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05/27/2016 15:00 EDT
Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) approved Care New England's proposal to transfer obstetrics services from Memorial Hospital to Kent Hospital and Women & Infants Hospital in a decision that includes conditions aimed at ensuring access to care for patients and communities...
05/26/2016 15:00 EDT
On May 25th, an estimated 900 high school students, their teachers, and community partners gathered at the University of Rhode Island's Kingston campus to attend the eighth annual Dare to Dream Student Leadership Conference sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). They were...
05/26/2016 14:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) want to remind people of the dangers posed by mosquitoes this time of year and reinforce the importance of personal protection in preventing mosquito bites. Mosquitoes carry many...
05/24/2016 12:00 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Dakota Style Foods is recalling a number of sunflower kernel products because of potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The Dakota Style products being recalled are: • 16 ounce Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels
05/20/2016 17:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that SunOpta and TreeHouse Foods have issued recalls for sunflower kernel products and sunflower kernel-containing products because of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Although no illnesses have been associated...
05/18/2016 16:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Health Professionals Loan Repayment Board announced more than $823,000 in loan repayment awards today aimed at strengthening the healthcare workforce and narrowing health disparities by increasing the number of providers in medically underserved
05/17/2016 18:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Dr. Prager's Sensible Foods, Inc. is voluntarily recalling various not-ready-to-eat frozen food items due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recalled products were distributed to stores in Rhode Island,...
05/17/2016 17:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Quaker Oats Company is voluntarily recalling a small quantity of Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars were distributed in Rhode Island. The specific
05/11/2016 17:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers of a recall of certain walnuts and walnut-containing products due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The products were sold under the names Nature's Promise, Woodstock, Market Basket, and Woodfield Farms. The lot...
05/10/2016 15:30 EDT
Spike in Fentanyl-Related Overdose Deaths The results of initial toxicology screens suggest that Rhode Island is experiencing a significant increase in accidental opioid overdose deaths that involve the synthetic drug fentanyl. Although the results of confirmatory tests are still pending, these...
05/09/2016 18:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that Schulze and Burch Biscuit Co. is voluntarily recalling a variety of Millville Protein Chewy Bars because of potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The Millville Protein Chewy Bar products were nationally...
05/06/2016 16:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that TreeHouse Foods and Creative Snacks Co. are both voluntarily recalling products potentially impacted by sunflower seeds contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Products from both manufacturers were distributed nationwide.
05/03/2016 17:00 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that CRF Frozen Foods is expanding its recall of frozen organic and traditional fruits and vegetables because of potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. This expanded recall includes all of the frozen organic and...
05/03/2016 13:30 EDT
The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) are organizing a free skin cancer screening event at the Rhode Island State House on May 4th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event is open to the public, and no insurance is required. People interested...
04/28/2016 16:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) advises consumers that Bake Fresh Company of Rhode Island is recalling a particular variety of '7-Eleven Fresh to Go' cookies because they may contain undeclared peanuts. The cookies being recalled are sugar cookies made with M&M chocolate candy,
04/25/2016 13:30 EDT
Frozen Vegetables Recalled Due to Possible Health Risk The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that CRF Frozen Foods is voluntarily recalling fifteen frozen vegetable items that may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The Listeria was discovered...
04/22/2016 16:00 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is lifting the Boil-Water Advisory that had been issued for consumers of the SUEZ water system on two streets in Wakefield on April 20th. The advisory had been in effect for consumers on Narragansett Avenue and on Old Tower Hill Road from the Dale...
04/21/2016 18:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with Scott Pond in Lincoln due to a confirmed blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can harm...
04/20/2016 18:00 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is issuing a precautionary boil water advisory for consumers of the SUEZ water system on two streets in Wakefield. The advisory is in effect for consumers on Narragansett Avenue and on Old Tower Hill Road from the Dale Carlia Shopping Center to the...
04/19/2016 14:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today announced the first confirmed case of Zika virus in the state. The individual who tested positive, a male in his 60s, had recently traveled to Haiti, where there is active mosquito-borne transmission of Zika. "We have been closely monitoring...

2015

Rhode Island Department of Health Uses Text Messages to Help Teen Smokers Quit

01-02-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Tobacco Control Program launched a new text messaging campaign today aimed at helping teen tobacco users ages 18 and under kick the habit. Text To Be An EX (T2BX) is a one-of-a-kind, two-way, customized text message cessation support and education intervention for teens.

"Rhode Island has the second lowest teen smoking rate," said Director of Health, Michael Fine M.D. "In order to get that number to zero, we need to focus on the teens who need it most and help them quit in ways that work for them. T2BX is exactly that. "

Here's how it works: A teen first texts 'START' to the number 88206 to enroll. This begins a conversational automated system to identify the teens' smoking habits. The subscriber's answers to questions like "What time of day do you smoke?" and "What type of tobacco do you use?" help the system deliver relatable, tailored messages. Having a craving? Text 'DISTRACT' and you will immediately be sent a link to a humorous YouTube video or online meme. A real professional tobacco treatment specialist monitors the system throughout the day, messaging subscribers personally when extra assistance is needed. Teens do not need parental permission to participate as only information and tips are given, and teens remain anonymous.

The innovative resource represents two years of research and development focused on the types of teen social identity groups that are most at risk for tobacco use in Rhode Island. The results led HEALTH to design a media campaign to promote T2BX that speaks to two social groups specifically – teens who identify with hip-hop culture or those who identify with alternative social culture. T2BX uses the Trans-theoretical Model and Behavioral Activation to move subscribers through the process of quitting and suggest productive alternatives.

"Teen tobacco users tell us that they want to quit; that they feel enslaved by tobacco addiction," says Erin Boles Welsh, Tobacco Control Program Manager at HEALTH. "T2BX was developed with feedback from these teens to ensure that the campaign and texts will engage them and keep them motivated to achieve their goal."

Advertisements promoting T2BX will air in places teens frequent, such as malls, movie theaters, and online through websites like Pandora, and Facebook. HEALTH has also partnered with local businesses, such as CVS Health and Fete nightclub, the United Way and other youth-based organizations, and schools throughout the state to help host promotional events and reach teens who are thinking about quitting.

The campaign will be rigorously evaluated to determine its success, and whether it can be replicated by other states.

Immediate Recall & Allergy Alert Undeclared Peanut Protein In Chili Mix Products

01-05-2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Jardine Foods, Inc. is voluntarily recalling Chili Mix products because they may contain undeclared peanut proteins. One of the spice ingredients purchased contains peanut proteins, an allergen which is not declared on the products' ingredient statement. 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.

This recall affects the following products:

  • 0 22531 01880 4 4.0 Oz (113g) DL Jardines Texas Chili Bag O'Fixins Kit in white cloth bag 11.20.16
  • 0 22531 05250 1 3.0 Oz (85g) DL Jardines Texas Chili Works in brown & red cardboard box 11.20.16
  • 0 22531 50500 7 3.1 Oz (88g) Shotgun Willie's Texas Chili Seasoning in black & red cardboard box 09.15.16

The recalled products were distributed nationwide in retail stores and through web orders.

No illnesses have been reported to date. This recall was initiated after it was discovered that ingredients from a single supplier used in the affected products were contaminated with peanut allergens.

Consumers who have purchased the recalled products are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 512.295.4600 from 9 am to 4 pm CST Monday-Friday, or qualityassurance@jardinefoods.com for additional information.

HEALTH, BHDDH, and Anchor Recovery Launch Media Campaign to Combat Drug Addiction and Overdose; Release Drug Overdose Death Data for 2014

01-09-2015

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 addicted to drugs and alcohol.

The "Addiction is a Disease. Recovery is Possible." media campaign was launched at an event at Anchor Recovery this morning. The campaign was developed over the past several months with funding from the DelPrete Family Foundation; assistance from Providence-based public relations firm, RDW Group; the Rhode Island Broadcasters Association; and with considerable input and concept testing with members of the target audience–people in recovery from substance use disorders and their friends and family members. Campaign research with this group indicated that the most effective way to reach out to people with active addiction is to share stories from fellow Rhode Islanders with experience of successful, long-term recovery.

The campaign features eight local men and women who share their personal stories of addiction and recovery. Many of them share details of getting addicted at a young age and spending time in and out of prison. Another woman, Elise, talks about losing two sons to overdose. Beginning today, the campaign can be seen by Rhode Islanders on bus advertising, posters in a variety of venues in the community, TV and radio ads, and a website, www.recover.ri.gov, which includes video testimonials from the eight men and women in the campaign.

"Our goal is to share stories that provide hope and inspiration to our siblings, parents, children, and friends who are suffering the effects of addiction," said Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD. "With 232 apparent drug overdose deaths in 2014, these campaign messages come none too soon. We want people to know that there is help and there are people who are successful in long-term recovery."

"As it is with any chronic disease, recovery and support are essential to conquering substance use disorders," said Jim Gillen, Director of Recovery Services at the Providence Center / Anchor Recovery Community Center. "Every day at Anchor we see people living rewarding and fulfilling lives in recovery. People struggling with addiction–either in their own lives or the life of someone they love–need to know there is help and there is hope."

"The people who have come forward today and who will be seen all across the state in this multi-media campaign have extraordinary courage on several levels," Linda Mahoney, BHDDH Administrator added. "They had the courage to seek recovery--and they have the courage to go public with their stories. This will save lives because what they are saying is 'I was sick, but now I'm well again but there's still work to do.' Rhode Islanders can help by providing treatment, housing, employment and child care. There is so much more that we all can do."

The campaign materials encourage people in active addiction to call 2-1-1, for referrals to treatment and recovery services. United Way 2-1-1 in Rhode Island provides a human connection that helps people find assistance on everything from recovery care to childcare needs, food, shelter, gambling problems and elder care services. This free and confidential service is available 24 hours a day, every day by calling 2-1-1 or visiting www.211ri.org

Another component of the "Addiction is a Disease. Recovery is Possible." campaign is an effort to educate the state's healthcare providers on how and where to refer patients for treatment and recovery services. Beginning in September of 2014, HEALTH hosted a series of six Public Health Grand Rounds, or training sessions for providers, on opioid addiction, overdose, and prescribing. The live sessions, which were also webcast and archived, allow participants to earn continuing medical education credits. They aim to teach providers how to screen for and identify addiction, how to refer to treatment, and how to use the Prescription Monitoring Program and other tools in an office setting, such as pain treatment agreements or "medication contracts" with patients who are prescribed narcotics. These agreements document a mutual understanding of prescriptions between a doctor and patient. In addition, HEALTH has hired a small group of interns who are providing on-site, in-service training to primary care providers on SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment), a tool used to screen patients for problematic drug and alcohol use.

A final component of the campaign targets law enforcement and first responders with training and printed materials about how to administer Narcan (an overdose antidote) and how to make referrals to treatment and recovery.

In related activity, BHDDH has provided funding to the Providence Center and Anchor Recovery to make Recovery Coaches available to participating hospital emergency departments treating individuals who have survived an opioid overdose. This program connects these individuals with a specially trained Recovery Coach who can engage the patient in a discussion about treatment and recovery. Several of the men and women featured in the campaign work as Recovery Coaches through this program.

Campaign materials can be found at www.recover.ri.gov .

2014 Data

In 2014, there were 232 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths. Of those, 208 (90%) of the 231 screened cases involved at least one opioid drug and/or opioid medication. 83 (37%) of the 225 screened cases involved fentanyl.

These apparent accidental drug overdose deaths were among people who appeared to be using in 31 different cities and towns in Rhode Island, affecting men and women of all ages and ethnicities, and four towns in Massachusetts: - 65 men and 67 women ranging in age from 20 to 72; - 43 people in their twenties, 64 people in their thirties, 61 people in their forties, 53 people in their fifties, and 11 people in their sixties and seventies;- 205 people were white, 26 were black, and 1 was Asian.

Rhode Island Birthing Facilities Among the Best in the Nation for Infant Nutrition and Care

01-13-2015

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 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The survey assesses infant feeding care processes, policies, and staffing expectations in maternity care settings.

The report summarizes results from all facilities in Rhode Island that participated in the 2013 mPINC Survey and identifies opportunities to improve mother-baby care at hospitals and birth centers and related health outcomes throughout Rhode Island. All six birthing hospitals in Rhode Island participated in the 2013 survey: Kent Hospital, Landmark Medical Center, Memorial Hospital, Newport Hospital, South County Hospital, and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island's strengths include provision of breastfeeding advice and counseling (100% of the facilities provide breastfeeding advice and instructions to patients who are breastfeeding or intend to breastfeed) and availability of prenatal breastfeeding instruction (100% of the facilities include breastfeeding education as a routine component of their prenatal classes). Breastfeeding provides optimal infant nutrition and is associated with lower risks of infant disease, infant death, and maternal death.

"We are thrilled to see Rhode Island's birthing hospitals and birth centers leading the nation in the care and support they provide to breastfeeding women and babies," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We are working with all birthing hospitals and healthcare providers to make it clear that 'breast is best.' We also know that there is much more we can do to improve the support available to all families–during pregnancy, in the hospital, and after birth."

HEALTH Warns of Food Recall of Certain Morningstar Farms Black Bean Burgers and Chipotle Black Bean Burgers

01-14-2015

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-threatening allergic reaction if they consume the recalled products. Individuals without peanut allergies can safely consume these products.

Only certain code dates are affected by this recall. Visit the below link to the FDA recall notice for the complete list of affected products:

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm429690.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this recall.

HEALTH Announces Updated Drug Overdose Numbers

01-21-2015

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.

