as changes in products and research about their health effects

    HEALTH Posts Updated H1N1 Camp Advisory

    07-01-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) issued an interim health advisory to all summer camp operators regarding the prevention and control of H1N1 at day camps or residential camps.

    HEALTH continues to see cases of H1N1 in the state, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We expect that H1N1 will likely continue through the summer, with a possibility of higher prevalence in camps. All summer camp operators should be implementing aspects of the guidance that apply to their individual camp.

    The advisory contains recommendations for infection control, disease management and general prevention of the spread of illness.

    Registration Open For New England Regional Minority Health Conference

    07-03-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Office of Minority Health invites healthcare providers and community partners to attend the sixth annual New England Regional Minority Health Conference, scheduled for October 14 16 in Providence. The theme of this years conference is From Disparities to Equity: The Power to Make Change. This event provides an opportunity to share proven regional and national strategies that effectively work to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities.

    Racism, oppression and discrimination play a role in the health and well-being of our citizens. Be part of this national movement to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities by attending this conference.

    The 49 presentations over this 3-day event will highlight best practices of building and enhancing partnerships that influence health policy change for some of the regions most vulnerable populations. Participants can expect to share ideas and tools about programs and campaigns that can be adapted for use in their individual community. One goal of this conference is to promote collaboration of federal, state and community partners to address health disparities and improve the health and quality of life for all racial and ethnic minority communities. Cultural art performances will be featured throughout the conference. It is an event you don't want to miss.

    Continuing education units (CEUs) have been approved for registered nurses (10.5 contact hours for 3 days) and community health educators (10.5 contact hours for 3 days).

    Rhode Island Ranks Fourth Lowest In Nation In Overall Obesity Rates

    07-07-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to announce that Rhode Island now has the fourth lowest overall obesity rate (21%) in the country. The reports also shows that the percentage of Rhode Island children who are overweight or obese is 26% and that 24% of Rhode Island adults are physically inactive. This information comes from the recent release of the report F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To read the full report, visit http://healthyamericans.org/reports/obesity2009/

    The good news is that overall, Rhode Island has seen some improvement in obesity rates; however, 1 in 5 Rhode Island adults is obese, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Unfortunately, we did not see an improvement in childhood obesity rates. It is critical to instill healthy eating habits and a desire to be physically active early in childrens lives. Reducing childhood obesity plays a key role in preventing future health problems like diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

    The report calls for a national strategy to combat obesity that includes policy change. HEALTH supported legislation this year to require restaurant menus to include a calorie count for all items on the menu. Connecticut and Massachusetts have passed menu labeling legislation, said Gifford. It is time for Rhode Island to join its neighbors in this important public health effort. Beginning in September 2009, all schools in the state will be required to implement nutrition standards in school lunch programs that exceed federal standards. In addition, by October 2012, all public schools will be required to implement a performance-based physical education program. The report recommends that states continue supporting improved access to healthy and affordable foods and assuring insurance coverage for nutrition and obesity counseling.

    HEALTH has determined that many unhealthy trends in the state and in the country contribute to the obesity epidemic. They include:

    • Americans consume an average of 300 more calories a day than they did in 1984.
    • Healthy foods cost more than unhealthy foods.
    • Americans walk less and drive more.
    • Parks and recreation spaces are not always safe or well maintained.
    • Children watch more TV and play more video and computer games.

    HEALTH Announces Second Death Due To H1N1 In Rhode Island

    07-07-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announces the second death in Rhode Island that is linked to infection of H1N1 virus. The person, an adult woman from Providence County, had underlying medical conditions that increased her risk for serious illness from influenza.

    Sadly, we have confirmed the second death of a Rhode Island resident from illness associated with H1N1, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. We express our sympathies to her family and friends. This is a reminder that H1N1 is in Rhode Island and continues to spread. Most cases we are seeing in Rhode Island are mild illness; however, anyone with underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, immunosuppression or pregnancy can have more severe symptoms or can die.

