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Salad Mix Recalled Due to Listeria Contamination

01-21-2011

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

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

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

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


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

02-18-2011

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

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

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

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

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


HEALTH Issues Warning About Risks of Mercury Following Childhood Poisoning

02-28-2011

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

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

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

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


Rhode Island Department of Health Launches New Quitline for Smokers

02-28-2011

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

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

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

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

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

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


Arnica Flower Labeled as Food Seasoning Can Be Lethal if Ingested

03-02-2011

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

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

If ingested, arnica can cause dizziness, tremors, vomiting, and heart irregularities. Large doses can be fatal. Anyone who bought this item should throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.


Department of Health to Announce Decision on Compassion Center(s) on March 15

03-07-2011

Department of Health (HEALTH) Interim Director Michael Fine, MD, today announces a one-week postponement in the naming of qualified applicant(s) for registration as a Compassion Center. Fine is in his first full week at HEALTH and, as the person ultimately responsible for the decision on qualified applicants, he requires additional time to thoroughly review all 18 applications. Additionally, discussions of and preparation for the budget have consumed much of Fine’s first week as Interim Director. The Medical Marijuana Program and the anticipated Compassion Center(s) will impact HEALTH’s budget, and those implications must be considered before a final decision is made.

“HEALTH staff have been working diligently on the review of the 18 applications and we are dedicated to maintaining the highest integrity of the decision-making process,” Fine said. “This has been a challenging budget season requiring much of the Department’s focus and energy. In order to make an informed decision about such a complex issue, I will need a few more days to finalize the Department’s decision on Compassion Centers. We are firmly committed to making a decision by March 15.”

In October, HEALTH estimated that it would take between four to six months to review the applications and render a decision. With a decision now expected on March 15, the Department is still within that timeframe.


Department of Health Approves Consolidation of Open Heart Surgery at The Miriam, Rhode Island Hospitals

03-08-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has approved a request from Lifespan to consolidate open heart surgery services offered at both Rhode Island Hospital and at The Miriam Hospital to a single site at Rhode Island Hospital. Included in the conditions of approval are:

--Lifespan hospitals must offer to enroll patients in Current Care.

--Lifespan must report to HEALTH, within six months, the current race, ethnicity, and gender distribution of all open heart surgery patients.

--Rhode Island Hospital must report to HEALTH, annually, utilization data of its cardiology clinic.

“The number of open heart surgeries performed in the last decade has significantly declined,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “I believe this is a result of a successful, long-term collaboration of public health and primary care. At the same time, we also want to ensure that all Rhode Islanders, including those who are low income or uninsured, continue to have access to this life-saving service.”


Department of Health Announces Decision on Compassion Center Applicants

03-16-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announces that 3 of the 18 applicants have been approved to apply for registration certificates to run a compassion center. The three applicant(s) selected are Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, Inc.; Summit Medical Compassion Center; and The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center.

“After a thorough and thoughtful review of all applications, HEALTH determined that these three applicant(s) were best able to offer safe, conveniently located options for patients currently enrolled in the medical marijuana program,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine. “ HEALTH is charged with protecting the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders. We will continue to work with the compassion centers and providers to assure good outcomes for patients.”

Before opening for business, a compassion center must be inspected by HEALTH staff and receive a certificate of occupancy from the respective municipality where it is located. In addition, all staff, board members and volunteers of each compassion center must be registered with HEALTH’s medical marijuana program. For the complete rules and regulations pertaining to compassion centers, visit http://sos.ri.gov/documents/archives/regdocs/released/pdf/DOH/5923.pdf

In order to purchase medical marijuana from a compassion center, a patient must designate a compassion center as a caregiver. (A patient can designate up to two caregivers.)


All Baked Goods from DeFusco Bakery Recalled Due To Unsafe Handling Practices

03-25-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of a recall of all baked goods sold at DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston and in Cranston. During an inspection of the Johnston store, HEALTH staff found pastry cream that is used in zeppoles and clairs was stored at unsafe temperatures and there were unsanitary conditions in the store. Baked goods made at the Johnston store are sold in both locations. In addition, zeppoles were sold at all Crugnale Bakery locations.

The owner of DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston has voluntarily closed until further notice.

Anyone who purchased baked goods from DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston or Cranston or zeppoles from any Crugnale bakery should discard any uneaten product.

Food that is improperly stored can cause illness. The most common symptoms of foodborne illness are nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten baked goods purchased from DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles purchased from Crugnale’s Bakery and has gotten sick should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.


HEALTH Investigating Salmonella Outbreak Possibly Associated with Baked Goods

03-26-2011

HEALTH Investigating Salmonella Outbreak Possibly Associated with Baked Goods

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella, possibly related to yesterday’s recall of baked goods, including zeppoles. HEALTH has received reports of 19 people who are ill, with a common characteristic among many as having consumed zeppoles from DeFusco’s Bakery. Nine of the 19 people have tested positive for Salmonella and 13 people have been hospitalized. HEALTH's Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Office of Food Protection, and the State Laboratory continue to investigate the source of the illness and are working to identify additional retail outlets where DeFusco’s sells cream pastries.

To date HEALTH has learned that zeppoles from DeFusco’s Johnston store are sold at all DeFusco’s locations. All five Crugnale Bakery locations in Providence, East Providence, North Providence, Cranston, and Cumberland also sold DeFusco’s zeppoles from March 16 through March 20. HEALTH food inspectors also believe that zeppoles from DeFusco’s are sold at Calvitto’s in Narragansett and Sal’s Bakery in Providence, based on information from DeFusco’s owner.

Anyone who purchased baked goods from any DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles from any of the above locations should immediately discard any uneaten product. Anyone who has eaten baked goods purchased from DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles purchased from any of the above locations and has gotten sick (especially with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) should contact their healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and treatment.

The average incubation period for Salmonella is one to three days after eating contaminated food. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and fever and usually last for four to seven days. People who are at higher risk for developing more serious symptoms are young children, the elderly and anyone who is immunocompromised.

Yesterday the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced a recall of all baked goods sold at DeFusco’s Bakeries following an inspection of the Johnston store where the pastries were made. HEALTH staff found pastry cream that is used in zeppoles and clairs was stored at unsafe temperatures as well as unsanitary conditions in the store. The owner of DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston (the production facility) voluntarily closed the bakery until further notice.


Update: HEALTH Investigating Salmonella Outbreak Possibly Associated With Baked Goods --Additional Bakeries Identified

03-26-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella, possibly related to yesterday’s recall of baked goods, including zeppoles. HEALTH has received reports of 19 people who are ill, with a common characteristic among many as having consumed zeppoles from DeFusco’s Bakery. Nine of the 19 people have tested positive for Salmonella and 13 people have been hospitalized. HEALTH's Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Office of Food Protection, and the State Laboratory continue to investigate the source of the illness and are working to identify additional retail outlets where DeFusco’s sells cream pastries.

To date HEALTH has learned that zeppoles from DeFusco’s Johnston store are sold at all DeFusco’s locations; Calvitto’s in Narragansett; Sal’s Bakery in Providence; Focaccia World in Johnston; and American Bakery Supplies, a distributor in West Warwick. All five Crugnale Bakery locations in Providence, East Providence, North Providence, Cranston, and Cumberland also sold DeFusco’s zeppoles from March 16 through March 20.

Anyone who purchased baked goods from any DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles from any of the above locations should immediately discard any uneaten product. Anyone who has eaten baked goods purchased from DeFusco’s Bakery or zeppoles purchased from any of the above locations and has gotten sick (especially with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) should contact their healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and treatment.

The average incubation period for Salmonella is one to three days after eating contaminated food. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and fever and usually last for four to seven days. People who are at higher risk for developing more serious symptoms are young children, the elderly and anyone who is immunocompromised.

Yesterday the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced a recall of all baked goods sold at DeFusco’s Bakeries following an inspection of the Johnston store where the pastries were made. HEALTH staff found pastry cream that is used in zeppoles and éclairs was stored at unsafe temperatures as well as unsanitary conditions in the store. The owner of DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston (the production facility) voluntarily closed the bakery until further notice.


HEALTH Expands Investigation of Salmonella Outbreak -- Updated List of Zeppole Vendors

03-27-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) continues its investigation of an outbreak of Salmonella, possibly related to zeppoles. HEALTH has now received reports of 25 people who are ill throughout the state, with a common characteristic among many as having consumed zeppoles from DeFusco’s Bakery. 13 of the 25 have tested positive for Salmonella and 10 people have been hospitalized (note, yesterday's press release incorrectly stated that 13 people had been hospitalized when the correct number was 10).

The most likely cause of illness is consumption of zeppole pastries that came in contact with raw eggs. Pastry shells from DeFusco's had been stored in used egg crates, which could have exposed the shells to infected raw eggs. HEALTH's Office of Food Protection continues working to identify all bakeries that sold zeppoles made by DeFusco's and is also looking into the source of the eggs. HEALTH's State Laboratories are working through the weekend to test food samples in order to pinpoint the exact source of illness.

HEALTH has now learned that American Bakery Supplies, a distributor in West Warwick, purchased zeppoles from DeFusco's. The company then distributed the pastries to Roch's Market in West Warwick; Meal Works in Coventry; and Touch of Class Catering in West Warwick. Meal Works (a catering company) served these zeppoles at events on March and 18 at West Warwick Manor Senior Center, St John and Paul Church in Coventry, Sparrow Point (senior facility) in West Warwick, and Crescent Park Manor in Riverside.

Zeppoles from DeFusco’s Johnston store were also sold at all DeFusco’s locations; Colvitto’s Bistro in Narragansett (note, yesterday's press release incorrectly listed the bakery's name as Calvitto's in Narragansett); Sal’s Bakery in Providence; and Focaccia World in Johnston. All five Crugnale Bakery locations in Providence, East Providence, North Providence, Cranston, and Cumberland also sold DeFusco’s zeppoles from March 16 through March 20.

During this investigation HEALTH also discovered unsafe food storage practices at Buono's Bakery in Providence. Their zeppole, cream puff, and clair shells were also stored in used egg crates, which could lead to contamination from raw eggs.

People are advised to immediately discard all baked goods from any DeFusco's ; zeppoles from any of the above locations; and zeppoles, cream puffs, and clairs from Buono's Bakery in Providence.

Anyone who has eaten any of the above-mentioned products and has gotten sick (especially with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) should contact their healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and treatment.

Because foods of animal origin, including eggs, may be contaminated with Salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat or raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. In addition, raw eggs and uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods in order to avoid cross-contamination. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. Boxes that contained eggs or raw meat product should never be used for any other purpose. People should wash their hands before handling food, and between handling different food items.


HEALTH Recognized for Highest Childhood Flu Vaccination Rates in the Country and Outstanding Adolescent Immunization Rates

04-04-2011

On March 28, 2011, the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (HEALTH) Office of Immunization received two awards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the National Immunization Conference in Washington, D.C. The first award was for the highest influenza vaccination coverage rate in the country for children thus far this influenza season. The second award was for outstanding overall adolescent immunization coverage rates.

Through December 2010, Rhode Island immunized 74.9% of children ages 6 months – 17 years against influenza. This was the highest rate in the country for this age range and almost twice the national average of 44.1%. Rhode Island was also one of two states recognized for its outstanding adolescent vaccination coverage rates for 2009.

In 2009, Rhode Island had near-top rankings for tetanus, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine coverage rates. Rhode Island’s tetanus vaccination rate was 91.4% (compared to the national average of 76.2%), the state’s meningitis vaccination rate was 75.7% (compared to the national average of 53.6%), and the state’s HPV vaccination rate was 68.3% (compared to the national average of 44.3%). Rhode Island’s overall adolescent vaccination coverage rate was 78.5%.

“Young adults are being vaccinated against serious diseases before they leave high school thanks to the dedication of Rhode Island’s pediatricians, family physicians, school personnel, and many other unsung heroes,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. “As proud as I am of these numbers, we still have more work to do. Our goal is to have 90% of adolescents vaccinated against all vaccine-preventable disease.”

