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03/26/2015 16:00 EDT
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Events

Announcements

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03/25/2015 13:36 EDT
This new issue brief examines unintended pregnancy among women in Rhode Island, and includes recommended actions for healthcare providers.
03/03/2015 13:56 EST
Deadline March 16, 2015. Seasonal Policy Interns assist with the State's various public health and services programs within the various divisions of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Will be responsible to assist full-time staff in various areas of agency policy and planning, special projects, studies, research, data collection, entry and analysis, surveys, design outreaching and education materials and to monitor organized events and other related projects.

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01/26/2015 10:40 EST
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: 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. Watch for icy or slippery spots on driveways and walkways to help prevent injuries from slips and falls. 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. 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. 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. Avoid drinking alcohol as it can lower the body's ability to keep warm. Hydrate. Drink plenty of water and other non-caffeinated, no-sugar beverages. (You can get dehydrated in cold weather too.) 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."
12/09/2014 15:48 EST
The Rhode Island Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water Quality, invites review and comments on the Clean Water Infrastructure Replacement Plans for the following Public Water Supplier: Kent County Water Authority Copies of the plan will be available at the following locations: Kent County Water Authority, 1072 Main St, West Warwick, RI 02893; and the Rhode Island Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water Quality, Cannon Building, Three Capitol Hill, 2nd Floor, Room 209, Providence, Rhode Island. Review must be accomplished during regular business hours of each organization. Comments, in writing, must be submitted to Steven Boudreau, Capacity Development Program Manager, RI Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water Quality, Three Capitol Hill, Providence, RI 02908 no later than 4:00 PM on January 9, 2015. The Rhode Island Department of Health is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Please call HEALTH at 222-3442 for further information. For individuals requesting communication assistance, call the HEALTH telephone 222-2506 at least 48 hours in advance, or Relay RI (TYY) at 1-800-745-5555.
10/14/2014 14:19 EDT
Each October National Primary Care Week and Corps Community Day celebrate the impact of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) on improving access to primary care and highlights the importance of the primary care workforce. The Corps strengthens the U.S. primary care workforce by providing loan repayment and scholarships to clinicians in exchange for working in communities that need care the most.
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...
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

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

Immunization

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03/10/2015 10:20 EDT
Enrollment in Rhode Island's State-Supplied Vaccine (SSV) Program for 2015-2016 will open on June 1, 2015. Vaccine orders made after July 1, 2015 will not be processed until enrollment has been completed and certified. Healthcare providers will be required to pre-book influenza vaccine prior to July 1, 2015. Healthcare providers can pre-book up to 120% of the doses they administered during the 2014-2015 influenza season.
12/23/2014 11:18 EST
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Gardasil 9 (Human Papillomavirus 9-valent Vaccine, Recombinant) for the prevention of certain diseases caused by nine types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). However, Gardasil 9 has not been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and Gardasil 9 is not currently commercially available. Rhode Island healthcare providers should continue vaccinating patients against HPV with the currently available quadrivalent Gardasil vaccine. It is unknown when Gardasil 9 will become commercially available, so deferring vaccination in anticipation of its availability is discouraged. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) will provide updates to healthcare providers about Gardasil 9 as they are made by the manufacturer and the CDC.

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12/23/2014 11:18 EST
Given that the midpoint of the 2014-2015 influenza season has passed, providers of state-supplied influenza vaccine may begin to receive doses with expiration dates that are approaching. This is especially true of Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine [LAIV] (FluMist). Providers should consider making smaller and more frequent orders (weekly). Much of the FluMist currently being shipped will expire in February and March. Some doses, however, will expire at the end of January.
12/23/2014 11:17 EST
During the vaccine ordering and shipping blackout periods, healthcare providers will still be able to submit doses-administered reports. (Healthcare providers are unable to order vaccine from 12/16 through 1/1/2015. Vaccine shipments will resume after the blackout period. Deliveries will be arriving the week of 1/5/2015.)
11/06/2014 11:57 EST
Healthcare providers will not be able to order vaccine from 12/16 through 12/29. Vaccine will not be shipped to healthcare providers from 12/19 through 1/5. Orders of influenza vaccine must be placed between 12/9 and 12/15 for delivery before the blackout begins. These orders should be for 3-weeks supply. monthly orders of non-influenza must be placed no later than 12/10 to guarantee delivery before the shipping blackout begins. Providers who have monthly orders scheduled between 11/15 and 12/10 should order enough vaccine for 90 days. This is enough vaccine to get through this blackout period, plus 30 additional days. Providers who have monthly orders scheduled between 12/11 and 12/31 should contact Mark Francesconi or Viviana Ciccia before 12/5 to have their order date changed to 12/10. These orders should be normal 60-day supply requests. Mark Francesconi (Mark.Francesconi@health.ri.gov | 401-222-5988); Viviana Ciccia (Viviana.Ciccia@health.ri.gov | 401-222-4639)

Infectious Disease

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03/16/2015 13:58 EDT
Continuing Medical Education (CME) opportunity: This CME event will provide information to healthcare providers so that they understand the latest trends in HIV and STDs, and that they can disrupt further spread of these infections by learning best practices for interacting with patients and their sexual partners. A special emphasis will be on current approaches to working with gay/bisexual men and other patients at highest risk of HIV and STDs. Participants will be provided with tools and resources to implement in their practices. This CME event will be held Thursday, April 30, 2015, from 5:15-7:30 pm at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, 222 Richmond St., Providence, RI.
03/16/2015 13:33 EDT
The New England TB Hero is an award presented each year by the New England Tuberculosis Consortium to recognize an extraordinary contribution to the care or management of patients with tuberculosis (TB) and latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) or an activity that greatly enhanced TB prevention and control efforts in a locality or in a state. The individual recognized may be a member of the TB program or health department, a community clinic or hospital practitioner, or the lay community. He or she need not be a healthcare professional. To nominate someone, complete the nomination form at the link above and attach a one page description of the nominee's contribution/ exceptional accomplishment(s) that make her or him a TB hero. The nomination should illustrate: the person's role in TB care, management, or activities; the specific qualities they have demonstrated that support their recognition; specific examples that demonstrate these qualities; and the impact that the activities had on the patient(s) or the community. Please submit nomination forms by April 1, 2015 by email to jaime.comella@health.ri.gov. To submit by U.S. Postal Service, send to Jaime Comella, TB Program Manager, RI Department of Health, Three Capitol Hill, Room 106, Providence, RI 02908.

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03/05/2015 12:55 EST
Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. announced on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 that influenza is no longer widespread in Rhode Island. Licensed healthcare facilities' healthcare workers who had not been vaccinated against influenza had been required to wear surgical masks when engaged in direct patient contact since December 30, 2014, when the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) declared influenza to be widespread. This requirement is no longer in place. However, if the level of influenza in Rhode Island rises again, HEALTH will put the masking requirement back into effect.
02/19/2015 15:10 EST
The United States is currently experiencing a large, multi-state outbreak of measles. Between January 1, 2015, and February 6, 2015, 121 cases from 17 states had been reported. One hundred three of these cases are linked to potential exposure at Disneyland Resort Theme Park in California. All Rhode Island healthcare providers should remain vigilant for possible measles cases. A single case of measles will trigger a full outbreak response.
02/06/2015 13:06 EST
Background: A 19-year-old Providence College (PC) student experienced the onset of symptoms of meningococcal meningitis on January 31 and was admitted to a Boston-area hospital. Tests confirmed that the student had meningococcal meningitis. The meningitis strain was reported to be serogroup B today. The student is recovering. A second, 20-year-old Providence College student was taken to a hospital yesterday (February 5) with purpura fulminans, altered mental status and nuchal rigidity thus meeting case definition criteria as a probable case of meningococcemia, pending lab confirmation. The two cases did not have any direct interaction with each other. Two cases occurring in this manner satisfy the CDC case criteria for an "organization-based" outbreak...
02/03/2015 12:46 EST
On Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, the Rhode Island Department of Health received a report of a confirmed case of meningococcal meningitis in a vaccinated Providence College student. The student was admitted to a Boston-area hospital and is reportedly improving.
01/29/2015 17:25 EST
The following message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCHAN-00376) was distributed via the CDC Health Alert Network, on January 23, 2015 at 14:00 ET (2:00 PM ET).
01/12/2015 11:20 EST
As a follow-up to HAN 00374 (Dec. 3, 2014), CDC is providing 1) a summary of influenza antiviral drug treatment recommendations, 2) an update about approved treatment drugs and supply this season, and 3) background information for patients regarding anti-influenza treatment.
12/12/2014 10:59 EST
CME Credit: This training is approved for up to 1.5 Category 1 ACCME continuing education hours/nursing education hours. This training is approved for up to 1.5 Category 1 ACCME continuing education hours/nursing education hours. Target Audience: This training is intended for health care professionals who diagnose and treat tuberculosis. This training opportunity is available to a national audience. Description: This 75-minute presentation will be followed by a 15-minute Q and A session. In recent years a number of rapid molecular diagnostics for detecting tuberculosis as well as drug resistance have become available both commercially and in public health labs. This webinar will describe the different NAATs (nucleic acid amplification tests) that are available to you, including the Gen-Probe MTD test, the Xpert MTB/RIF test, and Pyrosequencing (PSQ), as well as rapid molecular tests for drug resistance, including PSQ, line probe assays, and the CDC MDDR Service. We will describe what NAATs can and cannot tell you and how to best use these tests for AFB smear positive and smear negative clinical specimens. The webinar will also discuss the interpretation of specific mutations and drug resistance.
12/04/2014 11:41 EST
CDC is reminding clinicians of the benefits of influenza antiviral medications and urging continued influenza vaccination of unvaccinated patients this influenza season. Because of the detection of drifted influenza A (H3N2) viruses, this CDC Health Advisory is being issued to re-emphasize the importance of the use of neuraminidase inhibitor antiviral medications when indicated for treatment and prevention of influenza, as an adjunct to vaccination.
11/25/2014 17:23 EST
The following (CDCHAN-00373) was distributed via the CDC Health Alert Network on November 25, 2014, 13:45 ET (1:45 PM ET)... Summary: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Connecticut Departments of Public Health and Consumer Protection are investigating a fatal case of gastrointestinal (GI) mucormycosis caused by Rhizopus oryzae in a premature infant. The infant received ABC Dophilus® Powder, a dietary supplement product containing viable microbial ingredients purchased from Solgar, Inc., Leonia, New Jersey. The product claimed to have "probiotic" properties and is marketed for infants and children. Subsequent testing of the same lot of unopened Solgar ABC Dophilus® Powder revealed contamination with Rhizopus oryzae. The purpose of this HAN advisory is to provide awareness about this fatal case of GI mucormycosis following ingestion of a contaminated dietary supplement and to provide guidance to state health departments and health care providers. Please disseminate this information to healthcare workers in neonatal intensive care units, hospital pharmacies, pediatricians, and primary care providers, as well as to microbiology and pathology laboratories.
10/22/2014 13:09 EDT
On October 20, 2104, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the following guidance for hospital-based healthcare workers: 1. Fact Sheet: Tightened Guidance for U.S. Healthcare Workers on Personal Protective Equipment for Ebola. 2. Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment To Be Used by Healthcare Workers During Management of Patients with Ebola Virus Disease in U.S. Hospitals, Including Procedures for Putting On (Donning) and Removing (Doffing). Click on the link above to view both.

Contact

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

Drinking Water Quality

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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

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June Swallow

Food Protection

Food and Drug Administration Recall

03/25/2015 11:29 EDT
Due to receiving a recall notice from its organic spinach supplier because of possible Listeria monocytogenes exposure, La Terra Fina is recalling the products outlined in the chart below. Following its voluntary recall of Organic Spinach Dip last Friday, La Terra Fina is expanding the recall to include these products that were manufactured on the same production equipment on the same day as the Organic Spinach Dip and are being recalled out of an abundance of caution.

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03/25/2015 08:45 EDT
Premium Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli is voluntarily recalling one product lot of its 6.4 oz Chocolate Covered Raisin Bags and 6.4 oz Chocolate Covered Almond Bags sold in nine Lindt Chocolate Shop locations in the U.S. between January 23 and March 16, 2015. Lindt is issuing this voluntary recall due to concerns about the potential presence of undeclared hazelnuts.
03/24/2015 16:40 EDT
This recall is based on a recall notice from one of Superior Foods, Inc., organic frozen spinach suppliers that Superior Foods, Inc., may have received organic spinach with the possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
03/24/2015 14:32 EDT
Twin City Foods, Inc. of Stanwood, Washington is recalling the following products because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
03/24/2015 09:30 EDT
Supervalu Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn. is recalling Essential Everyday Chocolate Covered Raisins because the product may contain undeclared peanuts. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.
03/24/2015 08:49 EDT
All lots of Giant Eagle brand Japanese Breaded Cod Fillets, prepared and sold individually from the Seafood department inside Giant Eagle and Market District supermarkets through March 23, 2015 have been voluntarily recalled by Giant Eagle due to an undeclared soy allergen. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to soy run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.
03/24/2015 08:46 EDT
All lots of Giant Eagle brand Little Italy Paninis, prepared and sold individually from the Prepared Foods department inside Giant Eagle and Market District supermarkets through March 23, 2015 have been voluntarily recalled by Giant Eagle due to an undeclared egg allergen. 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.
03/24/2015 06:15 EDT
Hayward, CA. Carmel Food Group today issued a voluntary recall of certain Rising Moon Organics frozen Ravioli items, because of possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes.
03/23/2015 17:51 EDT
Blue Bell Ice Cream of Brenham, Texas, is recalling three 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups- chocolate, strawberry and vanilla with tab lids because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
03/23/2015 09:50 EDT
Amy's Kitchen, Inc. is voluntarily recalling approximately 73,897 cases of select code dates and manufacturing codes of the products identified on Attachment A. This recall is based on a recall notice from one of Amy's organic spinach suppliers that Amy's may have received organic spinach with the possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
03/23/2015 09:08 EDT
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is recalling approximately 12,540 packages of Wegmans Organic Food You Feel Good About Just Picked Frozen Spinach, 12 oz. (UPC 77890-32932) due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The product was sold in the frozen food department of the company’s 85 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts between January 27 and March 21, 2015.

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Federal Food Safety Alert

03/25/2015 11:00 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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03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 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.
03/25/2015 11:00 EDT
Santa Maria Foods, a Brampton, Ontario, establishment, is recalling approximately 2,600 pounds of whole boneless ham prosciutto product due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

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Archives

Recent

03/26/2015 16:00 EDT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 26, 2015 – PROVIDENCE, RI - The Rhode Island Department of Health has been notified that Twin City Foods, Inc. of Stanwood, Washington is recalling the following products because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which...
03/19/2015 11:45 EDT
The product in question was raw material received by Frontier, which tested positive for Salmonella during a test by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Given that Salmonella may be present, Frontier is immediately initiating this recall. Frontier Co-op is immediately initiating...
03/19/2015 09:15 EDT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — March 19, 2015 — PROVIDENCE, RI. —The Rhode Island Department of Health, Tobacco Free Rhode Island, dozens of youth-based organizations and more than 200 teens gathered in downtown Providence yesterday afternoon for the second annual Rhode Island Zombie Walk. The event...
03/12/2015 13:45 EDT
Governor Gina M. Raimondo today announced her intent to nominate Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott as the next Director of the Department of Health. Raimondo will submit Dr. Alexander-Scott's name for consideration to the Rhode Island State Senate for confirmation. "Healthy Rhode Islanders will...
03/04/2015 17:15 EST
PROVIDENCE – Michael Fine, M.D., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (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...
03/04/2015 10:15 EST
Approximately $2.15 million of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding awarded to the Rhode Island Department of Health will fund 11 Rhode Island non-profit organizations and local governments to support innovative approaches to preventing chronic diseases, improve birth outcomes and...
03/04/2015 10:15 EST
HEALTH warns Rhode Islanders who purchased Roasted Garlic Sauce, Clam Sauce, Tomato Basil Sauce, Fra-Diavalo Sauce, and Marinara Sauce from D.Palmieri's Bakery on 624 Killingly St in Johnston. These products were not processed properly. There is a potential risk of Clostridium botulinum, a...
02/27/2015 11:45 EST
PROVIDENCE, R.I.- Governor Gina M. Raimondo today announced the resignation of Dr. Michael Fine, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Dr. Fine delivered a letter of resignation to the Governor yesterday afternoon, and said he has decided to explore new opportunities. "As...
02/20/2015 17:00 EST
Contact: Alex Ambrosius RIEMA External Affairs (401) 261-1639 www.riema.ri.gov Cranston, RI - The Office of the Governor, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA), Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)...
02/19/2015 12:30 EST
Due to several recent recalls of products containing cumin for undeclared peanut allergens, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending that people with peanut allergies avoid consuming products with ground or powdered cumin. The FDA stated that affected cumin may be sold as a spice,
02/19/2015 10:45 EST
Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports the updated data on apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, use of Narcan by Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services, and prescribed controlled substances. Since January 1, 2015, there have been twenty-seven apparent accidental drug...
02/18/2015 18:00 EST
The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Providence College are conducting an evaluation of the impact of the serogroup B meningococcal vaccination program implemented at the college. Clinics for the first dose of the vaccine were...
02/06/2015 18:45 EST
FEBRUARY 6, 2015 Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Providence College Coordinating to Organize On-Site College Vaccination Clinic PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced swift action today in response to a second...
02/06/2015 11:00 EST
Distributed February 5, 2015 PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) received a report of a probable case of meningococcal meningitis at Providence College. The student has been admitted to a hospital in Rhode Island. If confirmed, this would be the second...
02/02/2015 17:00 EST
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health received a report of a confirmed case of meningococcal meningitis in a vaccinated Providence College student. The student has been admitted to a Boston-area hospital and is improving. Providence College Health Services, in...
01/30/2015 11:30 EST
Providence, RI – In order to bring attention to the health and safety issues associated with winter storms, the Rhode Island Department of Health is releasing the number of storm-related deaths, illnesses, and injuries reported by emergency departments in Rhode Island since winter storm "Juno" hit...
01/21/2015 14:30 EST
Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports the data on apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, use of Narcan by Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services, and prescribed controlled substances. Since January 1, 2015, there have been seven apparent accidental drug overdose deaths.
01/14/2015 16:30 EST
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is warning consumers with peanut allergies about the recall of certain Morningstar Farms Black Bean Burgers and Chipotle Black Bean Burgers. Individuals who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of a serious or life-...
01/13/2015 12:30 EST
New survey results show that Rhode Island ranks third in the nation for hospital support provided to new mothers and babies while they're learning to breastfeed. Rhode Island achieved an overall score of 86 out of 100 in the 2013 Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) Survey from
01/09/2015 16:30 EST
As a new year begins and people think about life-changing resolutions, the Departments of Health (HEALTH), Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), and Anchor Recovery Community Center today launched a new campaign aimed at getting assistance to Rhode Islanders...