    We have seen 58 hospitalizations and two deaths so far in Rhode Island. This underscores the need for everyone to be vigilant in taking steps to prevent getting this illness. The things everyone should do to help prevent the spread of H1N1 or any illness are:

    • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gels.
    • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
    • Anyone who is sick with an Influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus cough or sore throat) should stay home for 7 days after symptoms begin or until symptoms have stopped for 24 hours, whichever is longer.

    HEALTH Identifies Remains as Joseph "Joe Onions" Scanlon

    07-15-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) positively identified the human remains found in East Providence in November 2008 as those of Joseph Joe Onions Scanlon and the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.

    The Office of the Medical Examiners (OSME) and the State Police collected skeletal remains from the site in November. The OSME then identified the remains and determined the cause of death. To identify the remains, the OSME used forensic anthropology and DNA analysis. Forensic anthropology helps to provide a cause of death, identity, any injury or trauma and approximate length of time the remains were in the ground.

    We hope that this information will bring closure for the family, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This death occurred 30 years ago. We hope this gives them peace. HEALTH is also pleased to be able to assist our law enforcement colleagues in closing a case.

    In addition to determining the cause of death, the OSME also had to positively identify the remains. Dental records, fingerprints or previous x-rays were not available, so the OSME needed to use DNA analysis to determine identity. Investigators from OSME and State Police had to locate immediate family and collect a DNA sample for comparison, said Chief Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson, MD. Because the DNA analysis for this case was so highly specialized, the femur and DNA samples from the family were sent to the University of North Texas for analysis.

    The results from the DNA analysis determined that the skeletal remains were those of Joseph Scanlon.

    HEALTH Issues Findings Of Inspection At Kent Hospital

    07-17-2009

    On June 19, Kent Hospital (Kent) notified Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) of a wrong-site procedure in the interventional radiology department. A patient had a long-term IV catheter (PICC) inserted into the incorrect arm. During HEALTHs on-site inspection, Kent reported a second case where a patient had dye for an x-ray injected into the wrong hip.

    HEALTH discovered several problems in the hospitals interventional radiology department including failure to follow established hospital time out procedures for six out of eight cases reviewed, radiology equipment that had not been inspected or had out-of-date inspections and unqualified staff using radiology equipment. A detailed description of the findings from the inspection can be found in the deficiency report (see /discipline/hospitals/KentFindings200907.pdf). Inspection of the OR and cardiac catheterization lab at Kent found no problems.

    In response to the deficiencies, Kent signed a consent agreement that outlines steps they must take to correct their deficiencies. In addition Kents Interventional Radiology Department has been put on probation for at least six months due to the pervasive problems identified. Each of Kents interventional radiologists is being referred to the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline to determine if any disciplinary action should be taken.

    With the recent state-wide focus of preventing medical errors in hospital operating rooms, this is particularly concerning, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. While we determined this issue is isolated to the interventional radiology department, the fact that the efforts in the operating room were not being adopted in the interventional radiology department is unacceptable.

    The hospital signed a consent agreement that includes:

    • Hire a consultant to evaluate interventional radiology policies and protocols for compliance with national best practices and then reports to HEALTH on their recommendations.
    • Observe and monitor the interventional radiology department and submit monthly reports to HEALTH for six months.
    • Contract with a patient safety organization (PSO).
    • Provide continuing education for the radiology staff and develop an education plan for any newly hired radiology staff in the future.
    • Provide proof of up-to-date inspections for all radiology equipment within two weeks.

    HEALTH Approves Roger Williams Hospital, St. Joseph's Health Services Affiliation

    07-17-2009

    The Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has approved the hospital conversion application, with conditions, submitted by Roger Williams Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, St. Josephs Health Services of Rhode Island and CharterCARE Health Partners. In addition, he has also accepted the recommendation of the Health Services Council (HSC) to approve the change in effective control (CEC) application for the organizations involved.

    This application was reviewed under the Hospital Conversions Act (HCA). The Act assures that the access, affordability and quality of care is maintained or improved after the affiliation takes place. The final decision provides a 58-page summary of HEALTHs findings, a rationale for HEALTHs decision, a set of conditions that must be met before the affiliation occurs and a list of actions and regular reports that must be submitted to HEALTH once the affiliation occurs.