In an effort to reach this goal, HEALTH opened its Vaccinate Before You Graduate (VBYG) program to all high school students this year. VBYG, which was previously only open to high school seniors, makes vaccines for nine vaccine-preventable diseases available to students at school-based clinics. Additionally, seasonal flu vaccine was offered to all school-aged children in Rhode Island at school-based vaccination clinics this year for the first time.

Data used to determine vaccination rates was gathered through the CDC’s National Immunization Survey (NIS). The NIS is administered annually by the CDC.


North Kingstown, Pawtucket, South Kingstown Receive Healthy Living Grants

04-07-2011

Safe and available sidewalks. Healthy foods being sold at neighborhood stores. Clean parks and bike paths for children and adults. These are just three examples of things that can promote healthy eating and increased physical activity.

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that North Kingstown, Pawtucket, and South Kingstown will each receive a grant to create policies that promote active, healthier lifestyles in an effort to prevent and reduce obesity. The grants total $225,000 and were awarded through HEALTH’s Healthy Places by Design project.

“Almost 30% of Rhode Island children, ages 10 to 17, are overweight or obese,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Less than half of adults engage in regular physical activity. To fight the obesity epidemic, we need cities and towns to make policy changes on the local level. We have to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

These three communities will work to improve the health of their residents through community planning and the built environment. Community planning can include new or updated zoning policies or ordinances. A community’s built environment is man-made items like buildings, roads, playgrounds, sidewalks, or landscaping. Given the substantial effect of a community’s built environment on the health of its residents. HEALTH is starting to focus more attention on improving the built environment as a means of obesity prevention. These changes will make it easier for people to choose healthier behaviors, like playing in the neighborhood park instead of playing computer games.

Funding for this initiative comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) award to Rhode Island. In addition to the grant money, the three municipalities will receive technical assistance from HEALTH and the Rhode Island Division of Planning. Funds will be allocated over the next year.


Isolated Case of Measles Confirmed in Foreign Visitor to RI

04-15-2011

On Wednesday, April 13, a primary care provider notified the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) of a suspected case of measles. The patient, a woman in her 20s, is from Europe. She arrived in New York on Tuesday and traveled by car to Rhode Island. After seeking treatment for symptoms of fever and rash, an astute physician notified HEALTH about a potential case of measles. The diagnosis was rapidly confirmed by serologic testing.

On Thursday, HEALTH immediately notified neighboring states and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC will work with airport officials to identify and notify passengers who were on the same flight as the woman. Because of the early detection of the case, control measures were put in place immediately. The patient was isolated on a voluntary basis and has been extremely cooperative. HEALTH is ensuring that people who may have been exposed to measles is receiving a dose of measles-containing vaccine within the recommended 72 hours of exposure.

“Although measles can be a very serious disease, the quick response by the physician and by HEALTH staff prevented this from spreading,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Because we got lab results so quickly, we are still within the timeframe where measles vaccine is recommended. This also serves as a reminder that everyone – children and adults – should be up to date on all recommended vaccinations.”

Measles is a highly-contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. The symptoms usually begin about 7-14 days after a person is infected, and include blotchy red rash, fever, cough, runny nose, red/watery eyes, aches, and small white spots in the mouth. The disease can be prevented by the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Because routine MMR vaccination of children is required in the United States, measles is considered to be eradicated here. Measles remains common in many places worldwide.


Updates in Salmonella Outbreak Investigation

04-18-2011

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is providing the following updates in the ongoing investigation of the Salmonella outbreak:

- All remaining food and environmental samples taken from DeFusco’s bakery have tested negative for Salmonella.

- HEALTH has issued a compliance order to DeFusco’s bakery that both the Johnston and Cranston locations remain closed until HEALTH approves reopening. The compliance order also states that DeFusco’s must get written permission from HEALTH before selling or discarding any bakery equipment and must provide any information related to the investigation that HEALTH requests.

- HEALTH has issued compliance orders to all employees of DeFusco’s bakery requiring them to submit stool samples for testing at HEALTH’s lab.


Pawtucket Red Sox Organization Receives Second Safe Place for Teens to Work Award

04-21-2011

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented the Pawtucket Red Sox (Paw Sox) organization with the Safe Place for Teens to Work certification and award. This is the second time the Paw Sox have earned this award, and it is the only company in the state that has achieved this status.

“Providing teenagers with a safe place to work is important,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Having a part-time job is a wonderful learning opportunity; however, there also needs to be a good balance between work and school. We applaud the Paw Sox organization for being an example of best practices in the workplace.”

In order to receive the Safe Place for Teens to Work certification and award, employers must meet certain requirements, including:

- No teenager works late on a school night.

- Teenagers receive safety training before starting employment with the company.

- Teenagers do not operate equipment that is considered dangerous.

- Teenagers do not work alone or unsupervised.

- A supervisor, older than age 18, is on duty at all times.

- A strict policy against workplace violence and sexual harassment is maintained and enforced.

This award and designation is presented in conjunction with the local Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 21(d) Consultation Program.


Consumer Satisfaction with Rhode Island Nursing Homes Outperforms National Rates

04-25-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released the results of the 2010 survey on resident and family satisfaction with nursing home care Rhode Island. For the fifth consecutive year, this annual survey indicates that nursing home care, on average, surpassed the national standard. In Rhode Island, 92% of residents and of family members rated their satisfaction with the facility as either “Good” or “Excellent.” In comparison, 89% of residents and 87% of family members in the national database gave such positive ratings.

“These comparative data show that nursing homes’ continued focus on quality of life and the individual choices of residents is important and valuable,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “That 92% of residents and family members would recommend their nursing home to anyone needing skilled care testifies to the quality of nursing homes in our state.”

Together with publicly available information about care outcomes, the satisfaction scores provide additional information consumers can use to make informed choices when selecting a nursing home. “This process allows individuals to give feedback about nursing homes,” said Gail Patry, Director of Long Term Care at Quality Partners of Rhode Island and Chair of the public reporting program’s Nursing Home Subcommittee. “The data also help nursing homes monitor their own residents’ experiences.”

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


Chocolate Easter Bunnies Recalled Due to Undeclared Allergen

04-28-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that A & J Bakery, located at 1458 Park Avenue in Cranston, is voluntarily recalling chocolate five-ounce Easter bunnies that were sold in cellophane bags with no labels and were purchased in the store because they may contain the undeclared allergen of milk. (None of these chocolate bunnies was sold over the internet.) People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

HEALTH received a complaint on Tuesday that someone had eaten a chocolate bunny and had an allergic reaction. A & J Bakery is cooperating fully with HEALTH’s investigation. There were no unsold chocolate bunnies at the bakery; however anyone who has a milk allergy and still has a chocolate bunny from A& J Bakery that fits the above description should not eat it. (People who do not have a milk allergy can eat the chocolate bunny.)


Study Shows Partial Lead Service Line Replacements Reduce Lead Levels

05-04-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today released the results of its study on the effects partial replacement of lead service lines has on the levels of lead in drinking water. The study demonstrates that replacing even portions of underground water pipes (service lines) made of lead results in significantly lower levels of lead in drinking water. Of the homes that participated in the evaluation, the total amount of lead at the tap dropped between 35 and 80 percent. HEALTH also found that flushing water taps inside the home when water has not been used for several hours or when work has been done on the plumbing can help to reduce lead levels in drinking water.

“These results show that after portions of service lines are replaced, the lead levels are significantly lower,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “This is good news. We still recommend that the service line from the street to the house should also be replaced to completely eliminate any lead-containing service lines, but we also realize that not every property owner can afford to pay for that to be done.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that all community water systems with lead exceeding the action level replace seven percent of lead service lines every year. Providence Water Supply Board began replacing lead service lines in 2006, and to date, has replaced more than 30% of them.

To help reduce lead in drinking water, HEALTH recommends:

- Run water from the faucet until it is cold before using it for drinking or cooking.

- Do not use hot water from the faucet for drinking, cooking or making baby formula. (Lead in pipes is more likely to mix with hot water.)

- Replace lead pipes and plumbing fixtures in your home.

- Remove and clean aerators from time to time during the year or after plumbing work has been done in your home.


Seasonal Reports of Rabies Exposures on the Rise

05-12-2011

The Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise Rhode Islanders that the seasonal increase in reports of potential rabies exposures has started. Most recently, there were several people in Hopkinton who were evaluated for exposure to a fox, and six people were treated.

“Every spring and summer there is an increase in calls from the public about potential exposure to rabid animals,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Although there have been no cases of human rabies in Rhode Island, it is common in many wild animals (such as bats, raccoons, foxes and strays) so people are at risk. It is important to use common sense when dealing with domestic, stray or wild animals. The fact that we have had no human cases reflects our State’s aggressive approach to evaluating each potentially risky exposure and for timely vaccination to prevent rabies.”

Avoid getting rabies or having to get the multi-injection treatment series. Protect yourself and your family.

1. If you have been scratched or bitten by any animal (even your own pet), have touched an animal you do not know, or see a bat in your home, contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours. HEALTH is the only agency that can authorize the use of rabies vaccine.

2. Do not touch or pet stray animals, wild animals, or animals that you do not know. If you see a domestic animal (cat or dog) that is acting strangely or you think is a stray, call your local police department.

3. If your pet has been in a fight with another animal or pet or has open wounds after being outside, try to avoid touching them and keep them isolated as much as possible. If you must touch them, wear gloves. Call your vet to see if your pet needs a booster dose of rabies vaccine and report the incident to your local police department.

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4. Do not feed any stray domestic or wild animals. Feeding stations tend to attract all types of animals and can present an opportunity for transmission of rabies to people or other animals when an animal with rabies is attracted to a feeding station.

5. Report wild animals that are displaying unusual behavior to DEM at 222-3070. Unusual behavior can include aggression, loss of fear, loss of coordination, apparent blindness, seizures, extreme depression, or coma.

6. Cover and secure any trash that is outside. Trash can be a food source for stray or wild animals.

7. Make sure your pet(s) are up to date on their rabies vaccination. If you are not sure about your pet’s vaccination status, call your vet and check.

8. Bat proof your home. Bats are most active during the summer. If there is a bat in your house, try to confine the bat to one room. (Close all doors and windows.) Do not go back into the room until the bat is caught. For information on how to bat proof your home, call a licensed professional.

9. If you cannot reach a licensed professional to catch a bat, HEALTH and DEM recommend that to safely catch a bat so that it can be tested for rabies, put on leather gloves and slowly approach the bat when it lands. Place a clear, see-through container over the bat. Slide a lid under the container to trap the bat inside. Securely tape the lid to the container, and punch small holes in the lid so the bat can breathe. Contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours to make arrangements for rabies testing.

Rabies is a virus that is transmitted to humans or other mammals through the saliva of an infected animal. The virus usually enters the human body through a break in the skin (bite, scratch) or by coming in contact with an infected animal’s saliva and then unknowingly touching your eyes, nose, or open wound.

Bat rabies is highly transmissible to humans, and can be transmitted without being bitten or scratched by the bat. As a result, many times the rabies vaccinations are recommended if there is no visible bite mark and the bat is not available for testing. Timely vaccination after rabies exposure is 100% effective in preventing human rabies. Once there is disease onset, the illness is almost always fatal.


Physician Use of Health Information Technology (HIT) on the Rise

05-23-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has released the results of its 2011 survey of physician HIT use. The number of Rhode Island-licensed physicians using HIT (including electronic health records and e-prescribing) has increased nearly 12% since 2009.

Of the 2,132 physicians who responded (63% response rate), 81% reported having electronic health records (EHRs) in one or more office location. Physicians who did not respond to the survey are counted as not having EHRs; therefore, the state’s overall EHR adoption rate of 51% is similar to the national average of 48%.

“We are pleased to see that more physicians have EHRs,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Increased use of EHRs lays a strong foundation for creating the ability to practice population-based primary care. When used to its fullest potential, EHRs can help a physician identify specific areas for improvement and implement preventive measures. This is one more way that primary care providers can partner with HEALTH to improve the health of all Rhode Islanders.”

Insurers and policy makers use survey results in their efforts to support statewide HIT use, and consumers can check if an individual provider uses EHRs.

Federal and state resources are available to help healthcare providers implement EHRs.