2014

New Chief of Staff Appointed at HEALTH

01-06-2014

Dr. Michael Fine, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, announced today that Sarah Harrigan has been named HEALTH's new Chief of Staff. In this role, Mrs. Harrigan will oversee staff management and the oversight of hiring at the state agency with approximately 435 employees.

She joined HEALTH on December 30, 2013.

"We are very excited to have Sarah on board," Dr. Fine said. "Her broad range of experience in policy, management, and community organizing make her a perfect fit to help HEALTH prevent disease and promote the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders."

Mrs. Harrigan began her career as a community organizer in New England. She worked as the Legislative Aide for the Minority Chair of the Finance Committee at the Ohio House of Representatives and as the Legislative Liaison for the Ohio Office of Budget and Management where she collaborated with state agency directors and their staff on the development and implementation of state budget priorities. She also worked for the United Way of Central Ohio.

"It's great to be home in New England and part of such a talented team of professionals at HEALTH," Mrs. Harrigan said. "I look forward to streamlining strategy and improving coordination here at the Department."

With her appointment, HEALTH turns toward 2014 with a strengthened leadership team ready to pursue an ambitious agenda aimed at making Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation.

The appointment of Sarah Harrigan follows HEALTH's addition last month of James Palmer as Public Information Officer. Palmer has broad experience in global health and a background in government and politics in Boston and Washington, DC.

Sarah Harrigan holds a Bachelor's degree from McGill University in Montreal, Canada and a Master's degree in Public Administration from Ohio State University. She is a native of Massachusetts.

HEALTH Organizes Community Clinics for Immunization Against Influenza

01-08-2014

With the number of influenza cases circulating throughout Rhode Island and the country continuing to rise, the Rhode Island Department of Health has organized a series of no-cost vaccination clinics throughout the state over the next three weeks.

Influenza has hospitalized 25 Rhode Islanders thus far this season. That number is up from 16 on December 30. Influenza is widespread in 25 states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut. Flu activity is expected to rise considerably in Rhode Island in next two weeks.

The dominant strain of influenza circulating in Rhode Island and the country is H1N1, which was first detected in 2009. This strain affects children and young adults more than other strains. However, this year's vaccine protects against H1N1 influenza, as well as two or three other strains (depending on what type of vaccine that people receive).

"The wave of influenza is in states all around Rhode Island and it's coming our way next," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of Health. "This is not a typical year. This year younger people are more affected than the elderly. But the good news for children and young adults is that the flu vaccine is a very good match for the strain that is circulating. It's not too late to be vaccinated."

In addition to children and young adults, vaccination is particularly important for pregnant women, healthcare workers, seniors, and people with chronic medical conditions. Common chronic medical conditions include asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

The first community clinic will be held on Wednesday, January 8 at the Warwick Mall from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thus far, 17 additional public clinics have been scheduled throughout Rhode Island. Although some clinics will be held in schools, they are open to everyone, not just students of these schools and people who live in these communities. As additional clinics are scheduled, they will be added to the clinic schedule. This schedule can be found at: www.health.ri.gov/find/vaccinations

All clinics are open to anyone older than 6 months of age. There is no cost for a flu shot and there are no insurance requirements at the clinics. People who have health insurance, however, are asked to bring their insurance cards.

In addition to being vaccinated at community clinics, children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices. Adults can be vaccinated at community clinics, doctors' offices, and pharmacies.

Influenza Declared to be Widespread in Rhode Island; Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers Required to Wear Masks

01-08-2014

Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health declared today that flu is widespread in Rhode Island. This declaration triggers Rhode Island's regulation requiring all healthcare workers who have not been immunized against the flu to wear surgical masks during direct patient contact."Healthcare workers are protecting their patients, who often have other medical complications, by being vaccinated against the flu or wearing masks when involved in direct patient contact," said Dr. Fine. "Since vaccination is the best defense against influenza, it is extremely important for everyone to get vaccinated now if they have not already done so," added Fine.

This year, throughout the country, CDC has tracked many cases of severe respiratory illness from the H1N1 virus, which in some instances have led to hospitalization, and even death, among young and middle-aged adults. Thus far this season there have been 51 hospitalizations related to the flu in Rhode Island. The flu is currently widespread in 25 states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut.

HEALTH determines the level of influenza in the state through surveillance physician offices throughout Rhode Island that send samples to the Department.

The dominant strain of flu circulating in Rhode Island and the country is H1N1, which was first detected in 2009. This strain affects children, young adults, and middle aged adults more than other strains. However, this year's vaccine protects against H1N1 flu, as well as two or three other strains (depending on what type of vaccine that people receive).

Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. In addition to healthcare workers, vaccination is especially important for pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, and asthma.

HEALTH has set up 16 vaccination clinics to run throughout Rhode Island over the next 3 weeks. There is no cost for a flu shot and there are no insurance requirements at the clinics. People who have health insurance, however, are asked to bring their insurance cards.

In addition to being vaccinated at community clinics, children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices. Adults can be vaccinated at community clinics, doctors' offices, and pharmacies.

HEALTH Issues Warning About Spike in Drug Overdose Deaths

01-17-2014

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health reports that there have been 22 deaths due to apparent accidental drug overdose since the first of the year.

This alarming number is twice the number of deaths seen for this same time period last year. The deaths were geographically spread throughout the State, and the age range of the decedents is 20-62 years old. The deaths happened most frequently on weekends, with 18 of the 22 happening between Fridays and Mondays. Tests are still pending on the specific substances involved.

The figures were announced today at HEALTH by Michael Fine, M.D., Director of Health. He was joined by Craig S. Stenning, Director of Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and Lt. Robert S. Wall of the Rhode Island State Police.

The three also highlighted the State's Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Prevention Act. This law provides some legal immunity to people who call 911 to report drug overdoses. This law is intended to encourage people to report drug overdoses as soon as possible, even if drugs are present at the scene.

Anyone who is addicted to drugs, or who knows someone who is addicted, should learn about Narcan (Naloxone), an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. Narcan can be used in emergency situations to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdose. It is available without a prescription at all Walgreens pharmacies in Rhode Island.

HEALTH Announces First Flu Deaths of the Season; Unvaccinated Rhode Islanders Urged to Get Flu Shots

02-04-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health reports today that two influenza-related deaths occurred in January, the state's first two of the 2013-2014 flu season.

The first individual, a male in his 50s who had underlying medical conditions, died on January 1. The second individual was a male in his 80s who also had underlying medical conditions and passed away on January 25. The delay in reporting the deaths was a result of the time needed to conduct tests to confirm that the flu was the cause of death.

"This is a very sad reminder that influenza is a serious illness," said Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. "Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. Influenza typically remains in Rhode Island until April. If you have not yet been vaccinated this year, it's not too late. When you get vaccinated, you are not just protecting yourself. You are also protecting the people you love."

This is the first flu season that information about adult flu-related deaths is being reported to HEALTH. This information must now be reported by all licensed healthcare providers and healthcare facilities in the state, according to a change made for this flu season in HEALTH's regulations on the reporting of diseases.

The dominant strain circulating this year in Rhode Island and nationally is H1N1, which affects children and young adults more than people in other age groups. In addition to children and young adults, vaccination is very important for pregnant women, healthcare workers, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions. Common chronic medical conditions include asthma, diabetes, heart disease, obesity.

There is still plenty of flu vaccine throughout Rhode Island. Adults can be vaccinated at doctors' offices or at pharmacies. Children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices.

To date, there have been 129 flu-related hospitalizations in Rhode Island.

Declaration of Widespread Flu Lifted; Unvaccinated Rhode Islanders Still Urged to Get Flu Shots

02-27-2014

The flu is no longer widespread in Rhode Island, Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. announced today, while also reminding everyone who has not yet been vaccinated that it is not too late to get a flu shot.

Healthcare workers who had not been vaccinated against the flu had been required to wear surgical masks when engaged in direct patient contact since January 8, 2014, when the Rhode Island Department of Health declared the flu to be widespread. This requirement is no longer in place. However, if the level of flu in Rhode Island rises again to widespread, HEALTH will put the masking requirement back into effect.

"Although the level of flu in Rhode Island has dropped, unvaccinated Rhode Islanders remain at risk for getting the flu," said Dr. Fine. "The flu is a serious illness and it typically remains in Rhode Island until April. For anyone who has not yet been vaccinated, it's not too late to protect yourself and the people around you."

There have been 2 flu-related deaths and 239 flu-related hospitalizations in Rhode Island during the 2013-2014 flu season. During the 2012-2013 flu season, there were 961 hospitalizations and no flu-related pediatric deaths. (HEALTH did not collect information on flu-related deaths for adults last year. This is the first year that this information is being collected for both adults and children.)

During this year's flu season, 491,264 Rhode Islanders have been vaccinated, a 1% increase over last year. During the 2012-2013 flu season, 485,303 people were vaccinated (up to this date). This year's figure is a 14% increase over the 2011-2012 flu season, when 431,032 people were vaccinated.

Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. It is especially important for children younger than five years of age (children younger than 2 years of age in particular), healthcare workers, pregnant women, senior citizens, and people with chronic conditions to be vaccinated. Common chronic medical conditions include diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.

Adults can be vaccinated at doctors' offices or at pharmacies. Children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices.

HEALTH and Two Hospitals Responding to Potential Measles Exposures

03-02-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health is working with Rhode Island Hospital and Roger Williams Medical Center to notify patients who may have been exposed to a person with measles who was in both of these facilities last week.

The first potential exposure took place on February 25 at Roger Williams Medical Center, where a man was treated for a sore throat and fever. On February 28 that person developed a rash and was seen at the CVS Minute Clinic in North Attleboro, Massachusetts and the possibility of measles was recognized. He was referred to the Rhode Island Hospital Emergency Department, where he was until early on March 1st. Physicians there agreed that the clinical presentation was consistent with measles. He remained in the emergency department until early March 1st and was discharged to home isolation. This individual has no history of vaccination against measles. The diagnosis of measles has not yet been confirmed by laboratory studies. However, the case meets Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria for a probable case of measles. HEALTH and CDC recommend that people who were potentially exposed to the index case be identified and their vaccination status updated.

Measles is a contagious respiratory disease that usually lasts a week or two. Most people recover without any problems. In rare cases complications such as pneumonia and brain infections can occur. The virus that causes measles lives in the nose and throat and is spread into the air when an infected person coughs or talks. Measles can stay in the air for up to two hours after the contagious person has left the room, and can cause infection when inhaled by a susceptible person.

Measles looks and feels like a cold at first. Cough, high fever, runny nose, and red, watery eyes are common. These symptoms start ten to fourteen days after exposure. A few days later, a red blotchy rash starts on the face, and then spreads to the rest of the body. People with measles are infectious for four days prior to the development of rash, and remain infectious until four days after the rash has developed.

The best protection against measles after exposure is vaccination as soon as possible (preferably within 3 days). Measles vaccine is included in the MMR vaccine. MMR cannot be given to infants younger than one year of age (except during an outbreak when it can be given to infants as young as 6 months), pregnant women, and those who are immunocompromised. For these individuals, the alternative is another product called immune globulin, which can help protect against the measles if taken within a week of exposure.

What you should do:

Hospital/clinic staff at these facilities are identifying patients from their records and are calling individuals to assess their risk and make recommendations and arrangements for vaccination. Patients (or people accompanying patients) who were at the sites at the times listed below who have not been contacted by March 3rd should call the appropriate number indicated below.

If you have not been contacted by March 3 and were at Roger Williams Med. Center Emergency Rm. on Tuesday, February 25 between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., call 401-456-2434; or 401-456-2092.

If you have not been contacted by March 3 and were at Rhode Island Hospital Emergency Room on Friday, February 28, between 5:30 p.m. and call Saturday, March 1, 3:30 a.m., call 401-444-5600.

If you have not been contacted by March 3 and were at the CVS Minute Clinic in North Attleboro on Friday, February 28 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. call 401-222-8022 (Rhode Island residents); 617-983-6800 (Mass. residents).

Additional information about measles vaccination:

  • If a person was born in the United States before 1957, it is very likely that he or she is immune to measles. However, to increase the likelihood that a person is protected against measles, he or she should consider receiving a dose of MMR vaccine.
  • If a person was born in the United States in or after 1957, and there is no written documentation of having one dose of MMR or measles-containing vaccine or serologic evidence of immunity, one must receive a dose of vaccine as soon as possible. Two doses are required for college students and school age students.
  • If a person was born outside of the United States (regardless of the year of their birth), and there is no documentation of having two doses of MMR or measles-containing vaccine, or serologic evidence of immunity, that person must receive a dose of vaccine as soon as possible.
  • A blood test showing you are protected against measles is considered evidence of immunity. However, having had the disease in the past alone is not evidence of immunity.

Michelle Obama, Governor Chafee, and Director of Health Urge Cities and Towns to Join Let's Move!

03-12-2014

First Lady Michelle Obama, Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. have all reached out to the leadership in Rhode Island's cities and towns calling on them to join Let's Move! Cities, Towns, and Counties.

Let's Move! is a national campaign to address the childhood obesity epidemic by engaging local leaders in improving the health of people of their communities. Obama, Chafee, and Fine aim to make Rhode Island the country's first Let's Move! state by getting the leadership in every city and town to enroll.

"Everyone has a role to play to increase opportunities for healthy living and to reduce childhood obesity," Obama and Chafee wrote in a joint letter. "Your involvement in building healthy communities will help ensure a healthy future for children."

While some other states have seen declines in the prevalence of childhood obesity, Rhode Island has not. A quarter of Rhode Island adolescents and sixteen percent of Rhode Island kindergarteners are overweight or obese, and are at increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

"Too many children develop lifelong chronic conditions as a result of obesity that could have been prevented," said Dr. Fine. "To create environments in which children can thrive we need to address obesity in our schools and communities through education and policy change. Rhode Island has the chance to be a leader on this issue and become the country's first Let's Move! state."

Through Let's Move! Cities, Towns, and Counties, communities have the opportunity to earn gold, silver, and bronze medals and national recognition by accomplishing five key goals: helping kids get a healthier start; displaying nutrition information in all municipal buildings where food is sold; providing healthy foods in schools; implementing healthy and sustainable food service guidelines; and increasing opportunities for physical activity.

Over 400 elected officials from across the U.S. have already joined Let's Move! Cities, Towns, and Counties, but no state has had all their municipalities join the effort. So far, Providence, Pawtucket, and Warwick have enrolled.

The Rhode Island Department of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National League of Cities will work with each interested community to meet the goals of Let's Move! Cities, Towns, and Counties.

HEALTH Alerts Rhode Islanders to Recall of Dole Fresh Vegetables Bagged Salads

03-14-2014

Providence: The Rhode Island Department of Health has learned of a voluntary recall of bagged salads due to possible health risks, and advises people not to consume any of the recalled products from Dole Fresh Vegetables, which include:

Dole Italian Blend (UPC 7143000819), Fresh Selections Italian Style Blend (UPC 1111091045),

Little Salad Bar Italian Salad (UPC 4149811014), Marketside Italian Style Salad (UPC 8113102780) coded A058201A or B, with use-by date of March 12, 2014.

Although the products were not sold in Rhode Island, they were sold in neighboring states and may be in Rhode Island homes. The products were recalled due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause illness, especially in pregnant women, adults with weakened immune systems, and may cause fetal death.

No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall.

The voluntary recall from Dole Fresh Vegetables can be found at:

www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm389296.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

HEALTH Reports Significant Drops in RI Childhood Lead Poisoning Rates

03-17-2014

PROVIDENCE: Two hundred twenty-five fewer Rhode Island children had elevated lead levels* in 2013, with housing improvements in Providence accounting for about half of the gains in lead poisoning prevention.

"This is great news. Lead not only affects a child's health, but it also impacts a child's ability to learn," HEALTH Director Michael Fine, MD, said. "Children with low lead screening levels are more likely to have proficient educational performance scores when they reach third grade."

The number of Providence children with elevated blood lead levels in 2013 compared to 2012 declined by 128 cases, from 530 to 402. This decline coincides with the City's efforts to ensure that contractors who work on Providence homes have the appropriate lead license, and that landlords obtain certificates of conformance to show their homes are safe for children.

"In the City of Providence, there are few as urgent and preventable health issues for our children than lead poisoning," Mayor Angel Taveras said. "My administration is committed to doing all that it can to help eradicate lead poisoning and promote healthy development for all Providence children."

According to the City of Providence's Healthy Communities Office, in 2012, Providence's Department of Inspection and Standards began requiring all applicants for city building permits on homes built before 1978 to provide proof that contractors working on the homes have Lead Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) licenses. In addition, Providence's Housing Court created a lead court docket to prosecute property owners who fail to obtain lead-safe certificates for rental units. As of January 2014, the City Solicitor's Office has prosecuted 180 cases. Providence is the first municipality in Rhode Island to implement these changes.

Providence Water Supply works in partnership with HEALTH on lead poisoning prevention by reducing lead exposures from drinking water. Providence Water Supply routinely monitors the lead content of water from selected drinking water taps and found the number of taps that exceed the lead action level declined from 26 in 2012 to 23 in 2013.

Together with Providence, the cities of Woonsocket, Warwick and Tiverton account for more than 80 percent of the decline in lead cases in Rhode Island. In 2013, the number of cases of elevated lead levels declined by 31 in Woonsocket, 15 in Warwick and 8 in Tiverton. Improvements were also seen in Newport, East Providence and Burrillville where the number of cases declined by 7, 7 and 5 cases, respectively.

The relatively small number of children screened in most Rhode Island cities and towns can cause lead poisoning rates to vary substantially from year to year. Significant improvements over a two-year period occurred in Cranston and North Providence, with declines of 23 and 12 cases, respectively.

"Anytime we learn that children's lead exposure is being reduced is very good news. Kids' developing bodies are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead exposure, which can include lifelong impacts such as developmental impairment, learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavioral problems," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England office.

In contrast, about one-third of the cities and towns saw little or no improvements in lead poisoning rates, including Pawtucket, Central Falls and Warren, which account for about 20 percent of all cases of elevated blood lead levels in Rhode Island. A natural experiment is about to occur as the City of Central Falls has voiced a commitment to implementing the measures similar to Providence in an effort to reduce some of the highest lead poisoning rates in the State.