"My administration is committed to redoubling our efforts to drive down the number of overdose deaths," Governor Gina M. Raimondo said. "These latest numbers demonstrate that we continue to face a public health crisis. We need everyone to come together to stop this epidemic." In 2014, there were 232 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths. Of those, 208 (90%) of the 231 screened cases involved at least one opioid drug and/or opioid medication. 83 (37%) of the 225 screened cases involved fentanyl.

These apparent accidental drug overdose deaths were among people who appeared to be using in 31 different cities and towns in Rhode Island, affecting men and women of all ages and ethnicities, and four towns in Massachusetts: 165 men and 67 women ranging in age from 20 to 72; 43 people in their twenties, 64 people in their thirties, 61 people in their forties, 53 people in their fifties, and 11 people in their sixties and seventies; 205 people were white, 26 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. In 2014, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) administered 1739 doses of Narcan. From April 2 – January 7, 2015, emergency departments in Rhode Island reported to have administered Narcan 135 times.

"These numbers point to the need for new, life-saving initiatives like The Providence Center's AnchorED program involving several area hospitals," said Elizabeth Roberts, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. "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."

"With each death, a piece of Rhode Island dies. It's time for communities to speak out, and up, and together to help people get into treatment and get the drugs out of our medicine cabinets and off of the street," says Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

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 December, 123,239 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in December alone, 1.3 million doses of stimulants, 3 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines, and 6 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.

Rhode Island Department of Health Releases Storm-Related Deaths and Injuries

01-30-2015

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 on January 26.

Two men in the greater Providence metropolitan area died as the result of shoveling snow. Since January 26, emergency departments statewide reported 274 storm-related visits. Of these visits, the majority 175 were the result of slips and falls while 35 visits stemmed from motor vehicle accidents. The complete data table is listed below, which shows that there are many types of injuries related to winter storms.

"My number one priority is to keep Rhode Islanders safe before, during, and after the blizzard this week. As we continue to clean up from Juno, I want to remind everyone to drive with caution, check on your loved ones and neighbors, take frequent breaks when shoveling, and to be sure to call 2-1-1 or Serve Rhode Island if you need help digging out," Governor Gina M. Raimondo said.

The data comprises information from the following emergency departments: Landmark Medical Center, Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, The Miriam Hospital, Women and Infants Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children's Hospital, Kent Hospital, South County Hospital, Newport Hospital, and Westerly Hospital.

"It is important for people to be aware of the health and safety dangers associated with winter weather," says Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Michael Fine, M.D. "We will have more inclement weather this winter. All Rhode Islanders need to know and address the risks, enlist help when needed, take practical steps, like taking frequent breaks to rest while shoveling, staying hydrated, and wearing appropriate clothing."

Winter safety tips are available on HEALTH's website at http://health.ri.gov/seasonal/winter/.

The complete table of storm-related injuries is below.

  • NUMBER OF STORM-RELATED EMERGENCY ROOM PRESENTATIONS FROM COMMUNITY FOR NON-MEDICAL RELATED REASONS
  • DURABLE MEDICAL EQUIPEMENT, 1
  • OTHER, 0
  • NUMBER OF STORM-RELATED MEDICAL ADMISSIONS
  • FROSTBITE, 3
  • HYPOTHERMIA, 1
  • CARDIAC COMPLAINTS DUE TO SHOVELING, 10
  • CARBON MONOXIDE EXPOSURE, 5
  • EXACERBATION OF EXISTING MEDICAL INJURIES, 14
  • NUMBER OF STORM-RELATED TRAUMA ADMISSIONS
  • SLIPS AND FALLS, 175
  • MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS, 35
  • SNOW-REMOVAL ACCIDENTS, 0
  • SLEDDING INJURIES, 18
  • BURNS/INJURIES FROM ALT HEAT SOURCE, 1
  • OTHER, 11

Department of Health Confirms Case of Meningococcal Meningitis at Providence College

02-02-2015

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 collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Health, has identified the close contacts of the student and has provided them preventive antibiotics. The Rhode Island Department of Health is collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Health to identify the Boston-area contacts of the student to ensure that preventive antibiotics are administered.

"Meningitis does not spread through the air or through casual exposure, so the risk of contracting this disease is low for Providence College students and staff," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "Still, meningitis is a dangerous disease. The Department of Health takes even a single case seriously and works hard to prevent any spread."

Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial infection is spread through direct secretions from the nose or mouth through activities such as kissing, sharing food, drinks, water bottles, toothbrushes, eating utensils, or cigarettes. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important.

Vaccination is the best protection against meningococcal disease. The vaccine protects against all strains except serogroup B. All 11-12 years olds should be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine. For adolescents who receive the first dose at age 13 through 15 years, a one-time booster dose should be administered, preferably at age 16 through 18 years. Adolescents who receive their first dose of meningococcal vaccine at or after age 16 years do not need a booster dose.

The meningococcal vaccines that are available can prevent four types of meningococcal disease, including two of the three types that are most common in the United States. Approximately 92 percent of Rhode Islanders from 13 to 17 years of age have received at least one dose of meningococcal vaccine.

People who are immunized do not need to take any additional action. People who are not immunized should contact their doctors.

People at increased risk for meningitis are:

  • College freshmen living in dormitories.
  • Laboratory personnel who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria.
  • U.S. military recruits.
  • Anyone traveling to, or living in, a part of the world where meningococcal disease is common.
  • Anyone who has a damaged spleen, or whose spleen has been removed.
  • Anyone who has persistent complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder).
  • People who might have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak.

Providence College students are directed to call the Providence College Health Center at 401-865-2423 with any questions.

Department of Health Reports Probable Case of Meningococcal Meningitis at Providence College

02-06-2015

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 case of meningococcal meningitis at Providence College. HEALTH reported a confirmed case on February 2, 2015.

HEALTH is coordinating its response with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Providence College. As with the first case, those who had close contact with the student are being notified so they can receive appropriate care.

"Meningitis is an uncommon but serious infection," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "We are working closely with Providence College in administering antibiotics to students on campus who were in close contact with the two individuals who are sick."

"We have expanded the hours of our Student Health Center to 24/7 to respond to students who present with symptoms, to interview those students who have been in close contact with the students who are ill, and to provide prophylactic treatment as necessary," said Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of Providence College. "We are also taking a number of steps to educate and inform our campus community via various communication channels."

Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial infection is spread through direct secretions from the nose or mouth through activities such as kissing, sharing food, drinks, water bottles, toothbrushes, eating utensils, or cigarettes. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important.

The meningococcal vaccines that are available can prevent four types of meningococcal disease, including two of the three types that are most common in the United States. Approximately 92 percent of Rhode Islanders from 13 to 17 years of age have received at least one dose of meningococcal vaccine.

Providence College students are directed to call the Providence College Health Center at 401-865-2422 with any questions.

Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Providence College Coordinating to Organize On-Site College Vaccination Clinic

02-06-2015

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 probable case of meningococcal meningitis at Providence College (PC). The student remains at a hospital in Rhode Island.

Coordinating closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Providence College, HEALTH today announced a plan to provide a robust vaccination regimen to all students at PC.

The consensus recommendation from CDC officials, physicians and public health experts at HEALTH, an advisory board of infectious disease experts, FDA officials, and PC is that an appropriate next step to prevent the spread of meningitis B is to encourage students to receive this vaccination. HEALTH is organizing an on-site college vaccination clinic, which will take place as soon as the vaccine arrives on the PC campus.

Vaccinations are recommended for PC's roughly 3,800 undergraduate students, graduate students living on campus, and staff who are under 25 years old and/or have a suppressed immune system. Once the logistics of the clinic have been determined, Providence College will communicate that information to students and to its campus community.

"The spread of meningococcal disease can be stopped by good public health practices," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "The first step of the response is well underway to provide all close contacts of these students with preventive antibiotics. The action we're taking today is an important next step to keep the PC community healthy."

The type of meningitis that has been confirmed in one of the students at Providence College is the serogroup (or type) B meningitis. People are vaccinated against other strains of meningitis when they are adolescents, but serogroup B (also called meningitis B) is not included in the routine vaccine given. However, there is a new meningitis vaccine that protects against meningitis B. HEALTH Department officials worked quickly to secure a cache of the newly-approved vaccines. A shipment of this vaccination is being delivered quickly and is expected to arrive in Rhode Island within the next few days. The FDA has confirmed the vaccine is safe and effective.

"We are extremely grateful to the Department of Health and to the CDC for their quick response in assisting us in dealing with this situation," said Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of Providence College. "They have been of invaluable assistance in helping us obtain the necessary vaccine and with the logistics of setting up our vaccination clinic. I expect that we will have the first dose of the vaccinations complete as quickly as possible once we have the vaccine. Subsequent doses will follow at a later date."

"Meningitis does not spread easily from casual contact," said Doctor Utpala Bandy, the State Epidemiologist at the Rhode Island Department of Health. "There is no recommendation for the surrounding community to avoid contact with Providence College or Providence College students, no recommendation to cancel classes, and no recommendation to provide the vaccination more widely at this time."

Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial infection is spread through direct secretions from the nose or mouth through activities such as kissing, sharing food, drinks, water bottles, toothbrushes, eating utensils, or cigarettes. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important.

HEALTH, CDC, Providence College Evaluating Impact of Vaccination Program

02-18-2015

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 held on campus on February 8 and February 11. More than 3,500 students were vaccinated. A clinic for the second dose will be held in April, and third doses will be administered at a later date. The vaccination program was put in place after two Providence College students were diagnosed with serogroup B meningococcal meningitis earlier this month. No additional cases of meningitis have been diagnosed at Providence College since then.

"The entire Providence College community has done a wonderful job taking the important precautions that can help prevent the spread of meningococcal disease, including getting so many students vaccinated," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of Health. "By working with us on this evaluation, Providence College is helping us better understand how this vaccine works in college communities. This is valuable information that we will be able to use in planning future public health responses."

The evaluation will involve collecting throat swabs from students to determine the presence of meningococcal bacteria in their throats. The vast majority of people who get meningococcal bacteria in their throats simply carry them for a brief period of time, but sometimes the bacteria can cause illness. It is important to look at whether vaccination decreases the presence of meningococcal bacteria in the throat because meningococcal disease is rare. It may not be possible to assess the full impact of the vaccine by only observing whether or not any additional students are diagnosed with meningococcal disease.

Such an evaluation is not uncommon after a large vaccination effort within a community.

"We were extremely grateful for the quick response of both the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC in helping us with the meningitis issue," said Providence College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. "HEALTH and CDC worked together to assist us in locating and obtaining an adequate supply of the vaccine in a short period of time, and HEALTH was also instrumental in working with us to complete a successful vaccination clinic. We agreed with them that it would be important to conduct this study of the vaccine's effectiveness, and we anticipate that a significant number of PC students will be willing to participate."

Participation in the evaluation is voluntary. All students are eligible to participate in the evaluation, regardless of whether or not they were vaccinated with the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine. Three swabs will be collected at three different times from students who participate in the evaluation. The swabs will be collected several weeks apart. The initial swabs will be collected February 16 through February 21, the second swab will be collected when the second dose of serogroup B vaccine is offered in April, and the third swab one month later, in May. The samples that are collected will be evaluated by the CDC. All test results will be kept confidential.

Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial infection is spread through direct secretions from the nose or mouth through activities such as kissing, sharing food, drinks, water bottles, toothbrushes, eating utensils, or cigarettes. Although most adolescents are vaccinated against meningococcal disease, the vaccines routinely used in the United States do not cover serogroup B.

HEALTH Announces Updated Drug Overdose Numbers

02-19-2015

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 overdose deaths, nineteen of which have screened positive for Fentanyl.

These nineteen cases mark an increase in the last few months in the number of suspected drug overdose deaths involving Fentanyl, a prescription painkiller that is also being manufactured and distributed as an illicit drug, frequently in place of or mixed with heroin. Because of its potency and its ability to cause severe respiratory suppression, it is estimated that close to three-quarters of the accidental drug overdoses this January will be the result of Fentanyl.

"We saw a similar spike in fentanyl-related overdose deaths last year. Effectively, we are back where we were a year ago," said Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Michael Fine, M.D. "This problem is very real. This is a problem that has no boundaries, that isn't limited by location, gender, or age, and, as the numbers indicate, is not going away."

The numbers include twenty-one men and six women from at least 15 cities and towns in RI and 1 in Southern MA. All twenty-seven people appear to be white and range in age from 22 to 62.

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, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have administered 166 doses of Narcan and emergency departments in Rhode Island reported to have administered Narcan 13 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 substantial. In January, 113,986 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in January alone, 1.2 million doses of stimulants, 2.7 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines, and 5.5 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.

HEALTH Passes Along Consumer Advice from FDA

02-19-2015

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, part of a spice mix, or as a minor ingredient in finished products such as soups or chilies. The FDA is still working to identify all affected products, however the FDA has stated that products made before 2014 are likely not affected. Individuals without peanut allergies have no risk in consuming these products. See the FDA's consumer posting, which provides more information and a list of products that have been recalled to date for this reason.

The State Reminds Rhode Islanders to Safely Remove Snow from Roofs Before Weekend Storm

02-20-2015

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) Consultation Program are urging Rhode Islanders to clear the ice and snow from their roofs before this weekend's storm, and to do so in a safe manner.

A storm system is expected to bring light snow into the region starting Saturday afternoon, February 20th, changing to freezing rain and then rain sometime late Saturday into Sunday.

"My primary concern in winter weather is Rhode Islanders' safety," Governor Raimondo said. "Please be aware of all the signs that signal a roof that is about to collapse. Remember that it is best to hire a professional for rooftop snow removal in order to prevent injuries."