This project, led by HEALTH and Quality Partners of Rhode Island, reflects input from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan, Rhode Island Quality Institute, UnitedHealthCare of New England, and other healthcare leaders in the state.


FDA Advisory on Use of SimplyThick for Premature Infants

05-23-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) informs consumers that the FDA has advised parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers to not feed SimplyThick, a thickening agent used for management of swallowing disorders, to infants born before 37 weeks. Use of this product may cause necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is a life-threatening condition that can cause inflammation and destruction of an infant’s intestinal tissue.

FDA has received reports of infant illness from at least four medical centers throughout the country. As of May 20, FDA has received reports of 15 cases of NEC and two deaths of premature infants who were fed SimplyThick for varying amounts of time. The product was mixed with breast milk or with infant formula.

FDA is investigating the link between SimplyThick and the illness and deaths and will provide updates as more information is available.

Symptoms of NEC can include a bloated abdominal area, feeding intolerance, greenish-tinged vomit and bloody stools. Any parent who has an infant with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider immediately. Any parent who has questions about the use of this product should contact their healthcare provider.


2011 Cancer Summit to Focus on Personalized Medicine

06-01-2011

Just as every individual’s fingerprint is unique, the genetic fingerprint and management of each case of cancer is also unique. Slight differences can determine how well a patient’s cancer might respond to a specific treatment. Physicians in Rhode Island and across the country are now utilizing the personalized medicine model to help in the fight against cancer. Personalized medicine allows physicians to customize the treatment plan an individual patient receives.

Healthcare providers, patients, survivors, and caregivers are invited to learn about the topic of Personalized Medicine at the 2011 Rhode Island Cancer Summit. The day-long Summit will be held on June 16. There is no charge to attend the Summit; however pre-registration by June 9 is required. To view the agenda or register, visit http://2011rhodeislandcancersummit.eventbrite.com or call 222-7899.

“The fight against cancer is a team effort, and we need to learn about any new tool designed to assist us,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. ““While cancer prevention efforts like smoking cessation, good nutrition and increased physical activity are important, learning about current research is important too.”

Angiogenesis Foundation President and Medical Director William Li, MD will discuss the critical role that personalized medicine plays in the fight against cancer. Following the presentation, a panel of local experts will discuss the issue on an individual level.

“Nearly everyone has been effected by cancer,” said Linda Dziobek, Chairperson of The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island. “ Whether we are a provider, a patient or a caregiver, we want the best treatment option possible for the patient. The focus of this summit is to help all Rhode Islanders understand this treatment model and how it can benefit our friends and family members.”

Funding for this conference is from a cooperative agreement award from The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and is presented by The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island. The Partnership is a statewide coalition that has come together to provide input into the planning and implementation of programs and services around comprehensive cancer control.


Middletown Doctor Honored for Measles Diagnosis, Preventing Spread of Disease

06-03-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH)’s recent Provider Immunization Awards Breakfast was highlighted by the presentation of a Director’s Award to Dr. Paul Del Guercio, a family physician who practices in Middletown. Dr. Del Guercio’s swift diagnosis of a case of the measles in his office in April and immediate reporting to HEALTH helped prevent the spread of this highly contagious respiratory disease.

“Dr. Del Guercio’s vigilance and sound judgment make him a hero to Rhode Island’s community of healthcare providers,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “His actions demonstrate the importance of collaboration between providers and HEALTH in the prevention of communicable disease.”

Dr. Del Guercio received his Director’s Award at the event on May 26 in Warwick.

On April 13, Del Guercio notified HEALTH of a suspected case of measles. The patient, a woman in her 20s, was from Europe. She had arrived in New York days earlier and traveled by car to Rhode Island. Del Guercio’s diagnosis was quickly confirmed by serologic testing. Measles can be prevented by the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Because routine MMR vaccination of children is required in the United States, measles cases are rarely seen anymore but remain common in many places worldwide.

“This incident reminds us that everyone – children and adults – should be up to date on all recommended vaccinations,” added Fine.

HEALTH presented several other awards at the Provider Awards Breakfast. Fifteen practices were acknowledged for outstanding immunization coverage rates of their patients between 24 and 36 months of age. Many other healthcare providers were recognized for outstanding practices in the reporting, documentation, storage, and handling of vaccine.


Department of Health Recommends “Smart Scheduling” to Schools, Municipalities

06-21-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is advising school and municipal officials to institute “smart scheduling” of outdoor activities during the summer and fall months to avoid mosquito bites and tick bites. Any outdoor activity planned for dawn, dusk or evening should be relocated or rescheduled.

“HEALTH sent an advisory to all schools and municipalities earlier this month regarding smart scheduling,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Ticks and mosquitoes can carry serious diseases like West Nile Virus (WNV), Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), or Lyme Disease. These diseases can cause serious illness and even death. It has been a wet spring, so HEALTH anticipates that the mosquito population will increase this summer and fall.”

All Rhode Islanders should take the proper precautions to avoid mosquito and tick bites.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites

- Use bug spray with DEET (N, Ni-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.

- At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outdoor activities. If you must be outside, HEALTH strongly recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using bug spray.

- Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.

- Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.

Protect yourself from tick bites

- Use bug spray with DEET.

- Wear light-colored clothing. Tuck pants into socks so that ticks do not crawl under clothing.

- Check yourself and your family daily for ticks, especially if you spend a lot of time outside in grassy or wooded areas. Don’t forget to check your pets too and use recommended tick prevention treatments.

Eliminate mosquito and tick breeding grounds

- Get rid of items around your yard that collect water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!

- Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.

- Clean your gutters so they can drain properly.

- Remove water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.

- Keep brush and leaves cleared from your yard and keep lawns mowed.

- Help your neighbors, friends, and family do the same things.

Most people who are infected with WNV after a mosquito bite will not have any type of illness. People who do develop symptoms may have fever, headache and body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection of WNV or EEE (also from mosquito bites) include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, or paralysis. The elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness with WNV and EEE. Symptoms of Lyme Disease can include a “bullseye” rash around the tick bite, joint swelling or pain, stiff neck, numbness in the face, or forgetfulness. Anyone who has these symptoms after a mosquito or tick bite should contact their healthcare provider.


Whitmarsh STD Clinic to Close June 30

06-24-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that the Whitmarsh Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Clinic located at 557 Broad Street in Providence will be closing as of June 30, 2011. For years, the Whitmarsh Clinic has been funded by HEALTH and managed by the Providence Community Health Centers (PCHC). This funding will end due to cuts in the state budget, and consequently, the Whitmarsh Clinic will close. The clinic offered screening and treatment services for sexually transmitted diseases.

HEALTH and PCHC have been working cooperatively on a patient care transition plan so that current Whitmarsh Clinic patients can continue to receive treatment services. HEALTH is hosting a Community Information Session on Tuesday, June 28 at 8:30 a.m. in the Department of Health auditorium, on the Cannon Building’s lower level, to discuss the plan and get input from provider and community stake holders. This session is open to the public.

Any current or past Whitmarsh Clinic patient who would like to request a copy of his or her medical record should call Providence Community Health Centers at 444-0400, extension 3136.


DOLE Italian Blend Salad Recalled Due to Possible Health Risk from Listeria

06-24-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of Dole Italian Blend Salad that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The Food and Drug Administration initially reported that the affected salads were not distributed in Rhode Island; however, it was determined that the salads have been distributed to Rhode Island through Walmart’s distribution system in Maine and may have been distributed to other retailers. Consumers are advised to check their refrigerators for the product as they may have been sold in other stores.

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that can cause foodborne illness in a person who eats a food item contaminated with it. Symptoms of infection may include fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If it spreads to the nervous system symptoms may include headache, stiff neck or confusion. The illness primarily impacts pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems. Most healthy adults and children rarely become seriously ill.

The voluntary recall affects 2,880 cases of DOLE" Italian Blend salad with Use-by Date of June 19, 2011, UPC code 7143000819 and Product Codes 0049A157201A, 0049A157201B, 0049A157202A, 0049A157202B, 0686A157202A, 0686A157202B and 442 cases of Kroger Fresh Selections Italian Style Blend salad with Use-by-Date of June 19, 2011, UPC code 1111091045 and Product Codes A157201A & A157201B.

No other Dole or Kroger salads are included in the recall. Only the specific Product Codes, UPC codes and June 19, 2011 Use-by-Date of Italian Blend salads identified above are included in the recall.

No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall.

Consumers who have any remaining product with these Product Codes should not consume it, but rather discard it.


Applying for a Civil Union License

07-06-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), Office of Vital Records reminds Rhode Islanders that as of July 2, 2011, the State of Rhode Island enacted a law (R.I. Gen. Laws Section 1-15-3.1) that recognizes and legalizes civil unions.

A license for a civil union must be obtained from a city or town hall. Rhode Island residents can apply for a civil union license in the city or town of residence of the individual(s). Non-Rhode Island residents must apply for a civil union license in the city or town where the ceremony will take place.


HEALTH Issues Warning About Eating Raw Shellfish

07-15-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has received a report of a laboratory-confirmed case of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection in a male in his 70s who ate raw clams earlier this month. HEALTH is not certain where the clams were harvested. The man was treated and is recovering.

HEALTH recommends the following to all Rhode Islanders:

- Do not eat raw oysters, clams, mussels, or shellfish.

- Cook all shellfish thoroughly. For shellfish in a hard shell (clams, oysters, mussels), boil for five minutes after the shells open or steam for 9 minutes after the shells open. Do not eat clams, oysters, or mussels that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters for at least 3 minutes or fry in oil that is 375 degrees for 3 minutes.

- Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.

- Clean surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils after they have come in contact with raw shellfish or shellfish juices.

- Harvest shellfish from approved areas only and refrigerate shellfish immediately.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills. The illness is usually mild or moderate, although some cases may require hospitalization. Symptoms usually last two or three days. Children, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system can develop more serious symptoms. Anyone who has eaten raw or improperly cooked shellfish and has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.


Department of Health and Division of Elderly Affairs Issue Heat Advisory

07-19-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs (DEA) are issuing a joint heat advisory to remind people of precautions to take in extreme heat. High temperatures are predicted through the weekend, so it is especially important that all Rhode Islanders take the following precautions:

- Stay out of the direct sun. Seek shaded or air conditioned areas such as libraries or malls. A regularly updated list of cooling centers is available by calling 222-5960/RI Relay 711, 462-3000, or 462-4444.

- Whenever possible, schedule outdoor events (public gatherings, sporting events) early in the morning when it’s cooler and the air quality is better.

- Drink plenty of fluids. (Avoid alcohol and caffeine.)

- Wear light-colored, light-weight clothing. Use hats with brims and sunscreen for more protection.

- Elderly, small children and people with chronic health conditions are more vulnerable to the heat. Call and check on friends, family and neighbors.

- Anyone showing signs of heat stroke (altered mental state, not sweating, nausea) should seek medical attention immediately.

“It is important that we all use caution and common sense during extreme heat,” said Director of Health Michael Fine. “As a community we need to be particularly aware of those who are most at risk.”

“We want to ensure that all elders are safe in their community during this period of extreme heat,” said Director of Elderly Affairs Catherine Taylor. “Anyone who has elderly friends, family or neighbors should make a plan to call and check in with them on a regular basis throughout the week.”


Five Water Systems Recognized for Fluoridation Work

07-28-2011

Five Water Systems Recognized for Fluoridation Work

The Rhode Island Department of Health announces that five public water systems in the state received a Water Fluoridation Quality Award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bristol County Water Authority, Newport Water Department, North Tiverton Fire District, Pawtucket Water Supply Board and Providence Water Supply Board were recognized for maintaining an approved level of fluoride in the water in 2010.

Fluoride in water prevents tooth decay in children and in adults and has been recognized by the CDC as one of the10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Water fluoridation is a safe, effective, and inexpensive method of preventing decay. For every dollar invested in fluoridation, nearly $38 is saved on dental costs.

“We congratulate these water systems on being recognized for their contributions to public health prevention efforts,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Their efforts to maintain fluoride in the water supply helps to prevent tooth decay for more than 135,000 Rhode Islanders.”