    HEALTHs review of this application has been comprehensive and deliberate and incorporates input from the community, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Our expectation is that CharterCARE will allow St. Josephs Health Services and Roger Williams Hospital and Medical Center to address challenges facing each institution and gain efficiencies under one organization so they can provide quality, affordable, accessible care.

    The application also needs approval from the Office of the Attorney General.

    Women's Health Fair Offers Skin Cancer Screening, HPV Vaccination

    08-11-2009

    Prevention is one of the best ways to protect good health. Women ages 16-26 are invited to attend the first Prevent & Protect Phun Phair on Thursday, August 13, 3 p.m. 7 p.m. at The Wellness Company, 132A George M. Cohan Blvd., Providence. Attendees will have the opportunity to receive a vaccine, at no cost, that protects against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a cause of cervical cancer. The event will also provide free DermaScans to check for sun exposure and present facts about skin cancer.

    This event is being hosted by The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, a statewide coalition funded by the Rhode Island Department of Health, in conjunction with The Wellness Company.

    Every year, some 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 4,000 women die from this disease in the country. In 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to add the HPV vaccine to the recommend adolescent and adult immunization schedule. In addition, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the country with more than 1 million people diagnosed annually. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon together. Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either skin cancer at least once and this rate is increasing.

    The fair is free. For more information or directions, call 401-490-0942 or e-mail: aip@thewellcomp.com. Women younger than 18 must be accompanied by parent or guardian. Women older than 18 should bring health insurance information, but health insurance is not required to attend.

    Funding for this conference is from a cooperative agreement award from Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

    Investment Losses Cause Financial Health of RI Hospitals to Worsen in 2008

    08-28-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today released The Health of Rhode Islands Hospitals (2008), which details the financial performance of Rhode Islands 13 hospitals from 2005 to 2008. While the report found Rhode Island hospitals to be more profitable than other hospitals in the Northeast in 2007, local hospitals financial performance declined in 2008. Overall, Rhode Island hospitals experienced a 12% loss in the net worth in 2008 which was mainly attributable to losses in their investments, not it declines of patient revenue. Patient revenue increased 6% from 2007 to 2008.

    The report compares the states hospitals to other hospitals in the Northeast and to a group of the highest-performing hospitals in the country. It also ranks Rhode Islands individual facilities based on 12 separate measures over four years. It determined that Newport Hospital, Bradley Hospital, and Butler Hospital, respectively, to be the states top-performing hospitals. Finally, the report evaluates the financial performance of the two hospital systems (Lifespan and Care New England) as compared to the independent hospitals. The report shows that the network hospitals performed significantly better than the independent hospitals on most measures.

    These hospitals play a critical role in Rhode Islands healthcare system and have a significant impact on local economies, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This report underscores the challenges that all of the hospitals are facing in maintaining their financial health in the current economy. In addition, we must continually evaluate how the independent community hospitals fit into Rhode Islands broader healthcare system.

    Cookies Recalled Due to Undeclared Allergens

    08-31-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of molasses cookies that may contain peanut butter and milk. These two items are considered undeclared allergens. People who have an allergy to peanuts and/or milk can have a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they eat these cookies.

    This voluntary recall affects 167 cases of Stop and Shop Home Town Bakery Old Fashioned Molasses Cookies (net wt. 8.9 oz.) with UPC 6-88267-08457-7 and a sell by Feb. 22, 2010 A printed on the side of the package. This product is sold in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Maine and New Jersey.

    No other Stop and Shop brand products are affected by this recall, and there have been no reports of illness or allergic reactions. Consumers can return any affected product to the store where it was purchased and receive a full refund.