*less than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood

Teen Zombies invade Downtown Providence as Part of National Kick Butts Day

03-19-2014

With today's first-ever Rhode Island Zombie Walk, the Rhode Island Department of Health's Tobacco Control Program, Tobacco Free Rhode Island, Tobacco Free Providence, and local teens affirmed their commitment to finding innovative ways to reduce tobacco use. Dozens of teens from across Rhode Island gathered to motivate smokers to quit- zombie style!

Dressed as the zombies of dead smokers, the teens marched from the State House to Kennedy Plaza to offer tobacco users information on how to quit. Cancerous lesions on their faces and stomas on their necks helped the teens make a dramatic statement about the effects of tobacco-related disease.

"This event demonstrates the intersection of art and health," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Art and imagination helps kids fight off the noxious effort of tobacco companies to get them addicted."

A press conference kicked off the festivities at the State House with special guest speakers Jay Chattelle, a Pawtucket spoke word performance artist and Ken Ryan, a Pawtucket-born retired professional baseball player.

"The youth of Rhode Island need to know that they do in fact have the power to make positive change," concluded Youth Zombie Spokesperson Dan Fitzgerald, president of the Chariho Community Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group, at the end of the conference. "Kick Butts Day is the perfect day to start. Let your voice be heard!"

Tobacco Free Rhode Island provided the youth with tobacco facts to give to their elected officials before beginning the walk.

"Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in our state, killing over 1500 Rhode Islanders every year," said Karina Wood, Director of Tobacco Free Rhode Island. "Data show that 80 percent of all adult smokers start smoking before age 18, and 90 percent of all smokers start before leaving their teens. Tobacco Free Rhode Island is calling for a $1 increase in the state excise tax on cigarettes, because pricing youth out of smoking is the single most effective proven measure to lower the youth smoking rate. We also strongly support Representative Melo's bill to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and require e-cigarette sellers to obtain a tobacco sales license."

Providence Police and special guest Tony "The Dancing Cop" escorted the kids from the State House to Kennedy plaza to ensure everyone remained safe during the walk. The event concluded with an after party at the Providence Skating Center, where the zombies were treated to skating and refreshments.

The Rhode Island Zombie Walk was part of The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' "Kick Butts Day", a national annual observance that gives youth the opportunity to take a stand against tobacco in creative ways. The Walk was sponsored by RIPTA, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Tobacco Free Providence, and Walgreens.

Attorney General and Director of Health Warn Consumers of Possible Medical Phone Scam

03-20-2014

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD, are warning the public of a possible scam in which individuals, primarily women, are being called by a "medical compensation company" or "the state department of health" asking about recent surgeries and other personal information.

The targets of the calls appear primarily to be women, some, but not all of whom, may have had a recent surgery. Based on the information provided to the Rhode Island Department of Health by individuals who have been contacted, the caller will often hang up when asked why they are calling, and the caller refuses to provide an official company name or contact information, two red flags that lend belief that this is a scam and not a legitimate phone call.

The phone calls that have been reported to HEALTH and the Attorney General's Office appear to originate from a 201 area code in New Jersey, although the phone number is not in service when the phone number is dialed. This is another red flag it is a scam and may not be based in the United States at all.

"My office regularly educates consumers on how to identify scams, how to avoid being scammed, and to alert the appropriate authorities when contacted by a scam artist. The many phone calls from concerned consumers made to my office and HEALTH help us inform all consumers of the possible scam," said Attorney General Kilmartin.

"The Health Department regularly conducts telephone surveys to help us track our progress in promoting healthy behaviors, such as eliminating smoking, reducing binge drinking, getting kids vaccinated, and promoting healthy weight and physical activity," said Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD. "However, our surveys are always anonymous and we never collect information that would identify you or others in your household".

It appears Rhode Island consumers are not the only group being targeted. New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster has also received multiple phone calls from consumers who report a similar scam.

If you receive such a call, do not provide the caller with any personal information such as your address, date of birth, social security number, any banking or credit card information, health insurance or Medicaid numbers, or any health-related information. Simply hang up. You may report the calls by contacting the Office of Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit at 401-274-4400 or email at contactus@riag.ri.gov.

Different Strain of Influenza Causing Illness in Rhode Island; Elderly More at Risk

03-21-2014

An influenza strain, different from the flu strain that is most common this season, is causing an increase in the flu in Rhode Island. This latest strain, H3, causes more severe illness and has a greater impact on the elderly.

This year's flu vaccine protects against both these strains of the flu.

"If you haven't been vaccinated yet, it is not too late to get a flu shot," said Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. "Getting vaccinated not only protects you, but also protects those around you, including senior citizens who are now most vulnerable."

There is still plenty of flu vaccine available throughout Rhode Island. Adults can be vaccinated at doctors' offices or at pharmacies. Children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices.

There have been 2 flu-related deaths and 295 flu-related hospitalizations in Rhode Island thus far this flu season. However, these numbers may rise given that H3 is now in circulation.

Bristol County Ranked as Healthiest County in Rhode Island

03-26-2014

Providence: Bristol County ranks as the healthiest county in Rhode Island, according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings. The rankings, based on 29 factors that influence health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical inactivity, and access to healthy foods, were released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The report ranks the health of residents in Rhode Island's five counties, and in almost every county in every state in the United States.

"These rankings show us once again the importance of investing in the health and well-being of Rhode Island at the community level," said Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. "By identifying the health issues affecting each county and building local partnerships to address these issues, we can make the entire state a healthier place to live."

The study includes two sets of rankings. The first ranking is based on health factors, such as residents' rates of tobacco use and diet and exercise. The second ranking is based on health outcomes, which were determined by length of life and quality of life.

Health factors

  1. Bristol County
  2. Washington County
  3. Newport County
  4. Kent County
  5. Providence County

Health outcomes

  1. Bristol County
  2. Newport County
  3. Washington County
  4. Kent County
  5. Providence County

The study only compared counties within states. It did not compare counties from different states. The Rhode Island Public Health Institute, the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Rhode Island Public Health Association will be sponsoring a workshop in the coming weeks to address issues highlighted in this report.

"The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's vision for a culture of health is one where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy," said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president and CEO. "The County Health Rankings are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities, and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come."

Nationally, this year's rankings show that people living in the least healthy counties are twice as likely to have shorter lives as people living in the healthiest counties. Unhealthy counties also have twice as many children living in poverty and twice as many teen births as the healthiest counties. This year's rankings also feature several new measures including housing, transportation, and access to mental health providers.

The County Health Rankings is part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. The program includes the Roadmaps to Health Action Center which provides local leaders with tools, step-by-step guides, and stories to help communities identify and implement solutions that make it easier for people to live healthy lives.

The rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org

HEALTH Alerts Rhode Islanders to Recall of Oscar's Smokehouse, Inc.'s CHEESE SPREAD

03-27-2014

Providence: The Rhode Island Department of Health has learned of a nationwide recall by Oscar's Smokehouse Inc. on eleven (11) of its 7-oz "CHEESE SPREAD" varieties with 3 digit lot numbers from 719-959 or that was purchased since March 21, 2013.

The recall was based on the possible contamination of the cheese spreads with Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause illness, especially in pregnant women, adults with weakened immune systems, and may cause fetal death.

Oscar's Smokehouse, Inc. has issued this recall because it purchased a cheese spread base from PARKER FARM ACQUISTION, LLC of Coon Rapids, MN. That cheese spread base had been recalled due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

Oscar's Smokehouse, Inc.'s products have only been purchased by individuals in Rhode Island through the company's mail order system.

No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall.

Customers with any questions may contact Oscar's Smokehouse, Inc. at 1-800-627-3431, Monday-Sunday 8am-6pm, EST.

Some Middletown Well Owners Urged to Get Water Tested

04-02-2014

Providence: A water sample taken from a residential well on Wapping Road in Middletown, RI was found to have nitrate levels above the National Primary Drinking Water Standards as set by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Rhode Island Department of Health. As a result, HEALTH is advising nearby homeowners with private wells to have their water tested by a certified laboratory to assure its safety.

HEALTH has no evidence to believe that other wells in this area have amounts of nitrate at this level. Nitrate levels change seasonally, and can be related to septic systems, lawn and agricultural fertilizer use, and runoff.

The health risks for high nitrate concentrations are principally for infants under the age of 6 months. Water with high nitrate should not be given to infants under the age of 6 months or used to make infant formula.

This action comes out of an abundance of caution from HEALTH, as we remind all Rhode Island residents who use wells to get them tested annually.

Director of HEALTH Issues Emergency Regulations Requiring Health Care Professionals and Hospitals to Report all Opioid Overdoses Within 48 Hours

04-03-2014

Providence: Director of Health Michael Fine, MD, has issued emergency regulations requiring Rhode Island health care professionals and hospitals to report all opioid overdoses or suspected overdoses to the Department within 48 hours. The reporting requirement is immediately necessary to combat the increase in opioid overdoses, reduce overdose deaths and assist individuals already addicted to access recovery and treatment.

These data will inform policy decision and evidence-based practice by identifying risk factors for overdose and targets for access to substance abuse treatment.

"The gathering of timely data concerning all overdoses in Rhode Island will be the cornerstone of stopping drug overdose deaths in our communities," said Dr. Fine. "We can trust the evidence, but we cannot trust drug dealers. The Health Department and all of our partners want to end this public health epidemic now."

Rhode Island is in the midst of a severe prescription and street-drug overdose crisis. There have been more than 70 opioid-related deaths since the start of 2014 in communities all over Rhode Island. Many of these deaths are directly related to the use of fentanyl and heroin, which are opioids. Legal prescriptions for opioids, particularly oxycodone and hydrocodone, have increased in Rhode Island during recent years.

The use of oxycodone and other narcotic painkillers, often as a route to heroin addiction, has been on the rise for the last few years in Rhode Island. In promulgating these Regulations the Director finds that it is necessary to public health to attack the abuse of oxycontin, heroin and other opioids in Rhode Island with the same reporting requirements and rigor directed towards controlling the spread of other epidemics and diseases.

The reporting data will assist the State in identifying and mapping long-term solutions to ending widespread opioid abuse in the State. Further, the collected information will enable the Department to further understand the burden of the epidemic, the number of lives potentially saved by the use of naloxone by community bystanders, first responders and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). At present the only information available concerns opioid-related overdose deaths. To address and fully understand the impact of this public health epidemic the Department needs to understand the risk factors for death among those with similar exposures. This will enable the Department to understand risk factors for death among those with similar exposures or evaluate the potential benefits of programs put in place to respond to the epidemic (e.g. use of intranasal naloxone by EMS-Basics, Police, and harm reduction coalitions, the Good Samaritan Law, and over the counter naloxone at Walgreens).

The Department recently issued Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Opioid Overdose Prevention [R23-1-OPIOID] as emergency regulations. These new Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Opioid Overdose Reporting [R23-1-OPIOIDR] complement and further the intent of the emergency Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Opioid Overdose Prevention by requiring health care professionals and hospitals to include in their reports whether naloxone (Narcan) was administered, the total dosage and the patient response.

HEALTH Expands Recommendation for Well Water Testing in Middletown, Reminds all Rhode Islanders to Test Annually

04-04-2014

Providence: On March 28, the Rhode Island Department of Health issued a press release stating that a water sample taken from a residential well on Wapping Road in Middletown, RI was found to have nitrate levels above the National Primary Drinking Water Standards. Since then, HEALTH has received additional sample results from residential wells in the area that also show elevated levels of nitrate.

As a result, HEALTH advises home owners with private wells in the following neighborhood in Middletown to have their water tested now by a certified laboratory to assure its safety:

  • Baldwin Road
  • Bartlett Road
  • Little Creek Lane
  • Peckham Lane
  • Pippin Road
  • Porter Road
  • Riverview Avenue
  • Russett Avenue
  • Sakonnet Terrace
  • Wapping Road

Nitrate levels change seasonally, and can be related to septic systems, animal waste, lawn and agricultural fertilizer use, and runoff. Therefore, HEALTH reminds all Rhode Islanders with private wells to get them tested at least once a year.

The health risks for high nitrate concentrations are principally for infants under the age of 6 months. Water with high nitrate should not be given to infants under the age of 6 months or used to make infant formula.

Below is the list of certified Water Testing Labs in Rhode Island:

  • RI State Health Laboratories, Providence: 222-5600
  • BAL and ESS Labs, Cranston: 785-0241
  • New England Testing Lab, Inc., North Providence: 353-3420
  • Northeast Environmental Testing Lab, Providence: 454-3400
  • RI Analytical Labs, Warwick: 737-8500

Flu Declared Widespread in Rhode Island Again; Masking Requirement In Effect For Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers

04-17-2014

Providence: Director of Health Michael Fine, MD today declared the flu to be widespread again in Rhode Island. This declaration triggers the requirement that healthcare workers who have not been vaccinated against the flu wear surgical masks during direct patient contact.

Rhode Island is seeing a second wave of flu that is even more intense than the first. The dominant strains in this late-season wave have been H3N2 -- which has a great impact on the elderly -- and influenza B.

The majority of the 13 flu-related deaths this season have been people in their 80s and 90s. There have been 464 flu-related hospitalizations this season. Seventy of these hospitalizations occurred between April 6 and April 12 (the most recent reporting period).

"This continues to be a dangerous flu season for the elderly," Dr. Fine said. "Vaccination is important for everyone older than 6 months of age, but it is particularly important for the elderly, people who are around the elderly, and healthcare workers. It's not too late to get a flu shot. When you get vaccinated, you're protecting yourself and you also could be saving the life of a grandparent, patient, neighbor, or friend who is especially vulnerable this year."

The masking requirement for healthcare workers will remain in effect until the widespread declaration is lifted. The flu was also widespread this year from January 8 until February 27.

There is still plenty of flu vaccine in Rhode Island. This year's flu vaccine protects against all of the dominate strains in circulation. Children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices. Adults can be vaccinated at doctors' offices and at pharmacies.

In addition to healthcare workers and the elderly, vaccination is especially important for pregnant women, young children, and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung, or kidney disease, diabetes, and asthma.

RI State Agencies Promote Tick Bite Prevention as First Line of Defense Against Lyme Disease

04-17-2014

Providence: With the tandem of increased outdoor activities and increased tick populations, the Department of Health has partnered with other state agencies to urge Rhode Islanders to check for tick bites as the first line of prevention against Lyme disease when enjoying and working outdoors.

HEALTH, the Departments of Environmental Management (DEM) and Transportation (DOT) are working together to provide Lyme disease and tick bite prevention trainings for seasonal staff and other outdoor workers, and to place education posters at state facilities and public recreation spots, including DEM trailheads, parks, and fishing spots. The URI TickEncounter Resource Center facilitated the HEALTH-sponsored trainings.

"As we spend more time outdoors, any increase in the tick population is of concern," said Department of Health Director, 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," he said.

Additionally, HEALTH has launched a new media campaign to encourage Lyme disease awareness and tick bite prevention. The theme of this year's campaign is Repel, Check, Remove. "It only takes one bite" radio ads will run across Rhode Island throughout spring and summer- along with print, online, ferry, and RIPTA bus ads in Jamestown, New Shoreham (Block Island), and other southern Rhode Island communities where more Lyme disease cases have been reported.

"The Department of Environmental Management is dedicated to providing families with fulfilling outdoor experiences," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "At the same time we promote experiencing the great outdoors and help families learn how to latch onto nature, we have to help them learn now to keep nature from latching onto them, via ticks. We've learned that we need to take several approaches to deal with this concern, including partnerships, public education, and deer population control. Our joint effort with the Departments of Health and Transportation to offer training sessions and tick prevention education information to the public will help spread the word about the many dangers involving ticks and how to prevent tick bites."

"We were happy to partner with HEALTH and DEM to bring vital Lyme disease education and training to our workforce as well as to the public," said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. "Their health and safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to providing the resources people need to protect themselves while working and recreating outdoors."

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 (poppyseed-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.

Rabid Raccoon Confirmed in Providence: Those Who Might Have Had Contact Should Contact HEALTH As Soon As Possible

04-30-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Rhode Island Department of Health are advising people in the area of Princeton Avenue and Burnett Street in Providence that a raccoon attacked and bit or scratched two residents on April 30th and has tested positive for rabies.

A third resident was attacked by a raccoon in the area of Grant Street on the night of April 29th. The streets are within a mile of each other and it is likely that the same raccoon was responsible for the attacks. The individuals were referred to HEALTH and started treatment with rabies vaccine. Anyone who may have had contact with a raccoon prior to April 30th should contact HEALTH for evaluation (and potential treatment with rabies vaccine) at 401-222-2577 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; or at 272-5952 if calling after hours.

According to Rhode Island State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM, this particular rabies case is high risk because the raccoon roamed the neighborhood and may have had contact with people and pets. These people may not be aware that they have been exposed to rabies.

Those with domestic animals that may have had contact with raccoons should call Providence Animal Control at 401-243-6040 so that their pets can be evaluated.

All dogs, cats, and ferrets are required by state law to have current vaccinations against rabies. Vaccination of pet animals prevents them from contracting rabies, and prevents people from becoming exposed to rabies through 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 Reports Doubling in Number of Babies Born Dependent on Drugs

05-05-2014

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome rates rising in tandem with drug overdose rates

Providence-- Rates of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome have continued to rise in Rhode Island after nearly doubling from 4.4 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 8.3 per 1,000 live births (90 cases) in 2012. Already in the first quarter of 2014, 26 newborns (11.0 per 1,000* live births) have received the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome diagnosis. The rising rates are significant in that they parallel the rising rates of unintentional drug overdose deaths in recent years.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome refers to the withdrawal and series of ill effects often experienced by a child born to a mother dependent on illicit drugs or pharmaceutical drugs (most commonly opioids like prescription pain medications or heroin). Infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome may have difficulty feeding and sleeping and suffer from symptoms like diarrhea. Babies with prolonged symptoms may also be at higher risk for developmental delays.

"This is an example of the intergenerational tragedy in our state caused by the disease of addiction," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Every baby deserves a healthy start in life. We can- and must- minimize the devastating impact of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome by supporting women and families at risk for addiction before, during, and after pregnancy through evidence-based services like our Nurse-Family Partnership, Healthy Families America, and Parents as Teachers home visiting programs."

Mothers giving birth to babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome are on average about 30 years old, and many have completed some post-secondary education. The majority holds at least a high school diploma or GED and is single, on public health insurance, white, and non-Hispanic.

HEALTH analyzed newborn screening and hospital discharge data for babies born to Rhode Islanders in the state's birthing hospitals to calculate rates of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and associated maternal demographics.