In 2001, the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services recommended that communities either adopt or maintain fluoridation of public drinking water supplies, and the last five U.S. Surgeons General have recommended community water fluoridation as a safe, healthy, and effective public health intervention.


UPDATE: State Notified of Sewage Discharge Into Blackstone River in Woonsocket Following Excavation-Related Line Break

08-01-2011

PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is investigating the overflow of 920,000 gallons of partially-treated sewage from the site of the former Seville Dye in Woonsocket into the Blackstone River in Woonsocket. The discharge occurred at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 31 when a construction contractor reportedly inadvertently broke a sewer line while digging a trench during demolition at the former Seville Mill property. This event is unrelated to the June 30, 2011 overflow at the Woonsocket Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Based on information received by the DEM, an estimate of 920,000 gallons of partially-treated wastewater entered the Blackstone River before crews were able to stop the overflow. A DEM inspector was sent onsite and has begun an investigation of the event.

As a precaution, the Department of Health (HEALTH) and DEM are advising people to refrain from consuming fish and engaging in activities that involve coming in contact with water along the Blackstone River in Rhode Island, such as fishing, swimming, and paddling. This advisory is in effect until sunrise on Tuesday, August 2.


Rhode Islanders Urged to Bat Proof Homes

08-09-2011

The Department of Health (HEALTH) advises Rhode Islanders that the seasonal increase in reports of potential rabies exposures continues, and recently, there have been a number of exposures to bats throughout the state.

“When the outside temperatures increase, we tend to see bats leave attics and go into other cooler areas of houses,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “We want to remind people to bat proof their homes and to continue to use common sense when dealing with domestic, stray or wild animals. Bat rabies is highly transmissible to humans, and can be transmitted without being bitten or scratched by the bat. As a result, when we receive reports of potential exposure to a bat, the rabies vaccinations are recommended even if there is no visible bite mark or if the bat is not available for rabies testing.”

Bat Rabies Prevention

- Hire a licensed professional to bat proof your home. For a list of licensed professionals.

- If there is a bat in your house, try to confine the bat to one room (close all doors and windows) and call a licensed professional to remove the bat(s). Do not go back into the room until the bat is caught. Keep all pets away from the bat.

- If you cannot reach a licensed professional to catch a bat, HEALTH and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) recommend that to safely catch a bat so that it can be tested for rabies, put on leather gloves and slowly approach the bat when it lands. Place a clear, see-through container over the bat. Slide a lid under the container to trap the bat inside. Securely tape the lid to the container, and punch small holes in the lid so the bat can breathe. Contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours to make arrangements for rabies testing.

- If you have been scratched or bitten by a bat or any other animal (even your own pet), have touched an animal you do not know, or see a bat in your home, contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours. HEALTH is the only agency that can authorize the use of rabies vaccine. If there is any possibility your pet animal(s) had any contact with a bat, call your local animal control officer or police department.

- Use screens on any open windows. Repair holes in screens.

General Rabies Pevention

- Do not touch or pet stray animals, wild animals, or animals that you do not know. If you see a domestic animal (cat or dog) that is acting strangely or you think is a stray, call your local animal control officer or police department.

- If your pet has been in a fight with another animal or pet or has open wounds after being outside, try to avoid touching them with bare hands and keep them isolated as much as possible. If you must touch them, wear rubber gloves. Immediately report the incident to your local animal control officer or police department. If necessary seek treatment from a veterinarian and make sure you tell your veterinarian that your pet was injured by another animal.

- Do not feed any stray domestic or wild animals. Feeding stations tend to attract all types of animals and can present an opportunity for transmission of rabies to people or other animals when an animal with rabies is attracted to a feeding station.

- Report wild animals that are displaying unusual behavior to DEM at 222-3070. Unusual behavior can include aggression, loss of fear, loss of coordination, apparent blindness, seizures, convulsions, extreme depression, or coma.

- Cover and secure any trash that is outside. Trash can be a food source for stray or wild animals. Animals infected with rabies are likely to be attracted to unsecured trash.

- Make sure your pet(s) are up to date on their rabies vaccination. If you are not sure about your pet’s vaccination status, call your vet and check.

Rabies is a virus that is transmitted to humans or other mammals through the saliva of an infected animal. The virus usually enters the human body through a break in the skin (bite, scratch) or by coming in contact with an infected animal’s saliva and then unknowingly touching your eyes, nose, or open wound. Timely vaccination after rabies exposure is 100% effective in preventing human rabies. Once there is disease onset, the illness is almost always fatal.


HEALTH Says Slight Breastfeeding Rate Increases Are Not Enough

08-11-2011

Breastfeeding is a low-cost, effective strategy to reduce a child’s risk of obesity, diabetes, infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A recent article from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores the importance of breastfeeding and the need for increasing breastfeeding rates across the country.

In 2008 in Rhode Island, the breastfeeding rates at six months and 12 months were 38% and 19.3% respectively compared to the national rates of 44.3% for six months and 23.8% for 12 months. In 2000, the state’s breastfeeding rates were slightly higher than the national rates. (35.7% at six months and 18.6% at 12 months in Rhode Island versus 34.2% at six months and 15.7% at 12 months, nationally)

“In the last decade, the state’s overall breastfeeding rates have improved slightly,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “But these increases are not enough. Rhode Island has not kept pace with the national increase in breastfeeding rates. We need to renew our commitment to increasing breastfeeding rates to reach the Healthy People 2020 goals of 60.6% at six months and 34.1% at 12 months. Breastfeeding is an important public health intervention in the fight against obesity and to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.”

The CDC also reports that changing maternity care practices at hospitals has the biggest impact on increasing short-term and long-term breastfeeding rates. A primary focus of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition (RIBC) is to work with the state’s seven birthing hospitals to better support breastfeeding mothers and infants. Earlier this month, Dr. Alison Stuebe presented at grand rounds at Women & Infants Hospital and at Rhode Island Hospital about how to empower women to breastfeed and the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding.

HEALTH and RIBC also facilitate a statewide maternity care practices work group. The group includes representatives from all seven birthing hospitals, and has sent members to a regional breastfeeding summit to learn about best practices. Birthing hospitals can also look to HEALTH for guidance on breastfeeding policies and procedures, provider continuing education, and technical assistance for Baby Friendly applications.


Department of Health Recognizes Community Health Center Week

08-11-2011

This week (August 7 – 13) marks 46 years of community health centers (CHC) providing primary medical, dental, behavioral, and social services to individuals and families who have limited medical resources or who are uninsured. In Rhode Island, 27 community health center sites serve more than 120,000 Rhode Islanders every year and provide more than 500,000 patient visits.

“Community health centers are a critical piece of the primary care network in this state,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Every day, the staff work to provide quality health care and to reduce health disparities that affect racial and ethnic minority groups, the poor and the uninsured. As healthcare continues to move towards a primary-care centered model, community health centers will undoubtedly expand their role in the healthcare system.”

Health centers were established in 1965 by the Office of Economic Opportunity as a component of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. The first community health centers were in nearby Boston and in Mississippi. Today, community health centers operate at more than 8,000 locations in every state and territory.


HEALTH and DEM Confirm Highlands J Virus in Westerly Mosquito Pool

08-16-2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces this season’s first mosquito-borne virus isolation. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Laboratory isolated Highlands J (HJ) virus from a pool of 17 mosquitoes collected August 9 at Chapman Swamp in Westerly. HJ is a disease of birds; it does NOT affect humans. The presence of HJ virus indicates that environmental conditions are appropriate for transmission of other mosquito-borne viruses, such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). The finding is not unexpected at this time, as mosquito-borne viruses become more prevalent during the late summer and early fall every year.

With the recent heavy rainfall, DEM and HEALTH officials remind Rhode Islanders to protect themselves by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as WNV and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection.

Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds from yards by removing anything that holds standing water, such as old tires, buckets, junk and debris, clean gutters so that they drain correctly, and properly maintain swimming pools. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes. Avoid mosquito bites by using screens on windows and doors, covering up at dawn and dusk, and putting mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages when they are outside. Also, use mosquito repellent, but with no more than 30 percent DEET. Do not use repellent on infants.

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

This year, to date in Rhode Island, no mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis.


HEALTH Recommends Beach Closings/Openings

08-16-2011

Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) officials recommended re-opening EASTON'S BEACH in NEWPORT for swimming. This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season.

HEALTH recommended the closure of ATLANTIC BEACH CLUB BEACH in MIDDLETOWN, GODDARD MEMORIAL STATE PARK in WARWICK, SCARBOROUGH STATE BEACH NORTH in NARRAGANSETT, SCARBOROUGH STATE BEACH in NARRAGANSETT, THIRD BEACH in MIDDLETOWN and WARREN TOWN BEACH in WARREN to swimming due to high bacteria counts. Officials will continue to monitor the water quality and recommend re-opening when the areas are safe for swimming. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.

The following beaches are still closed:

GOVERNOR NOTTE PARK BEACH in NORTH PROVIDENCE


HEALTH Recommends Beach Openings

08-17-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommended re-opening SCARBOROUGH STATE BEACH in NARRAGANSETT and WARREN TOWN BEACH in WARREN for swimming. This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season.

The following beaches are still closed:

ATLANTIC BEACH CLUB BEACH in MIDDLETOWN

GODDARD MEMORIAL STATE PARK in WARWICK

GOVERNOR NOTTE PARK BEACH in NORTH PROVIDENCE

THIRD BEACH in MIDDLETOWN


HEALTH Recommends Beach Openings

08-19-2011

Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) officials recommended re-opening ATLANTIC BEACH CLUB BEACH in MIDDLETOWN, GODDARD MEMORIAL STATE PARK in WARWICK and THIRD BEACH in MIDDLETOWN for swimming. This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season.

The following beaches are still closed:

GOVERNOR NOTTE PARK BEACH in NORTH PROVIDENCE.


HEALTH Recommends Beach Closings

08-19-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommends the closure the closure of CONIMICUT POINT BEACH and OAKLAND BEACH, both in WARWICK, to swimming due to high bacteria counts. Officials will continue to monitor the water quality and recommend re-opening when the areas are safe for swimming. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.

The following beach is still closed:

GOVERNOR NOTTE PARK BEACH in NORTH PROVIDENCE.


Department of Health Suspends Physician’s License

08-22-2011

On August 11, 2011, the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (HEALTH) Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline began an investigation of a patient complaint against Dr. Afshin Nasseri.

The Board’s investigation revealed that the physician had given the patient an injection of Midazolam during an office visit, the patient’s medical record was incomplete, and the physician was not following the conditions specified in an agreement that he had made with the Physician Health Committee of the Rhode Island Medical Society. (Midazolam is a sedative that is most commonly used prior to endoscopy or colonoscopy procedures. One of the side effects of this sedative is temporary amnesia.)

The Board determined that the continuation of the practice of medicine by this physician would constitute an immediate danger to the public, and the Board suspended Dr. Nasseri’s license to practice medicine in Rhode Island.

HEALTH is not aware of any other complaints against this physician; however, if any patient of Dr. Afshin Nasseri received, or thinks they may have received, an injection that sedated them and/or caused temporary amnesia, contact the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline’s Complaint Unit at 401-222-2507. All complaints will be investigated on an expedited basis.


HEALTH Reminds Rhode Islanders About Food Safety, Special Needs Emergency Registry

08-25-2011

In addition to basic preparedness for the effects of Hurricane Irene, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is especially concerned with safe food handling and storage and people with special healthcare needs.

Food Safety

HEALTH reminds Rhode Islanders to continue to follow safe food storage and handling practices before, during, and after a hurricane. If there is a power outage, perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and soft cheeses can start to grow bacteria that could make people sick. If the power is off for more than two hours or the temperature in the refrigerator is above 40F, perishable foods might spoil. HEALTH’s Office of Food Protection recommends people do the following before a power outage:

- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting.

- Put a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer.

- If your freezer is not full, put containers of water in the freezer. (A full freezer will stay cold for a longer period of time.)

- Write down the time that the power goes out.

- Avoid opening refrigerator and freezer doors.

When the power is restored:

- Check thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer.

- If the temperature is above 40F in the refrigerator or freezer, throw away perishable food.

- If food in the freezer is between 0F and 40F, it can be properly cooked and consumed.