    Boil Water Advisory Issued for Bristol County Water Authority

    09-08-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a boil water advisory for customers of the Bristol County Water Authority water system. 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. All water should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

    Water system tests confirmed the presence of E. coli bacteria in the public water supply. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

    The presence of E. coli bacteria indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. These bacteria can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or headaches. Infants, young children and anyone with a weakened immune system is at an increased risk for developing more severe symptoms. Residents who experience any of these symptoms, even if tap water has been avoided, should call their healthcare provider.

    This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Customers of the Bristol County Water Authority water system are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

    Department of Health Unveils H1N1 Flu Vaccination Campaign Plans; Encourages Early Seasonal Flu Vaccination

    09-10-2009

    Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces plans for H1N1 vaccination efforts this fall and encourages Rhode Islanders to get a seasonal flu vaccine now. Vaccination is the easiest and most effective way to protect against the flu.

    Right now, we are encouraging everyone aged six months and older to get a seasonal flu vaccination, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Seasonal flu vaccine is available now at providers offices, public clinics and workplaces. Seasonal flu vaccination is especially important this year because of the H1N1 pandemic. Although the seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection against H1N1 influenza, it will provide protection against seasonal flu, which is also expected to be circulating this fall and winter.

    HEALTH and its partners are preparing to embark on an aggressive, three-month H1N1 vaccination campaign. It is expected to begin in October and continue through December. As vaccine supply allows, our first priority for H1N1 vaccinations, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be children and pregnant women, healthcare workers and household contacts/caregivers for infants younger than 6 months of age. Current plans for the H1N1 vaccination by target population and vaccination venue include:

    • Children, 6 months to 5 years of age at: Pediatric healthcare provider offices
    • Children, grades K-12 at: School vaccination clinics
    • Pregnant women at: Birthing hospitals, prenatal care provider offices
    • Household contacts/caregivers of infants younger than 6 months at: Provider offices, public clinics
    • Healthcare workers, first responders at: Hospital-based (Healthcare Service Region) clinics
    • Young adults, age 19-24 years of age at: College/university clinics, public clinics

    Any provider who wants to give H1N1 vaccinations to their patients needs to register with the H1N1 Vaccination Program , said Dr. Gifford. It is especially important for any provider who treats chronically ill patients to enroll in the program so those who are at the highest risk for complications from H1N1 can be vaccinated.

    HEALTH requests licensed medical volunteers (e.g. nurses, doctors, pharmacists, EMTs) to assist with H1N1 vaccination efforts. Any licensed medical professional who is interested in volunteering can register at www.riresponds.org.

    The symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches or runny nose. People are most likely to spread flu germs when they have a fever. Prevention measures that everyone can practice include:

    • Wash your hand frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol hand gel.
    • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
    • Anyone with influenza-like illness (ILI) stay home from work, school or daycare until they are fever-free for 24 hours, without the help of fever-reducing medicines like Tylenol
    • Do not touch your eyes or mouth after sneezing or coughing.
    • Do not share eating utensils, drinks or water bottles.

    Every year, approximately 36,000 people in the country die from seasonal influenza and its complications. Seasonal flu typically affects people age 65 and older. This flu season, HEALTH anticipates that as many as 30% of the people in Rhode Island could get H1N1. Most people will experience mild illness; however, people with underlying medical conditions like heart and lung disease, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, diabetes or a weakened immune system can have more severe symptoms, be hospitalized or die.

    Bristol County Water Authority Customers Offered Two Water Distribution Stations

    09-10-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is notifying customers of the Bristol County Water Authority of two locations where they can get water that is safe to drink. Customers should bring containers for the water. The locations are:

    Riverside: Carousel at intersection of Bullocks Point Avenue and Crescent View Avenue, 8 a.m. 8 p.m.

    Warren: 472 Child Street (pumping station), 8 a.m. 8 p.m.

    HEALTH reminds customers of the Bristol County Water Authority that a boil water advisory is still in effect. Any water that will be used for drinking, cooking or bathing infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using.

    Health Department Lifts Boil Advisory for Bristol County Water Authority Customers

    09-11-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is notifying customers of the Bristol County Water Authority that the boil water advisory put in place earlier this week has been lifted. The water is safe to use for drinking, cooking and bathing infants and no longer needs to be boiled before use.