Rhode Island already screens all newborns for a variety of health conditions and risk factors, including Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. In addition to ensuring access to medical care after birth, HEALTH supports evidence-based programs that provide home visits to families prenatally and through the first 2-3 years of a child's life. These programs can help families connect with services in their community, including treatment for substance use. Home visiting is available, by request or referral, for any pregnant woman or new family who will accept a little extra support, including women using drugs.

* Data are provisional

HEALTH Celebrates National Drinking Water Week May 4-10; Launches "Know Your H2O" Campaign

05-05-2014

During National Drinking Water Week (May 4-10), the Rhode Island Department of Health wants all Rhode Islanders to learn about the value of tap water.

"Drinking Water Week is an opportunity for all of us to remember how healthy drinking tap water really is," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Drinking tap water keeps you hydrated and - even better- it keeps you from drinking sugary drinks. And it's best out of a cup or a glass!"

Rhode Island public water systems provide drinking water to approximately 1,091,537 people. Residents and visitors can drink from virtually any tap in the state with a high assurance of safety. The average medium-sized town is tested hundreds of times each year to ensure the water is safe to drink; a summary of those results is included in each community's annual water quality report.

In conjunction with National Drinking Water Week, HEALTH has launched a "Know Your H2O" campaign and website (www.health.ri.gov/knowyourh2o), dedicated to information about the benefits of water. The site provides information about how to protect our water sources, how to conserve water, how water suppliers can prepare for climate change, and how to understand a consumer water quality report.

Public drinking water is regulated under the U.S. EPA Safe Drinking Water Act. In Rhode Island, this is accomplished by HEALTH's Office of Drinking Water Quality. Certified professionals work hard to ensure the water delivered to the public is safe.

What Rhode Islanders can do:

Join the more than 300 employees from HEALTH, DOT, DOA, and DEM who pledged to:

  • Increase consumption of tap water whenever reaching for refreshment;
  • Carry a reusable water bottle;
  • Protect the environment around lakes, ponds, reservoirs, streams, and aquifers that contribute to drinking water sources;
  • Test private wells regularly;
  • Spread the word by urging friends and family, favorite restaurants, and communities to support their local water supplier.

Declaration of Widespread Flu Lifted

05-14-2014

Providence: The flu is no longer widespread in Rhode Island, Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. announced today, while cautioning that everyone should continue to protect themselves through proper hand-washing and other hygienic prevention measures as the flu virus continues to circulate in some communities.

Healthcare workers who had not been vaccinated against the flu had been required to wear surgical masks when engaged in direct patient contact since April 17, 2014, when the Rhode Island Department of Health declared the flu to be widespread. This requirement is no longer in place. However, if the level of flu in Rhode Island rises again to widespread, HEALTH will put the masking requirement back into effect.

"Although the level of flu in Rhode Island has dropped, the virus is still circulating in some communities," said Dr. Fine. "All Rhode Islanders should continue to protect themselves and those around them by regular hand-washing, covering their coughs, avoiding touching one's eyes, nose, and mouth, and staying active, hydrated, well-rested, and well-nourished for a strong immune system."

There have been 26 flu-related deaths and 620 flu-related hospitalizations in Rhode Island during the 2013-2014 flu season. During the 2012-2013 flu season, there were 961 hospitalizations and no flu-related pediatric deaths. (HEALTH did not collect information on flu-related deaths for adults last year. This is the first year that this information is being collected for both adults and children.)

During this year's flu season, 505,743 Rhode Islanders have been vaccinated, a 2% increase over last year. During the 2012-2013 flu season, 496,702 people were vaccinated (up to this date). This year's figure is a 15% increase over the 2011-2012 flu season, when 431,032 people were vaccinated.

Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. It is especially important for children younger than five years of age (children younger than 2 years of age in particular), healthcare workers, pregnant women, senior citizens, and people with chronic conditions to be vaccinated. Common chronic medical conditions include diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.

Adults can be vaccinated at doctors' offices or at pharmacies. Children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices.

Director of Health Issues Decision on CVS Application to Operate MinuteClinics in Rhode Island

05-15-2014

Michael D. Fine, MD, Rhode Island's Director of Health, today approved the application of CVS MinuteClinics Diagnostics of Rhode Island, LLC to license seven healthcare facilities in Rhode Island, but with a number of significant conditions attached.

In deciding to approve the license application of the CVS MinuteClinics' request to open seven MinuteClinic locations in Rhode Island, and in determining the conditions upon which that approval depends, the Department has carefully investigated and considered the effect these services will have on Rhode Islanders' access to primary care, and on the quality of patients' relationships with primary care providers within both the MinuteClinics and primary care practice settings.

In assessing the expediency of conditions of licensure, the state agency addressed concerns regarding (1) potential conflicts and the appearance of conflicts of interest incident to the corporate structure and relationships between pharmacy and prescribers; (2) the potential fragmentation of primary care delivery and effect on the primary care business model; (3) the appropriateness of pediatric care in the MinuteClinic setting, and; (4) patient access for underserved communities.

"Primary care based delivery systems around the nation and around the world create the best population health outcomes at the lowest cost, "Dr. Fine said. "Primary care practices have been significantly challenged by the necessity of functioning as businesses in a world in which they have no effective market power, while obligated to meet regulated standards of professional practice, and by their own ethical commitments."

Accordingly, serious consideration has been given to the issue of MinuteClinics' potential to erode the underpinnings of the primary care practice model.

"CVS is a great Rhode Island company," Dr. Fine said. "A company whose character, commitment, competence, and standing in the community is well documented. It is likely that these facilities will provide safe and adequate treatment for individuals receiving MinuteClinic services."

Approval of MinuteClinics' request for licensure is contingent upon MinuteClinics' acceptance of the Health Department conditions, which are intended to maintain a level playing field, to protect the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders, to provide access to health services for the traditionally underserved, to prevent conflicts of interest between MinuteClinic prescribers and CVS pharmacy dispensers, to develop a balanced healthcare system, and to ensure the seamless and confidential flow of personal health information to facilitate the best patient care.

HEALTH Recognizes Local Physician for Excellence in Hepatitis C Testing, Connecting to Care, and Treatment

05-19-2014

Providence--In recognition of National Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19, the Rhode Island Department of Health's Division of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology, Office of HIV/AIDS & Viral Hepatitis has honored Lynn E. Taylor, M.D, Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP), with the Excellence in Medicine Award for her work in advancing best practices that help identify more new hepatitis C patients in Rhode Island and link them to care.

The award was presented to Dr. Taylor on Friday, May 16 at a medical educational conference led by Dr. Taylor entitled, "Treating and Defeating Hep C in Rhode Island."

"Dr. Taylor's advocacy for her patients and for hepatitis screening, prevention, and treatment is an inspiration to primary care physicians throughout Rhode Island and on the front lines of public health," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "The Office of HIV/AIDS & Viral Hepatitis is proud to honor her with this award."

Dr. Taylor is an HIV and viral hepatitis specialist, and internal medicine physician, focusing on prevention and treatment of hepatitis C and hepatitis B viruses in vulnerable populations. She developed and directs Miriam Hospital's HIV/Viral Hepatitis Coinfection Program. Her research, patient care, teaching and community-based efforts involve extending hepatitis C care to persons with HIV and co-existing substance disorders, and improving hepatitis C screening, diagnosis, and the way in which patients are connected to care and treatment. Dr. Taylor was also a featured speaker at the "Getting to Zero Summit on HIV and STD Testing, Prevention, and Care" in December of 2013, co-sponsored by HEALTH and the Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School.

In May 2013, Lynn E. Taylor was awarded a Rhode Island Foundation Innovation Fellowship for her project entitled, "Rhode Island Defeats Hep C," which aims to make Rhode Island the first state to eliminate hepatitis C. Dr. Taylor has received several grants, has published prolifically and has received numerous awards and honors. She is also the co-founder of MomDocFamily, which provides mentorship and support for women physicians facing the challenges and rewards of combining a medical career with motherhood. Dr. Taylor was also recently honored as the 2014 Rhode Island Medical Women's Association (RIMWA) Physician of the Year at its annual meeting on May 13.

A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine, Dr. Taylor completed her residency at the Brown University School of Medicine and her research training via a National Institutes of Health Fellowship based at Miriam Hospital. She is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine and Director of Miriam Hospital's HIV/Viral Hepatitis Coinfection Program.

"We estimate that at least 11,000 Rhode Islanders of all ages are infected with the hepatitis C virus and many don't yet know it," said Dr. Fine. "Getting tested for hepatitis C is critical to ensuring the good health of Rhode Islanders as they grow older. A simple blood test will help protect you from complications of a virus that is often treatable."

Hepatitis C is treatable and curable with medication if it is caught early enough, underscoring why testing is crucial. 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. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that everyone born between 1945 and 1965 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. Baby boomers are at particular risk because many are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s, when rates of hepatitis C acquisition 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 who might be at risk of hepatitis C include infants born to infected mothers, and people who inject and/or snort drugs, people who engage in sexual activity with multiple partners or have one steady infected sexual partner, healthcare or public safety workers exposed to infected persons (e.g. by needle sticks or blood), and long-term hemodialysis patients.

Rhode Island Department of Health Approves Prospect-CharterCARE Joint-Venture

05-20-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health has approved the hospital conversion and change in effective control applications of Prospect Medical Holdings and CharterCARE to establish a joint venture to be called Prospect CharterCARE, LLC that will own Roger Williams Medical Center, St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island d/b/a Our Lady of Fatima Hospital and related healthcare facilities. Each of these facilities will be converted from not-for-profit to for-profit statuses.

"I am pleased to approve the applications, as conditioned in the Decisions," said HEALTH Director, Michael D. Fine, MD. "I hope the implementation of these approvals, as conditioned, will strengthen the fiscal condition of these valued hospitals. I also hope the implementation of these approvals, as conditioned, will improve the overall healthcare provided by our Rhode Island hospitals as we work together to make healthcare affordable and work together to improve the health of all Rhode Islanders."

Approval and implementation of these applications will result in (1) the issuance of new hospital licenses to Prospect CharterCARE RWMC, LLC and Prospect CharterCARE SJHSRI, LLC; (2) issuance of a new nursing home license to Prospect CharterCARE Elmhurst, LLC; (3) the issuance of a new organized ambulatory care facility license to CharterCARE RWMC, LLC d/b/a Roger Williams Sleep Disorders Center; and (4) the issuance of a new home nursing care provider license to Prospect CharterCARE RWMC, LLC d/b/a CharterCARE Home Health Services.

Recalled Ground Beef Products Found in Rhode Island

05-20-2014

Recalled Ground Beef Products Found in Rhode Island

At least 128 food facilities in RI received the recalled product

Providence--Approximately 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 are being recalled by Wolverine Packing Company, a Michigan company, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Some of the ground beef products being recalled were sent to Rhode Island food facilities.

The products subject to recall bear the establishment number "EST. 2574B" and will have a production date code in the format "Packing Nos: MM DD 14" between "03 31 14" and "04 18 14." These products were shipped to distributors for restaurant and retail use nationwide.

There have been 11 illnesses in four states reported, including one in Massachusetts. There have been no illnesses reported in Rhode Island, although Wolverine products were sold in Rhode Island.

Memorial Day is this weekend and a lot of ground beef will be consumed.

This organism can cause serious illnesses and death and undercooked ground beef should NEVER be served to children. While recalled products should not be consumed, ground beef should always be cooked to a minimum of 160 F using a meat thermometer due to potential contamination with this bacteria.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2- 8 days (3- 4 days, on average) after exposure 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. It is marked by easy bruising, waxy complexion, and infrequent and reduced urination. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

The Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160- ° F. The only way to confirm that ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.

PREPARING PRODUCT FOR SAFE CONSUMPTION

  • Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water. Immediately clean spills.
  • Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and egg products and cooked foods.
  • Color is NOT a reliable indicator that meat has been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria.
  • The only way to be sure the meat or poultry is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use a thermometer to measure the internal temperature. Fish: 145- °F; Beef, pork, lamb chops/steaks/roasts: 145- °F with a three minute rest time; Ground meat: 160- °F; Poultry: 165- °F; Hot dogs: 160- °F or steaming hot
  • Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase or one hour if temperatures exceed 90- °F.
  • Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.

HEALTH Warns Consumers: Whole Foods Market Recalls Thai Soba Noodle Salad in Five States, Including Rhode Island, Due to Undeclared Allergen

05-23-2014

Providence, RI- Whole Foods Market is recalling Thai Soba Noodle Salad sold in all stores in five states, including Rhode Island, due to an undeclared soy allergen. The product has a Use by Date of: 5/25/14.

The salad contains edamame (soybeans) as an ingredient. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to soy run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The Whole Foods Market Kitchens salad, labeled as Whole Foods Market Thai Soba Noodle Salad under the Health Starts Here category, was sold in 9oz packages in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, on May 22, 2014.

Signage is posted in affected Whole Foods Market stores to notify customers of this recall, and all affected product has been removed from shelves.

Consumers who have purchased this product from Whole Foods Market may bring their receipt to the store for a full refund. Consumers with questions should contact their local store or call 617-492-5500 between the hours of 9am and 5pm EST.

HEALTH Alerts Rhode Island Consumers:Rome Packing Co., Inc. Recalls Minced Crab Meat Because of Possible Health Risk-- No illnesses reported to date

05-28-2014

Providence, RI - Rome Packing Co., Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of Ocean's Catch brand minced crab meat after routine product sampling by the company determined some of the finished products may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. No illnesses have been reported to date, and no other Rhode Island products are involved.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that 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.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them and return them to the place of purchase for a refund or discard them. The products are distributed nationwide to retail stores including but not limited to: Shaws Supermarkets, Market Basket and Dave's Market. Any consumers who believe they may have become ill after eating the products should contact their health care provider.

Rome Packing Co., Inc. is cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration and Rhode Island Department of Health investigation. Rome Packing Co., Inc. has initiated corrective action in their processing plant to prevent this from occurring.

HEALTH Warns Consumers: Navitas Naturals Recalls Organic Sprouted Chia Powder Due to Possible Health Risk

05-30-2014

Navitas Naturals is voluntarily recalling products that contain Organic Sprouted Chia Powder due to possible health risks related to Salmonella contamination. The products were sold in Rhode Island at "A Market" on 181 Bellevue Avenue in Newport, at Green Grocer in Portsmouth, and at Whole Foods locations throughout the state. There have been no illnesses reported in Rhode Island to date.

Consumers who have purchased one of these items are urged to not eat the product, and to dispose of it or return it to the store where it was originally purchased. Customers with questions or who would like product replacements or refunds may contact the company at 888-886-3879 between 8:00-4:30 PST, Monday through Friday. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating a cluster of Salmonella Newport illnesses primarily associated with the recalled products

The CDC reports that as of May 28, 2014, 12 cases of Salmonella Newport have been reported from 7 states including Arizona (1), California (2), Connecticut (1), Massachusetts (1) New York (4), Utah (1), and Wisconsin (2). One person has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses.

HEALTH Alerts Public: Allergy Alert on Undeclared Milk in Dark Old Fashioned Sponge Candy

06-11-2014

Providence- Eillien's Candies, Inc., of Green Bay, Wisconsin, is conducting a national voluntary recall of Dark Old Fashioned Sponge Candy because the product contains undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The voluntary recall was initiated after one reported illness in Wisconsin. It was discovered that the milk-containing product was distributed in packaging that did not declare the presence of milk. Subsequent investigation indicates the problem was caused by an oversight in the labeling process.

Consumers with recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Eillien's Candies, Inc. at 920-336-7549 between the hours of 8am- 4pm. Monday thru Friday, central time.

Compared with Rest of Nation, Rhode Island Teens Making Healthier Choices, Strides in Healthy Behaviors: National Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results Released

06-13-2014

PROVIDENCE: When comparing Rhode Island teen behavior to that of teens throughout the United States, Rhode Island fares far better with respect to reducing teen smoking, tobacco use, drinking, fighting, prescription drug use, unsafe sexual behaviors, and soda consumption. Rhode Island teens were less likely to watch television 3 or more hours a day, be obese, or be depressed, and were more likely to wear a bike helmet and attend physical education classes than their national peers.

The encouraging news is that the prevalence of several health-risk behaviors decreased over the last four years. Several key measures improved significantly from 2007 to 3013.

  • Alcohol drinking fell from 43 percent to 31 percent.
  • Students not wearing seat belts fell from 14 percent to 6 percent.
  • Sexually active students fell from 33 percent to 27 percent.
  • Occasional smoking decreased from 15 percent to 8 percent.
  • Daily smoking decreased from 12 percent to 6 percent.
  • The use of any tobacco product fell from 22 percent to 15 percent.
  • Physical fighting decreased from 26 percent to 19 percent.
  • Dating violence decreased from 14 percent to 8 percent.

While the results of the survey are encouraging, there are areas of concern which include suicide attempts among youths, lack of daily physical activity, and unsafe weight loss practices. "Public health is working," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of HEALTH. "Our teens are making better choices. However obstacles still remain. Many young people still engage in activities that place them at risk for serious injury and diseases that can impact them in their adult lives. Obesity is a concern. Nonetheless, I am confident that by collaborating with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), educators, and parents to develop policies that reduce risk behaviors, we will make Rhode Island teens the healthiest in the nation."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday released the national results from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). National, state, and local YRBS studies are conducted in odd years among high school students throughout the United States. These surveys monitor health risk behaviors including unintentional injuries and violence; tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity. CDC no longer identifies states in ranking order in specific risk behaviors, but rather shows whether a state is higher or lower than the national average.

"This report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights some positive trends regarding the health and safety of our students - trends we have also seen in data we collect locally," said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Despite these positive trends, it is still alarming that nearly one of three teens in Rhode Island drinks alcoholic beverages, one of every four is sexually active, nearly one of every ten experiences dating violence. To improve student health and well-being, it is important that we continue our partnerships toward helping students adopt and maintain healthy life choices and it is especially important that we help children make these choices at an early age."

The YRBS is the only surveillance system that monitors a wide range of priority health risk behavior among representative samples of high school students. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is conducted biennially as part of a national effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health risk behaviors of the nation's high school students. The 2013 survey was administered to 2,453 students in 22 public schools in the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013. Survey results are representative of 9th through 12th grade public high school students. The 99-item survey is voluntary and survey procedures protect the privacy of students. Local parent permission procedures were followed before administration, including informing parents that their child's participation was voluntary.

Two Travel-Associated Chikungunya Cases Confirmed in Rhode Island

06-13-2014

PROVIDENCE: The Rhode Department of Health has confirmed two cases of chikungunya virus infection involving travelers who returned from the Dominican Republic on May 17 and May 29, 2014 after presenting to local physicians with fever, muscle aches and pains, and joint pain. A few other suspected cases remain under investigation.