"Given that more than 50 inches of snow have accumulated in Rhode Island since January 1st, roofs are currently loaded with snow," said RIEMA Director Peter Gaynor. "Combined with the forecasted rain, there is the potential for roof collapse issues to be exacerbated throughout the state, especially for flat roofs. Street flooding is also possible due to poor drainage stemming from clogged storm drains."

Residents and businesses engaged in snow removal and snow cleanup should be aware of the hazards and safeguards associated with this work.

"People removing snow are exposed to many serious hazards, including falls from roofs and roof edges, through skylights or from aerial ladders and lifts," said Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD. "Other snow removal health-related hazards can include hypothermia, heart attack from shoveling or other overexertion, back injury from shoveling, and snow blower injury. I urge all Rhode Islanders to take every precaution possible before attempting to remove snow from roofs, to dress appropriately out of doors, to stay hydrated, and to be careful around snow blowers, and when shoveling snow."

To safely remove snow from roofs, the Office of the Governor, RIEMA, HEALTH and the state's OSHA consultation program recommend the following tips:

Tips for Residents:

  • Hire a professional. Licensed and insured roof contractors are the best source of professional snow removers
  • For roof snow removal, use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground. Snow rakes are available at most hardware stores
  • Don't use a roof rake while on a ladder and don't attempt to scale your roof to remove snow
  • If you must use a ladder, make certain that the base is securely anchored
  • Roof drainage systems should be kept clear to minimize the risk of future roof ponding in the event of subsequent heavy snow melting. This is especially important for flat roofs
  • Make certain not to contact electrical wires
  • Don't attempt to clear snow from your roof during periods of strong winds
  • Snow removal equipment meant for pavement should never be used on the roof since they can damage the roof cover system
  • When using products, such as ROOFMELT, read all manufacturer's warnings and product safety information carefully. These products can be harmful to skin and eyes if used incorrectly
"When in doubt, stay out, and evaluate"

If you feel that your roof is in danger of collapsing, get out of your house and contact your local building commissioner or a roof contractor

Tips from OSHA for Businesses:

  • When possible, use snow removal methods that do not involve workers going on roofs.
  • Evaluate loads exerted on the roof or structure (e.g., total weight of snow, workers and equipment used), compared to the load limit of the roof
  • Require that workers use fall-protection equipment
  • Ensure that workers use ladders and aerial lifts safely
  • OSHA standards require employers to evaluate hazards and protect workers from falls when working at heights of four feet or more above a lower level or 6 feet or more for construction work

How to Recognize Signs of a Potential Roof Collapse:

  • Sagging roofs
  • Severe roof leaks
  • Cracked or split wood members
  • Bends or ripples in supports
  • Cracks in walls or masonry
  • Sheared off screws from steel frames
  • Sprinkler heads that have dropped down below ceiling tiles
  • Doors that pop open
  • Doors or windows that are difficult to open
  • Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling
  • Creaking, cracking or popping sounds

In addition, remember to shovel out nearby fire hydrants and storm drains. Offer to assist elderly family and neighbors with shoveling and snow removal. The elderly or those with functional needs seeking assistance with shoveling should contact Serve Rhode Island at (401) 331-2298. Please note that Serve RI will not assist with removing snow from roofs.

If you would like to volunteer with Serve Rhode Island to help with shoveling, visit their website to sign up at www.serverhodeisland.org.

Dr. Fine to Resign from Health, Raimondo Expresses Gratitude for Service to Rhode Islanders

02-27-2015

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 Dr. Fine stated in his letter of resignation, he has spent 'every fiber of his being' protecting the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders over the past four years. I am incredibly thankful to him for this dedicated service to our state.

"In our time working together, Dr. Fine skillfully managed a meningitis outbreak at Providence College, acting swiftly to provide appropriate treatment to the students on campus and to educate the state about the response. Dr. Fine also provided invaluable support to help keep Rhode Islanders safe through this challenging winter season.

"During his tenure as Director, we saw Rhode Island immunization rates for both adults and children ranked among the highest in the country. I also want to highlight the tremendous community response he led during the Ebola outbreak and his critically important work to draw attention to Rhode Island's drug overdose epidemic.

"I am continually impressed by Dr. Fine's knowledge, calm under pressure, and passion for keeping the state safe. I wish him and his family all my best."

Dr. Fine's resignation will be effective March 27, 2015, and he will help to facilitate a smooth transition.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders of Improper Processing of Select Varieties of Sauces Purchased from D.Palmieri's Bakery in Johnston

03-04-2015

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 bacterium that, if present, can cause life threatening illness or death.

The products were sold in jars exclusively at the Bakery's retail location under the D.Palmieri brand name. The pasta sauces listed above are the only products of concern at this time.

Improper processing of these sauces was uncovered today during an inspection by the Office of Food Protection. HEALTH responded immediately to the unsafe handling of the sauces. HEALTH is recalling the unsafe products and have halted their preparation.

Improper processing potentially allows for the presence of the Botulinum toxin, which can cause general weakness, dizziness, double vision and trouble speaking, swallowing, or breathing. People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

No issues with these products have been reported to date. However, any of these products that are currently available for consumption should not be eaten out of an abundance of caution.

Related links:http://www.health.ri.gov

HEALTH Creates Health Equity Zones

03-04-2015

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 improve the social and environmental conditions of our neighborhoods.

The Rhode Island Department of Health and these grantees will create Health Equity Zones – areas where high rates of obesity, illness, injury, chronic disease or other adverse health outcomes will be improved through coordinated strategies to reduce and manage chronic diseases, promote healthy lifestyles, assure healthy child development, and create environments where healthy choices are easier to make.

"Health is not possible without community. Health equity zones give communities the resources they need to focus on creating collaborations and building health through relationships," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health.

Funding will support the development of community collaboratives that include municipal leaders, residents, businesses, transportation and community planners, law enforcement, education systems and health systems, among others. These groups will look at the factors that drive poor health outcomes, and create action plans based on strategies that have been shown to be successful.

Health Equity Zone grantees include collaboratives led by the City of Providence Healthy Communities Office, Olneyville Housing Corporation, the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet in Providence; Thundermist Health Center in Woonsocket; Thundermist Health Center in West Warwick; the North Providence School Department; South County Hospital in Washington County; Women's Resource Center in Newport; the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Pawtucket and Central Falls, and the Town of Bristol.

"We believe that supporting community collaboratives within a defined geographic area as well as assessing the strengths and challenges at the local level, and developing a shared action plan with meaningful resident's participation will lead to improved social and environmental conditions in our neighborhoods, resulting in optimal health for all residents" said Ana Novais, Executive Director of Health, Division of Community, Family Health and Equity.

Strategies may include parent education, lifestyle diabetes prevention programs, health screenings, nutrition policies in schools and worksites, revisions to town municipal plans to improve resident access to affordable, nutritious food, policies to improve street safety and walkability, public transportation improvements, school physical activity policies, tobacco free community policies, and other place-based strategies.

For more information about Health Equity Zones please go to www.health.ri.gov.

HEALTH Director Lifts Declaration of Widespread Influenza in Rhode Island

03-04-2015

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 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.

"We consider Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in determining influenza activity levels and we also look closely at what we are seeing locally and 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.

For more information about influenza, visit www.health.ri.gov/flu

Raimondo Nominates Dr. Alexander-Scott for Director of the Department of Health

03-12-2015

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 help grow a healthy economy," said Raimondo. "My top priority is expanding opportunity for everyone. If we are going to create a place where people want to live and work, and where businesses want to create jobs, we must have a healthy workforce and access to high-quality, low-cost care. I want to thank Dr. Alexander-Scott for her commitment to serving our state as part of our health and human services team."

Dr. Alexander-Scott will succeed Dr. Michael Fine, who announced his resignation last week. She plans to begin serving in this role on April 1, 2015.

"Dr. Alexander-Scott brings tremendous experience from her work at Rhode Island Hospital, the Department of Health, and Brown University," said Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Roberts. "She was a tremendous asset to our state during the recent meningitis outbreak at Providence College, and will be a great addition to our team as we work to provide all Rhode Islanders with access to the information and care they need to be healthy."

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott is board certified in Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and Adult Infectious Diseases. She is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, serving in the Divisions of Pediatric and Adult Infectious Diseases at the affiliated hospitals in Rhode Island. She also serves as a Consultant Medical Director for the Office of HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and TB at the Rhode Island Department of Health in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology.

"I've had the opportunity to work with Dr. Alexander-Scott, and I believe she is the best of the best," said Dr. Michael Fine, the current Director of the Department of Health. "The Governor has made an excellent choice for our state, and I look forward to working closely with Dr. Alexander-Scott over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition."

"It is a privilege to have this opportunity to work with so many talented health care and public health professionals to strengthen our care system across the state," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "My passion is advancing public health across all ages, economic backgrounds and communities. I am committed to helping to ensure all Rhode Islanders receive the kind of care they deserve."

Dr. Alexander-Scott received her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and her Doctor of Medicine degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University at Syracuse. She also holds a Master of Public Health degree from Brown University. Dr. Alexander-Scott resides in Providence.

Rhode Island Teens Participate in the Second Annual Rhode Island Zombie Walk

03-19-2015

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 allows local teens to affirm their commitment to reduce tobacco use and secondhand smoke in Rhode Island – zombie style!

Dressed as the zombies of dead smokers, the teens marched from Johnson and Wales University's Schneider Auditorium to the Providence Place Mall, making stops along the way to offer tobacco-users information on how to quit, and to thank Rhode Island organizations and local businesses for passing tobacco-free policies. 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 is an exciting and creative way teens can show their support for a tobacco-free lifestyle," said Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Michael Fine, MD. " Rhode Island has the second-lowest youth smoking rate in the country. It is critical that we continue to inform teens about the dangers of smoking. Among young people, the short-term health consequences are serious and include respiratory and non-respiratory effects, addiction to nicotine, and the associated risk of other drug use."

Spoken Word Artist Jay Chattelle, volunteered his time to emcee the event. He started the youth off with an inspiring speech and performance that set the tone for the afternoon. Professional make-up artist Joseph Arsenault and volunteers from the Emergency Management Homeland Security Club provided make-up application for the group. Zombies were escorted along this year's route by officers from the Providence Police Department as well as Rhode Island's own Tony "The Dancing Cop" Lepore.

"It's important to educate as many people as possible so they know exactly what's going in their body when they smoke," said Yasin Price, a student from the MET school and Zombie Walk participant.

"This year, I'm more than pleased to do the Zombie Walk," said Hannah Gomez, a student at East Providence High School. "I participated last year and it was such a blast and I made the best memories with my friends. Instead of just passing out flyers with info, I loved how we got to wear the Zombie make-up. It wasn't the typical tobacco free event and that's what made it so unique. It's important to me because so many people don't realize the impact that tobacco has on our bodies, even the e-cigs that are supposedly safe."

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

"Two out of every three smokers die from their smoking. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Rhode Island and the nation, killing over 1600 Rhode Islanders every year," said Karina Holyoak Wood, Director of Tobacco Free Rhode Island. "Tobacco addiction takes hold in the teenage years. Nearly 90 percent of all adult smokers started smoking before age 19. Helping teens stay away from tobacco is the best way to prevent a lifetime of tobacco addiction, disease and death."

The event concluded with an after party at Dave and Busters, where the zombies were treated to games 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 CVS Health, RIPTA, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Tobacco Free Rhode Island, and the United Way of Rhode Island, Johnson and Wales University, and the Office of Rural Health.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders about Frontier Recall Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

03-19-2015

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 added precautions to the safety of the supply chain and instituting additional product testing, beyond FDA guidelines, to mitigate any future occurrence.

Consumption of products containing Salmonella 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, 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, endocarditic and arthritis.

Recalled products were sold in all 50 states and in some parts of Canada to distributors, retailers and consumers. Below the release is a list of products containing the organic garlic powder. Images of the affected products can be viewed at the following link: http://www.frontiercoop.com/recalldisclaimer icon.

On foil bulk packages, the four-digit lot code will be found on the front label directly above the UPC code. On bottled items, the four-digit lot code can be found on the bottom of the bottle. On seasoning mixes, the four-digit lot code is embossed on the right side of the packet.

Consumers should not consume these products and should either throw away any remaining products or return to the point of purchase for a refund.

Please contact Frontier Co-op with any questions or to inquire about replacement or reimbursement at 1- 800-669-3275 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central time.

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HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders about Recall of Frozen Cadia Organic Cut Spinach, Meijer Organics Chopped Spinach, Wild Harvest Organic Cut Leaf Spinach, and Wegmans Organic Just Picked Spinach Because of Possible Health Risk

03-26-2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 26, 2015 – PROVIDENCE ‐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 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.

  • Cadia Organic Cut Spinach, 16 oz. frozen packages
  • UPC 15369 01165
  • Package code: 23424
  • Product distributed only in California
  • Meijer Organics Chopped Spinach, 16 oz. frozen packages
  • UPC 41250 02362
  • Package code: BEST BY FEB 2017 50415
  • Distributed to warehouses in MI, OH, and WI
  • Wild Harvest Organic Cut Leaf Spinach, 16 oz. frozen packages
  • UPC 11535 50170
  • Package code: SELL BY 08.DEC.2016 L084WE, Distributed to warehouses in AZ, CA, WA
  • Package code: SELL BY 22.JAN.2017 A225WE, Distributed to warehouses in PA and VA
  • Package code: SELL BY 30.JAN.2017 A305WE, Distributed to warehouses in DE, ME, PA, and VA
  • Package code: SELL BY 04.MAR.2017 C045WE, Distributed to warehouses in ME and PA
  • Wegmans Organic Just Picked Spinach, 12 oz. frozen packages
  • UPC 77890 32932
  • Package code: BEST USED BY JAN.26.2017 50265, Distributed to warehouses in NY and PA
  • Package code: BEST USED BY FEB.02.2017 50335, Distributed to warehouses in NY and PA
No illnesses have been reported to date.