- Do not taste food to check if it has spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out!

Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry

Any Rhode Islander with special healthcare or mobility needs is strongly urged to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Registry as soon as possible. The Registry is designed to identify individuals who require special assistance during emergencies. Enrollment in the Registry does not guarantee assistance, but allows first responders to appropriately plan, prepare for, and respond to the needs of the community.


Health Announces all Rhode Island Beaches to be Closed Sunday Until Further Notice Due to Effects of Hurricane Irene

08-27-2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Based on the bacterial issues that may arise from the effects of Hurricane Irene, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that all Rhode Island bathing beaches will be closed as of Sunday, August 28, 2011. Officials will assess the beach water quality on Monday to determine when beaches may re-open. Water quality analysis is conducted by the HEALTH laboratory or a state certified laboratory.

PLEASE NOTE: BEACH STATUS MAY CHANGE ON A DAILY BASIS.


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

08-27-2011

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

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

Should someone with life-sustaining medical equipment need to go to a shelter, emergency medical assessment teams will be available to create a care plan for that individual. Those planning to go to a shelter should bring at least a three (3) day supply of medications.

WHO SHOULD ENROLL

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

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

HOW TO ENROLL

to complete an enrollment online, where the information is added into the registry immediately. A printable form is available on the website and can be returned by mail.

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


Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Issued for East Smithfield Water District

08-28-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a precautionary boil water advisory for North Providence customers of the East Smithfield Water District. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

Only customers who live on the following streets in North Providence are impacted: North Elemore Avenue, Sherri Drive, Joyce Drive, Wendi Drive, Lori Drive, Polly Drive, Julia Drive, Wood Heaven Blvd., Esther Drive, Karen Drive, Sherwood Avenue, Robert Drive, and Barbara Ann Drive.

Damage to one pump in the system from the storm may cause loss of water pressure. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible. North Smithfield customers of the East Smithfield Water District are also urged to conserve water until water pressure is restored.

This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. North Smithfield customers of the East Smithfield Water District asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

For information, contact the East Smithfield Water District at 231-0510.


HEALTH Gives Recommendations for Safety After Hurricane Irene

08-29-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds everyone that even though the storm and adverse weather have passed, there are still health and safety issues that may impact the public.
Food Safety: When in doubt, throw it out!

With more than half of the households in the state without power, it is important to prevent getting sick from food that has spoiled.

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain cold temperatures.
  • The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if the doors are not opened. A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for about 48 hours. (24 hours if it is half full)
  • If the temperature in your refrigerator or freezer goes above 40 degrees, throw away perishable foods like beef, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and soft cheeses.
  • Food can be safely refrozen if it still has ice crystals on it or has stayed below 40 degrees.
  • You cannot see, smell or taste bacteria that may be growing on spoiled food.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

Medication that needs to be refrigerated

  • Insulin does not have to be refrigerated. It is more important that insulin does not get too hot or does not freeze. Insulin can be kept at room temperature for up to seven days. If insulin becomes lumpy, granular, or forms a deposit of small particles on the wall of the vial that does not disappear with gentle shaking, do not use it.
  • If your medication must be refrigerated, and your power has been out for more than 24 hours, call your pharmacist to refill your prescription.
  • If your power has been out for less than 24 hours, ask a friend or family to allow you to move your medication to their refrigerator.
  • If your medication must be refrigerated, do not put it in a cooler with ice packs. The medication could freeze and become ineffective.

Life-sustaining medical equipment or devices: Use emergency rooms for life-threatening emergencies.

  • If you are without power and have a medical device that requires electricity to work, call 211 for evaluation and possible referral to a shelter or a hospital.
  • If you go to a shelter or other healthcare facility, bring all your medications and all of your medical devices with you.
  • Use the emergency room if you have a life-threatening emergency.

Prevent injuries during storm cleanup

  • Do not attempt to clear downed power lines. Report downed power lines to your utility providers and let them remove or fix downed wires.
  • If using power tools to remove branches from your property, wear safety goggles, construction helmets, and chainsaw chaps. Before trying to move or cut tree limbs, make sure there are no wires in the limbs. If you have little or no experience using a chain saw, hire a licensed professional to remove tree limbs and downed trees from your property.
  • If you are using a generator, make sure it is properly ventilated.
  • DO NOT use charcoal grills indoors.

Flooded Private Wells

Private wells that have flooded (wells that have standing water around them) should be considered contaminated. People with flooded wells should take the following precautions:

  • Boil water for one minute before drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.
  • Get well water tested for coliform bacteria as soon as possible. Lab tests usually take about three days, but it may take longer for you to get the results depending on which lab you use. Continue to boil water until you get your test results back and the water has been deemed safe for consumption.
  • Once flood waters have receded, your well will need to be disinfected with chlorine and tested before you begin drinking it again.

DEM, HEALTH Work to Open Beaches As Soon As Possible

08-29-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) reports that East Matunuck, Misquamicut, Roger Wheeler, Salty Brine, and Scarborough State Beaches are expected to re-open as early as tomorrow (Tuesday) once public safety concerns have been addressed and the areas are deemed safe for public access.

The Rhode Island Department of HEALTH (HEALTH) recommends that the following bathing beaches will remain closed for swimming:

- Barrington Town Beach

- Bristol Town Beach

- City Park Beach, Warwick

- Conimicut Beach, Warwick

- Goddard State Park Beach, Warwick

- Governor Notte Park Beach, North Providence

- Oakland Beach, Warwick

- Warren Town Beach

HEALTH officials will continue to assess water conditions and will have representative samples of water quality results late Tuesday afternoon. All other bathing beaches are open to swimming.

According to (DEM), all state beaches remain closed today for debris cleanup and because of strong riptides and currents.


HEALTH Issues Precautionary Boil Water Advisories

08-29-2011

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

HERITAGE PARK HOME CO-OPERATIVE

TIVERTON, RHODE ISLAND

401-642-7853

GLENDALE WATER ASSN

GLENDALE, RHODE ISLAND

401-567-5400

SAUGATUCKET SPRINGS

HOPKINTON, RHODE ISLAND

401-941-2900

OAKLAND ASSOCIATION, INC

OAKLAND, RHODE ISLAND

401-568-3695

MOBILE VILLAGE, INC.

EXETER, RHODE ISLAND

401-397-4062

BLUEBERRY HEIGHTS HOUSING COOPERATIVE

WEST GREENWICH, RHODE ISLAND

401-479-2730

HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used. This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. For general information about drinking water, contact HEALTH’s Information Line at 1-800-942-7434, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or visit http://water.epa.gov/drink/emerprep/emergencydisinfection.cfm

WATER CONSERVATION ADVISORY

A request to conserve water must be distributed when water systems are without power, but have not lost pressure (below 20 psi), and when water systems are relying on a generator to supply power. Water conservation is necessary so that a sufficient supply of water and a satisfactory pressure can be maintained, and in the case of the use of a generator, so that it can be operated efficiently.

If water pressure drops below 20 psi, contaminants may be introduced into the water system through backflow by back-pressure or back-siphonage.


HEALTH Reminds Consumers, Food Establishments of Safe Reopening Procedures

08-30-2011

Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) estimates that 2,000 food establishments have lost power at some point during Tropical Storm Irene. Rapid inspections are underway across the state to ensure that perishable foods are not being sold at locations that do not have power.

A post-storm inspection from HEALTH is not required for food establishments to open. Food establishments are required to abide by the Food Code, which includes the required use of thermometers to ensure safe food temperatures. Licensed food establishments that serve potentially hazardous foods are also required to employ a Certified Food Safety Manager.

HEALTH allows food establishments to be open to sell non-perishable foods and drinks such as water and canned foods, but expects the establishments to discard perishables that have been exposed to unsafe temperatures.

Prior to Tropical Storm Irene, HEALTH posted on its website and issued guidance to food establishments reminding them that perishable food must be discarded if the temperatures of these foods exceed 40F. If foods are stored at unsafe temperatures, bacteria that can make people sick can start growing. If consumers notice any potential food code violations, they should report it to the Office of Food Protection at 222-2749.

Food establishments are reminded that the following basic conditions must be verified prior to resuming food preparation and/or sale of potentially hazardous foods:

• All unsafe potentially hazardous food has been discarded.

• Electricity and gas services have been restored.

• All circuit breakers have been properly reset.

• All equipment and facilities are operating properly, including: lighting, refrigeration, hot holding, ventilation, and bathrooms.

• Hot and cold potable water, within appropriate water pressure range, is available for hand washing and proper dish washing.


HEALTH Tracking Healthcare Provider Office Closures, Providing Guidance

08-30-2011

HEALTH is aware that many healthcare provider practices are closed due to power outages caused by Hurricane Irene. Because providers are a critical partner of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and an essential part of the state’s public health infrastructure, HEALTH is working with the state’s electric companies to convey the importance of restoring power to providers as quickly as possible. HEALTH is asking healthcare providers to do the following:

Contact HEALTH if you are not opening your practice

Please call the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-8022 to let us know if you were forced to shut your practice due to a power outage.

Make sure you have safe vaccine storage during power outages

Vaccine providers who have lost power and do not have an emergency vaccine storage plan can contact the Wellness Company at 401-228-8270 to make arrangements to store your vaccine. (Please note that there is a charge for this service from The Wellness Company.) Providers will need to transport their vaccine using proper storage and handling procedures to the Wellness Company in Providence.

Additional questions?

Should you have any questions or concerns about storm-related issues, please e-mail HEALTH at primarycare@health.ri.gov


Department of Health Urges Rhode Islanders to Be Safe During Storm Aftermath

08-30-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders that while many people remain without power, it is important to continue to be vigilant about prevention of illness or injury.

Food Safety in Restaurants

HEALTH estimates that approximately 25% of food establishments have been without power at some point during or after the storm. A post-storm inspection is not required for food establishments to reopen. Food establishments are required to abide by the Food Code, which includes the required use of thermometers to ensure safe food temperatures. Licensed food establishments are also required to employ a certified food safety manager during all shifts while the establishment is opened. If consumers notice any potential food code violations, they should report it to the Office of Food Protection at 222-4729.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Posioning

- If you are using a generator, make sure it is properly ventilated and that you follow all instructions for generator use.

- DO NOT use charcoal grills indoors.

- Check to make sure that carbon monoxide detectors in your home have fresh batteries.

Chain Saw Safety

If using power tools during removal of branches from your property:

- If you have little or no experience using a chain saw, hire a licensed professional to remove tree limbs and downed trees safely from your property.

- Wear safety goggles, construction helmets, ear protection, and chainsaw chaps.

- Before moving or cutting tree limbs, make sure there are no wires tangled in the limbs.

Check on Family, Friends, and Neighbors

A significant number of people in the state lost power during or after Tropical Storm Irene. People who are homebound, have special healthcare needs, or who live alone may need assistance. HEALTH urges all Rhode Islanders to call or visit family, friends, or neighbors who might need help. If you have no power, take a few minutes to visit with your neighbors. Good relationships are good health. If you find someone who needs shelter or power for life-sustaining medical devices, call 211 for assistance.


HEALTH Recommends Beach Openings

08-30-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recommended re-opening the following beaches for swimming:

• Barrington Town Beach, Barrington

• Bristol Town Beach, Bristol

• City Park Beach, Warwick

• Conimicut Point Beach, Warwick

• Goddard Memorial State Park Beach, Warwick

• Oakland Beach, Warwick

• Warren Town Beach, Warren

This recommendation is based on results from water samples that show bacteria levels within acceptable limits. HEALTH will continue to monitor the water quality regularly to assure safe bathing throughout the summer season.

The following beach is still closed:

• Governor Notte Park Beach, North Providence

PLEASE NOTE: BEACH STATUS MAY CHANGE ON A DAILY BASIS.


HEALTH Reminds Swimming Pool Owners to Ensure Water Safety following Power Outages

08-31-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all swimming pool owners and operators affected by a power outage to take steps to ensure the safety of their pool water.

While the power is out

During a power outage, swimming pool recirculation and purification systems cannot properly filter and disinfect pool water. This can lead to unsafe conditions, such as high levels of bacteria in the water. Never use your pool if the filter system is not working or if the bottom of the pool is not clearly visible due to green or cloudy water.

