News

Media Contact

Press Releases

RSS
12/01/2016 14:30 EST
11/16/2016 16:00 EST
10/25/2016 11:30 EDT

More

10/14/2016 14:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that shellfish beds in Wellfleet, Massachusetts have been closed due to suspected norovirus illnesses believed to be linked to the consumption of shellfish from that area. This closure is unrelated to the shellfish harvesting...
10/04/2016 11:00 EDT
At a packed kick-off event today for the state's annual flu vaccination campaign, Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), urged all Rhode Islanders to keep themselves and their family members safe this year by being vaccinated against the flu.
09/30/2016 14:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Cunliff Lake, Elm Lake, and the Japanese Gardens, all in Roger Williams Park in Providence, due to blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) blooms...
09/29/2016 12:15 EDT
One hundred percent of healthcare providers who are authorized to prescribe opioids and other potent medications are now enrolled in the state's prescription drug monitoring database, marking an important step in Rhode Island's work to prevent overdose deaths, the Rhode Island Department of Health (
09/21/2016 12:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) received confirmation September 20 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the first human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Rhode Island in 2016. A 49-year-old Pawtucket resident was diagnosed with meningoencephalitis caused by WNV...
09/16/2016 14:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Mashapaug Pond in Providence due to a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can...
09/12/2016 08:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising people to avoid contact with St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth and South Easton Pond in Middletown because of blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) blooms in those ponds. Blue-
09/01/2016 16:45 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced today the approval, with conditions, of the proposed affiliation between Westerly Hospital (LMW Healthcare) and Yale-New Haven Health Services Corporation. "We looked very closely at the application and issued a decision with a series of...
09/01/2016 13:30 EDT
New overdose death data from the spring and reports from overdose survivors indicate that Rhode Island remains in the midst of a fentanyl-use crisis that is increasingly claiming victims who are unaware that the cocaine or heroin they have purchased has been altered with the synthetic drug. "...
08/25/2016 15:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Warwick Pond in Warwick due to a confirmed blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce cyanotoxins...
08/19/2016 16:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Watson Reservoir in Little Compton, Lawton Valley Reservoir in Portsmouth, and North Easton Pond in Middletown because of blue-green algae (or...
08/19/2016 16:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising the public to avoid contact with Warwick Pond in Warwick due to a probable blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can release toxins that...
08/17/2016 14:00 EDT
Rhode Island now has two accredited public health entities—the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Brown University School of Public Health—which have launched a new academic partnership aimed at building healthy communities and creating a hub of public health research and innovation...
08/11/2016 09:45 EDT
Rhode Island has seen a significant increase in hepatitis C virus-related hospitalizations and deaths in the last decade, underscoring the importance of diagnosis and treatment, according to a new report released today by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Public...
08/05/2016 13:30 EDT
As part of statewide efforts to build healthier communities and help Rhode Islanders develop skills that matter for jobs that pay, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today joined partners in government, higher education, and community organizations in celebrating new certification...
07/28/2016 14:15 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) urges all Baby Boomers (people born in the United States between 1945 and 1965) who have not been previously tested for hepatitis C to do so at one of Rhode Island's free, confidential testing sites today on World Hepatitis Day. Of the more than...
07/20/2016 18:30 EDT
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are advising people to avoid contact with Sisson Pond in Portsmouth because of a blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) bloom in the pond. Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can harm

Last Year's News

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.

<

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.