The Recalled Product was supplied to Twin City Foods by Coastal Green Vegetable Company LLC of Oxnard, CA which initiated a recall of the bulk spinach on March 20, 2015 due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Twin City Foods immediately notified all affected customers and initiated recalls of the retail packages on March 20, 2015.

Consumers who have purchased the affected product are urged to not consume the product and immediately return the product to the store where they purchased it for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the retailer at which they purchased the affected product.

This recall is being made with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Consumers with any questions may contact Mark Hubbard at (804) 385-3772 Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, or email to mhubbard@mwcllc.com.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders about Recall of Sabra Dipping Company Classic Hummus

04-09-2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 9, 2015 – PROVIDENCE ‐The Rhode Island Department of Health has been notified that Sabra Dipping Co., LLC is voluntarily recalling approximately 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. This measure is limited to five SKUs of Classic Hummus sold nationwide. To date, no other Sabra product is affected by this recall. The products being recalled are listed below and were distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts and supermarkets, in Rhode Island and throughout the U.S.

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.

To date, there have been no reports indicating that these products have caused any illness.

Consumers can find codes and use-by dates on the top of each package.

  • Sabra Classic Hummus 10 oz, 040822011143 / 300067, 3 059 Best Before/Meilleur Avant 2015 May 11, 3 060 Best Before/Meilleur Avant 2015 May 15
  • Sabra Classic Hummus 30 oz, 040822014687 / 300074, 3 059 Best Before/Meilleur Avant 2015 May 11
  • Sabra Classic Hummus without Garnish 32oz, 040822342049 / 301216, 3 059 Best Before/Meilleur Avant 2015 May 11
  • Sabra Classic Hummus 17oz Six Pack, 040822017497 / 301290, 3 058 Best Before/Meilleur Avant 2015 May 11, 3 059 Best Before/Meilleur Avant 2015 May 11
  • Hummus Dual Pack Classic/Garlic 23.5oz, 040822342209 / 301283, 3 058 Best Before/Meilleur Avant 2015 May 11

The potential for contamination was discovered when a routine, random sample collected at a retail location on March 30th, 2015 by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders not to use Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong) Ltd.'s "Bo Ying compound"

04-13-2015

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers and caregivers not to use Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong) Ltd.'s "Bo Ying compound" because of the possible lead poisoning risk associated with the product. This reminder comes after the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found elevated levels of lead in these products.

The powdered product is marketed in retail outlets and online for use in infants and children for treatment of a variety of conditions including influenza, fever, sneezing, and nasal discharge. The product is labeled in Chinese and English.

Parents and caregivers are advised to not purchase or use "Bo Ying compound." Anyone using this product or providing it to a child should immediately consult a healthcare professional.

Exposure to lead can cause serious damage to the central nervous system, the kidneys, and the immune system. In children, chronic exposure to lead, even at low levels, is associated with impaired cognitive function, including reduced IQ, behavioral difficulties, and other problems.

FDA has received one adverse event of lead poisoning in an 18-month-old child who was given this product. HEALTH is not aware of any additional cases of lead poisoning associated with the products.

Healthcare professionals and consumers are encouraged to report any adverse events potentially related to "Bo Ying compound" manufactured by Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong) Ltd. or to any other alternative medicines to FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program by:

* Completing and submitting the report online at MedWatch Online Voluntary Reporting Form (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/)

* Downloading and completing the form, then submitting it via fax at 1-800-FDA-0178

FDA became aware of the lead poisoning risk associated with "Bo Ying compound" products last fall from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene after the product was tested and found to contain high levels of lead. FDA has an import alert in place that includes Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong) Ltd. and the product "Bo Ying compound" (http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_190.html). The import alert is intended to prevent the product from entering the United States.

More information from FDA is available at http://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/ucm416220.htm

Department of Health Holds First Health Equity Summit to Examine Disparities

05-07-2015

Today nearly 400 community members and representatives from the fields of public health, healthcare, and academia gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick to participate in the first Health Equity Summit of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH). They were joined by Elizabeth Roberts, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director Designee of the Department of Health.

The event, which featured nationally renowned keynote speakers, breakout session discussions, and music and dance performances, was called to examine health disparities in Rhode Island and to consider ways to make Rhode Island a more equitable state.

"Despite the great work being done by our healthcare providers, educators, community groups, and many more, we still see inequalities in health outcomes in Rhode Island," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "Rhode Island is a stronger, more vibrant place when all of our residents have the opportunity to attain their full potential."

During the event, HEALTH released new data from the 2015 Minority Health Fact Sheets, highlighting health disparities by race and ethnicity for African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

Data show that in Rhode Island, certain racial and ethnic groups often feel the burden of health disparities. For example, the infant mortality rate for African-American Rhode Islanders is almost double the state average (11.2 vs. 6.6 per 1,000 live births), and the diabetes rate for Hispanic adults is 11.3%, compared to 7.2% for white adults. In addition, many health disparities exist that are not based on race or ethnicity. For example, almost a third of Rhode Island adults who did not graduate high school are considered obese.

Secretary Roberts focused on how the State's reinventing Medicaid process ties in to the themes of the summit. "As important as paying for medical services is, so much of what drives health is what happens outside of a hospital or doctor's office," said Roberts. "It's about our neighborhoods, the quality of our housing, safety in our communities, health literacy, and community support. We in Medicaid need to be a part of that. We must connect what we're doing here today to healthcare reform."

National experts from a variety of disciplines provided the key-note presentations. Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, FAAFP, Chief Medical Officer for key-note presentations for the American Heart Association gave an address titled "Health Equity: Work to Do Beyond Affordable Care". Mindy Thompson Fullilove, MD, a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at the Mailman School of Public Health (Columbia University), talked about links between the environment and mental health. Clint Smith, teacher, poet, and doctoral candidate in Education at Harvard University with a concentration in Culture, Institutions, and Society, spoke about empathy across lines of difference.

Local speakers utilized breakout sessions to bring the national discussions to the community level and study ways to link these strategies to Health Equity Zones, local investments of HEALTH. Health Equity Zone projects are 11 federal, state, and local partnerships that support innovative approaches to prevent chronic disease, improve birth outcomes, and improve the social and environmental conditions of our neighborhoods. Health Equity Zones will help move the Summit agenda forward to achieve health equity in Rhode Island.

HEALTH also unveiled Community Connections RI, an online directory designed to facilitate relationships and connections among community organizations and to help them leverage local resources to advance the health equity agenda. Local organizations are encouraged to share their information through this online tool.

Rhode Island Department of Health Announces New Federal Funding Aimed at Preventing Youth Access to Tobacco

05-12-2015

Rhode Island Efforts to Prevent Youth Access to Tobacco Products

Subject of New Federal Study and Grant Award

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced today that it will receive approximately $468,000 of new federal funding to conduct an in-depth evaluation of policies and practices within the state aimed at preventing youth access to tobacco. Through the study, if Rhode Island's practices are proven to lead to reductions in tobacco use among youth, the results may then be incorporated into national, evidence-based strategies. Rhode Island has seen a sharp decline in smoking rates among youth under the age of 18 since 2010, as promising tobacco-control initiatives involving youth have increased. Only four other states have received similar awards to conduct such studies.

"Rhode Island is proud to be recognized as an innovator and leader in tobacco-control practices that protect our youth from tobacco exposure, addiction, severe illnesses, and premature death," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director Designee at HEALTH. "This evaluation project will give Rhode Island a strong voice in this critical, nationwide dialogue. A closer study of what has worked for Rhode Island can help keep the tobacco industry from preying on more youth in our state as well as across the country."

Rhode Island's 17.4% adult smoking rate is below the national average and the state has the second-lowest youth smoking rate in the country at 8%. However, there continues to be a need for these tobacco control efforts. Rhode Island is only one of four states where the rate for high school cigar use surpasses cigarettes. Additionally, more than 8% of Rhode Island youth reported using a hookah in the past 30 days, and a survey of Rhode Island youth found that more than 28% reported buying retail tobacco products, which stands among the highest of such rates in the U.S.

In addition to the new funding, Rhode Island has received $1million for core tobacco control program activities. This represents a 10% reduction for core tobacco control activities compared to previous years. Still, HEALTH remains committed to offering comprehensive programs and seeking innovative ways to raise public awareness about tobacco prevention and control.

The Rhode Island Department of Health Tobacco Control Program promotes and supports free services and clinical resources available to help Rhode Islanders quit smoking and to protect the public from the dangers of second-hand smoke exposure. For more information, visit health.ri.gov/healthrisks/tobacco or visit QuitNowRI.com.

HEALTH Releases New Data on Infectious Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and HIV

05-22-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) leads the state's effort to reduce infectious disease and support a healthier state. To alert Rhode Islanders of the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HEALTH released data today showing that the rates of HIV and several other STDs are increasing. In Rhode Island, from 2013 to 2014:

  • The number of infectious syphilis cases increased by 79%.
  • The number of gonorrhea cases increased by 30%.
  • The number of newly-identified HIV cases increased by nearly 33%.
  • New cases of HIV/AIDS and infectious syphilis continued to increase among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men at a faster rate than in other populations.
  • Infection rates of all STDs continued to have a greater impact on the African-American, Hispanic, and young adult populations.

"These data send a clear signal that despite the progress we have made in reducing STDs and HIV over the years, there is more work to do," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director Designee at HEALTH. "We are fortunate in Rhode Island to have great partnerships among state agencies, community-based organizations, and healthcare providers to continue to educate, test, and treat for sexually transmitted diseases. This trend reminds us that we cannot become complacent."

During the 1980s and 1990s, key public health programs helped reduce the transmission of HIV and other STDs. Routine testing of pregnant women has almost eliminated the number of Rhode Island babies born to mothers with HIV. Likewise, needle exchange programs have drastically reduced transmission among injection drug users.

The recent uptick in STDs in Rhode Island follows a national trend. The increase has been attributed to better testing by providers and to high-risk behaviors that have become more common in recent years. High-risk behaviors include using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters, having sex without a condom, having multiple sex partners, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Education about prevention, routine testing, and treatment are priorities for HEALTH. The Department works with other state agencies and community partners to promote free and low-cost HIV and STD testing services throughout Rhode Island and to provide a variety of resources for clinicians to test, treat, and counsel patients and their sexual partners. In addition, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) works under a federal grant to make sexual health education more accessible to high school students, to increase awareness of and education about STDs, to correct misinformation among young people that may put them at higher risk of getting an STD, and to promote evidence-based prevention practices, including abstinence.

"These new data underscore the importance of encouraging young people to begin talking to a doctor, nurse, or health educator about sexual health before becoming sexually active and especially after becoming sexually active," said Rosemary Reilly-Chammat, EdD, RIDE HIV/AIDS Sexuality Specialist. "It's never too early to learn about making HIV and STD testing part of routine healthcare. Doctors and nurses are trained to discuss sensitive topics like sex, and conversations with them are confidential. Health educators at schools or community health centers are great resources too."

STDs are spread through anal, oral, or vaginal sex, and by skin-to-skin contact. People with undiagnosed or untreated STDs can develop long-term health problems and pass the disease to their sexual partners. Anyone who is sexually active can stop the spread of STDs and HIV:

  • Practice safer sex. Use condoms or a dental dam each time you have sex. Birth control pills and spermicides do not prevent STDs.
  • Get tested regularly for STDs and HIV. In Rhode Island, routine testing is recommended for anyone age 13 and older.
  • Know your partner(s)' sexual health status. Even if you are treated for an STD, you could get re-infected because your partner was not tested and treated too.
  • If you've been diagnosed with an STD, take the medication as prescribed and do not have sex with anyone until your healthcare provider says it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid sex or close physical contact if you or a sexual partner has symptoms of an STD and see a healthcare provider for treatment.

HEALTH releases new policy for reporting drug overdose death data

06-16-2015

Today HEALTH released a new policy for reporting accidental drug-related overdose deaths. The revised policy reflects a change from the previous monthly reporting of "apparent" and "confirmed" deaths to weekly reporting of only the deaths that have been confirmed by the Office of State Medical Examiners as accidental drug-related deaths. This change reflects the balance between providing accurate and confirmed data and the need for timely release of information. Every Wednesday, HEALTH will update this website with the overdose deaths that have been confirmed since the previous week. HEALTH reminds data users that it takes approximately two months for the Medical Examiner to receive toxicology reports for most drug-related deaths. While a final cause and manner of death for most drug overdose deaths is confirmed within a few days of receipt of the toxicology report, some deaths require further testing or investigation before a final cause and manner of death can be determined. To balance this, the updated data will include confirmed deaths over the last six months so that trends in the increase can be closely monitored weekly instead of once a month. HEALTH looks forward to continue to partner with the stakeholders who have been committed to tackling the overdose epidemic in our state together.

HEALTH Announces Recipients of Health Professional Loan Repayment Program Awards - Program helps retain high-skilled, knowledge-based jobs in Rhode Island

06-24-2015

PROVIDENCE –Yesterday the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced the 2015 recipients of the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program (RI HPLRP) during a State House ceremony that also honored the program's funders.