    Water testing from multiple points in the distribution system confirms that the water system no longer contains e. coli bacteria. Bristol County Water Authority will resume routine testing of the water quality and will continue to report results to HEALTH.

    Customers and businesses are advised to:

    • Flush faucets that have not been used since Tuesday, September 8. (Let water run for 10 minutes.)
    • Replace water treatment filter cartridges.
    • Sanitize refrigerator water and ice makers.

    We appreciate the patience and cooperation of residents and town officials during the past week, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. One of the cornerstones of public health is to assure safe drinking water. The monitoring systems we have in place were successful in preventing illness.

    For more information, contact Pasquale DeLise of the Bristol County Water Authority office at 245-2033 or HEALTHs Information Line at 222-5960.

    Rhode Island Department of Health, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency Host Pandemic Influenza & Special Needs Leadership Training Program

    09-14-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) have joined forces to host the Pandemic Influenza & Special Needs Leadership Training Program on September 15th, 16th and 17th at the Radisson Airport Hotel in Warwick.

    National and state leaders, including the Federal Emergency Management agency (FEMA), will present strategies to prepare for, respond to and recover from an influenza pandemic. This training can be applied to the ongoing H1N1 response efforts. Individuals with chronic medical conditions and special healthcare needs are at higher risk for complications from influenza. Therefore, a special emphasis of the training program will be placed on planning for special needs populations, including children and adults with underlying medical conditions.

    People who get H1N1 will get sick. Most will have mild illness; however, anyone with underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, immunosuppression or pregnancy can have more severe symptoms. said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. This underscores the importance of planning for the needs of special populations, many of whom are a high risk for complications from influenza. We are please to be able to work with our colleagues at RIEMA to offer this training.

    More than 600 Rhode Islanders, including representing state agencies, community organizations, healthcare providers, emergency management officials, first responders, and individuals, will participate in the training. The training will focus on the importance of personal preparedness. Attendees will learn about the essential items that should be included in a personal readiness kit. Community organizations will also have the opportunity to participate in a strategy session focused on developing Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans.

    Landmark, Caritas Christi To Enter Discussions

    09-24-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today attended a hearing where Landmark Medical Center has received approval from the Superior Court to enter into discussions with Caritas Christi Health Care (Caritas Christi) regarding a perspective partnership.

    Landmark is an integral part of Rhode Islands health care delivery system, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Although Landmark has had its struggles financially, they deliver care to thousands of northern Rhode Islanders. I am hopeful todays announcement will bring much needed financial stability to Landmark.

    Included in the Caritas Christi healthcare system is St. Annes Hospital in Fall River and Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton. Under the rules and regulations of the Healthcare Conversion Act (HCA), any request for a hospital merger must be submitted to HEALTH and to the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General.

    I look forward to meeting with Caritas Christi, to gain a better understanding of their operations and potential benefits this merger can bring to northern Rhode Island, added Gifford.

    Department of Health Issues West Nile Virus, EEE Prevention Advisory

    09-25-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing an advisory to remind people of precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses. In Rhode Island, mosquitoes have tested positive for both West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

    This years wet weather has helped to create more ideal situations for mosquito breeding in Rhode Island and in other New England states, said Chief of HEALTHs Center for Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS. This is a reminder to all Rhode Islanders about the proper precautions to avoid mosquito bites that can cause illnesses such as WNV or EEE.

    Protect yourself:

    • Use bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
    • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.
    • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
    • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.

    Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:

    • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
    • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.
    • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
    • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.
    • Help your neighbors, friends and family do the same things.

    Most people who are infected with WNV or EEE will not have any type of illness. People who do develop symptoms may have fever, headache and body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, or paralysis. The elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness with WNV and EEE. For more information, call your doctor, visit www.health.ri.gov or call 222-5960.