Once power is restored

If your pool’s filtering system has been off for more than 24 hours, take the following actions to disinfect your water before using the pool:

• Raise and maintain the pool’s free residual chlorine concentration at 10 parts per million (ppm). Use chlorine-shock tablets, liquid chlorine, or bleach. Prepare tablets according to the instructions. (Most require you to dissolve the tablets in water before placing them in the pool.)

• Turn on the pool’s filter and allow it run for one turn over (usually eight hours). If using a chlorine-shock solution, slowly pour it in front of the return line fitting. This will help disperse the chlorine shock throughout the pool.

• Maintain the pH of pool water between 7.2 and 7.8.

• Adjust the pool’s Total Alkalinity to between 80 ppm and 150 ppm.

• Vacuum the pool if necessary.

• Backwash the filter until water runs clear out the waste line.

• Reduce the pool’s free residual chlorine to a concentration between 1.0 ppm and 5.0 ppm.

If cloudy or green water remains in the pool, repeat treatment. For additional pool water safety guidance, call the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-5960 (Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or contact your local pool professional.


Adult Adoptees May Request Copies of Original Birth Certificates Beginning July 2012

08-31-2011

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

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


HEALTH Recommends Beach Closings

08-31-2011

The Department of Health (HEALTH) recommended the closure of the following beaches to swimming due to high bacteria counts:

- Fort Adams Beach, Newport

- Mackerel Cove Beach, Jamestown.

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

The following beach is still closed:

- Governor Notte Park Beach in North Providence

PLEASE NOTE: BEACH STATUS MAY CHANGE ON A DAILY BASIS.


HEALTH, DEM Urge Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves from Mosquito-Borne Viruses after Recent Storm

09-01-2011

With heavy rainfall from the recent storm, the Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) remind Rhode Islanders to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and avoiding mosquito bites. Personal protection is the most effective way to protect against diseases like West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

Mosquito-borne viruses become more prevalent during the late summer and early fall every year. A big rainstorm makes it easier for mosquitoes to breed and increases the risk of infection. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, and within days, hundreds of adult mosquitoes emerge.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites

- Use bug spray with DEET (N, Ni-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants, and make sure to follow all the directions that come with the bug spray.

- At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outdoor activities. If you must be outside, HEALTH strongly recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using bug spray.

- Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.

- Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.

Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds

- Get rid of items around your yard that collect water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!

- Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.

- Clean your gutters so they can drain properly.

- Remove water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.

- Keep brush and leaves cleared from your yard and keep lawns mowed.

- Help your neighbors, friends, and family do the same things.

This summer mosquitoes in southern Bristol County in Massachusetts have tested positive for WNV and EEE. The first human case of WNV in Connecticut was reported earlier today. Also today, Rhode Island DEM identified the first mosquito pool that tested positive for WNV.(The mosquito pool was in Providence.) No mosquito pools have tested positive for EEE in Rhode Island.


HEALTH, DEM to Discuss State Mosquito Prevention Efforts

09-08-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) want to update Rhode Islanders about current mosquito prevention and surveillance activities. The state of Massachusetts had its first human death from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) earlier this week. In Rhode Island, the first positive West Nile Virus (WNV) mosquito pool was reported September 1.

“We expect to see mosquito pools test positive for mosquito-borne diseases like WNV and EEE at this time of year,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “We are also are on a heightened alert because of the EEE death in nearby Massachusetts. HEALTH continues to work closely with our colleagues at DEM and will be meeting tomorrow (Friday) to assess human risk and to recommend next steps.”

Between June and October every year, HEALTH and DEM collaborate to do mosquito pool testing and surveillance across the state. DEM has distributed larvicide to municipalities and to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for use in storm drains to prevent mosquito larvae from hatching.

In anticipation of increased mosquito activity in the late summer and fall, HEALTH recommended in June that school and municipal officials institute “smart scheduling” of outdoor activities during the summer and fall months to avoid mosquito bites. Any outdoor activity planned for dawn, dusk or evening should be relocated or rescheduled. All Rhode Islanders are also reminded to use bug spray with DEET, remove standing water from yards and public gathering areas, and avoid outdoor activity at dawn and at dusk.

“We want to keep Rhode Islanders informed about steps we are taking to help prevent mosquito-borne illnesses,” Fine said. “The recommended next steps will be shared after tomorrow’s meeting.”


HEALTH, DEM Recommend Continued Surveillance, Personal Protection, Smart Scheduling

09-09-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) met earlier today to assess human risk for mosquito-borne illness and to recommend next steps. Based on mosquito surveillance information from Rhode Island and from colleagues in Connecticut and Massachusetts, HEALTH and DEM recommend continued weekly trapping and surveillance.

“We have not had any mosquito pools in Rhode Island test positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE),” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Traps in eastern Connecticut near state borders have not identified EEE-positive mosquito pools either. We do want all Rhode Islanders, especially people who may spend a lot of time outside, to be vigilant about using bug spray with DEET, avoiding outdoor activity at dawn and at dusk, and removing standing water from yards and public gathering areas. HEALTH and DEM will be continuously evaluating mosquito surveillance results.”

HEALTH reminds all school and municipal officials to institute “smart scheduling” of outdoor activities during the coming months to avoid mosquito bites. Any outdoor activity planned for dawn, dusk or evening should be relocated or rescheduled. HEALTH will be communicating directly with municipal officials about the importance of smart scheduling.

“We have had record amounts of rain this week,” Fine said. “We encourage everyone to take a few minutes this weekend, walk around your yard, and get rid of any standing water in birdbaths, lawn furniture, swimming pool covers, or toys. Help your friends and family do the same.”


HEALTH Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus

09-14-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports that a man in his 50s from Providence County was diagnosed with West Nile Virus (WNV). HEALTH’s laboratory confirmed the diagnosis. The man first developed symptoms on August 25 and was hospitalized the same day. He has recovered and has been discharged from the hospital.

“This is yet another reminder that this is the time of year when there are more mosquitoes and Rhode Islanders are at increased risk for exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses like WNV,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “It is imperative that anyone who spends a lot of time outside use bug spray with DEET. When possible, it is best to avoid outdoor activity at dawn and at dusk when mosquitoes are most active. It is also important to make sure there is no standing water in our yards or in other public gathering places.”

To date this year, there has been one mosquito pool in Rhode Island that has tested positive for WNV. No mosquito pools in the state have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).


Pharmaceutical Company Issues Voluntary Recall of Oral Contraceptives

09-20-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of a voluntary recall by Qualitest Pharmaceuticals of eight different oral contraceptives (birth control pills). A packaging error may result in women getting the wrong dose and could put women at risk for unintended pregnancy. In addition, the packaging error makes the lot number and expiration date unreadable.

Recalled products were distributed in Rhode Island. The following products are included in the recall:

- Cyclafem 7/7/7

- Cyclafem 1/35

- Emoquette

- Gildess FE 1.5/30

- Gildess FE 1/20

- Orsythia

- Previfem

- Tri-Previfem

Many of these products are approved generic versions of name-brand birth control products. Women are urged to check the name on the product they have been given to see if they have a recalled product. (You may have discussed a brand-name product with your doctor; however your prescription was filled with the generic equivalent.) A complete list of the effected lot numbers is posted at http://www.qualitestrx.com/pdf/OCRecall.pdf

The packaging defects do not pose any immediate health risk to patients. Women who have one of the recalled products should call their healthcare provider right away and use a non-hormonal form of birth control, such as a condoms, to prevent an unintended pregnancy. Pharmacies have been asked to contact women who may have received one of the recalled products.


HEALTH Promotes National Falls Prevention Awareness Day

09-22-2011

Prevention workshops and balance demonstration events to be held statewide

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for people 65 and older. Every year, more than 18,000 older Americans die because of a fall. In Rhode Island, falls-related injuries are the cause of 2,370 hospitalizations and more than 100 deaths. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is promoting Falls Prevention Awareness Day on the first day of fall, September 23, at locations throughout the state.

Safe Rhode Island, HEALTH’s injury prevention program, will be co-sponsoring several events for older adults across the state to promote awareness and prevention around the issue of falls. Events will include falls prevention education, or balance and strength training such as Tai Chi, Zumba, and yoga. A limited number of complimentary night lights along with educational brochures will be given out at all events. The night lights turn on automatically when it is dark, thereby decreasing the risk of falls by providing light to dark areas in a home.

“Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits among Rhode Islanders 65 and older,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “It is estimated that one out of every three older adults will fall each year. We need to raise awareness of preventive measures that can keep seniors safe in Rhode Island.”

HEALTH recommends that older adults take steps to reduce the risk of falling by engaging in physical activities that include balance, strength training, and flexibility components. They should also consult with their healthcare provider about getting a falls risk assessment, having their medications reviewed periodically, getting their eyes checked annually, and making sure their home environment is safe and supportive.

Falls prevention awareness activities are being held throughout the months of September and October. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted:

• September 23 from 9:00-11:00 a.m. at West Bay Manor Health Center, 2783 W Shore Road Warwick: Falls Prevention Presentation led by URI School of Pharmacy

• September 23 from 9:00-11:00 a.m. at Benjamin Church Senior Center, 1020 Hope Street, Bristol: Falls Prevention Presentation led by URI School of Pharmacy

• September 23 at 10:00 a.m. at Woonsocket Senior Center, 84 Social Street, Woonsocket: Exercise class with a focus on balance and strengthening

• September 23 at 10:00 a.m. at the Warren Senior Center, 20 Libby Lane, Warren: Falls Prevention Workshop led by MaryBeth Lescault, RN

• September 23 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the Pilgrim Senior Center, 27 Pilgrim Parkway, Warwick: Falls Prevention Workshop, including Balance and Gait Screening by the VNA of Care New England

• September 23 from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at the Edward King House Senior Center, 35 King Street, Newport: Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi demonstrations; Balance and Gait Screening by Heatherwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Lifeline Services

• September 23 at 10:30 a.m. at Johnston Senior Center, 1291 Hartford Avenue, Johnston: Gaining Strength Through Weight Training Workshop

• September 23 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Leon Mathieu Senior Center, 420 Main Street, Pawtucket: Falls Prevention Presentation led by URI School of Pharmacy

• September 23 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at The Center at South Kingstown, 25 St. Dominic Road, Wakefield: Falls Prevention Presentation led by URI School of Pharmacy

• September 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Middletown Senior Center, 650 Green End Avenue, Middletown: Falls Prevention Discussion group led by Jenny Durante from Heatherwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

• October 11 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the Buttonwoods Community Center, 3027 West Shore Road, Warwick: Falls Prevention Workshop, including Balance and Gait Screening by the VNA of Care New England

• October 13 from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Woodlawn Gardens, 160 High Street, Pawtucket: A Safety Presentation for the 50 Plus Community

• October 18 from11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Middletown Senior Center, 650 Green End Avenue, Middletown: Fear of Falling and Staying Safe at Home

• October 26 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the East Providence Senior Center, 610 Waterman Avenue, East Providence: Falls Prevention Workshop, including Balance and Gait Screening by the VNA of Care New England

• October 27 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence: Falls Prevention Workshop, including Balance and Gait Screening by the VNA of Care New England (*residents only)


DEM, HEALTH Issue Advisory for Five Urban Ponds

09-26-2011

People Advised to Avoid Recreational Activities in and to Keep Pets Away from Slater Memorial Park Pond in Pawtucket, Mashapaug Pond, Roger Williams Park Ponds in Providence, and Spectacle Pond and J.L.Curran Reservoir in Cranston

PROVIDENCE -The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in waters affected by blue-green algae blooms. Slater Memorial Park Pond in Pawtucket, Mashapaug Pond and Roger Williams Ponds in Providence, and Spectacle Pond and J.L. Curran Reservoir in Cranston, are experiencing algal blooms which discolor the water, giving it a characteristic green tint. These blooms may form naturally-occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in these waters until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from any of these ponds. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. It is is likely that the recreational advisory will remain in effect through the end of the year.