The Program, offering health education loan repayment to eligible health professionals who make a two-year commitment to practice in medically underserved communities, helps retain high-skilled medical professionals as well as expand employment opportunities in Rhode Island. These health professionals serve in a variety of disciplines, including primary care, dentistry, and mental health.

"The Rhode Island Professional Loan Repayment Program is a significant step forward in increasing the number of providers in our state in order to eliminate the injustice of health disparities experienced by many of our communities," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH., director of HEALTH. "Making a path to a higher education and professional certification more affordable and accessible is a key part of Governor Raimondo's plan to spark Rhode Island's economic comeback. This is a wonderful example of training our health care workforce to meet the needs in our communities."

Special recognition was given to Jane Hayward, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association, for her efforts in soliciting matching funds for the Program from community partners, including Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation, Delta Dental of Rhode Island, AmeriChoice/United Health Care of Rhode Island, Landmark Hospital, and CharterCare.

"Loan repayment is a critical tool for recruiting and retaining primary care providers in Rhode Island," Hayward said. "We thank all of the donors for making this possible."

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation, AmeriChoice/United Healthcare, of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Health Center Association each contributed $25,000 to the fund. Delta Dental of Rhode Island, Landmark Hospital, and CharterCARE also contributed $50,000 each.

This year's loan repayment recipients include Elizabeth Benz, DMD from Samuel Sinclair Dental Center, Nelly Burdette, PsyD from Providence Community Health Centers, Carmen Diaz, RN from Providence Community Health Centers, Alice Eyo, RN from Blackstone Valley Community Health Center, Rebecca Harris, RN from Thundermist Health Center, Snehal Lakhkar, DMD from Comprehensive Community Action Program, Jennifer Mitchell, RDH from Samuels Sinclair Dental Center, Pedro Ochoa, DDS from Blackstone Valley Community Health Center, Raj Pande, DMD from Thundermist Health Center, Stephanie Pinto, RNP-BC from WellOne, Javier Ramirez, DDS from Comprehensive Community Action Program, Leslie Resto, RN from Providence Community Health Centers, Phouphokham Sisomboun, RHD from Thundermist Health Center, and Emily White, MD from Providence Community Health Centers.

The mission of the Program is to improve access to care, 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.

Two Community Agencies to Offer HIV Tests for National HIV Testing Day

06-25-2015

In recognition of National HIV Testing Day, June 27, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) encourages all Rhode Islanders ages 13-64 to get tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) at least once. People who have multiple sex partners or who have unprotected sex should be tested more frequently.

Everyone should know their HIV status. HEALTH recommends that anyone who is sexually active should talk to their doctor about getting tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because knowing your status helps you protect yourself and those who are closest to you.

Free or low-cost HIV tests will be offered at the following special events:

  • Friday, June 26: 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.; HIV Awareness Summer Block Party; Lot next to 40 Duke St., Providence; Sponsored by Sojourner House; Testing provided in collaboration with Amos House and AIDS Care Ocean State
  • Saturday, June 27: Noon - 3 p.m.; AIDS Project Rhode Island, 9 Pleasant St., Providence

In 2014, there were 97 newly-identified cases of HIV in Rhode Island. The groups that bear a disproportionate burden of HIV include gay and bisexual men, African Americans, Hispanics, and individuals who use injectable drugs. People can be infected with HIV and not know it. In Rhode Island, an estimated 280 people are living with undiagnosed HIV infection.

Rhode Islanders who do not have a primary care doctor, who do not have insurance, or who may not be able to afford testing costs may take advantage of free or low-cost HIV testing offered through HEALTH's year-round partnerships with community organizations. A listing of HIV testing sites is available on HEALTH's website. Visit health.ri.gov/find/hivtestingsites.

HEALTH, DEM Issue Blue-Green Algae Advisories for Melville Pond

06-30-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) have issued a health advisory for Melville Pond because of blue-green algae blooms in that body of water. Rhode Islanders are urged to avoid recreational activities in that body of water, which is located in Portsmouth.

The blue-green algae blooms in Melville Pond, also known as cyanobacteria, may produce naturally occurring algal toxins. Until further notice, people should avoid:

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

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 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 officials of the algae blooms and are working with the city to ensure that those around that body of water are aware of the potential danger posed by the blooms.

HEALTH Warns Rhode Islanders about Barber Foods Stuffed Chicken Products Due To Possible Salmonella Enteritidis Contamination

07-15-2015

PROVIDENCE ‐The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has been notified that Barber Foods is recalling nearly two million pounds of frozen, raw, stuffed chicken products that may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis.

The affected products have been linked to at least six illnesses in Minnesota and Wisconsin. No illnesses linked to the products have been reported in Rhode Island, but the recalled products were sold in Rhode Island stores, including Stop and Shop, Shaw's, Walmart, and Sam's Club. The chicken products were produced between February 17, 2015 and May 20, 2015. Anyone who has purchased a recalled product should throw it away or return it to the store where it was purchased.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial food borne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment; however, the diarrhea may be so severe that some patients may need to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and people with a weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness. Anyone who has symptoms of salmonellosis should contact their healthcare provider.

HEALTH reminds everyone that chicken must be cooked properly to a temperature of 165- ° F, and it is important to wash hands with soap and warm water after handling raw chicken. In addition, any kitchen surface or cooking utensil that comes in contact with raw chicken products should be properly cleaned and sanitized before the next use.

Consumers with questions can contact the company directly at (844) 564-5555.

Department of Health Encourages Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves from Tick Bites

07-23-2015

In an effort to educate Rhode Islanders of the dangers posed by ticks this time of year, the Department of Health (RI DOH) urges all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves from tick bites and to check themselves for ticks after spending time outdoors to help prevent Lyme disease.

"We want people to enjoy all of the wonderful outdoor activities that Rhode Island has to offer," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "We also want to remind everyone that preventing tick bites is still the best way to avoid being infected with Lyme disease. A combination of a few simple preventive measures and daily tick checks can help you and your family have a healthy summer."

To protect yourself from tick bites, RI DOH recommends that you:

  • Wear light-colored, long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors. (Light-colored fabrics make it easier to spot ticks.)
  • Tuck your pants into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl under clothing.
  • Use bug spray that contains at least 20% DEET on skin and use permethrin on clothing. Follow manufacturers' safety precautions, especially for children.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas. Avoid areas with high grass and lots of leaves. If you do hike or walk through the woods, walk in the center of the trail.
  • Check yourself and your family for ticks every day, especially if you spend a lot of time outside in grassy or wooded areas.
  • Protect your pets. Sprays and tick-control products for dogs and cats help prevent tick bites and can kill ticks on contact. Groom or brush pets after coming indoors.
  • Remove ticks properly and immediately. Use fine, pointy tweezers and get as close to the skin as possible. Grab the tick's head, or directly above the head, and pull up slowly and steadily. Never use petroleum jelly or lotions, and do not try to burn the tick off.
  • Create a "tick-safe zone" in your yard.
  • Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
  • Stack wood neatly in a dry area to discourage rodents that ticks feed on.
  • Keep play equipment, decks, and patios away from woods and trees. Put them in a sunny location, if possible, because it's more difficult for ticks to survive in the sun.
  • Get rid of old furniture, mattresses, or trash that may give ticks a place to hide.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that spread through the bite of an infected tick. Initial symptoms of Lyme disease can include a "bullseye" rash anywhere on the skin and facial or Bell's palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face). If Lyme disease remains undiagnosed, after a few weeks, symptoms can include 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.

The Department of Health has launched a statewide Lyme-prevention media campaign that includes partnerships with the Great Outdoors Pursuit and the Pawtucket Red Sox. Visit the RI DOH's website for more information on Lyme Disease.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in Paradise Pond in Middletown

07-23-2015

Providence -- The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with Paradise Pond in Middletown due to a detected blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae causes toxins that can harm humans and animals. Middletown's public drinking-water supply is not at risk. The pond is not currently used for drinking water due to a construction project.

As a drinking-water supply, recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in Paradise Pond are never allowed. People should also 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 the advisory will remain in effect through November 1, 2015.

Irritation of the skin, 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 Paradise 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 your pet off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any 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 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. 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.

RI DOH, DEM Issue Blue-Green Algae Advisory Blackamore Pond

07-23-2015

PROVIDENCE –The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) have issued a health advisory for Blackamore because of blue-green algae blooms in both bodies of water. Rhode Islanders are urged to avoid recreational activities in that body of water, which is located in Cranston.

The blue-green algae blooms in Blackamore 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 Blackamore 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.

RI DOH and DEM have notified 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.

For more information about blue-green algae blooms, see http://www.health.ri.gov/healthrisks/harmfulalgaeblooms/index.php

The Kraft Heinz Company Voluntarily Recalls Select Varieties of Kraft Singles Products Due to Potential Choking Hazard

08-04-2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 4, 2015 - Providence, RI. - The Kraft Heinz Company is voluntarily recalling select code dates and manufacturing codes of Kraft Singles individually-wrapped slices due to the possibility that a thin strip of the individual packaging film may remain adhered to the slice after the wrapper has been removed. If the film sticks to the slice and is not removed, it could potentially cause a choking hazard. These products were sold in Rhode Island at Sam's Club and may also have been sold at other Wholesale Clubs or retailers.

The recall applies to 3-lb. and 4-lb. sizes of Kraft Singles American and White American pasteurized prepared cheese product with a Best When Used By Date of 29 DEC 15 through 04 JAN 16, followed by the Manufacturing Code S54 or S55. The S54 and S55 codes refer to the two production lines on which the impacted product was made. The Best When Used By Date and Manufacturing Code are stamped on both the larger 3-lb. and 4-lb. boxes and the enclosed individual 1-lb. packages.

For a complete list of product codes, go to:

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm456883.htm

No other sizes, varieties or code dates are included in this recall. And no products with manufacturing codes other than "S54" and "S55" after the code date are included in this recall. There have been 10 consumer complaints to date about the packaging, including three reports of consumers choking.

Consumers who purchased this product should not eat it. They should return it to the store where purchased for an exchange or full refund. Consumers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico can also contact Kraft Heinz Consumer Relations for a full refund, at 1-800-432-3101, Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm Eastern.

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in Sisson Pond and Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth

08-07-2015

Providence -- The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with Sisson Pond and Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth due to a detected blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae causes toxins that can harm humans and animals. Newport's public drinking-water supply is not at risk.

As a drinking-water supply, recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in Sisson Pond and Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth are never allowed. People should also 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 the advisory will remain in effect through November 1, 2015.

Irritation of the skin, 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 Sisson Pond and Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth 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 your pet off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any 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 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. 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 Warwick Pond

08-18-2015

Providence -- The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with Warwick Pond in Warwick due to a detected blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae causes toxins that can harm humans and animals.

People should also 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 the advisory will remain in effect through November 1, 2015.

Irritation of the skin, 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 Warwick 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 your pet off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any 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 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. 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.

Raimondo's Overdose Task Force Sets Work Plan to Reverse Opioid Crisis

08-19-2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force met for the first time today to kick-start the development of a statewide strategy to prevent and treat drug addiction and reverse the rising tide of overdose deaths in Rhode Island.

Task force co-chairs Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, and Maria Montanaro, MSW, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals laid out the group's charge, which includes delivering an action plan to Raimondo by November with clear goals, objectives, and metrics to combat the state's addiction and overdose crisis.

"The plan we are developing will save lives, help more Rhode Islanders regain their lives, and build healthier and stronger communities," said Alexander-Scott. "It will be data-driven and a collaborative effort at every turn. Under Governor Raimondo's leadership and the wealth of experience and knowledge from task force members, academic experts and the recovery community, we are focusing on the things that we know will work to reduce addiction and overdose in Rhode Island."

"We recognize there is no simple solution to addiction and overdose, and we certainly have our work cut out for us," said Montanaro. "However, we know that the committed group of stakeholders on this task force are up to the challenge of confronting this issue in a focused, actionable way. We are already hard at work to move our state to a stronger, healthier place."

Local public health and addiction experts Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH and Traci C. Green, PhD, MSc presented the data-driven approach and timeline that will guide the group's strategic planning effort and help the task force develop initiatives to reduce addiction and overdose deaths in Rhode Island. Rich and Green are part of the team of public health experts at Brown University, the Miriam Hospital and Johns Hopkins University who will advise the task force and provide technical assistance in the development of an action plan.

"The Governor has put together some of the most committed, knowledgeable people in the state to work together on the task force," said Green. "We are looking forward to working with them to develop a focused strategic plan which we are hopeful will make a meaningful difference in combating this crisis."

Raimondo created the task force earlier this month as part of her efforts to address Rhode Island's addiction and overdose crisis and build stronger communities and a more vibrant economy. The task force will hold public meetings monthly.

Blue-Green Algae Blooms Found in South Easton Pond in Middletown, St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth, and Watson Reservoir in Little Compton

09-03-2015

Providence -- The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with South Easton Pond in Middletown, St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth, and Watson Reservoir in Little Compton due to detected blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) blooms in the ponds. Blue-green algae causes toxins that can harm humans and animals. Newport's public drinking-water supply is not at risk.

As a drinking-water supply, recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in South Easton Pond St. Mary's Pond, and Watson Reservoir are never allowed. People should also be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from these bodies of water. 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 the advisory will remain in effect through November 1, 2015.

Irritation of the skin, 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 South Easton Pond, St. Mary's Pond or Watson Reservoir 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 your pet off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any 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 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. 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.

RI DOH, CDC, and Providence College to Collaborate on Final Meningococcal Vaccination Clinics

09-04-2015

In the final stages of a months-long public health collaboration in response to the diagnosis of serogroup B meningitis in two students last February, third doses of Trumenba vaccine will be administered to members of the Providence College community on Saturday.