The virus is primarily transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. It has been found in multiple Caribbean countries. It is also found in Africa, Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific areas.

The CDC has issued travel advisories for chikungunya virus to the Caribbean islands. Most people exposed to chikungunya will develop symptoms. Chikungunya does not often cause death, but the symptoms can be severe. The most common symptoms are high fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. Most patients feel better within a week, but the joint pain can persist for months in some cases. HEALTH advises Rhode Islanders to see their healthcare provider if illness occurs after traveling from the Caribbean and/or after being bitten by a mosquito, and to protect themselves against mosquito bites at home and abroad.

There is no specific antiviral therapy for chikungunya virus infection. Treatment is for symptoms and can include rest, fluids, and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve acute pain and fever. Currently there is no vaccine.

State health officials encourage Rhode Islanders to take the following steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds:

  • Discard old tires, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water;
  • Repair failed septic systems;
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors;
  • Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed;
  • Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains;
  • Frequently replace the water in pet bowls;
  • Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically; and
  • Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.

HEALTH Office of State Medical Examiners Identifies Skeleton Under Basement Floor

06-19-2014

Providence, RI: The Rhode Island Department of Health's Office of State Medical Examiners (OSME) in cooperation with the Providence Police Department and other agencies, has positively identified skeletal remains found under the floor of a factory basement in Providence in July 2013.

Phillip P. Seals was born on May 31, 1936. He is known to have resided in Providence from 1976 until at least 1982, and may also have been in Providence prior to 1976. His identity was confirmed by comparison of DNA from his skeleton with a buccal swab from a known relative.

The Rhode Island Department of Health thanks the Providence Police Department; forensic anthropologist Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine; the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NameUS); and the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, for their assistance in identifying Mr. Seals.

HEALTH Reminds Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves from Mosquito Bites

06-20-2014

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health reminds all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves and their families against serious illness caused by mosquito bites whenever outdoors during sunrise, sunset, or evenings, and in shady or wooded areas during the day, and to help keep mosquito numbers down near homes.

"As the summer begins, all Rhode Islanders can take steps now that will help protect themselves and others in their care from serious illnesses spread by infected mosquitoes," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of HEALTH. "Each of us can do a few simple things to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and biting, and to protect ourselves against West Nile Virus and EEE." Dr. Fine cautioned, "Anyone who becomes ill after a mosquito bite should see a doctor right away."

West Nile Virus 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. As mosquitoes breed this time of year, the number of human-biting mosquitoes capable of transmitting diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus also increases. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) works with the State Health Laboratories to conduct weekly tests of mosquito pools across the state to detect mosquito-borne viruses.

"As part of their normal seasonal routine, Rhode Islanders can protect themselves from exposure to West Nile Virus and EEE by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds around their homes," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Throughout the summer, residents should remove any items in their yard that collect standing water and keep their gutters clear of leaves and debris so water drains properly. Mosquitoes breed in standing water and just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes."

The Department of Environmental Management distributes mosquito larvicide to Rhode Island communities each year in an effort to assist them with mosquito control. This year's distribution took place on June 3. Cities and towns place the larvicide in underground storm water catchment basins to limit the population of mosquitoes that can carry West Nile Virus.

Catch basins are considered prime breeding areas of mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus in both urban and suburban settings, and the use of larvicide is the best way for communities to reduce mosquito numbers and risk. Some communities will also be applying "mosquito dunks" to standing water bodies and small areas that are hard to treat.

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

  • Be sure all open windows are screened. Repair holes in screens, and fix any loose screens.
  • Use mosquito netting on baby carriages or play yards when your baby is outdoors.
  • Remove standing water around your yard and house by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate.
  • 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.

Since 2011, Rhode Island has reported six cases of West Nile Virus in humans, and detected both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in mosquito test pool samples collected during the summer and fall months.

Other New England states have reported human cases of both EEE and West Nile Virus in recent years, including Connecticut, which reported one human case of EEE, death resulting, from the fall of 2013.

HEALTH Recommends Beach Opening

06-21-2014

Rhode Island Department of Health officials recommend re-opening King Park 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 throughout the summer season.

Conimicut Point Beach in Warwick remains closed to swimming.

National HIV Testing Day Observed

06-26-2014

HEALTH's Goal: Eliminate New HIV Infections in RI by 2018

PROVIDENCE - In observance of National HIV Testing Day, June 27, the Rhode Island Department of Health encourages all Rhode Islanders ages 13-64 to get tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) at least once or more often as needed to help ensure the long-term health for themselves, as well as for any newborn child, sexual partner, or other important relationship in their lives. "Knowing your status is vital to protecting yourself and those closest to you," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "All teens and adults should speak with their doctor about getting tested for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases during their regular check-ups."

With early treatment and continued care, people infected with HIV can live long, healthy lives, and avoid infecting their partners.

More than one million people are estimated to be living with HIV in the United States, with almost 1-in-6 people unaware that they are infected and at-risk of spreading HIV to others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends routine testing for everyone ages 13-64 regardless of perceived risk.

In Rhode Island, an estimated 400 people do not yet know they are infected with HIV. Once someone knows he or she is living with HIV, care and treatment with medication can weaken the virus's ability to replicate and infect others. Studies have also shown that many people living with HIV and their partners often change some behaviors and take fewer risks, such as always using a condom during sex, reducing or limiting sexual partners or acts, or abstaining from sharing injection drug needles that can also transmit the virus.

Once someone's HIV-positive status is known, his or her sexual partner may also take a daily prescribed pill known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP. In recent months, the CDC issued new guidelines for PrEP as one recommended preventive measure under a physician's care. PrEP has been shown to reduce the chances of new HIV infection by more than 90% in clinical trials. Anyone taking PrEP should continue to use condoms and get tested for HIV every three months, per CDC guidelines.

"The goal of the Rhode Island Department of Health is to eliminate new HIV infections in Rhode Island by 2018," said Dr. Fine, adding that there were 74 new HIV cases reported in Rhode Island in 2013, down from 97 in 2011, and 125 in 2009. "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."

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.

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.

Rhode Island Department of Health and Two Hospitals Responding to Potential Measles Exposures

06-30-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health is working with Rhode Island Hospital and Roger Williams Medical Center to notify patients who may have been exposed to a person with measles who was in both of these facilities last week.

The first potential exposure took place early in the morning of June 22 at the Rhode Island Hospital Emergency Department, where a man presented with fever, fatigue, nausea, and aches. Later that day, he presented to the Emergency Department at Roger Williams Medical Center with continuing fever. He was admitted, and during his stay he developed a high-grade fever and rash. On June 25, he was discharged to home isolation. On June 27, the diagnosis of measles was confirmed by laboratory tests. This individual does have a history of vaccination against measles. HEALTH is working with doctors at both hospitals to ensure that people who were potentially exposed to the patient are contacted. Hospital staff at Rhode Island Hospital and Roger Williams Medical Center are identifying patients from their records and calling individuals to assess their risk and make recommendations and arrangements for vaccination, if needed.

In addition, several individuals exposed to the patient in a household or community setting, prior to hospital admission, are being tracked by the Department of Health.

Locations and periods of potential exposure

  • Rhode Island Hospital Emergency Room - Sunday, June 22nd, 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.
  • Roger Williams Medical Center Emergency Room - Sunday, June 22nd from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Measles is a contagious respiratory disease that usually lasts a week or two. Most people recover without any problems. In rare cases complications, such as pneumonia and brain infections, can occur. The virus that causes measles lives in the nose and throat and is spread into the air when an infected person coughs or talks. Measles can stay in the air for up to two hours after the contagious person has left the room, and can cause infection when inhaled by a susceptible person.

Measles looks and feels like a cold at first. Cough, high fever, runny nose, and red, watery eyes are common. These symptoms start ten to fourteen days after exposure. A few days later, a red blotchy rash starts on the face, and then spreads to the rest of the body. People with measles are infectious for four days prior to the development of rash, and remain infectious until four days after the rash has developed.

Vaccination recommendations for persons with known exposure to measles: The best protection against measles for previously unvaccinated (susceptible) persons after exposure is vaccination as soon as possible (preferably within 3 days). Measles vaccine is included in the MMR vaccine. MMR cannot be given to infants younger than one year of age, pregnant women, and those who are immunocompromised. For these individuals, the alternative is another product called immune globulin, which can help protect against the measles if taken within a week of exposure.

Vaccination recommendations for the general public: The US is experiencing a resurgence of measles especially among unvaccinated persons. It is important to be protected by vaccination using the following guidance: If a person was born in the United States before 1957, it is very likely that he or she is immune to measles. However, to increase the likelihood that a person is protected against measles, he or she should consider receiving a dose of MMR vaccine.

If a person was born in the United States in or after 1957, and there is no written documentation of having at least one dose of MMR or measles-containing vaccine or serologic evidence of immunity, one must receive a dose of vaccine as soon as possible. Two doses are required for college students, school age students and health care workers. If a person was born outside of the United States (regardless of the year of their birth), and there is no documentation of having two doses of MMR or measles-containing vaccine, or serologic evidence of immunity, that person must receive a dose of vaccine as soon as possible.

A blood test showing you are protected against measles is considered evidence of immunity. However, having had the disease in the past alone is not evidence of immunity.

Should members of the public develop fever and rash illness in the next 2 weeks they should call their medical provider and/or the Department of Health at 222-2577 Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; after hours 272-5952.

Rhode Island has the Second Lowest Youth Smoking Rate in the Nation

07-03-2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released national survey results that show Rhode Island now has the second lowest youth smoking rate in the country. The results come from a national comparison of data from the states' 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) in which Rhode Island's youth smoking rate dropped from 11% in 2011 to 8% currently. Rhode Island is second only to the state of Utah where smoking is not permitted among the majority of the population's religious faith.

"A lower youth smoking rate means kids understand how tobacco companies profit from sickness and death," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of HEALTH. "Fewer young people will die prematurely because they are making healthier choices, but our work is far from over. Health care providers need to remind their patients not to smoke and public health needs to continue the practices that we know work; raising the tax rate on cigarettes, educating communities on limiting youth access to tobacco products, and increasing the number of smoke-free public places - until we get to zero."

The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey is administered to middle and high school students on odd years to monitor a wide range of priority health risk behaviors among a representative sample of young people. Findings also show that national cigarette smoking rates among high school students have dropped to the lowest levels since the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey began in 1991. By achieving a teen smoking rate of 15.7 percent, the United States has met its national Healthy People 2020 objective of reducing adolescent cigarette use to 16 percent or less. Healthy People 2020 is a compilation of disease prevention and health promotion objectives for the nation to achieve during the second decade of the 21st century.

"Rhode Island is leading the way in many areas of tobacco control," said Erin Boles Welsh, Program Manager for the Rhode Island Tobacco Control Program. "These results are very validating that our efforts are paying off, however eliminating youth smoking altogether will continue to be a priority for us." The Tobacco Control Program plans to promote a new text messaging cessation tool for youth in the fall to help further reduce the smoking rate in the state. For more information, please contact Erica Collins 401-222-7635.

HEALTH Recommends Beach Closings

07-17-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health recommends the closure of Atlantic Beach Club Beach in Middletown; Bristol Town Beach in Bristol; Conimicut Point Beach in Warwick; Fogland Beach in Tiverton; Grinell's Beach in Tiverton; and Warren Town Beach in Warren to swimming due to high bacteria counts.

Officials will continue to monitor the water quality at these beaches and will recommend re-opening them when they are safe for swimming. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.

HEALTH Alerts Public: Wawona Packing Co. Takes Precautionary Step of Voluntarily Recalling Fresh, Whole Peaches, Plums, Nectarines, and Pluots Because of Possible Health Ris

07-21-2014

Wawona Packing Company of Cutler, California is voluntarily recalling certain lots of whole peaches (white and yellow), nectarines (white and yellow), plums and pluots packed between June 1, 2014 through July 12,2014 due to the potential of the products being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Wawona Packing has notified retailers of the specific lots being recalled. No other products are impacted by this recall. No illnesses have been linked to this recall to date.

These products were sold in Rhode Island at Sam's Club, BJ's, Trader Joe's, Stop and Shop, Whole Foods, Save-A-Lot and very possibly other food establishments. The Rhode Island Department of Health is continuing to contact additional food establishments that may have the recalled products. These products are often, but not always, sold under the name of "Sweet 2 Eat".

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 recalled products were shipped directly to retailers and wholesalers who resell the products. Because Wawona Packing Company does not know the locations of the companies that purchased the product from its direct customers, the company is issuing a nationwide recall.

Consumers can identify the recalled products by the information provided in the attached list and photographs. Anyone who has the recalled products in their possession should not consume them and should discard them.

Consumers with questions may contact Wawona Packing at 1-888-232-9912, M-F, 8am-5pm ET, or visit www.wawonapacking.com for a copy of this press release.

Wawona Packing has already notified its business customers and requested that they remove the recalled products from commerce. Wawona Packing is voluntarily recalling these products in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The recall was initiated based on internal company testing. The company shut down the implicated packing lines, retrofitted equipment, sanitized the facility and retested. Subsequent daily test results have been negative.

Whole Foods Market Recalls Made-In-Store Items Prepared With Stone Fruit Voluntarily Recalled by Wawona Packing Co. Due to Possible Health Risk

07-24-2014

Whole Foods Market has recalled made-in-store items prepared with organic and conventional stone fruit, including peaches, nectarines, and plums from Wawona Packing Co. because of possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. While no illnesses have been reported to-date, Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that 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.

Made-in-store items that contained one or more fruits subject to the Wawona Packing Co. recall were sold between June 1st and July 21st. Not all items or all products were sold in all store locations. Affected made-in-store products sold in Whole Foods Market stores in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were galette peach tarts, parfait, large fresh fruit tarts, small, medium, and large fruit tarts, and large fruit tart squares. In Connecticut, 4, 6 and 9 inch fresh fruit tarts decorated with plums were also affected.

Additionally, Whole Foods Market pulled and destroyed the recalled stone fruit sold in all regions where it was available, which may have been labeled with a "Sweet 2 Eat" sticker.

Whole Foods Market was notified by Wawona Packing Co. that the various stone fruits were recalled due to a positive test result for Listeria monocytogenes.

Signage is posted in Whole Foods Market stores to notify customers of this recall. Customers who have purchased recalled product from Whole Foods Market should discard it, and may bring in their receipt for a full refund. Consumers with questions may call 512-477-5566, extension 20060, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Individuals with any of the symptoms described above should contact their doctor.

Press Release: HEALTH Orders Pennine Funeral Home to Cease Operating

07-28-2014

PROVIDENCE -- On Friday, July 25, 2014, the Rhode Island Department of Health Office of State Medical Examiners took into custody six bodies and the cremation remains of two other individuals that had been found at the Pennine Funeral Home, 28 Grove Street, Providence.

The license holder and sole proprietor of the facility, Alfred Pennine, died July 21 in New Hampshire. The Department of Health was contacted by a visitor to the funeral home who discovered that the bodies were not in proper storage, a violation of state regulations.

The State Medical Examiner is conducting an investigation to determine the identity of the deceased, as well as determining the next of kin. The department will contact surviving family members as this information become available.

Alfred Pennine's death leaves the funeral home without a funeral director of record. As a result, on Friday, July 25, 2014 HEALTH issued an Immediate Compliance Order that suspends the funeral home's license and orders the funeral home to cease all funeral home operations. The order prohibits any support staff or others associated with the business from conducting any funeral directing or embalming services.

The Department of Health has notified the Providence Police Department.

Investigation Continues Into Remains Discovered at Pennine Funeral Home

07-28-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health and the Providence Police Department are continuing their investigation into the remains of eight individuals found at Pennine Funeral Home in Providence on July 25, 2014. Of the remains found at Pennine Funeral Home, six were bodies and two were the remains from cremations. HEALTH has tentatively identified four of the six bodies. Other results of HEALTH's initial investigation include:

  • One of the bodies was a fetus. The other five were elderly adults. (Exact ages are unknown.)
  • Two of the adults were female and three of the adults were male.

HEALTH and the Providence Police Department are working to contact the next-of-kin of those who have been tentatively identified. The bodies of the individuals remain in the custody of the Office of State Medical Examiner. The license holder and sole proprietor of the facility, Alfred Pennine, died on July 21, 2014 in New Hampshire. HEALTH was contacted by a visitor to the funeral home, located at 28 Grove Street, who discovered that the bodies were not in proper storage, a violation of state regulations.

On July 25, 2014 HEALTH issued an Immediate Compliance Order that suspended the funeral home's license and ordered the funeral home to cease all funeral home operations. The order prohibits any support staff or others associated with the business from conducting any funeral directing or embalming services.

Rhode Island Now Screening All Babies for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency

08-01-2014

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 healthy at birth, but if the disorder is not detected and treated quickly, they can become seriously ill when exposed to common infections. "Screening all of our newborns for SCID will help make sure we detect this rare disease in time for Rhode Island families to access life-saving treatment," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Without newborn screening, doctors are unlikely to diagnose SCID before it causes a serious or even deadly infection."

Babies with SCID have the best chance of being cured through a bone marrow transplant if they are diagnosed and treated by three months of age. Early detection and diagnosis can reduce hospitalizations and improve health outcomes.

Newborn screening uses a tiny sample of a baby's blood to test for rare, hidden disorders such as SCID that are difficult to diagnose, but may affect a child's health and development. Every Rhode Island newborn receives a bloodspot screening shortly after birth to test for 29 different disorders. If left untreated, these disorders could cause developmental delays, serious medical problems, or even death. If diagnosed early, many of these disorders can be successfully managed.

The addition of SCID to Rhode Island's newborn screening panel was recommended nationally by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, endorsed by the Rhode Island Newborn Screening Advisory Committee and approved by the Director of Health. This change is consistent with national guidelines on expanded newborn screening.

'Born to Breastfeed' Event Invites Families to Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week at Roger Williams Park Zoo

08-05-2014

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 view zoo exhibits and participate in fun activities while learning about breastfeeding from educational tables and lactation consultants, who will be on hand to answer questions, provide information, and connect families with resources to overcome common breastfeeding challenges.

"Human milk is perfectly formulated for babies," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of Health. "It protects babies from infections at the earliest stages of their lives and from chronic diseases later in life. It also helps moms bond with their babies, achieve a healthy weight after birth, and save money on formula costs. No matter your feeding decision or family status, we invite you to come enjoy the exhibits and learn more as we celebrate breastfeeding as a normal, natural part of Rhode Island culture." The event will take place rain or shine. Zoo exhibits and concessions will remain open throughout the evening, with music and dancing taking place throughout the zoo. Cost is $5 for adults and children age five and older. Children younger than five may attend for free. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online (http://www.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. Any pregnant woman or new mom in the state can get breastfeeding support through the First Connections program.