    Department of Health Revokes Lead Inspector License

    09-30-2009

    The RI Department of Health (HEALTH) has revoked the license for Carl Truax, a RI Certified Environmental Lead Inspector Technician. The license was revoked because HEALTH determined that Truax had filed false lead inspection reports in violation of regulatory requirements for both the Housing Resources Commission lead mitigation regulations and HEALTHs regulations for the prevention of lead poisoning.

    To reach our goal of eliminating lead poisoning in Rhode Island, HEALTH relies on the integrity of trained lead professionals, said Director of HEALTH David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Rhode Islanders need assurance that approved lead inspections are accurate. Parents need to know that their homes are safe and healthy.

    The order pertaining to Truaxs violations concerns 12 rental properties (11 in Providence and one in Bristol) for inspections performed in 2008 and 2009. The original complaint was filed by the Childhood Lead Action Project, which documented that some properties that had just received Certificates of Conformance from Truax had patches of damaged paint and other obvious violations.

    We want to thank the Childhood Lead Action Project for bringing this problem to our attention, said Noreen Shawcross, director of the Housing Resources Commission. More than 25,000 dwelling units in Rhode Island have received Certificates of Conformance as required by our regulations. Landlords have a legal responsibility to make sure their properties are safe and that their tenants are protected from lead hazards.

    We're pleased that the Department of Health and the Housing Resources Commission are cracking down on lead inspectors who violate the law and put children at risk. said Roberta Hazen Aaronson, Executive Director of the Childhood Lead Action Project. With far too many children still being lead poisoned, it's important for the State to take this necessary action to uphold lead safety standards.

    New WIC Food Package Offers Healthier Foods, More Options

    10-02-2009

    After 35 years, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program is changing its food package. Some 28,000 Rhode Island WIC participants will now have new food options from which to choose and have access to healthier food choices.

    Since WIC was established more than three decades ago, there have been significant strides made in knowledge about nutrition and healthy eating, said WIC Chief Ann Barone. WICs new food package will bring WIC up to date with current recommendations about what families should be eating to stay healthy.

    The new package aligns with the dietary guidelines for Americans and recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It also offers greater variety for cultural or personal food preferences, strengthens breastfeeding support for new mothers and provides more infant foods to meet a childs changing nutritional needs.

    The new food package allows for greater variety in several areas. WIC families will now be able to choose from a broad range of fresh fruits and vegetables (including green bananas, bok choy and bean sprouts), whole-grain foods (including breads, tortillas and brown rice), soy milk and tofu products.

    To encourage healthier eating habits, the new food package promotes a diet lower in saturated fat and smaller amounts of juice. While foods like eggs, cheese and whole milk are still available to WIC clients, smaller amounts will encourage families to consume them in moderation.

    Passage of Regulation 14 Increases Access to Tobacco Cessation Programs

    10-06-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) applauds the recent passage of Regulation 14, which requires that health insurers offer more options for tobacco cessation programs that are a covered benefit. It is expected that this new regulation will help Rhode Islanders be more successful in attempts to quit smoking.

    Each year, tobacco use claims the lives of more than 1,600 adult smokers in our state and adds $506 million to healthcare-related costs, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. Each person that is trying to quit is unique. By offering more variety in treatment strategies that are covered by health insurance, we are giving more options to help them succeed and be tobacco free.

    The Rhode Island Tobacco Control Program (RITCP) provides a Quitline service for Rhode Islanders (1-800-TRY-TO-STOP). RITCP also partners with the Rhode Island Health Centers Association to provide tobacco cessation services for the uninsured tobacco users in the state.

    In addition, The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, a statewide cancer coalition funded by HEALTH, has a prevention workgroup whose objectives and strategies regarding tobacco are coordinated with RITCPs Annual Action Plan.

    Certain prescription medications and outpatient counseling will now be included as covered tobacco cessation benefits. In addition, the new regulation will:

    • Establish uniform standards for cessation treatment coverage
    • -Include recent clinical practice guidelines in definition of cessation treatments
    • Improve transparency of tobacco cessation coverage for Rhode Island s insured population

    HEALTH, Johnson & Wales University Aim to Promote Healthy Food Options at Local Restaurants

    10-07-2009

    The team: A local restaurant and a culinary student from Johnson & Wales University. The goal: Create a healthier version of a menu item without sacrificing flavor and taste. The prize: Helping Rhode Islanders make the healthy choice the easy choice when dining out.