The clinic will be held in Peterson Field House from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Three doses of Trumenba vaccine are required to provide the best protection against serogroup B meningitis. Providence College, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team (RI DMAT), and the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) have been coordinating on the response. The first doses of vaccine were administered on February 8 and February 11, days after the second student displayed symptoms of meningitis. Additionally, close contacts were identified and antibiotic prophylaxis was administered to people who were at highest risk for contracting the disease.

Both students who were diagnosed in February were hospitalized and have since recovered.

"Serogroup B meningitis is very serious. The identification of this rare, but dangerous threat and the coordination of a swift, effective response is a clear demonstration of the value of public health," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of Health. "Many people deserve credit for this success in preventing additional cases, including the leadership at Providence College, the staff at the Providence College Student Health Center, CDC, the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team, the volunteers with the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps, staff at the Rhode Island Department of Health, and all the student volunteers who pitched in."

"We are also offering the vaccine to our entire incoming class to ensure that as many students as possible are protected," said Providence College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. "We are working with the Department of Health and the CDC to make sure that all students are accommodated. That includes students who may have opted out of the vaccine last year, but who have since changed their minds, as well as transfer students and students who were studying abroad last year."

The vaccine was made available to incoming freshmen because students living in congregate living settings are at increased risk for meningococcal meningitis. On August 30, 749 freshmen were vaccinated. Second doses will be available to them in two months and third doses will be available in six months.

The shots at the Saturday clinic will be administered by MRC and RI DMAT. Both organizations also vaccinated people at the clinics for the first and second doses. More than 3,500 people were vaccinated at the clinics for the first dose. At clinics for the second dose in April, more than 2,700 people were vaccinated. In addition to undergraduate students, vaccination was recommended for graduate students living on campus, and staff who are under 25 years old and/or have suppressed immune systems.

Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial infection is spread from person to person through direct contact with respiratory droplets. People are vaccinated against some strains of meningitis when they are adolescents, usually at the same time that they receive vaccines that protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap vaccine) and human papillomavirus (HPV vaccine). However, serogroup B is not included in that meningitis vaccine. The vaccine that protects against serogroup B meningitis was only approved by the Food and Drug Administration in October 2014.

Certain precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of meningococcal meningitis and other infectious diseases. People should:

  • Always cough into a sleeve or tissue
  • Wash their hands frequently
  • Use hand sanitizer often
  • Avoid sharing food, drinks, smoking materials, eating utensils, cosmetics, or lip balm

RI DOH Invites Community to Participate in Brief Survey to Improve Healthcare in Rhode Island

09-08-2015

In an initiative aligned with statewide efforts to strengthen Rhode Island's healthcare system and ensure access to affordable, high-quality health services for all Rhode Islanders, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) invites community members to participate in a new online survey about their experiences with healthcare services. This survey, which is open to all Rhode Islanders age 18 and older, is part of a comprehensive evaluation of health services to better understand healthcare capacity, utilization, and access to care in Rhode Island. The survey is also available in Spanish.

"As we work to make our healthcare system stronger and more efficient, we need to make sure we address the health priorities and needs of Rhode Islanders," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "We know that people are busy, so we've designed this survey to take less than five minutes. We want to hear from as many Rhode Islanders as we can so we can focus our work in the most effective ways."

Recently, RI DOH sent a series of legislatively-mandated, targeted surveys to healthcare facilities and practices across the state, ranging from primary care practices to nursing facilities and hospitals. While the Department regularly conducts surveys on a wide range of public health topics, this is the first time that the State has conducted such an extensive assessment of Rhode Island's healthcare delivery system, including patient experiences.

"We are at a critical crossroad in planning for the future of healthcare in our state," said Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts. "Rhode Islanders are fortunate to benefit from nationally-recognized clinicians and clinical services. But how we utilize, pay for, and potentially expand healthcare services needs to be evaluated in a thoughtful and strategic way. At every level of government, our focus is on improving outcomes and quality, as well as ensuring predictability and value for businesses and taxpayers."

In the coming months, RI DOH will produce a report that incorporates feedback from all of the groups surveyed. One purpose for this report will be to guide the Department and its advisors through the review of Certificate of Need (CON) applications. When a licensed healthcare facility wants to begin offering a clinical service it has not offered before, the Certificate of Need process is designed to prevent unnecessary duplication of expensive medical services and equipment. Rhode Islanders can access the survey at www.health.ri.gov.

Another way that Rhode Islanders can also share their experiences and ideas for improving healthcare during two community listening sessions this September. The listening sessions will inform the work of Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Working Group for Healthcare Innovation, which is charged with identifying ways to improve patient care and health outcomes and lower cost across Rhode Island's healthcare system, and supporting and coordinating healthcare reform efforts across the state.

RI DOH Advises Consumers To Not Eat Certain Cheeses Distributed by Karoun Dairies, Inc.

09-17-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) advises consumers to not eat a variety of different cheeses distributed by Karoun Dairies, Inc. due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

This recall is voluntary. To date, no product has tested positive for Listeria.

Four of the affected cheeses were available at Whole Foods Markets in Rhode Island. They were Queso del Valle Queso Fresco, Queso del Valle Cotija, Queso del Valle Queso Blanco, and Gopi Paneer. The products are vacuum packed, in jars or in pails. These products have been pulled from Whole Foods' shelves.

Although only these four were commercially available in Rhode Island, Rhode Islanders should still avoid all the other cheese products listed in the Food and Drug Administration's advisory.

Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. However, people without these risk factors can also be affected. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Governor's Overdose Task Force Encourages Public to Voice Ideas at Community Meeting

09-25-2015

As part of statewide efforts to build stronger, healthier communities, members of the public are invited to contribute their ideas to address Rhode Island's addiction and overdose crisis at a community meeting on September 28, hosted by the Governor's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

The meeting will be held in the Sopkin Auditorium at Miriam Hospital (164 Summit Ave., Providence) on Monday, September 28 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and feature three panels, each with an expert speaker and time allotted for public comment and discussion. People who cannot attend the meeting can submit feedback online at www.health.ri.gov/overdosetaskforce

The feedback will inform a strategic plan that the Task Force will deliver in early November to Raimondo. Among other elements, the strategic plan will focus on major initiatives that address prevention, treatment, reversal of overdose, and recovery, as well as performance metrics for measuring success of the initiatives.

The Task Force is co-chaired by Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH and Director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Maria Montanaro, MSW.

"Addiction and drug overdose are serious health concerns that Rhode Island needs to address now. In addition to their devastating consequences on individual families, they threaten the health and vitality of Rhode Island's communities and economy," said Alexander-Scott. "Addiction is a disease, but recovery is possible, and working together we can save lives."

"Under Governor Raimondo's leadership, a statewide team with a wealth of experience is addressing this issue head-on. We need to hear from people who are living and experiencing this crisis every day, either themselves or through their family members, classmates, colleagues, neighbors, and friends," said Montanaro.

In 2014, nearly 240 people died of accidental overdoses in Rhode Island. Over the last five years, more than 1,000 Rhode Islanders have died of drug overdoses.

Expert counsel and guidance in the strategic planning process is being provided by Josiah Rich, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Attending Physician at The Miriam Hospital, and Director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at The Miriam Hospital; and Traci Green, PhD, MSc, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Boston University. She is also affiliated with the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights.

The Task Force is made up of government leaders, healthcare providers, insurers, legislators, and experts in the field of treatment and recovery.

A second community meeting will be held in October. More information about the Task Force can be found online at: www.health.ri.gov/overdosetaskforce

RI DOH Advises Consumers of Sunkist Brand Frozen Mango Fruit Sorbet Bars

10-05-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) advises consumers that Dean Foods of Decatur, Indiana, is voluntarily recalling Sunkist brand Frozen Mango Fruit Sorbet Bars because these products may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. While none of these products have been linked to any illness related to allergens at this time, Dean Foods is taking this precautionary measure because the mango fruit bars may contain milk, an allergen, which has not been declared on the packaging.

The following product is subject to recall: Frozen Mango Fruit Sorbet Bar--Gluten Free, Sunkist brand, 74ml bars, 6 bars per box, (Plant code 18-1681B, UPC: 851819003030).

The code date can be found on the right side flap of the box. The affected product has a date of "BEST BEFORE 2016 APR 27" and "BEST BEFORE 2016 APR 28", and was sold by retailers in Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

Due to a manufacturing error, a small amount of dairy may have been mixed with the fruit bar mix. To date, no complaints or reactions have been reported.

Consumers who purchased the product listed above may discard it and return the product package to the place of purchase for a full refund or exchange. Consumers with questions can contact 1-800-587-2259 between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time), Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been notified of this voluntary recall.

Director of Health Kicks Off Statewide Flu Vaccination Campaign at School Clinic

10-08-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) has launched a statewide effort to provide flu vaccine in Rhode Island schools and communities. Students at every school in Rhode Island can receive flu vaccine free of charge at a vaccination clinic organized for their school, many of which are also open to members of the public. Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, kicked off this year's campaign by administering flu shots at a clinic at Esek Hopkins Middle School today and encouraging Rhode Islanders to protect themselves and their families this flu season by being vaccinated.

Approximately 100 people received flu shots at the school clinic in Providence. In addition to administering vaccinations, Dr. Alexander-Scott also received a flu shot. RI DOH is partnering with schools to organize 264 school flu clinics throughout the state.

"A flu shot is your best protection against the flu," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "The flu can put a serious strain on families, schools, businesses, the healthcare system, and our economy. I will be getting my flu shot this year. I urge everyone to do the same, encourage their family members, neighbors, and friends to get theirs, and help us make this year's flu vaccination campaign the most successful yet."

"By being vaccinated now, you can get the maximum protection this flu season and help prevent the spread of the flu," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "Even if you don't have health insurance or can't afford a flu shot, there are clinics across Rhode Island where you can be vaccinated for free. Flu shots are safe and are easier to get than ever before."

The flu can cause serious illness and even death. Last year, the flu sent 1,156 Rhode Islanders to the hospital and resulted in 40 deaths. Approximately 43% of the state was vaccinated (446,860 Rhode Islanders).

Everyone older than 6 months of age should get a flu shot every year. Because flu viruses adapt, a flu shot that someone received last flu season will not protect against the flu this year. Flu shots are especially important for the elderly, healthcare workers, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions. Examples of chronic medical conditions include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and asthma.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have announced that the flu vaccine this year will be a better match for the circulating strains than last year's vaccine.

People can be vaccinated against the flu by their doctors, at pharmacies, at school clinics, and at community clinics. Most evening school clinics, like the clinic at Esek Hopkins Middle School, are open to members of the community. There is no charge to be vaccinated at school clinics, and there are no health insurance requirements. (However, people who are insured are asked to bring their insurance cards.) Dates and locations for school and community clinics can be found online: http://www.health.ri.gov/find/vaccinations/

People with questions about the flu or flu clinics can contact RI DOH at 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.

Voluntary Recall of Spinach Salads

10-14-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) advises consumers that Dole Fresh Vegetables is voluntarily recalling a limited number of cases of bagged salad. The product being recalled is Dole Spinach coded A27409B & A27409A, with an Enjoy By date of October 15 and UPC 7143000976 due to a possible health risk from Salmonella. No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall.

The bagged salads were not distributed in Rhode Island. They were distributed in Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The product code and Enjoy By date are in the upper right-hand corner of the package; the UPC code is on the back of the package, below the barcode.

This precautionary recall notification is being issued due to an isolated instance in which a sample of Dole Spinach salad yielded a positive result for Salmonella in a random sample test conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development; Laboratory Division.

Consumers who have any remaining product with these Product Codes should discard it. Retailers and consumers with questions may call the Dole Food Company Consumer Response Center at (800) 356-3111, which is open 8:00 am to 3:00 pm (PT) Monday - Friday.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause foodborne illness in a person who eats a food item contaminated with it. Symptoms of infection may include fever and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting or abnormal pain. The illness primarily impacts young children and frail and elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. Most healthy adults and children rarely become seriously ill.

Voluntary Recall of Canned Seafood Products

10-16-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) advises consumers that Skipanon Brand Seafoods LLC and Garibaldi Cannery LLC are voluntarily recalling canned seafood products. Skipannon Brand Seafoods is recalling all lots and all sizes of all canned seafood products. Garibaldi Cannery is recalling all cans with any code starting with "OC". These products are being recalled due to a possible contamination with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium that can cause life-threatening illness or death.

Products from both companies were sold to internet customers nationwide. There have been no reported cases of illness to date.

Consumers who have any of the recalled products should not eat it. Retailers and consumers with questions may call Skipanon Brand Seafoods at 503-861-8277, Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. - 8 p.m. or email recallskipanonbrand@gmail.com or Garibaldi Cannery at 503-322-3344, noon - 9 p.m. or email thegaribaldicannery@gmail.com.

Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause general weakness, dizziness, double vision, and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, abdominal distension, and constipation may also occur. Anyone who has these symptoms should seek medical attention right away.

Voluntary Recall of Hank's Protein Plus Peanut Butter Products

10-23-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) advises consumers that Hank's Protein Plus Peanut Butter is voluntarily recalling all products out of an abundance of caution. Hank's Protein Plus Peanut Butter is located in Pawtucket.

All products are being recalled because the company was operating without a Rhode Island food business license.

The company ceased production of all products as of October 20, 2015. To date, RI DOH has not received any illness reports associated with this company. However, Hank's Protein Plus Peanut Butter products should not be consumed.