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 awards $2 million in additional funding to support pregnant women, children, and families in Rhode Island

08-06-2014

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of 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, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, these funds will provide long-term Healthy Families America (HFA) support services to families in Coventry, Cranston, East Providence, and Westerly, and expand current services in Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick, and Woonsocket. The funding will serve approximately 400 additional families.

"Pregnancy and the earliest years of life have a huge impact on how a child's brain gets built," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Home visiting programs like Healthy Families America support parents so they can give their children every possible advantage as they develop and grow. In this way, the programs benefit not only families, but also Rhode Island as a whole, as kids with strong foundations become part of solid communities and contribute to society."

Healthy Families enrolls pregnant women and families with infants. Trained specialists, called Family Support Workers, continue to work with a family until the child is three years old. They can help expectant mothers and families access community resources and supports, such as WIC or child care services, and plan for education and jobs. They offer encouragement and emotional support for parents to grow more self-sufficient and confident in their roles as parents, and they help parents understand and stimulate their children's development, including age-appropriate milestones. Family Support Workers can also help improve family health by connecting families to healthcare services and helping families create a safe home environment.

To date, Healthy Families has offered a wide range of benefits to hundreds of families in Rhode Island. As one family explained, "If this program didn't exist, I wouldn't have as much insight as to what I'm supposed to be doing at certain stages in [my baby's] life- I'd probably be a lot more nervous when she cries." Another participant commented that through the program, "I just might be able to encourage [my baby's] growth so she becomes the best little girl that she can be."

Community-based agencies awarded funding:

  • Blackstone Valley Community Action Program: Central Falls, 25 additional families; Pawtucket, 25 additional families
  • Community Care Alliance: Woonsocket, 25 additional families
  • Comprehensive Community Action Program: Coventry, 10 new families; Cranston, 50 new families; West Warwick, 13 additional families
  • East Bay Community Action Program: East Providence, 25 new families; Newport, 12 additional families
  • Family Service of Rhode Island: Providence, 50 additional families
  • Meeting Street: Providence, 115 additional families
  • The Providence Center: Pawtucket, 25 additional families
  • VNS Home Health Services: Westerly, 25 new families

Healthy Families is part of a comprehensive, statewide system of support for pregnant woman and families with young children that includes Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, First Connections, Youth Success, and Early Intervention. These programs rely on referrals from healthcare providers, social service providers, and schools to reach Rhode Islanders who could benefit from extra supports. Individuals may also directly request services.

HEALTH and BHDDH Issue Warning About Spike in Drug Overdose Deaths

08-08-2014

HEALTH and BHDDH Issue Warning About Spike in Drug Overdose Deaths

Today the Rhode Island Department of 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 (as none of these have a final toxicology report), Rhode Island is apparently experiencing a considerable increase from the entire month of June, when there was only one drug overdose death.

This uptick in apparent drug overdose deaths underscores the fact that Rhode Island continues to experience a prescription drug and street-drug overdose crisis. In response to the recent increase of apparent overdose deaths, Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health says that, "we must stay vigilant in getting this product off the street, we must continue to focus our efforts to reduce over-prescribing of opioids, we must focus on reducing overdose deaths, and we must help already addicted individuals get access to recovery and treatment."

As overdose deaths happen most frequently on weekends Dr. Michael Fine cautions all Rhode Islanders over this upcoming long weekend, "to stay safe, make good decisions, and remember to use Narcan in an emergency." Narcan (Naloxone) is an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. It can be used in emergency situations to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdoses but, as Dr. Fine points out, "Narcan will save a life but getting into treatment will prevent your death. Addiction is a disease, recovery is possible, and treatment is available and effective." Since January 1, 2014, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has administered 932 doses of Narcan (Naloxone).

Craig Stenning, Director of the RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), reminds Rhode Islanders that access to treatment is available through the Medicaid Expansion of the Affordable Care Act; recovery coaches are available to mentor individuals through the early stages of their recovery; Narcan kits are available through treatment centers; and immediate access to substance abuse treatment is available to individuals through their primary care physicians.

"Recovery from substance abuse is available and possible for any individual. The lives of these individuals are important to their families, their communities, and their State. Anyone who knows someone who may be using needs to reach out, as uncomfortable as that may seem, and explain the real danger of overdose, the availability of treatment and the real possibility of recovery," says Director Stenning.

Since the beginning of 2014, there have been 127 apparent (95 confirmed) accidental drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island. The deaths are geographically spread throughout the State, and the age range of the decedents is 20-62 years old. Many of these deaths are directly related to the use of fentanyl and heroin, which are opioids. Legal prescriptions for opioids, particularly oxycodone and hydrocodone, have increased in Rhode Island during recent years.

DEM, HEALTH Report First Positive West Nile Virus Finding in Mosquitoes Trapped in Great Swamp, West Kingston

08-14-2014

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of 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 protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection.

The reminder also coincides with Rhode Island's first positive finding of West Nile Virus from a mosquito pool. A sample, or pool, of 18 mosquitoes collected on August 4th from the Great Swamp area of West Kingstown has tested positive for West Nile Virus. In addition, the mosquito species that tested positive can bite humans. Test results on the remaining 150 pools of mosquitoes collected on August 4th are pending at the State Health Laboratories.

This finding marked the first positive West Nile Virus sample identified in Rhode Island this season. A positive finding of Jamestown Canyon Virus was identified and reported in a mosquito pool tested last week. To date this season, no mosquitoes have tested positive in Rhode Island for Eastern Equine Encephalitis. There have been no reported 2014 human cases of illness involving West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or Jamestown Canyon Virus in Rhode Island at this time.

West Nile Virus 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). More severe symptoms can include: high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis. Milder symptoms may include body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last just a few days or up to several weeks.

These mosquito pool findings are not unexpected at this time of the year. The mosquito season typically lasts through the first hard frost in autumn and all Rhode Islanders should take extra care to protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illness:

  • Remove 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.
  • Help keep mosquitoes away from your surroundings. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens.
  • 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.

Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the RI Department of Health State Health Laboratories. 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 trappings to assess risk.

HEALTH Releases Information Related to the Pennine Funeral Home

08-15-2014

PROVIDENCE -- On Thursday, August 14, 2014, the Rhode Island Department of 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. The storage unit also contained personal effects that the OSME has identified as belonging to Mr. Pennine. Within the unit, three decomposed remains were found: a man in a metal coffin, a woman in a cremation transport container, and a baby boy in a small padded chest. On the evening of August 14th, the OSME completed examinations on two of these decomposed bodies, both of whom appeared to have died of natural causes. A tentative identification has been established for the baby. Both adults were found to have had spinal surgery. Further exams have been scheduled. The time of death, and the duration these remains have been in this storage unit has not been determined as of this time.

The OSME also has updated information related to the original discovery of bodies at the Pennine Funeral Home in late-July. Of the six decomposed remains secured by the OSME on July 25th and examined, five have been identified. These individuals died between December 2001 and July 2013. Four of the five next of kin have been notified and two of the remains have been released to local funeral homes. The unidentified individual is an adult male who probably died at least 10 years ago. Over the course of the investigation, 45 cremated remains were also found in connection with the Pennine Funeral Home. Forty-three of these cremated remains have been identified. All but one next of kin has been identified. At this time, due to privacy concerns, the OSME will not release the names of these individuals.

The Department of Health has made available to the public the funeral establishment inspection reports and funeral service contract inspection reports relating to the Pennine Funeral Home. An inspection report indicates what steps were taken during an inspection of a funeral establishment, checking compliance with applicable statutes and regulations. A funeral service contract, also called a pre-need contract, is a contract between an individual and a funeral director pursuant to which the individual makes arrangements for the disposition of his or her body upon death (such as a wake, embalming, funeral, cremation, etc.).

Opioid Prescription Data Now Available on HEALTH's Website

08-22-2014

Beginning today (August 22, 2014) the Rhode Island Department of 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 enrolled in and utilize the PMP, the number of prescriptions being written for controlled substances, and some of the trends in substance abuse. Data is available from 2004, when the PMP started in Rhode Island.

"All prescribers need to check the data in the PMP every time a prescription for a controlled substance is written," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "It is not enough to just enroll in the PMP. Prescribers need to consult the patient-specific data to check for any patterns that may indicate a substance abuse problem. The PMP is full of valuable information that is vastly under-utilized." Currently only 25% of Rhode Island prescribers have registered for the PMP.

The PMP data show that the amount and volume of prescribed opioids is not decreasing. On a national level, data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies that Rhode Island has the fourth highest rate in the country for prescribing benzodiazepines. Decreasing the amount of opioids prescribed and dispensed is a key component to combating the epidemic of substance abuse.

In addition, information from the PMP show that an increasing number of Rhode Islanders are "doctor shopping" - meaning a patient goes to multiple providers and multiple pharmacies in an attempt to obtain prescription opioids that they do not need. From 2004 - 2013, the number of individuals who went to five or more prescribers and five or more pharmacies to get schedule 2 or 3 medications doubled. "We need to fight this public health epidemic together," said Fine. "We want everyone to see what the numbers tell us, and we want everyone to collaborate in the effort to make all of the numbers improve."

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in J.L. Curran Reservoir

08-27-2014

The Department of 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 report received by DEM over the weekend, a water sample was collected in J.L. Curran Reservoir that confirmed the presence of blue-green algae in the water body and toxin levels that exceed HEALTH and DEM recreational advisory criteria. The water sample was collected at the state boat ramp on the western side of the reservoir off Seven Mile Road. The entire surface of the reservoir shows evidence of this bloom. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in J.L. Curran 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.

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 in or otherwise in contact with J.L. Curran Reservoir waters 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.

Rhode Island Nursing Homes Continue to Outperform the Nation

08-28-2014

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 home providers are increasingly recognizing that the people who call their facilities "home" should have the opportunity to provide feedback about their care and environment. Under the direction of the Rhode Island Department of Health, the state's nursing homes field surveys to their residents and family members every year using products from My InnerView by National Research Corporation.

The satisfaction survey results from late 2013 show that:

  • More than nine out of every 10 nursing home residents and their family members would recommend their nursing home to others
  • 89 percent of residents say their quality of life and quality of care in Rhode Island are "excellent" or "good"
  • The questions that residents rank best relate to safety, cleanliness, care, and respectfulness of staff
  • Rhode Island nursing homes outperform the nation on satisfaction, quality of life, quality of care, and quality of service

This is the eighth consecutive year that Rhode Island nursing homes have outperformed the nation. In addition, 14 nursing homes in the state earned the 2013-2014 Excellence in Action award from My InnerView- a national award program that recognizes skilled nursing homes and senior living communities that achieve outstanding resident and/or employee satisfaction. Learn more about the award. "I'm pleased that residents and families continue to acknowledge the care and compassion of Rhode Island's nursing homes," said Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Michael Fine, M.D. "Most residents and families in Rhode Island are satisfied with their care, which speaks to the commitment of Rhode Island facilities to provide high quality of care while becoming more home-like and giving their residents choices."

The satisfaction survey results provide actionable information. Nursing home providers use this data to identify opportunities to improve the quality of care they provide to their residents. The Department of Health also publishes the results on its website, so that Rhode Islanders can access this information when choosing between nursing homes for themselves or a family member.

"If you don't have experience with nursing homes, it can be hard to know how to choose one," said Rosa Baier, MPH, Senior Scientist at Healthcentric Advisors and director of the Department of Health program that publishes these data. "Resident and family satisfaction is one source of information that can help you make that choice."

Nursing home satisfaction is published annually by the Department of Health's Healthcare Quality Reporting Program, in collaboration with a multi-stakeholder group that includes the nursing home trade associations, LeadingAge Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Health Care Association. The program releases information about healthcare quality and patient satisfaction to inform consumer decision-making and to encourage facilities to continually improve their performance. Learn more about the quality of care that nursing homes and other healthcare facilities provide by visiting www.health.ri.gov/programs/healthcarequalityreporting/.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders of Kraft Foods Group Voluntary Recall of Select Varieties of Regular Kraft American Singles Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product

09-04-2014

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 conditions that could lead to premature spoilage and/or food borne illness; therefore, the company is issuing the recall as a precaution.

Kraft has had no consumer illness complaints for this product associated with this recall. The affected product is limited to four varieties with "Best When Used By" dates of February 20, 2015, and February 21, 2015.

The affected product was shipped to customers across the United States and could be in Rhode Island. It was not distributed outside of the United States.

The list of recalled products is in the FDA press release.

Consumers can find the "Best When Used By" dates on the bottom of the product package. No other Kraft Singles products are impacted by this recall.

Consumers who purchased any of these products should not eat them. They should return them to the store where purchased for an exchange or full refund. Consumers also can contact Kraft Foods Consumer Relations at 1-800-396-5512.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders of Mars Chocolate North America Allergy Alert Voluntary Recall on Undeclared Peanuts and Eggs in TWIX

09-09-2014

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 the ingredient label.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in Turner Reservoir and Central Pond in East Providence

09-09-2014

Providence -- The Department of 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 the reservoir and pond.

Following a report received by DEM yesterday, a water sample was collected at Turner Reservoir and cyanobacteria bloom was observed. The bloom was widespread in both Turner Reservoir and Central Pond. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in Turner Reservoir and Central Pond until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from the reservoir or pond. 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.

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 in or otherwise in contact with Turner Reservoir or Central Pond and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes 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.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in Mashapaug Pond in Providence

09-11-2014

Providence -- The Department of 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.

Following a report received by DEM yesterday, a water sample was collected at Mashapaug Pond and cyanobacteria bloom was observed.

People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in Mashapaug Pond until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from the reservoir or pond. 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.

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 in or otherwise in contact with Mashapaug Pond and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes 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.

HEALTH Alerts Physicians and Patients that Medications from Downing Labs LLC and NuVision Pharmacy Should Not Be Taken

09-12-2014

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 as a non-resident compounding pharmacy, the Rhode Island Department of Health is alerting physicians and patients who may have received a product from Downing Labs LLC or NuVision Pharmacy that these medications should not be taken.

"We are exercising due diligence in respect to NuVision/Downing Labs. We are unaware of any immediate threat to Rhode Islanders but people should be aware if they have medication from NuVision/Downing Labs," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "NuVision Pharmacy has assured us that they will not ship any medication to Rhode Island until the issue is resolved with the FDA and that they have not shipped into Rhode Island since before January 2014."

Until further notice, health care professionals should not prescribe, administer or dispense any NuVision/Downing Labs sterile products for their patients because the firm cannot ensure the safety or quality of these products. Administration of a non-sterile drug product may result in serious and potentially life-threatening infection or death.

The FDA has issued a formal request to Downing Labs for the immediate recall of all lots of its purportedly sterile products currently on the market that are not expired. In the letter, the FDA outlined poor conditions and practices identified by FDA investigators during a July 2014 inspection of Downing Labs' Dallas facility. In the letter, the FDA outlined the practices and facility conditions that raise concerns about the sterility assurance of purportedly sterile drug products made at the Downing Labs facility.

"Patient safety is our top priority. We recommend health care professionals stop prescribing sterile drugs from Downing Labs because they pose serious potential risks to patients," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Patients deserve medications that are safe, effective, and of high quality no matter who makes them, and the FDA will continue to take action to protect patients."

The FDA's recent inspection of the Downing Labs facility in Texas revealed sterility failures in 19 lots of drug products intended to be sterile, endotoxin failures in three lots of drug products, and inadequate or no investigation of these failures. Endotoxins are substances found in certain bacteria that cause a wide variety of serious reactions such as fever, shock, and changes in blood pressure and in other circulatory functions.

On July 18, 2014, the FDA alerted health care professionals not to use purportedly sterile drugs from NuVision/Downing Labs due to possible contamination. On July 26, 2013, after observing poor conditions and practices during a March - April 2013 inspection, the FDA formally requested NuVision Pharmacy recall all sterile use drug products. The FDA reminds health care professionals to check their medical supplies, and quarantine any purportedly sterile drug products prepared at the Downing Labs/NuVision's facility, and not administer them to patients.

Products made at the Downing Labs facility are distributed nationwide. Most of the product labels include: NuVision Pharmacy, Dallas Texas 75244. 1-800-914-7435. Patients who have received any drug product produced at the Downing Labs/NuVision facility and have concerns should contact their health care professional and may contact the Rhode Island Department of Health at (401)-222-5960.

The FDA is not aware of recent reports of illness associated with the use of these products. The FDA asks health care providers and consumers to report adverse reactions or quality problems experienced with the use of any products made at the Downing Labs facility to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Rhode Island a National Leader in Vaccination Rates for Children and Teens

09-16-2014

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 through random telephone calls to parents and guardians and follow-up with healthcare providers. Rhode Island highlights include:

  • Rhode Island's immunization rate for children from 19 to 35 months of age was first in the nation for the childhood vaccine series that protects against 11 diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b, hepatitis B, varicella, and pneumococcal disease). 82% of Rhode Island children completed this vaccine series.
  • The vaccination rates for children in Rhode Island from 19 to 35 months of age for varicella and hepatitis B were both greater than 96%, the best in the nation.
  • Among adolescents, Rhode Island's immunization rates for the vaccines that protect against chicken pox (varicella), hepatitis B, tetanus, pertussis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella were all above 92%, well above the national averages.
  • 77% of Rhode Island girls and 69% of Rhode Island boys received at least one dose of Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, the highest rates in the country.
  • 57% of Rhode Island girls and 43% of Rhode Island boys completed the three-dose HPV series. These rates were also first in the nation, considerably higher than the national averages of 38% for girls and 14% for boys.

"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 Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "But as proud as I am of these numbers, we still have more work to do." The goals of Healthy People 2020 include immunization rates of 90% for most childhood and adolescent vaccines. Healthy People is undertaken every 10 years by CDC to set national health goals.

In addition to the hard work of healthcare providers, other factors in Rhode Island's immunization success include KIDSNET, a statewide health information system, and Rhode Island's Universal Vaccine Policy. This Universal Vaccine Policy allows healthcare providers to order all vaccines for children from birth through 18 years of age at no cost.

The most recent National Immunization Survey data were gathered during 2013.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders of Fresh Finds Ground Black Pepper Recall

09-16-2014

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., with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. The recall was issued as the result of sampling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which revealed that the finished products contained the bacteria.

There are 16,443 cases of the recalled product sold in 3.53-oz. (100 g) plastic jars with Best By Dates of 6/30/17, 7/01/17, 7/02/17, 7/22/17 and 7/23/17, with the Fresh Finds brand label with UPC Code 4 11010 98290 1 is sold exclusively at Big Lots Retail Stores Inc. The Best By dates are printed on the neck of the bottle above the label.