    On Monday, October 12, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and Johnson & Wales University (JWU) will host a Healthy Restaurant Forum that is designed to promote the benefits of buying local, fresh ingredients and of adding healthy options to the menu.

    More people than ever are dining out, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. At the same time, obesity is a growing epidemic in this country with an economic impact reaching $147 billion dollars. One of the goals of HEALTHs Initiative For a Healthy Weight Program is to make healthy food choices the most appealing and easiest choice.

    The forum will feature 12 local restaurants including: Gracies, Chelos, Nicks on Broadway, Greggs, Pinelli Mara Group, Daves Market, El Rancho Grande, Local 121, La Laiterie and Persimmon. Anyone who attends will be able to taste the culinary creations made from the freshest whole grains, fruits, meats, vegetables and a variety of delicious items. In addition, representatives from the National Restaurant Association and from the Center for Science in the Public Interest will speak about the impact of menu labeling on sales and customer satisfaction. The economic impacts of buying local produce and food safety practices will also be discussed.

    This forum is just the beginning of a winning relationship, says culinary expert Bill Idell from Johnson & Wales. We hope that, going forward, our students will benefit from co-op partnerships with these restaurants. We think that we have all the ingredients for success.

    The event runs from 9 a.m. 3 p.m. at 265 Harborside Blvd, Providence and is free and open to the public.

    Rhode Island Department of Health Issues Update on H1N1 Vaccine Ordering, Distribution

    10-08-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that the first shipment of H1N1 intranasal vaccine will be distributed to pediatricians and family practitioners early next week. Because initial supplies of vaccine will initially be in small quantities, the available intranasal spray or injectable vaccine is restricted for use with children ages 6 months to five years of age. The remainder of H1N1 vaccine shipments in the next 8 weeks will be used for pregnant women and all school-age children for use in school-based clinics in grades K to 12. All others will get the vaccine starting in December.

    Each provider who is enrolled in the H1N1 Vaccination Program must tell HEALTH how many people they will vaccinate and break down that information by population group. HEALTH will base distribution decisions on this information. Rhode Islanders are asked not to call providers only to ask about H1N1 vaccine availability. Providers and HEALTH will provide updated information to patients as vaccine is delivered.

    Rhode Islands goal remains to vaccinate as many children and pregnant women first because they are two of the most vulnerable populations and are the main groups getting sick, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. In total, CDC indicates that Rhode Island is estimated to receive more than 600,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine by the end of flu season; however, in the next eight weeks, the estimated number and types of vaccine to be delivered will only be sufficient to vaccinate children and pregnant women.

    It is expected that school-based clinics will begin the first week in November. In the next two weeks, parents will receive information about H1N1 vaccine clinics in their childs school. They will also get a consent form that must be completed and returned to the school prior to vaccination. HEALTH reminds all parents that H1N1 vaccination is voluntary.

    Vaccinations for the other populations are anticipated to begin in early December. Those groups include healthcare workers and first responders, young adults up to age 24, anyone age 25-64 with an underlying medical condition and household contacts or caregivers of infants younger than six months of age. Elderly (age 65 and older) and healthy adults ages 25 through 64 will be vaccinated in January.

    Rhode Island Department of Health Needs Volunteers to Staff H1N1 Clinics in Schools

    10-13-2009

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is seeking medical volunteers to assist with the H1N1 vaccination campaign for school-aged children. It is expected that students in grades K through 12 will be vaccinated in school-based clinics in November.

    We will need to vaccinate students at some 430 public, private and parochial schools, said Chief of the Center for Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS. This effort is a massive undertaking. We are asking health professionals and nursing, medical or pharmacy students who can help with vaccinations to consider volunteering their time. We have had a great response so far, but we need more volunteers.