The algae blooms in four of the five ponds were discovered during screening-level monitoring conducted at 11 ponds over the past week by a DEM contractor evaluating the extent and presence of blue-green algae blooms. The bloom in the fifth pond, J.L. Curran Reservoir, was reported to DEM by a volunteer with the Pawtuxet River Authority. DEM is conducting analysis of water samples from these five ponds to determine the predominant types and number of blue-green algae present, and measure the levels of algae toxin in the water. No evidence of blue-green algae blooms was observed in the other seven ponds monitored (Fenner Pond in Cranston, Lake Washington in Glocester, Warwick Pond in Warwick, Valley Falls Pond in Central Falls and Lincoln, Breakheart Pond in Exeter and West Greenwich, Trustom and Barber Ponds in South Kingstown). These 11 ponds were selected for the screening-level monitoring based upon historic incidences of blue-green algae blooms and or elevated water column concentrations of phosphorus or chlorophyll a.

The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes, and irritation of the nose, eyes, and or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water

containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are more at-risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes in contact with the water, immediately wash it off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any of the symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other areas of Rhode Island, or may occur in the future at one of the seven ponds monitored where there was no evidence of a bloom. People are advised to avoid contact with waters which exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact Brian Zalewsky in DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 ext. 7145.


Blue-Green Algae Bloom Found in Slack Reservoir

09-27-2011

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in Slack Reservoir in Smithfield and Johnston because a blue-green algae bloom has been detected in the northern portion of the reservoir.

Following a report received by DEM over the weekend, staff from the Office of Water Resources took water samples in Slack Reservoir yesterday that confirmed the presence of blue-green algae in the water body. Little Beach, a town beach located off Terrace Drive in Smithfield, was experiencing an algal bloom that discolored the water, giving it a characteristic green tint. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in Slack Reservoir until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from the reservoir. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. It is likely that the recreational advisory will remain in effect through the end of the year.

Slack Reservoir is the sixth water body in the state where blue-green algae blooms have been found this year. Last Friday, DEM and HEALTH advised people to avoid recreational activities in waters affected by blue-green algae blooms, which include Slater Memorial Park Pond in Pawtucket, Mashapaug Pond and Roger Williams Ponds in Providence, and Spectacle Pond and J.L. Curran Reservoir in Cranston.

The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes, and irritation of the nose, eyes, and or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are more at-risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage.

People who have been swimming or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes in contact with the water, immediately wash it off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any of the symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other areas of Rhode Island. People are advised to avoid contact with waters which exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water’s surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact Brian Zalewsky in DEM’s Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 ext. 7145 or by e-mail at brian.zalewsky@dem.ri.gov and if possible, send a photograph of the reported algae bloom.


Make Your Home Suicide-Proof: HEALTH Launches Campaign to Educate Parents About Youth Suicide

09-28-2011

Most parents appreciate the importance of childproofing or fireproofing their homes. However, many parents of teens may not realize the simple steps that they can take to insure that their homes are suicide-proof.

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), in conjunction with The Center to Prevent Youth Violence (CPYV) is launching a campaign to help educate parents about the dangers of firearms or prescription medications being in the home may pose and the potential that teens may use them to attempt suicide.

The Suicide-Proof Initiative is a statewide campaign including TV and radio public service announcements, as well as educational materials being distributed through partners such as pediatricians, family physicians, mental health clinicians and schools. The campaign also includes a newly launched website, www.suicideproof.org that features valuable information on how to suicide-proof your home and provides access to downloadable brochures and posters in English and Spanish.

“Simple, practical actions combined with providing a strong support network for teens can help keep kids safer,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Rhode Islanders ages 15 to 24. Prescription drugs are one of the most common methods of intentional injuries for teens. Parents should keep prescription medications in a secure location and should safely discard any unused or expired medications.”

“CPYV is very pleased to be partnering with HEALTH on this vitally important initiative,” said CPYV Executive Director and Co-Founder Dan Gross. “We need to educate parents about the very real things we can all do to help prevent more tragic suicides. In four out of five youth suicides involving firearms, the weapon was owned by a family member. Parents need to know that just by removing or locking a firearm they can greatly reduce the risk of a suicide in their home. It is very gratifying to know that this initiative will help make homes safer and, ultimately, will help save lives.”


Department of Health Hires Chief Medical Examiner

09-28-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to announce the hire of Christina Stanley, MD, as Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Rhode Island. Stanley will start on October 9.

Stanley comes to Rhode Island after serving as Chief Deputy Medical Examiner for the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office since 2002. From 1997 to 2002, she worked as a Deputy Medical Examiner in the same office. She is board certified in anatomic pathology, forensic pathology and neuropathology.

“We are very pleased that Dr. Stanley will be joining us at the Office of the State Medical Examiner,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Dr. Stanley brings a combination of solid professional experience and the unique expertise of neuropathology. The hiring committee was impressed with the public health leadership role that Dr. Stanley played in identifying and responding to an increasing trend of deaths from methamphetamine. We look forward to her leading the Office of the Medical Examiner and to her joining us as part of the public health leadership team in Rhode Island.”

While in California, Stanley also oversaw the forensic pathology training program for the two pathology residency programs in San Diego and was a lecturer at University of California San Diego School of Medicine. She completed her undergraduate degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received her medical degree from University of California at San Diego.


Organic Grape Tomatoes Recalled Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination

09-30-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Andrew Williamson Fresh Brand organic grape tomatoes may be contaminated with salmonella. At this time, HEALTH does not have information that these products were shipped directly to Rhode Island; however they were distributed in nearby Connecticut and New York.

The following products are being recalled:

- Organic grape tomatoes, 10.5-ounce plastic, clam shell shaped containers with the UPC code 033383655925

- Organic grape tomatoes, 7-ounce plastic, clam shell shaped containers with the barcode 20025465; marketed under Fresh & Easy brand

The label on both of the products contains the words limited edition and product of Mexico.

If consumers have any recalled product, they should throw it away or return it to the store where they bought it. If you purchased recalled product in Rhode Island, please report it to HEALTH’s Office of Food Protection at 222-2749. No illnesses have been reported in association with this recall.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Anyone with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

Consumers can contact the company at 619-661-6000, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., pacific time, or email questions to info@andrew-williamson.com


Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry Celebrates 10,000th Enrollee

10-03-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) announce that the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry has reached 10,000 enrollees.

%quot;We saw a large number of people enroll in the Registry prior to and during Tropical Storm Irene,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Storms are not the only reason people lose power and we want to continue the trend of being prepared. We are pleased that people are taking the opportunity to identify themselves as requiring assistance prior to an emergency. It allows first responders to have an overall view of what might be needed in their community."

Developed by HEALTH and RIEMA, the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry allows for the voluntary enrollment of Rhode Islanders with disabilities, chronic conditions, and other special healthcare needs who may require special assistance during emergencies. Enrollment in the Registry does not guarantee assistance, but it does help municipal officials understand what the needs are in their communities. Local emergency responders are able to access the information of those who have self-identified as needing assistance in an emergency.

“The Registry won’t get your power back on,” said Edward Johnson, acting executive director of RIEMA. “Instead, it helps first responders determine what medical equipment or medications people will need to bring to a shelter, and how to communicate with them. It also helps them determine whether a person can be moved to a shelter or will need the care only available in a hospital setting.”


Department of Health Urges Rhode Islanders to Get A Flu Shot

10-04-2011

It’s easy, it’s safe, and this year, the supply is plentiful. What is it? The seasonal flu vaccine. Today, First Lady Stephanie Chafee and Health Director Michael Fine each rolled up one sleeve to get their annual flu vaccination.

“This year, there is absolutely no excuse for any Rhode Islander to go unvaccinated,” said Fine. “Primary care physicians have vaccine. Hospitals have vaccine. Mass vaccinators have vaccine. More than 400 schools around the state are hosting flu clinics. Getting a flu shot every year is the easiest, most effective way to protect you and your family from the flu. You may get a little achy or have a runny nose after a flu shot, but there is absolutely no way to get the flu from a flu vaccination. The flu is serious and will usually keep you out of work or school for five to seven days.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone older than six months of age should get a flu vaccination every year. Only children who are younger than nine years of age and did not get a flu vaccination last year will need to get two doses this year. (Prior years of flu vaccination do not impact number of doses given for these children.) Anyone age nine or older will only need one dose of flu vaccine.

During the upcoming flu season, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is putting special emphasis on getting the elderly (age 65 and older) and healthcare workers vaccinated. “Our flu vaccination coverage rates for the 65 and older population have dropped in recent years,” said Fine. “We need to protect the elderly and get our numbers back to the top ranking we had in the past. For healthcare workers, our goal this year is to have 80% vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease to their patients.”


HEALTH and DEM Remind Rhode Islanders of Benefits of Locally-Grown Food

10-07-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) remind Rhode Islanders of the benefits of locally-grown foods sold at farmers’ markets throughout the state. While the farmers’ market season is winding down for some vendors, there are still a number of markets selling local produce.

“Farmers’ markets promote sustainable local agriculture by supporting our farmers and providing healthy and delicious produce for Rhode Islanders to enjoy,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Locally-grown corn, apples, pumpkins, squash, and potatoes are just some of the healthy food products produced at Rhode Island farms and currently in peak supply at farmers’ markets and roadside stands across the state.”

Many people confuse farmers’ markets with outdoor festivals. This weekend’s Scituate Art Festival, which in past years has exceeded 300,000 visitors, will again feature cooked and prepared regional and ethnic food served by vendors from around the region. HEALTH’s Office of Food Protection will be on hand to provide guidance to vendors on proper food production and handling practices.

“The Scituate Art Festival is a great event that people come to from far and wide, and we want festival visitors to feel safe about the food items that will be available,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Our staff will provide guidance for food vendors on what they can and can’t do in regards to serving food to the public.”


HEALTH Touts Five Millionth Childhood Immunization Entered

10-11-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that the five millionth pediatric vaccination was recently recorded in HEALTH’s Childhood Immunization Registry (KIDSNET).

“We are very proud of reaching this milestone,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Since 1997, HEALTH has worked with healthcare providers across the state to get vaccination histories entered into KIDSNET. It allows us to see who might not be protected from serious diseases. During an outbreak or epidemic, it is a valuable tool in helping identify vulnerable individuals. In both situations, KIDSNET can help us assure that all Rhode Island children are vaccinated and protected from disease.”

In addition to childhood and adolescent immunization information, KIDSNET keeps records of other preventive services such as newborn screening, home visiting, and screening for lead poisoning. KIDSNET is a confidential, computerized child health information system. It helps families, healthcare providers, schools, and other community partners assure that all children are as healthy as possible by getting the right health screenings and preventive care at the right time.


Salted, Smoked, Split Herring Recalled Due to Risk of Botulism

10-12-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of salted, smoked, split herring that may be contaminated with botulinum spores. A routine sample collected at a retail store by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets found the product to be uneviscerated. Clostridium botulinum spores are more likely to be concentrated in the viscera than any other portion of the fish.

It is unknown whether the product was sold in Rhode Island, but it was distributed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The product was distributed in 18 lb wooden boxes (40-60 count) and packaged by retail stores in various weight ranges from lb to 1.5 lb.

Botulinum spores can cause Botulism, a serious and potentially fatal food-borne illness. Botulism can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

The product is being recalled by CFE International, Canadian Fish Exporters, Inc. of Auburndale, MA. The product’s lot number is 1171, Plant Code is 2406, and producer is Leslie Leger & Sons, Ltd. Cap Pele, NB, Canada.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

Consumers are cautioned not to use this product, even if it does not look or smell spoiled, and it should be returned to the place of purchase. Consumers with any questions can contact: James Scannell/Jeffrey Long, CFE International Canadian Fish Exporters, Inc. 134 Rumford Avenue, Suite 202, Auburndale, MA 02466-1377 or by telephone 617-924-8300 between 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Office of Attorney General, Department of Health Receive Hospital Conversion Application From Steward Health Care and Landmark Medical Center

10-17-2011

The Office of Attorney General (RIAG) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announce that on Friday, October 14, 2011 the two offices received the Hospital Conversion Application for Steward Health Care System LLC, Steward Medical Holdings LLC, Blackstone Medical Center, Inc., Blackstone Rehabilitation Hospital, Inc., and Jonathan N. Savage, Esq. in his capacity as the court-appointed Special Master for Landmark Health Systems, Inc., Landmark Medical Center and Northern Rhode Island Rehab Management Associates, L.P. d/b/a Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 23-17.14-7, The Hospital Conversion Act, RIAG and HEALTH have 30 days to determine if the application received is complete. If the application is not deemed complete, the applicant will receive a written specification itemizing the additional information the applicant is required to provide.