There have been no reported illnesses related to this product to date.

Anyone who has the recalled product should dispose of it. No other size container or best-by dates of Fresh Finds Ground Black Pepper are affected by this recall.

Salmonella bacteria 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. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (e.g., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

HEALTH Advises Rhode Islanders of Respiratory Illness Symptoms, Recommends Measures to Prevent Spread of EV-D68

09-18-2014

Providence - The Rhode Island Department of 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 influenza (flu).

Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Patients who are very ill with EV-D68 have difficulty breathing, and may or may not have fever or wheezing. Many children with severe illness have had asthma or wheezing in the past. Parents whose children are sick with a cold and have difficulty breathing, or see symptoms getting worse, should contact their healthcare provider right away. Parents with children who have asthma should have a care plan in place with their healthcare provider to follow in the event of any illness.

Enterovirus D68 has been reported in multiple states, including nearby Connecticut. Rhode Island is among many states that have submitted laboratory samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is awaiting test results. "Right now we can assume that EV-D68 will be here very soon, if it's not here already," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health. "Like the flu, this respiratory illness spreads more quickly when children are back in school and- also like the flu- EV-D68 is best prevented by frequent hand washing and good hygiene." HEALTH is working with healthcare providers to identify increases of respiratory illnesses in Rhode Island. Laboratory specimens from several Rhode Island patients with respiratory illnesses that could be due to EV-D68 are being tested at a CDC laboratory.

"We'll let everyone know when we know for sure that EV-D68 is in fact in Rhode Island," said Dr. Fine. "Even then, the standard prevention protocols will remain the best protocols."

To stop the spread of enteroviruses and other seasonal illness such as flu, everyone should:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, coughing or sneezing, and before eating or preparing food.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing or hugging people who are sick, or when sick.
  • Avoid sharing dishes or eating utensils with people who are sick, or when sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Cover your cough; Cough into elbows- not hands.
  • Discard used tissues right away.

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. In the United States, people are more likely to get infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall, and EV-D68 infections are likely to decline later in the fall. There is no vaccine or specific antiviral medication for enterovirus infections. Other viruses besides EV-D68 can cause respiratory illness and are also circulating this time of year. In the event of illness, parents, caregivers, and others should follow their healthcare provider's recommendations for treatment and care.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders of M&M'S Milk Chocolate Theater Box Recall

09-22-2014

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 417FM4JP10 418AM4JP09 418BM4JP10 418CM4JP10 418DM4JP10 418EM4JP09 419AM4JP10

417EG4JP10 417FG4JP10 418AG4JP09 418AM4JP10 418CG4JP09 418DG4JP10 418EG4JP09 418EM4JP10 419BM4JP10

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. People who have allergies to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if their theater box contains an inner M&Ms Brand Peanut Butter bag and they consume the product. No adverse reactions have been reported to date.

The issue was identified after a consumer notified us of a M&M'S- " Brand Peanut Butter package containing peanut butter M&M'S- " inside a M&M'S- " Brand Milk Chocolate Theater Box.

These specific lot codes were shipped and distributed to our customers' warehouses between May 8 and July 1, 2014, located in: NC, TX, MN, IL, FL, KY, MS, AZ, GA, AI, CA NJ, PA, WA NY, CO, MO, MI, NH, CT, TN, MD, SC, OH, ME, VA, RI, WI, WV, IA, LA, OK, MA, NE, OK, AR, VT, ID and IN . These customers then redistribute products for retail sale nationwide.

The M&M'S- " Brand Milk Chocolate Theater Box comes in a 3.40 oz brown, 3 inch x 6.5 inch cardboard box stamped on the right-hand side panel with the lot number and best before date.

Mars Chocolate will work with retail customers to ensure that the recalled product is not on store shelves. In the event that consumers believe they have purchased this item and have allergy concerns, they should return this product to the store where they purchased it for a full refund. Consumers with questions or concerns may call our toll-free number: 1-800-627-7852. This number will be operational Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (EST).

CDC Confirms First Case of EV-D68 in Rhode Island Adult

09-24-2014

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 confirmed case of EV-D68 was part of a batch of specimens sent to the CDC on September 15. There have been no deaths in Rhode Island or in the United States associated with EV-D68. The Rhode Island Department of Health announced last week that EV-D68 was most likely already in Rhode Island and issued the following precautions:

The Rhode Island Department of 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 influenza (flu).

Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Patients who are very ill with EV-D68 have difficulty breathing, and may or may not have fever or wheezing. Many children with severe illness have had asthma or wheezing in the past. Parents whose children are sick with a cold and have difficulty breathing, or see symptoms getting worse, should contact their healthcare provider right away. Parents with children who have asthma should have a care plan in place with their healthcare provider to follow in the event of any illness.

To stop the spread of enteroviruses and other seasonal illness such as flu, everyone should:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, coughing or sneezing, and before eating or preparing food.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing or hugging people who are sick, or when sick.
  • Avoid sharing dishes or eating utensils with people who are sick, or when sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Cover your cough; Cough into elbows- not hands.
  • Discard used tissues right away.

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. In the United States, people are more likely to get infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall, and EV-D68 infections are likely to decline later in the fall. There is no vaccine or specific antiviral medication for enterovirus infections. Other viruses besides EV-D68 can cause respiratory illness and are also circulating this time of year. In the event of illness, parents, caregivers, and others should follow their healthcare provider's recommendations for treatment and care.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in Ponds in Cranston and East Providence

09-24-2014

Providence -- The Department of 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 algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom has been detected in the waters of the reservoir and pond. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in Spectacle Pond, Turner Reservoir, Central Pond, Lower Ten Mile River, and Omega Pond until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from the reservoir or pond. 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.

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 in or otherwise in contact with Spectacle Pond, Turner Reservoir, Central Pond, Lower Ten Mile River, or Omega Pond and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes 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.

Recent Child Death Resulting from Staphylococcus Aureus Sepsis Associated with Enteroviral Infection (EV-D68)

10-01-2014

Providence -- The Rhode Island Department of Health has confirmed that a Rhode Island child died last week as a result of Staphylococcus aureus sepsis associated with enteroviral infection (EV-D68). Infection by both Staphylococcus aureus sepsis and EV-D68 is a very rare combination that can cause very severe illness in children and adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected EV-D68 in specimens from a few patients in a few states who had died and had samples submitted for testing. The role that EV-D68 infection played in these deaths is unclear at this time. Only a very small portion of people who contract EV-D68 will experience problems beyond a runny nose and a low grade fever. Most viruses produce mild illnesses from which people are able to recover. After an outbreak, however, a small portion of the population may have a number of different complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to investigate EV-D68 and its associated illnesses, but the reason for the current EV-D68 outbreak is not completely understood. "We are all heartbroken to hear about the death of one of Rhode Island's children," says Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "Many of us will have EV-D68. Most of us will have very mild symptoms and all but very few will recover quickly and completely. The vast majority of children exposed to EV-D68 recover completely."

The Enterovirus D68 is a virus with flu-like symptoms that has been confirmed in 472 people, most of them children, in 41 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Identified in 1962, EV-D68 was infrequently tested for and only began getting attention last month as a number of people with respiratory problems were found to have EV-D68.

The mild symptoms are similar to the common cold, but can progress to wheezing and problems breathing. Infants, children, and teens are most at risk, especially children with asthma. There is no antiviral treatment for people with EV-D68 and no vaccine to prevent it. There are 9 recent case reports about acute neurologic illness - limb weakness and MRI changes that have occurred at the same time as there has been an outbreak of EV-D68.

"While we can't prevent EV-68 with a vaccine, it's important for everyone to get the flu shot - it is as bad as or worse than EV-68. And, we do have a shot to prevent the flu. The sooner you get the flu shot, the better," says Michael Fine, M.D.

Here are recommendations from health officials for how to avoid contracting EV-D68:

  • Wash your own and your child's hands often with soap and warm water 5 or 6 times a day (there is some evidence that hand washing is better than alcohol hand sanitizers at killing enteroviruses). Wash for at least 20 seconds. Children should sing their ABCs or "Happy Birthday" twice in a row while washing their hands to ensure the proper length in time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and remind children to keep their hands away from their faces.
  • Asthma management is particularly important at this time of year. Ensure your child is taking the appropriate medications as prescribed by your child's doctor. It is the important that parents have a current Asthma Action Plan for children with asthma.
  • Clean surfaces often, including toys, doorknobs, phone receivers, and keyboards
  • Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  • If fever is present, stay home while sick and for at least one day after the fever is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medicines.
  • Seek medical help right away for a child with asthma who is having trouble breathing or suffers worsening respiratory symptoms that do not improve as expected with their usual medicines.
  • Get a flu shot today!

HEALTH Launches Flu Vaccination Campaign with Statehouse Kick-Off

10-01-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health launched its annual flu vaccination campaign with a kick-off event today at the Rhode Island State House.

The dangers of the flu and the importance of being vaccinated were discussed by Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D.; First Lady Stephanie Chafee; Ed Cooley, Head Coach of the Providence College men's basketball team; and Pablo Rodriguez, M.D. Dr. Rodriguez is the Chairman of the Women & Infants Health Care Alliance, the Chairman of Latino Public Radio, and the President and CEO of Women's Care. "A flu shot is your best protection against the flu. When you get a flu shot, you also help keep your family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends healthy by preventing the spread of the flu," said Dr. Fine. "Everyone older than six months of age should get a flu shot every year. Even if you don't have health insurance or can't afford a flu shot, there are clinics in Rhode Island where you can be vaccinated without having to pay. Last year, more than 500,000 Rhode Islanders were vaccinated against flu. That's a great start, but it means we're only halfway there!"

Dr. Fine, First Lady Chafee, Coach Cooley, and Dr. Rodriguez were all vaccinated at the event. The event was also attended by Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts.

"I get vaccinated every year and I make sure that my players get vaccinated too. The last thing that we want to do is get sick," Coach Cooley said. "Everyone should get in the habit of getting a flu shot every year." The flu is a serious illness that can even make healthy people very sick. Last year, the flu sent 639 Rhode Islanders to the hospital and resulted in 32 deaths.

Although doctors recommend flu shots for everyone older than six months of age every year, flu shots are particularly important for pregnant women, senior citizens, healthcare workers, and people with chronic medical conditions. Examples of chronic medical conditions include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and asthma.

All Rhode Islanders should see their doctors to be vaccinated against the flu. Other places where people can be vaccinated include pharmacies, public clinics, and school clinics. (Many school clinics are open to the entire community.)

For more information about flu vaccine or to find out where to get vaccinated, call 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.

Rhode Island Department of Health Awarded $3.5 Million to Drive Down Chronic Diseases:New program addresses obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke

10-03-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health was awarded a grant of $3.5 million to support implementation of population-wide and priority population approaches to prevent obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and stroke, and reduce health disparities in these areas among adults on a statewide basis.

The State and Local Public Health Actions to Prevent Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Disease awards are part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health care spending. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will administer the grants, which will run for 4 years, subject to availability of funds. Overall, HHS awarded $69.5 million in new grant awards to 21 state and large-city health departments to prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke and reduce health disparities among adults through combined efforts of communities and health systems. The State and Local Public Health Actions awards are financed by the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care Act. This new program complements and expands on a state-level program, State Public Health Actions, that began in 2013.

"The Department of Health is responsible for providing leadership and technical assistance to selected communities since fifty percent of these funds will be awarded to communities. We will ensure overall coordination in four key areas that are common to multiple disease and risk factor prevention programs such as, epidemiology and surveillance, environmental approaches, health system improvements and community-clinical linkages to enhance coordination across program activities for the greatest public health impact and to maximize these investments" said, Ana Novais, MA, Executive Director of Health.

States will sub-award half of their funds to support activities in four to eight communities each. Community approaches will build support for lifestyle change, particularly for those at high risk, to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Health system efforts will focus on linking community programs to clinical services for populations with the largest disparities in high blood pressure and pre-diabetes. Specifically, the work that communities will do to have a statewide impact will be to employ strategies that promote health, support and reinforce healthful behaviors, and build support for healthy living for the general population and particularly for those with uncontrolled high blood pressure and those at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Priority populations include people with racial/ethnic or socioeconomic disparities, including inadequate access to care, poor quality of care, or low income.

"Achieving the best preventive health care is vital to successful health outcomes. Primary care providers supports the work of the health care system through provision of services such as mammography and tobacco cessation counseling for underserved populations, work on issues of health care access, planned care, self-management, patient navigation, and quality prevention services. Through community-based public health efforts that support intensive and sustained interventions that include health care settings, together we can improve population health outcomes," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health. "In this country, chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death, disability, and health care costs, accounting for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year, and more than 80 percent of the $2.7 trillion our nation spends annually on medical care."

Hydrocodone to be Re-Classified as a Schedule II Medication Effective October 6, 2014

10-03-2014

Hydrocodone, an opioid-type medication, will be reclassified as a Schedule II medication effective October 6, 2014. In the opinion of many regulators, patient advocates, and pain management experts, this change is long overdue.

Hydrocodone and all its combinations collectively represented the most popular pain medication prescribed in Rhode Island. Vicodin is a common brand name that contains hydrocodone. A review of 2013 data reveals there were more than 22.6 million doses filled. Schedule II medications have stricter regulation, reflective of the increased risk these medications have.

A summary of some of the rules surrounding all schedule II medications:

  • The prescription must be written and signed by the prescriber
  • The prescription cannot have refills.
  • The prescription is not valid after 90 days from the date it was written.
  • A verbal prescription is allowed only in emergency situations and a written prescription must follow within seven days. (The pharmacist will notify the Drug Enforcement Agency if a written prescription is not received.)
  • Faxed, original prescriptions are only allowed for:
    • Home infusion/IV pain therapy
    • Long-term-care facilities
    • Hospice/terminally-ill patient
  • Prescriptions have the following quantity limitations:
    • 30-day supply
    • Practitioners may write up to three separate prescriptions (each for up to a one-month supply) and each prescription must be signed and dated on the date they were originally written. In addition, the practitioner must write the earliest date each of those subsequent prescriptions may be filled, with directions to the pharmacist to fill no earlier than the date specified on the face of the prescription.

These are not all the rules surrounding hydrocodone and its varying combinations; however, prescribers will be responsible for following all of the rules when prescribing hydrocodone. HEALTH urges all prescribers to plan for these changes that will take effect next week. It is likely this will have a significant impact on office practices as schedule II prescriptions cannot be phoned in to a pharmacy. HEALTH encourages e-Prescribing of Schedule II medications for safety and security.

The prescription drug abuse epidemic persists. All prescribers should consult HEALTH's website for expectations regarding responsible prescribing as well as enroll in and utilize the information found in the Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing a controlled substance.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in Blackamore Pond in Cranston

10-09-2014

Providence -- The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in Blackamore Pond in Cranston because a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom has been detected in the waters of the pond.

People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in Blackamore Pond until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from the pond. 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. 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 in or otherwise in contact with Blackamore Pond and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes 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.

HEALTH Announces Updated Drug Overdose Numbers

10-15-2014

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health reports the latest numbers on apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, use of Narcan by Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services, and prescribed controlled substances.

Since January 1, 2014, there have been 162 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, nine of which occurred in the month of October. Five of the nine apparent accidental drug overdose deaths ioccurred between Wednesday, October 8 and Friday, October 10.

Of the total number of apparent accidental drug overdose deaths since January 1, 2014, 141 (90%) of the screened cases involved at least one opioid or medication. At least 59 (38%) of the screened cases involve fentanyl that appears to have come from an illicit source.

These apparent accidental drug overdose deaths have taken place in 30 different cities and towns in Rhode Island affecting men and women of all ages and ethnicities:

115 men and 47 women ranging in age from 20 to 65.

31 people in their twenties, 48 people in their thirties, 37 people in their forties, 40 people in their fifties, and 6 people in their sixties;

148 people were white, 13 were black, and 1 was Asian.

Naloxone (Narcan) is an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. It can be used in emergency situations to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdoses. Since January 1, 2014, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has administered 1267 doses of Narcan. From April 2nd - October 14th, emergency departments in Rhode Island have administered Narcan 87 times.

Data from Rhode Island's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which are available to the public on the Department's website, continue to demonstrate that the amount and volume of prescribed controlled substances is not decreasing. In September, 116,383 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in September alone, 1.16 million doses of stimulants, 1.6 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines, and 5.4 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.

"It is clear that Rhode Island continues to experience a prescription drug and street-drug overdose crisis. Despite all of the media attention and the increased focus in the medical community, overdoses and over-prescribing are still happening. This is still a major crisis and we need to continue to put forth our state's best effort to combat addiction and overdose deaths," says Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Craig Stenning, Director of the RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), reminds Rhode Islanders that access to treatment is available through the Medicaid Expansion of the Affordable Care Act; recovery coaches are available to mentor individuals through the early stages of their recovery; Narcan kits are available through treatment centers; and immediate access to substance abuse treatment is available to individuals through their primary care physicians.

Department of Health Promulgates New CDC Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment

10-21-2014

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for hospital healthcare workers caring for patients with Ebola. The Rhode Island Department of Health has promulgated those guidelines to all RI healthcare facilities and providers to ensure they are aware of the new standards and comply with them.

The new guidance, broken down into three major recommendations, emphasizes the specific personal protective equipment (PPE) healthcare workers should use. The guidance also provides detailed step-by-step instructions for how to properly put the equipment on and take it off safely.

The three major recommendations by the CDC ensure that:

  • Healthcare workers dealing with Ebola patients are repeatedly trained when it comes to learning how to put on and take off personal protective equipment.
  • The equipment used covers all skin, leaving none exposed.
  • A trained observer or site manager monitors that these regulations are being followed by those who take on and off their personal protective equipment.

"Healthcare workers are at the highest risk for exposure. We want to make sure that all of our facilities and all of our devoted healthcare workers in Rhode Island are aware of the updated recommendations by the CDC," says Director of Health, Michael Fine, M.D. "As the guidance continues to evolve, we are getting this information out as soon as possible to those who are on the frontlines."

CDC reminds all employers and healthcare workers that PPE is only one aspect of infection control and providing safe care to patients with Ebola. It is critical to focus on other prevention activities to halt the spread of Ebola in healthcare settings, including:

  • Prompt screening and triage of potential patients<
  • Designated site managers to ensure proper implementation of precautions
  • Limiting personnel in the isolation room
  • Effective environmental cleaning

ROME PACKING CO., INC. RECALLS FRESH AND FROZEN CRAB MEAT BECAUSE OF POSSIBLE HEALTH RISK

10-24-2014

East Providence, RI - Rome Packing Co., Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of Ocean's Catch brand All Natural Jonah Crab Leg Meat after routine product sampling by the company determined some of the finished products may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

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. No illnesses have been reported to date. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them and return them to the place of purchase for a refund or discard them.