    Any health professional or student interested in volunteering must register at http://www.riresponds.org. (Use the button that says register today.) All volunteers are required to attend a training session before giving H1N1 vaccinations. H1N1 Vaccinator Training Sessions are scheduled for:

    • October 15, 2009-6:00-9:00pm
    • October 19, 2009-6:00-9:00pm
    • October 22, 2009-6:00-9:00pm
    • October 24, 2009-9:00am-Noon
    • October 26, 2009- 6:00-9:00pm
    • October 29, 2009-6:00-9:00pm

    All trainings are given at 50 Barnett Lane, West Greenwich, RI 02817.

    Volunteer recruitment and management is coordinated by RI Responds. RI Responds is a collaborative effort between HEALTH, RI Disaster Medical Assistance Team and RI Medical Reserve Corps.

    Women's Health Event Offers No-Cost HPV Vaccination, Seasonal Influenza Vaccine and Cancer Prevention information

    10-14-2009

    Prevention is one of the best ways to protect good health. Women ages 16-26 are invited to attend the 2nd Prevent & Protect Health Event on Saturday, October 17, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at The Wellness Company, 132A George M. Cohan Blvd., Providence.

    Attendees will have the opportunity to receive a vaccine, at no cost, that protects against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a cause of cervical cancer. HPV vaccine is given in a 3-dose series. (This event will provide one dose at not cost to the patient.) Seasonal flu vaccines will also be available. Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu and avoid spreading it to others at high risk of flu-related complications.

    Every year, some 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 4,000 women die from this disease in the United States. In 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to add the HPV vaccine to the recommend adolescent and adult immunization schedule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual seasonal flu vaccination to prevent getting or spreading the flu. The strains that are included in the seasonal flu vaccines change every year, so you must be vaccinated against seasonal flu every year.

    The fair is free; however anyone who is interested in being vaccinated should make an appointment. Appointments are suggested but not required. Women younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Women older than 18 should bring health insurance information; however, health insurance is not required to attend.

    This event is being hosted by The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, a statewide coalition funded by the Rhode Island Department of Health, in conjunction with The Wellness Company. Funding for this conference is from a cooperative agreement award from Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

    Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Manufacturers Notify Department of Health of Delay

    10-20-2009

    Three vaccine manufacturers have notified the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) of changes in previously scheduled seasonal flu vaccine shipments. HEALTHs adult immunization program was notified that approximately 18% of the total amount of vaccine ordered for the season will not be delivered. This change in delivery was based on two manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Novartis, ending shipments of injectable flu vaccine to distributors. In addition, Sanofi Pasteur, makers of injectable seasonal flu vaccine that was ordered for children and adolescents ages 3 through 18, says remaining shipments to HEALTHs pediatric program will be delayed. HEALTH anticipates delivery sometime in December. HEALTH purchases the seasonal influenza vaccine from several different manufacturers every year to lessen the impact on the state when there are vaccine shortages or delays.

    Public demand for the seasonal flu vaccine has been up this year from years past creating some shortages and cancellations of clinics. By the end of this years flu season in Rhode Island, HEALTH will have provided more seasonal flu vaccine than in any previous flu season even with this reduction announced today.

    While this news is not what we would have hoped for, said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH, we are confident that HEALTH will receive all the seasonal vaccine that was ordered for children. We are asking all providers to prioritize current supplies of vaccine for high-risk individuals. In addition, even with the reduction in the amount of vaccine we will receive for adults, we will still have more doses than what was used last year. And we have ordered 10,000 additional doses for adults and 14,000 additional doses for children.

    At this time, HEALTH is recommending that healthcare providers reserve injectable vaccine for the elderly and patients who are pregnant or have underlying medical conditions, as they are at higher risk of complications from seasonal influenza. Providers should contact individuals with underlying medical conditions who still need a seasonal flu vaccine. People who have not gotten a seasonal flu shot can contact their providers or consult the schedule of public clinics at www.projo.com/news/flu/clinics/. People should check this website which will continue to be updated as clinic dates and times change.

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