RI DOH Releases Monthly Accidental Drug Overdose Death Data; Will Hold Second Community Forum

10-23-2015

On Monday evening, continuing its efforts to build healthier communities and help Rhode Islanders who are struggling now, Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force invites the public to attend a community forum and contribute ideas and feedback for addressing Rhode Island's addiction and overdose crisis. The forum, the second of two convened by the task force, will focus on the stigma of addiction and overdose and include panel discussions with leading experts in the field.

"In order for everyone to make it in Rhode Island, we need to address the stigma of addiction and drug overdose, and invest in prevention and treatment," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "In the last ten years, drug overdoses have claimed more lives than motor vehicle crashes, falls, firearms, and fire combined. This is an issue that affects every community in Rhode Island, and it will take all of us working together to reverse the trend."

Additionally today, in accordance with its regular data reporting policy, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) is releasing the latest data on confirmed accidental drug overdoses in Rhode Island. The data show that accidental drug overdose continues to be an issue of pressing public health concern in Rhode Island, across all age groups and particularly among men.

Tests to confirm drug overdose deaths can take two or three months to be completed. For this reason, the number of confirmed drug overdose deaths in August, September, and October are significantly lower than other months in 2015.

The data released today are as of October 21, 2015. Additional data are available online.

The task force will deliver a strategic plan to Governor Raimondo in early November. There will be time at the meeting on October 26 to discuss the plan.

The first community forum was held on September 28. Attended by approximately 50 people, the highly productive first meeting was focused on Medication-Assisted Treatment.

WHAT: Overdose Task Force community forum

WHO: Daniel Raymond, Policy Director, Harm Reduction Coalition, Colleen Barry, Ph.D., M.P.P., Associate Professor, Associate Chair for Research and Practice, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

WHEN: Monday, October 26, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Buttonwoods Community Center, 3027 W. Shore Road, Warwick

Voluntary Recall of Whole Food's Curry Chicken Salad and Classic Deli Pasta Salad

10-24-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) advises consumers that Whole Foods Market of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is voluntarily recalling bulk and packaged Curry Chicken Salad and Classic Deli Pasta Salad sold in stores in ME, NH, MA, RI, CT, NY and NJ because it has 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. Consumers should seek immediate medical care if they develop these symptoms.

No illnesses have been reported.

The salads were sold prepackaged, in salad bars, in store's chef's cases and in sandwiches and wraps prepared in the stores. The effected products were sold in stores between October 18 and October 22, 2015 and have a "sell by" date of October 23, 2015.

RI DOH and RIDEM Lift Public Health Advisories On Three Bodies of Water

10-29-2015

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) announce today the lifting of public health advisories on Blackamore Pond in Cranston, Warwick Pond in Warwick, and Melville Pond in Portsmouth. Contact with and recreational activities on these waters may now be resumed.

Advisories had been put in place for Melville Pond in June, Blackamore Pond in July, and Warwick Pond in August because of the presence of blue-green algae blooms, also known as cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria has 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 contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, effects may include stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Younger children and pets are at greater risk, given that they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage.

Because of the continued presence of cyanobacteria, health advisories remain in effect for Sisson Pond, St. Mary's Pond, and Lawton Valley Reservoir, all in Portsmouth; Watson Reservoir in Little Compton; and Paradise Pond and Eastons Pond South, both in Middletown. Additionally, the advisory for Eastons Pond South has been extended to Eastons Pond North. All of these bodies of water are supply sources for the Newport Water system. For this reason, recreational activity on all Newport Water reservoirs is restricted.

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

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. Although cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths combine to produce conditions generally unfavorable to algae growth, people should continue to avoid contact with water that contains matter that meets this description.

Raimondo's Overdose Task Force Plan Sets Goal to Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths

11-04-2015

Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force unveiled an evidence-based, strategic plan today to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths in Rhode Island by one-third within three years.

"It's hard to make it in Rhode Island if you or a family member is struggling with addiction, if you can't access effective treatment or if you don't have the supports you need to maintain recovery," said Raimondo. "These are issues that affect every community in Rhode Island, and ones that will take everyone coming together to solve. I look forward to reading the plan, and know it is just the beginning of what we can accomplish together."

The Task Force, which is co-chaired by Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, and Maria Montanaro, MSW, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals, has been developing the plan since August.

"This plan will help Rhode Island families who are struggling with the impacts of addiction and overdose, and help us build healthier, stronger communities across Rhode Island," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "Under the leadership of Governor Raimondo, and with the wealth of experience on this Task Force, we have laid out a road map for reducing addiction and preventing opioid overdose deaths in our state. We are excited to get to work."

"We are grateful for the vision of Governor Raimondo in bringing together this stakeholder group to create a strategy to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Rhode Island," said Director Montanaro. "This strategic plan does more than just instill a hope of recovery- ”it also connects those in need to effective treatment programs."

Drug overdoses have claimed more than 1,000 lives in Rhode Island in the last five years. From 2009 to 2012, there was a 32.8% increase in overdose deaths in Rhode Island. Within two years, this rate doubled (65% increase), resulting in a 119% increase in overdose deaths from 2009 to 2014.

The public has an additional two days to comment on the plan before it is delivered to the Governor next week. The plan is available online at www.health.ri.gov/news/temp/RhodeIslandsStrategicPlanOnAddictionAndOverdose.pdf.

The strategies laid out to reduce overdose deaths by one-third within three years are organized in four areas: treatment, overdose reversals, addiction prevention, and recovery. Sample strategies include:

  • Building statewide capacity for healthcare providers to provide medication-assisted treatment. Medication-assisted treatment combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders.
  • Expanding the availability and use of naloxone, which is a medication used to reverse an overdose.

    - Reducing the co-prescribing of benzodiazepines and opioids. Benzodiazepines are drugs primarily used for treating anxiety. (Common benzodiazepines are Valium and Xanax.)

    - Expanding the use of recovery coach services.

    In addition to strategies, the plan includes cost considerations, metrics, and plans for a data dashboard for measuring progress.

    Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH and Traci C. Green, PhD, MSc, two consultants who advised the Task Force and provided technical assistance in the development of the plan, lead the presentation of the plan at the Task Force's meeting today.

    The Task Force includes representation from the fields of law enforcement, pharmacy, education, healthcare, and insurance, among others. More than 40 interviews were conducted with local, national, and international experts, and the Task Force held two community meetings to gather input from the public. Public input was also collected through the Task Force's website at www.strategicplanri.org.

    Raimondo created the Task Force through executive order in August as part of her efforts to prevent additional overdose deaths in Rhode Island and build stronger communities and a more vibrant economy.

    Public Health Accreditation Board Awards Five-Year Accreditation to 17 Public Health Departments

    11-17-2015

    The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) has awarded five-year national accreditation status to 17 governmental public health departments. The 14 local and 3 state health departments accredited November 10 represent the largest group of candidates to achieve the prestigious designation since the national accreditation program began in 2011. With these accreditation decisions, 45 percent of the U.S. population, or nearly 139 million people, are now served by health departments that meet PHAB's rigorous national standards for delivering quality programs and services to their communities.

    PHAB, the nonprofit organization that administers the national public health accreditation program, aims to improve and protect the health of the public by advancing the quality and performance of the nation's state, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments.

    National accreditation status was awarded Nov. 10, 2015 to:

    • City of Wauwatosa Health Department, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
    • Clay County Public Health Center, Liberty, Missouri
    • Davis County Health Department, Farmington, Utah
    • Erie County Health Department, Sandusky, Ohio
    • Huron County Public Health, Norwalk, Ohio
    • Jefferson County Department of Health, Birmingham, Alabama
    • Knox County Health Department, Knoxville, Tennessee
    • Medina County Health Department, Medina, Ohio
    • Mid-Michigan District Health Department, Stanton, Michigan
    • Naugatuck Valley Health District, Seymour, Connecticut
    • New Mexico Department of Health, Santa Fe, New Mexico
    • Ohio Department of Health, Columbus, Ohio
    • Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Rhode Island Department of Health, Providence, Rhode Island
    • Tarrant County Public Health, Fort Worth, Texas
    • Tazewell County Health Department, Tremont, Illinois
    • Township of Bloomfield Department of Health & Human Services, Bloomfield, New Jersey

    "We are so proud of these 17 health departments for demonstrating their commitment to improving the conditions in which their communities can be healthy," said PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN. "We are also excited because these 17 accreditations include health departments in five new states - ” Alabama, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Tennessee - ” all part of the growing family of states that are home to one or more PHAB-accredited health departments."

    The accreditation decisions bring the number of PHAB-accredited health departments to 96, with 33 states plus the District of Columbia now home to at least one PHAB-accredited health department within their borders. Two states - ” Illinois and Ohio - ” currently have 9 PHAB-accredited health departments each. The benefits of accreditation are far reaching. According to a recent evaluation of PHAB's accreditation program conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, health departments accredited for one year agreed that accreditation stimulates quality improvement and performance improvement opportunities, stimulates greater accountability and transparency, strengthens management processes, and helps health departments document their capacity to deliver critical public health services to their communities.

    Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the newly accredited Rhode Island Department of Health, praised the rigorous assessment process required for PHAB accreditation, noting, "We have built on our strengths and put quality improvement projects in place that have made the Rhode Island Department of Health a more efficient, effective organization. The national standards of quality and performance to which we will now be held will be instrumental in our work to eliminate health disparities and promote health equity by improving health outcomes for all Rhode Islanders in every zip code throughout the state."

    In Tennessee, Knox County Health Department Director Martha Buchanan, MD, said the honor of becoming the first health department in Tennessee to achieve PHAB accreditation is "a reflection of the dedication of our staff, who work every day to protect the health and improve the lives of everyone in Knox County. Our intention in seeking accreditation is about doing the right things for the right reasons and improving the health of everyone in our community. I am grateful for our staff and community partners who supported, and continue to support, our efforts toward achieving and maintaining accreditation."

    Commenting on the accreditation of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Philadelphia Health Commissioner James W. Buehler, MD, emphasized that becoming accredited is not just a one-time "stamp of approval" but an ongoing process. "It means that we have committed to a path of ongoing improvement as we strive to fulfill our commitment to provide the best possible service to our city," Buehler said. "The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has demonstrated that we have the full range of capacities needed to fulfill our mission to protect and promote the health of all Philadelphians."

    Public health departments are on the front lines of improving and protecting the health and well-being of people and communities. Across the nation, health departments provide services aimed at promoting healthy behaviors; preventing diseases and injuries; ensuring access to safe food, water, clean air, and life-saving immunizations; and preparing for and responding to public health emergencies.

    For more information, contact Teddi Nicolaus at (703) 778-4549, ext. 118, or email tnicolaus(at)phaboard(dot)org. Learn more about PHAB and accreditation at http://www.phaboard.org.

    About the Public Health Accreditation Board

    The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) was created to serve as the national public health accrediting body and is jointly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The development of national public health accreditation has involved, and is supported by, public health leaders and practitioners from the national, tribal, state, local, and territorial levels. Learn more about PHAB or sign up for the PHAB e-newsletter by visiting http://www.phaboard.org.

    Comprehensive healthcare survey identifies gaps, priorities to improve public health in RI

    11-17-2015

    New findings from an extensive survey initiative by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) will inform a number of efforts to improve health outcomes and quality of care, while lowering costs in Rhode Island. These include the state's federally funded work to design and test innovative healthcare payment and service delivery reforms and Governor Gina M. Raimondo's initiatives to drive innovation across Rhode Island's entire healthcare system.

    "Good data drives good decision-making, and the information we gathered will be invaluable to the state's ongoing work to build healthier communities and help more people make it in Rhode Island," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of Health. "A statewide inventory of health services and experiences of this scope and at this level of detail is almost unprecedented in the country. Its results will enhance our work to address the underlying social and environmental determinants of health, ensure access to quality healthcare for all Rhode Islanders, and eliminate the disparities in health outcomes that we see between different populations throughout our state."

    "Understanding the current healthcare landscape in Rhode Island will be critical as we look to shift our entire healthcare industry towards a structure that rewards better outcomes and coordination, and healthier communities," said Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts. "There are many promising initiatives in Rhode Island that will benefit from such a robust data source, and I look forward to collaborating across state government as we use the data to inform our shared mission of keeping people healthier, at a lower cost."

    Among the key findings of the statewide survey, called the RIDOH 2015 Statewide Health Inventory for its comprehensive outreach to Rhode Island healthcare practices and facilities and ability to serve as the basis for statewide health planning efforts, are data that show:

    • The number of primary care physicians is 10 percent less than national standards for adequate access to care.
    • Limited data exist at practices and facilities on the races, ethnicities, and language needs of patients.
    • Nearly one-third (31 percent) of Rhode Islanders delayed or put off medical care because of cost, and almost half (47 percent) of these Rhode Islanders became sicker before receiving care.
    • Roughly half (51 percent) of assisted living residences are not accepting new Medicaid patients.
    • Only 32 percent of behavioral health clinics use community support teams or community health workers to help with patient navigation.

    The inventory includes recommendations to address the key findings, such as focusing efforts on recruitment and retention of primary care physicians and standardizing data collection on race, ethnicity, and language to help facilities better address the needs of patients. The expansion of community health workers and community health teams would also help address the needs of patients, including the need to be able to confidently navigate the healthcare system in Rhode Island.

    Many of the recommendations align with, and reinforce, the goals of Raimondo's initiatives to drive better outcomes and quality and lower costs across Rhode Island's entire healthcare system, including the publicly funded Medicaid program. These include identifying strategies to address cost barriers that prevent patients from receiving needed care in a timely fashion, and adopting strategies to improve access to community-based living arrangements for seniors, such as assisted living residences.