The list of recalled products include fresh and frozen products. The list of fresh recalled products are packaged in round plastic containers (tub with snap-on lid), sold as refrigerated, includes:

  • 5 ounce Ocean's Catch All Natural Fresh Jonah Crab Leg Meat: lot number 0104804 with a sell by date before 10/15/14;
  • 6 ounce Ocean's Catch All Natural Jonah Crab Combo Meat: lot number 0104791 with a sell by date before 10/13/14; lot number 0104666 with a sell by date before 10/15/14;
  • 8 ounce Ocean's Catch All Natural Fresh Jonah Crab Leg Meat: lot number 0104665 with a sell by date before 10/13/14; lot number 0104665 with a sell by date before 10/14/14; lot number 0104804 with a sell by date before 10/14/14; lot number 0104842 with a sell by date before 10/16/14;
  • 8 ounce Ocean's Catch All Natural Jonah Crab Combo Meat: lot number 0104787 with a sell by date before 10/14/14;
  • 16 ounce Ocean's Catch All Natural Fresh Jonah Crab Leg Meat: lot number 0104659 with a sell by date before 10/13/14; lot number 0104665 with a sell by date before 10/14/14; lot number 0104842 with a sell by date before 10/16/14;
  • 16 ounce Ocean's Catch All Natural Jonah Crab Combo Meat: lot number 0104806 with a sell by date before 10/14/14; lot number 0104845 with a sell by date before 10/16/14;
  • The list of frozen recalled products are packaged in plastic bags, sold frozen, includes:
    • 5 pound bags of Ocean's Catch All Natural Frozen Jonah Crab Leg Meat: lot number 0104842 with a sell by date before 4/16/16;

The products are distributed in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois and California to retail stores including but not limited to: Shaw's Supermarkets, Legal Sea Foods, and Harbor Fish Market. Consumers with questions may contact the company's representative, John F. Whiteside, Jr. at (508) 991-3333.

Any consumers who believe they may have become ill after eating the products should contact their health care provider.

Rome Packing Co., Inc. is cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration and Rhode Island Department of Health investigation. Rome Packing Co., Inc. has initiated corrective action in their processing plant to prevent this from occurring.

HEALTH Announces Prescription Monitoring Data Link with Connecticut

11-06-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health announces a new data link between Rhode Island and Connecticut that will help further the efforts to detect overprescribing of opioids as well as combat drug diversion and drug abuse. Through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy PMP InterConnect program, Rhode Island and Connecticut Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) data can now be viewed across state lines. This new data link between Rhode Island and Connecticut enhances the benefits of Rhode Island's PMP by providing the ability for physicians and pharmacists to more easily identify patients with prescription drug abuse and misuse problems, especially if those patients are crossing state lines to obtain drugs. This increased interoperability and data sharing makes it harder for doctor shoppers to avoid detection.

The Prescription Monitoring Program is a tool for the prescriber and for the pharmacist. It gives a more complete picture of a patient's pharmacy history with controlled substances and allows healthcare providers to take the best care of patients. "This PMP partnership with Connecticut broadens the scope of available data so we can get a better idea of what is actually going on. It is critically important for prescribers to sign-up for the PMP so they can consult the patient-specific data to check for any patterns that may indicate a substance abuse problem," says Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Michael Fine, MD. "Now that we have access to more data, we need to use it to help quell the pattern of over-prescribing opioids in Rhode Island."

Rhode Island continues to experience a prescription drug and street-drug overdose crisis. Data from Rhode Island's (PMP) demonstrate that the amount and volume of prescribed controlled substances is not decreasing. In September, 116,383 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in September alone, 1.16 million doses of stimulants, 1.6 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines, and 5.4 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed. Since January 1, 2014, there have been 181 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, 23 of which occurred in the month of October.

In August of 2014, the Rhode Island Department of Health made data from its PMP available to the public on the Department's website. Thought to be the first state to make this data available, Rhode Islanders can learn how often prescribers utilize the PMP, the number of prescriptions being written for controlled substances, and some of the trends in substance abuse.

Governor-Elect Gina Raimondo Joins Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. to Promote Flu Vaccination

11-07-2014

Governor-Elect Gina Raimondo reminded all Rhode Islanders about the importance of vaccination after getting her flu shot on Friday from Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "Our whole family gets vaccinated every year because we know that it's our best defense against the flu," Governor-Elect Raimondo said. "I urge anyone who hasn't been vaccinated to consider getting a flu shot today."

Her husband, Andrew Moffit, and their two children were also vaccinated by Dr. Fine. Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. Vaccination is especially important for pregnant women, senior citizens, healthcare workers, and people with chronic medical conditions. Common chronic medical conditions include asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

The flu is a serious illness that can even make healthy people very sick. Last year, the flu sent 639 Rhode Islanders to the hospital and resulted in 32 deaths. "When you get a flu shot, you are not just protecting yourself. You are also helping to keep all of the people in your life healthy by preventing the spread of the flu," Dr. Fine said. "With the holiday season just around the corner, many of us will soon be getting together with family and friends. Now is the time to get vaccinated to protect the people that you love."

People should visit their doctors to be vaccinated against the flu. Other places where people can be vaccinated include pharmacies, public clinics, and school clinics. (Many school clinics are open to the entire community.)

There are clinics in Rhode Island for people who do not have health insurance and for people who cannot afford to pay for flu shots.

B and G Foods Issues Allergy Alert On Undeclared Peanut And Almond In Product

11-18-2014

November 18, 2014 - B&G Foods announced it is voluntarily recalling certain Ortega Taco Seasoning Mix, Ortega Taco Sauce, Ortega Enchilada Sauce and Ortega Taco Kit products and certain Las Palmas Taco Seasoning Mix and Las Palmas Taco Sauce products after learning that one or more of the spice ingredients purchased from a third party supplier contain peanuts and almonds, allergens that are not declared on the products' ingredient statements. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts and almonds run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. There is no health risk associated with these products for individuals without an allergy to peanuts or almonds.

HEALTH Announces Updated Drug Overdose Numbers

11-18-2014

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health reports the latest numbers on apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, use of Narcan by Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services, and prescribed controlled substances.

Since January 1, 2014, there have been 188 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, 8 of which occurred in the month of November.

Of the total number of apparent accidental drug overdose deaths since January 1, 2014, 163 (90%) of the screened cases involved at least one opioid or medication. At least 64 (36%) of the screened cases involve Fentanyl.

These apparent accidental drug overdose deaths have taken place in 31 different cities and towns in Rhode Island affecting men and women of all ages and ethnicities:

136 men and 52 women ranging in age from 20 to 65.

37 people in their twenties, 56 people in their thirties, 45 people in their forties, 43 people in their fifties, and 7 people in their sixties;

167 people were white, 20 were black, and 1 was Asian.

Naloxone (Narcan) is an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. It can be used in emergency situations to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdoses. Since January 1, 2014, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has administered 1413 doses of Narcan. From April 2nd - October 31st, emergency departments in Rhode Island reported to have administered Narcan 95 times.

Data from Rhode Island's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which are available to the public on the Department's website, continue to demonstrate that the amount and volume of prescribed controlled substances is not decreasing. In October, 114,869 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in October alone, 1.2 million doses of stimulants, 1.6 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines, and 5.5 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.

Tobacco-Related Personal Stories on Display in Honor of This Year's Great American Smokeout

11-20-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health will observe this year's American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout on Thursday November 20, from 5-9 p.m. with a Gallery Night Reception featuring a collection of personal tobacco-related stories, on display at the University of Rhode Island's Feinstein Providence Campus Gallery, 80 Washington Street in Providence. The stories are being exhibited as part of a larger installation of artwork entitled "Art and Healing," on display November 3-December 12. The emotional accounts detail the experiences of Rhode Islanders whose lives have been negatively impacted by tobacco use. Each story is handwritten and mounted behind colorful hand-made collage frames that include vintage tobacco- related advertising and other tobacco and smoking-related images. During the reception, Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health will discuss the importance of quitting smoking. Information on the State's Smoker's Helpline will also be available.

"Quitting smoking is tough, but the more times that a smoker tries to quit, the more likely he or she will 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 stories were collected over a period of one year and used as part of HEALTH's Tobacco Made Me Campaign which was first launched in 2012 and ran again in 2013. The campaign was 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.

World AIDS Day Observed: 'Know Your Status' to Stop the Spread of HIV and Prevent AIDS

12-02-2014

Released: December 1, 2014

PROVIDENCE - In observance of World AIDS Day, the Rhode Island Department of Health encourages all Rhode Islanders ages 13-64 to get tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) at least once or more often as needed to help ensure long-term health for themselves, as well as for any newborn child, sexual partner, or other important relationship in their lives.

"It is a cause for concern that the number of newly-diagnosed HIV cases in Rhode Island for 2014 is projected to be at least 15 cases more than in 2013," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Getting tested to know your status protects you and those closest to you. All teens and adults should speak with their doctor about getting tested for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases during their regular check-ups. People who have multiple sexual partners should be tested regularly, perhaps as often as monthly."

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 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. These community-based agencies also offer testing for Hepatitis C. With early treatment and continued care, people infected with HIV can live long, healthy lives, and avoid infecting their partners. If left untreated, HIV can progress and cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a very serious condition in which the immune system has been severely damaged and cannot fight off other deadly infections and/or rare cancers.

More than one million people are estimated to be living with HIV in the United States, with almost 1-in-6 people unaware that they are infected and at-risk of spreading HIV to others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends routine testing for everyone ages 13-64 regardless of perceived risk.

In Rhode Island, an estimated 400 people do not yet know they are infected with HIV. Once someone knows he or she is living with HIV, care and treatment with medication can reduce and almost eliminate the virus's ability to replicate and infect others. Studies have shown that people with HIV who are on medication and take their medication regularly can greatly reduce transmitting the virus to others. Studies have also shown that many people who know they are living with HIV should:

  • Always use a condom during sex.
  • Consider reducing or limiting sexual partners or acts.
  • Abstain from sharing injection drug needles that can also transmit the virus.

Once someone's HIV-positive status is known, his or her sexual partner(s) may also take a daily prescribed pill known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP. Earlier this year, the CDC issued new guidelines for PrEP as one recommended preventive measure under a physician's care. PrEP has been shown to reduce the chances of new HIV infection by more than 90% in clinical trials. Anyone taking PrEP should continue to use condoms and get tested for HIV every three months, per CDC guidelines.

Preventing and treating other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) effectively can also help protect against HIV. Open sores and blisters that are symptoms of other STDs, such as syphilis for example, may provide more ways for HIV transmission to occur during unprotected oral and anal sex.

Raccoon captured in Newport tests positive for rabies

12-09-2014

The Rhode Island Department of Health reports that a raccoon captured on Saturday, December 6, 2014 close to 43 Broadway in Newport (near the RIPTA bus stop, Newport City Hall, and Thompson Middle School) has tested positive for rabies. Several people may have had contact with this raccoon.

Anyone who may have had contact with a raccoon near this location on Saturday, December 6 should contact the Rhode Island Department of Health as soon as possible at 401-222-2577. Contact is defined as a bite, a scratch, or raccoon saliva touching an open wound, eyes, nose or mouth.

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. Without proper treatment for rabies exposure, rabies can develop and the infection is virtually always fatal. 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. Additionally, anyone who owns a domestic animal that may have had contact with a raccoon near this location must report the incident to their municipal animal control officer or the Department of Environmental Management environmental police at 401-222-3070.

Rhode Islanders are encouraged to share this information with their neighbors, family, and friends to help HEALTH find and evaluate anyone with a potential exposure.

Rhode Island Named 15th Healthiest State in U.S.

12-10-2014

PROVIDENCE - Rhode Island is the 15th healthiest state in the nation, according to the recently-released America's Health Rankings- "- 2014 edition report. Rhode Island's status jumped four spots in the new rankings, up from 19th 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 health professionals, hospitals, health care facilities, and community partners 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 rate of drug deaths, prevalence of binge drinking, and preventable hospitalizations. In addition, Rhode Islanders report many days of poor mental and physical health per month.

America's Health Rankings- " is the longest-running report of its kind. For 25 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.

Rhode Islanders Urged to be Vaccinated against the Flu to Protect Family and Friends This Holiday Season

12-15-2014

With many Rhode Islanders gearing up for holiday get-togethers with family and friends, the Rhode Island Department of Health is reminding everyone about the importance of vaccination against the flu. "It typically takes people two weeks to develop immunity after getting a flu shot," said Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. "If you haven't been vaccinated yet this flu season, now is the perfect time to get your flu shot. A flu shot will help prevent you from getting the flu and it will keep those who will be around you safe by preventing the spread of the flu."

There is plenty of flu vaccine available throughout Rhode Island. Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. People need flu shots every year because flu viruses change from year to year. "Vaccination is the best defense against the flu. Flu shots are safe and they work," Dr. Fine said. "The flu affects young people every year, but it can be particularly dangerous for the elderly. When you get vaccinated, you are helping to protect your grandparents, parents, and any elderly neighbors and friends in your life."

There has been an apparent decrease in the number of Rhode Island senior citizens who have been vaccinated this year against the flu, compared to last year. Through November 30, 2014, 46,386 Rhode Island senior citizens were vaccinated against the flu. Through November 30, 2013, 59,944 Rhode Island senior citizens had been vaccinated against the flu. A policy change made by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may be contributing to this drop in the flu vaccination rate for seniors. This policy change makes it more difficult for healthcare providers to access flu vaccine for this population.

The main flu strain that has been circulating this year is the H3N2 strain. This strain can be more severe for the elderly.

The flu is a serious virus that keeps many people in bed for a week. The symptoms of the flu include body aches, chills, vomiting, and fatigue.

Anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of the flu should contact their doctor. Doctors can prescribe antiviral drugs that can help fight the symptoms of the flu. Antiviral drugs are most effective if they are taken with two days of the onset of the symptoms of the flu.

HEALTH Announces Updated Drug Overdose Numbers

12-15-2014

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health reports the latest numbers on apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, use of Narcan by Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services, and prescribed controlled substances. Since January 1, 2014, there have been 212 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, 10 of which occurred in the first 14 days of December.

"If there is one holiday gift we can give this year, it is the gift of life and recovery. If you know someone who is struggling with drug abuse, help them get into treatment today. Give them the love and support they need to save their lives. These latest drug overdose numbers suggest that this epidemic is far from over. We need everyone to come together to stop this epidemic," says Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Of the total number of apparent accidental drug overdose deaths since January 1, 2014, 187 (90%) of the screened cases involved at least one opioid drug and/or opioid medication. 74 (37%) of the screened cases involve fentanyl.

These apparent accidental drug overdose deaths have taken place in 31 different cities and towns in Rhode Island affecting men and women of all ages and ethnicities and four towns in Massachusetts:

152 men and 60 women ranging in age from 20 to 65.

40 people in their twenties, 61 people in their thirties, 56 people in their forties, 47 people in their fifties, and 8 people in their sixties;

188 people were white, 23 were black, and 1 was Asian.

Naloxone (Narcan) is an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. It can be used in emergency situations to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdoses. Since January 1, 2014, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has administered 1532 doses of Narcan. From April 2 - November 25, emergency departments in Rhode Island reported to have administered Narcan 102 times. "These numbers point to the need for new, life-saving initiatives like The Providence Center's AnchorED program involving several area hospitals. Six months ago, recovery coaches began working in the emergency rooms, encouraging survivors of drug overdoses to get help. So far, nearly 90% of those seen by recovery coaches have chosen to get help. We are saving people from a second or third overdose by having mentors show them the path to recovery. These numbers demonstrate both hope and potential," says Craig Stenning, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH).

Data from Rhode Island's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which are available to the public on the Department's website, continue to demonstrate that the amount and volume of prescribed controlled substances is not decreasing. In November, 110,859 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in November alone, 1.1 million doses of stimulants, 2.6 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines (the increase from October reflects the addition of hydrocodone to schedule II drugs), and 5.2 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.

HEALTH Accepting Applications for Health Professional Loan Repayment Program

12-16-2014

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health has announced that the 2015 Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program application cycle is open through February 13, 2015. 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 commitment to practice in under-served 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 $350,000 has been allocated to the State of Rhode Island for eight to 10 awards, which are expected to be announced by the end of April 2015.

"This program is designed to address health disparities by improving access to care in under-served communities," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "I began my career working with under-served 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 $175,000 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.

Information about how to apply for loan repayment assistance, individual and site eligibility requirements, and designations of under-served areas (as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration) can be found at http://www.health.ri.gov/grants/healthprofessionalloanrepayment

10 Food Safety Tips for the Holidays and the New Year

12-19-2014

  1. Wash hands. Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
  2. Use different cutting boards for different foods. Consider using separate cutting boards for ready-to-eat foods such as fresh produce, bread, and cooked foods versus raw meats, poultry, and seafood. Wash cutting boards and knives in hot soapy water after food preparation.
  3. Use a food thermometer. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  4. Cook eggs properly. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making eggnog, use pasteurized egg products or powdered egg whites.
  5. Cook your dough before eating baked goods. Don't eat uncooked dough, which may contain raw eggs.
  6. Set your refrigerator and freezer to the correct temperatures. Set your refrigerator at or below 40F and the freezer at 0F. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer.
  7. Refrigerate leftovers. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, leftovers, takeout foods, and any type of food that needs to be refrigerated within two hours of eating it.
  8. Separate meat plates from other food. Never place food on the same plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood unless plate has been thoroughly washed. Also, store raw meat, poultry, and seafood tightly wrapped on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. This prevents the raw juices from dripping on other food.
  9. Replace and wash dishtowels and sponges often. Replace and wash dishtowels and sponges often to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria throughout the kitchen. Use paper towels to dry washed hands after handling raw foods.
  10. Wash all produce. Wash all fresh produce, even prepackaged greens, to minimize potential bacterial contamination.

HEALTH Declares Flu to Be Widespread in Rhode Island

12-30-2014

PROVIDENCE - Michael Fine, MD, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, has issued a Declaration of Widespread Flu Incidence Statewide. This declaration triggers Rhode Island's 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 less well-matched to the current strain of influenza (H3N2) than in prior years. Vaccination, however, continues to be the most effective way for individuals to protect themselves and their families from a disease which kills many Rhode Islanders each year and which causes the hospitalization of hundreds. 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.

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.