    To collect data for the Inventory, RIDOH sent a series of surveys to healthcare facilities and practices in Rhode Island, ranging from primary care practices to long-term care facilities to hospitals. Additionally, community members were surveyed about their experiences with the healthcare system in Rhode Island.

    The response rate for almost all of the surveys exceeded 90%. For the surveys sent to nursing facilities, hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dialysis centers, and MRI imaging centers, RIDOH collected responses from 100% of the facilities in the state.

    The surveys that healthcare practices and facilities received included questions on the number of patients served, services and treatments provided, patient demographics, languages spoken by patients, hours of operation, insurance, and accessibility.

    As part of Rhode Island's State Innovation Model initiative, survey findings and recommendations will be used to develop a statewide population health and behavioral health plan. The federally funded initiative charges states with using comprehensive data assessments to design and test innovative, multi-payer healthcare delivery and payment systems.

    Inventory findings will also help RIDOH develop policies that best meet the health needs of Rhode Islanders and support the Certificate of Need process in Rhode Island. The Certificate of Need Process is a system in place to ensure that healthcare facility construction and expansion plans meet the actual needs of Rhode Island patients.

    The inventory was the result of the 2014 Rhode Island Access to Medical Technology and Innovation Act, which required RIDOH to establish and maintain an inventory of healthcare facilities and services, with data on the location, distribution, and nature of the state's healthcare resources.

    The results from the RIDOH 2015 Statewide Health Inventory are available online.

    RIDOH Plan Aims to Increase Registration in Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

    11-19-2015

    As a part of ongoing efforts to address Rhode Island's drug overdose crisis, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has developed an education, notification, and enforcement plan to increase healthcare provider registration in the State's system for tracking the prescribing of medication. In June of 2014, legislation was passed requiring all prescribers with an active Controlled Substance Registration to register for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), yet as of October 2015, only 59% of prescribers who were required to register had done so.

    The system allows healthcare providers to supplement their patient-history files when making treatment decisions and to know what controlled substances are being prescribed to their patients by others.

    "Too many addictions start with prescribed medicines," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "All prescribers are required to use the PDMP because it saves lives by helping to prevent drug interactions, accidental overdose, death, dependence, possible addiction, and potential diversion."

    More than 1,000 Rhode Islanders have died in the last five years as a result of drug overdoses. Shortly after taking office, Governor Gina Raimondo recognized the overdose crisis as a public health threat and established the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, which is co-chaired by Dr. Alexander-Scott, and Maria Montanaro, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals. Earlier this month, the Task Force presented the Governor with the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Strategic Plan. One of the major components of this strategic plan is reducing the co-prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepines, which are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety.

    The PDMP Education, Notification, and Enforcement Plan is scheduled to be issued in January 2016. The plan outlines how training resources and a notification schedule will be used to encourage healthcare providers to register with the PDMP. Reminder communications and educational resources, such as a user's guide and face-to-face training sessions in doctors' offices, are the focus of the plan in the initial months of 2016. Healthcare providers who are required to register with the PDMP but still have not done so by April 2016 will then be referred to their professional board.

    RIDOH will hold a community review meeting on December 3 at 1 p.m. to gather feedback on the PDMP Education, Notification, and Enforcement Plan. This meeting will take place in RIDOH's lower level auditorium (3 Capitol Hill, Providence). Feedback can also be submitted by emailing Peter Ragosta, Chief Administrative Officer, Board of Pharmacy at Peter.Ragosta@health.ri.gov.

    RIDOH is continually working with healthcare providers to make improvements to the PDMP and is expecting to make some major changes early next year that will improve its ease-of-use.

    RIDOH Sets New HIV Targets at World AIDS Day Event

    11-30-2015

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced ambitious new HIV treatment targets today that are aimed at building healthier communities and expanding opportunity for all HIV-positive Rhode Islanders to live long, full lives.

    The treatment targets are a part of the international 90 90 90 campaign. By joining the campaign, Rhode Island is committing to having 90 percent of all HIV-positive Rhode Islanders know they are HIV positive, to having 90 percent of all HIV-positive Rhode Islanders linked to medical care and receiving treatment, and to having 90 percent of all HIV-positive Rhode Islanders with suppressed viral loads, indicating they are controlling their HIV infection. The campaign, which was presented at Rhode Island's World AIDS Day event at the State House, calls for these targets to be met by 2020.

    "A thriving Rhode Island depends on people living healthy, productive lives," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "The 90 90 90 campaign is one of many innovative, data-driven approaches that we are taking to build healthier communities and give everyone a chance to make it in Rhode Island."

    "90 90 90 is a pivotal new campaign that establishes clear metrics to evaluate our work to get as many people as possible tested for HIV, and to ensure that people who have HIV are seeing their doctors and are taking their medications," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of Health. "This is particularly important in the communities where we see higher rates of HIV."

    The City of Providence has also joined the 90 90 90 campaign and will partner with RIDOH to meet these targets. The Rhode Island-Providence partnership is 90 90 90's first state-city partnership. Other cities that have joined include Atlanta, Miami, and San Francisco.

    "It is through relentless effort and dedication we will be able to overcome the great challenge of HIV and AIDS," said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. "I want to thank the Governor, Dr. Alexander-Scott and the Rhode Island HIV Prevention Coalition for their leadership around HIV awareness and commitment to removing the stigma surrounding the disease through education and awareness."

    Additional Rhode Island cities and towns are encouraged to join the campaign. Entities formally join the campaign when leadership sign the Paris Declaration, named for the city where 90 90 90 started on World AIDS Day in 2014. All cities and states that join 90 90 90 aim to reach 100 percent for all three measures by 2030.

    Currently, of the estimated 2,840 Rhode Islanders who are HIV-positive:

    - 89 percent of people infected with HIV have been diagnosed and know they are HIV-positive, compared to 86% nationally. (The number of undiagnosed Rhode Islanders who are HIV-positive is estimated to be 318, based on projections using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data and local data.)

    - 60 percent of people infected with HIV are getting treatment, compared to 40% nationally.

    - 56 percent of people infected with HIV have suppressed viral loads, compared to 30% nationally. HIV patients with suppressed viral loads are much less likely to transmit infection.

    To get to 90 percent for all three of these targets, RIDOH will sustain its investment in existing prevention initiatives across the state. These investments include supporting no-cost HIV testing; providing free condoms at targeted venues; expanding resources for adolescents, people of color, and men who have sex with men; and supporting access to a needle-exchange program.

    RIDOH will also sustain strong partnerships with community-based organizations to address the social and environmental determinants of health. Community-based organizations support HIV testing, prevention, counseling, and education, and they support access to and linkages to healthcare, housing, drug treatment, and mental health services.

    The numbers of new HIV diagnoses in Rhode Island have ranged from 75 to 100 in recent years. The group most impacted by new HIV diagnoses remains men who have sex with men. The rates of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men is estimated to be 90 times higher than the rate for heterosexual men and women, creating one of the greatest health disparities in Rhode Island.

    90 90 90 was developed by Fast-Track Cities. The core partners of Fast-Track Cities are the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

    More information about the 90 90 90 campaign is available online.

    RIDOH Releases Monthly Accidental Drug Overdose Death Data

    11-30-2015

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is releasing the latest data today on confirmed accidental drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island. The data are from January 1, 2015 through November 29, 2015. Additional data are available online.

    Final determination on whether a death is due to a drug overdose can take two or three months. For this reason, the numbers of confirmed drug overdose deaths in the most recent months are significantly lower than in the preceding months.

    RIDOH and RIDEM Lift Public Health Advisories Related to Cyanobacteria Blooms

    12-02-2015

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announce today that they are lifting the public health advisories issued earlier this year in response to cyanobacteria blooms on Sisson Pond, St. Mary's Pond, and Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth; Watson Reservoir in Little Compton; and North and South Easton Ponds and Paradise Pond in Middletown.

    These bodies of water are sources of supply to the Newport Water system. For this reason, swimming in these bodies of water is prohibited, as is the bathing of animals in these bodies of water.

    Although cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths combine to produce conditions generally unfavorable to algae growth, RIDOH 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 untreated 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 swimming or fishing in waters, or drinking untreated water from a waterbody with a suspected cyanobacteria bloom should contact their healthcare providers. 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.

    RIDOH Recruiting Top-Tier Health Professionals for Underserved Communities through Loan Repayment Program

    12-15-2015

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) opened the application period today for the Rhode Island Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program, an annual campaign to recruit and retain topflight health professionals and put them to work building healthier communities in medically underserved areas.

    Through the program, RIDOH has $350,000 available to make loan repayments for healthcare providers who serve in a variety of disciplines, including primary care, dentistry, and mental health, and who commit to practicing in underserved communities for two years.

    "The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program is one of many innovative ways that we are recruiting the best and the brightest to Rhode Island," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "Rhode Island's healthcare industry is vital to the health of our overall economy. We need to continue making our state as attractive as possible for providers who are entering the workforce."

    "The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program is essential to our work to eliminate health disparities by ensuring access to quality health services and care in every zip code in Rhode Island," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of Health. "I encourage all eligible healthcare providers to consider making this commitment to the health of our communities."

    The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program application period is opening one month after RIDOH revealed in its 2015 Statewide Health Inventory that the number of primary care physicians in Rhode Island is 10 percent lower than national standards for adequate access to care.

    The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Board, which is chaired by Dr. Alexander-Scott and includes representation from healthcare organizations throughout Rhode Island, will be accepting applications until February 5.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided $175,000 and matching funds were provided by the Rhode Island Health Center Association, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Delta Dental of Rhode Island Fund, United Healthcare Community Plan, Landmark Medical Center, and CharterCARE Health Partners.

    "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.

    As a part of last year's Heath Professionals Loan Repayment Program 14 awards were made. The average award amount was $40,764.

    CDC: Rhode Island Among Top States for Immunization Rates

    12-16-2015

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lauded Rhode Island for having immunization rates that are among the highest in the country for several vaccines in different age groups at a national awards ceremony today.

    "Immunizations are investments in the health of our communities and the health of our economy," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "The economic impacts of vaccine-preventable diseases, including direct medical expenditures and lost productivity, are significant. I am proud that we are being recognized nationally for immunization work that is cutting healthcare costs and keeping Rhode Islanders safe."

    "Vaccines are extremely effective in protecting people from the serious health consequences of many illnesses and in lowering the overall cost of healthcare in our state," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). "Expanding access to quality health services, such as vaccines, is central to our work to eliminate health disparities, promote health equity, build healthier communities, and build a more vibrant economy."

    RIDOH received three individual 2015 Vaccination Coverage Awards at the ceremony. The awards were:

    - Highest Influenza Vaccination Coverage Rate in Adults 18 Years of Age and Older (53.7% in Rhode Island, versus 43.6% nationally);

    - Highest Pneumococcal Vaccination Coverage Rate in Adults 65 Years of Age and Older (75.2% in Rhode Island versus 54.5% nationally); and

    - Most Improved Influenza Vaccination Coverage in Adults 18 Years of Age and Older (from 52.5% in 2013 to 53.7% in 2014).

    Additionally, Rhode Island's rate for boys 13 to 17 years of age who received at least one dose of HPV vaccine (69%) was the highest in the country, and the rate for Rhode Island girls in that age bracket (76%) was third in the nation.

    The national awards ceremony occurred on the heels of the release of the newest America's Health Rankings report, which ranks Rhode Island as the 14th healthiest state in the nation and number one in the country for teen immunization.

    Factors in Rhode Island's immunization success include the dedication of Rhode Island's healthcare provider community; the use of KIDSNET, a statewide health information system, which helps track children's vaccinations starting at birth; 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, and most recommended vaccines for adults, at no cost.

    The protection that people receive when high immunization rates are achieved substantially reduces the incidence of disease in communities, as well as substantially reducing disease-associated healthcare expenses.

    The data were gathered from the 2014 National Immunization Survey, an annual study conducted through random telephone calls to parents and guardians and follow-up with healthcare providers.

    Complete immunization data are available online.

    Mars Chocolate Issues Voluntary Recall Related to Undeclared Peanut, Wheat, and Egg Ingredients

    12-21-2015

    The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) advises consumers that Mars Chocolate North America announced a voluntary recall of its Dove Chocolate Assortment Snowflakes (24 oz. bag) today.

    Approximately 6,700 cases of this item may contain some Snickers, Milky Way, and Twix pieces that contain peanuts, wheat and/or eggs. However, these ingredients are not listed on the outer package ingredient label. Although no adverse responses have been reported to date, people who have allergies to these ingredients run the risk of serious reactions if they consume these products.

    • Item Number: 10139802 - UPC# 400050521
    • Lot Codes: 537CG4PA30, 537DG4PA30, 538AG4PA30, 538AM4PA30, 541AG4PA20, 542EM4PA20
    • This item is a purple 24 oz. bag clearly marked with Dove Chocolate Assortment Snowflakes branding on the front of packaging. The code dates and UPC code are located on the back of the packaging on the lower right side.
    • This item was sold at retail food stores in Rhode Island between September 19, 2015 and December 1, 2015. It was also sold in: AZ, GA, MA, MS, OH, VA, CA, IA, MD, NH, OK, VT, CO, IL, ME, NJ, OR, WA, CT, IN, MI, NM, PA, WI, DE, KS, MN, NV, WY, FL, KY, MO, NY, and TX.

    Mars Chocolate is working with the impacted retailer to ensure that the recalled product is removed from sale. 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.

  • 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.

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