HEALTH Encourages Parents to Choose Beverages With Less Sugar

10-17-2011

It’s hard to imagine eating a spoonful of sugar; however, soda and fruit-flavored drinks are filled with sugar and can add hundreds of calories to your diet each day. Extra calories can mean weight gain and increased risk for obesity and heart disease. In a new effort to highlight health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is posing a bold question to parents: “You wouldn’t let your kids eat this much sugar. So, why let them drink it?” HEALTH’s new awareness campaign starts today and runs for three months. The campaign includes messages in English and in Spanish.

The campaign’s signature image –a spoon nearly overflowing with sugar about to go into a child’s mouth – is a reminder that a variety of beverages, including soda, fruit-flavored drinks, and sports drinks, can lead to obesity and related health problems. The ad urges Rhode Islanders to Cut Back the Sugar. One Drink at a Time.

“Sugar-sweetened beverages have become an unhealthy part of our everyday diet,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “On average, adults in America are drinking 46 gallons of sugar-sweetened beverages every year. That is the equivalent of eating 40 pounds of sugar. Drinking beverages loaded with sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.”

The campaign will help educate people about the health risks associated with sugary drinks and emphasize substituting healthier drinks, such as water or small portions of 100% fruit juice, for nutritionally void beverages. The campaign also promotes decreasing the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages.

“By reducing the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in our own cafeteria and vending machines, we are aiming to lead by example,” said Fine. “Americans consume 250 to 300 more calories each day than we did 30 years ago, and nearly half of those extra calories come from sugar-sweetened beverages. We want to help employees and visitors make the healthy choice by making it the easy choice.”


HEALTH Warns Consumers of Undeclared Peanuts in One Day’s Production of Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars

10-21-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) warns consumers of a potential undeclared allergen in a single day’s production of General Mills Chocolate flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars. Product produced on this date may have been packaged incorrectly, and may contain sensitive ingredients not listed on the box’s ingredient label, including the potential allergen peanuts.

A production error resulted in a limited number of properly labeled, individually wrapped Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bar packages being inserted into 5-count boxes labeled as Chocolate Flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars.

There have been no reports of allergic reactions or illnesses associated with this product, however, the possibility of an unlabeled allergen makes this a Class One recall under Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

This voluntary recall includes only 5-count boxes of Chocolate Flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars with the following “Better if Used By” date printed on the top of the box:

19MAY2012BV

Individually labeled foil packages of Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars are visibly different from the Chocolate flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars product depicted on the incorrect box. Rather than containing Chocolate flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars, the box could contain Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bars.

Consumers allergic to peanuts, or who are unsure of whether they are allergic to peanuts, should not consume Fiber One 90-Calorie products from 5-count boxes bearing the Better if Used By date 19MAY2012BV on the top of the box, and should contact General Mills for replacement or a full refund.

No other varieties or production dates of Fiber One products are affected by this recall. Consumers requesting refunds or calling with further questions should contact General Mills Consumer Services at 1-800-231-0308.


Attorney General and HEALTH Announce the Chemicals Used in “Bath Salts” Now Under Federal Control and Regulation

10-21-2011

Department of Health Initiates Process to Regulate in Rhode Island

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced that the chemicals used in "Bath Salts” are now under federal control and regulation.

Please note: Traditional bath salts, such as Epsom salts and other bath and beauty products, do not contain the chemicals that are now under federal regulation. The newly-regulated chemicals are found in products with the street name “bath salts” and “plant food” and are often sold in head shops, smoke shops, some convenience stores and online.

Earlier today, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control three synthetic stimulants (Mephedrone, 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone) used to make products marketed as “bath salts” and “plant food.” Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals, or the products that contain them, illegal in the United States. The DEA formally published the announcement in the Federal Register.

Under the Rhode Island Uniform Controlled Substances Act, Article 21-28-2.01(2)c, the publication of such notice in the Federal Register and notice to HEALTH will start the 60-day period to regulate these substances under state law as well.

Through the DEA’s emergency scheduling authority, these chemicals will be controlled for at least 12 months, with the possibility of a six month extension. They are designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I status is reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

“Rarely does a new drug come on the market that has such devastating and damaging effects as ‘bath salts’ have in the United States,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “The designation of the compounds as Schedule I controlled substances will get this dangerous and deadly product off the shelves and give our law enforcement personnel the tools they need to effectively go after those who illegally sell and distribute the product.”

“Nationally, bath salt abuse has led to increased emergency room visits, violence, and death,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “The federal ban on these dangerous unregulated substances will help Rhode Island address the serious public health consequences of substance abuse which injures and kills too many Rhode Islanders and impacts too many Rhode Island families.”

These bath salts, which are sold under names such as "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," Vanilla Sky," and "Bliss," are used as recreational drugs, being injected, snorted or smoked.

Medical authorities have stated that psychological side effects include extreme anxiety and paranoia, delusional thinking, and visual and auditory hallucinations. Physical side effects include dramatically increased blood pressure and heart rates, and chest pains so severe some users feared they were dying. Moreover, the drug poses new risks for law enforcement in subduing those under the influence of bath salts.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that in 2010 poison control centers took 303 calls about bath salts. However, in the first seven months of 2011, poison control centers had received more than 4,000 calls related to these products.

Since the drugs made their debut on American soil in January 2011, 37 states have banned the sale of bath salts, either through legislation, emergency orders of designated agencies, or by executive order.


National Food Day Celebrates Importance of Eating Healthy Foods

10-24-2011

Apples, carrots, berries, cucumbers, and tomatoes are just some of the stars of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (HEALTH) celebration of National Food Day. Food Day is a grassroots mobilization for healthier diets and improved food policies.

“Available, affordable, and locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables help Rhode Islanders stay healthy,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “A healthier diet combined with more physical activity will help Rhode Islanders reduce their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.”

HEALTH is also an active member of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, and today, the Council is presenting its Statewide Food Assessment. The assessment identifies and evaluates the strengths and challenges of availability of and access to health food in the state. School districts are recognized for their effort to serve locally-grown produce in their lunch programs.

“We applaud all of the schools for providing healthier lunches for students,” Fine said. “This report makes it very clear that our next challenge is to assure that it is easy for every community and every person in this state to buy healthy food. HEALTH will continue to work closely with the Food Policy Council to address that.”

Other members of the Food Policy Council are hosting events for Food Day that include healthy eating workshops, film nights, flash mobs, locally-sourced cafeteria meals, and poster contests. To see the full list of Food Day Events, visit Food Day RI or National Food Day.


Nike All-American Sandwich Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

10-24-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Nike All-American sandwich may be contaminated with bacteria that cause Listeria. This product was sold at WalMart in Coventry, Cranston (Plainfield Pike), North Smithfield, and Westerly.

The recalled product is made by Landshire company. It is a pre-packaged, individually wrapped, white packaged sandwich. The sandwich weight is 7.25 ounces and has the UPC code of 0 9748801741 5 and a lot number of 11 237 6.

No other products made by Landshire are included in this recall, and there have been no illnesses reported that are related to this recall.

Anyone who has purchased a recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Anyone who has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.


RECALL EXPANDED: Nike All-American and Nike Super Poor Boy Sandwiches Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

10-27-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Landshire of St. Louis, MO has expanded its recall of the Nike Sandwich as a precautionary measure to include 17,305 cases. The expanded recall includes the addition of the Nike Super Poor Boy Sandwich as well as increased production dates of the Nike All-American Sandwich. The products may contain Listeria Monocytogenes.

Listeria Monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Anyone who has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

The following products are subject to recall:

Landshire Nike All-American

Landshire Nike Super Poor Boy

Production lot codes affected by the recall are from 11 237 6 through 11 285 6

The lot number is printed in black ink on the side or back of the individual packaged sandwich. The 237 indicates the beginning Julian date and 285 indicates the ending Julian date of the lot #’s being recalled.

The Nike All-American sandwiches were distributed Nationwide at Convenient Stores, Wholesale Food Distributors and Retail Supermarkets.

The sandwich subject to the recall is: Landshire Nike All-American and Landshire Nike Super Poor Boy. This is a pre-packaged, individually wrapped sandwich. Sandwich weight is 7.25 ounces (206 grams). The Nike All-American UPC code is 0 9748801741 5 and the Nike Super Poor Boy UPC code is 0 9748800001 1. The Nike Super Poor Boy sandwich may also be sold in a 2-count pack and an 8-count pack. The 2-count pack Nike Super Poor Boy UPC code is 0 9748800765 2 and the 8-count pack Nike Super Poor Boy UPC code is 0 9748800712 6.

No confirmed illnesses have been reported.

Consumers who have purchased the Nike All-American or Nike Super Poor Boy are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Landshire at 314-925-4009.


HEALTH, Providence School District Cooperate to Contain Mumps

10-27-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces the successful containment of a cluster of two cases of mumps among staff at a Providence school.

HEALTH received a report on October 17 that two staff members at a Providence school had been diagnosed with mumps. In addition, one of these staff persons conducted an in-service training while infectious. HEALTH worked with the Providence Public School Department to evaluate who may have been exposed to the two staff members. HEALTH’s Division of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology determined that 14 staff members at the school and 18 other adults from other schools who attended the in-service training may have been exposed. All 32 staff members were offered a booster dose of mumps-containing vaccine.

Immunization records of all students were reviewed, and all students at the school were up to date on their mumps vaccine series and were at no risk for catching or spreading the mumps virus.

“Due to the swift and cooperative response of HEALTH and Providence school officials, we are confident that we were able to prevent the spread of disease,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “This is a reminder to all Rhode Islanders of the importance for children, adolescents, and adults to be up to date on all recommended vaccinations. Vaccinations prevent the spread of disease and save lives.”

“Both Mayor Taveras and I are pleased with the cooperation and collaboration between the school district and HEALTH,” Superintendent Lisi said. “Our school nurse-teachers acted quickly and effectively to address this issue, with the tremendous support of HEALTH, and ensured the safety and wellbeing of our children and staff. This episode highlights the importance of childhood immunization and of careful record collection by our schools.”

Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands and is generally self-limiting. It is contagious from person to person through respiratory droplets, and usually occurs in children 5 to 15 years of age, but is more likely to cause serious problems in adults. There is no specific treatment for mumps, but it can be prevented. Vaccinations typically are given to children in a two-dose series – the first at 12-15 months of age and the second between ages 4-6. On average, there are one to four reported cases of mumps in Rhode Island each year.


Butter Cookies Recalled Due to Possible Bacillus Cereus Contamination

10-31-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that Rich Fields brand tins of butter cookies may be contaminated with Bacillus cereus. These cookies were distributed nationwide by Rite Aid.

The recalled product comes in 12-ounce tins with either a decorative castle or Christmas design and the product is sold only in Rite Aid stores. The recalled products have a UPC code of 01249596519 or 88411804619. No other Rich Fields or Rite Aid brand products are included in this recall.

Anyone who has purchased a recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Bacillus cereus can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Anyone who has these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.


HEALTH Suspends License of Dermatologist

11-01-2011

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today summarily suspended the medical license of Dr. Nomate Kpea because HEALTH determined that continuation of practice by Dr. Kpea would constitute an immediate danger to the public. Dr. Kpea was a dermatologist with multiple offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Dr. Kpea abandoned patients from his practice when he left the country, and he failed to provide any form of continuity of care for his patients. In addition, Dr. Kpea has unanswered complaints at HEALTH’s Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline and malpractice complaints in Superior Court.

HEALTH has been told that patient medical records and pathology slides have been kept at two former office locations; however, both buildings have been foreclosed upon by the lender that holds the mortgage on the properties. It is Dr. Kpea's responsibility to make individual medical records available to his patients. HEALTH is working with Dr. Kpea’s attornies and the lender to determine how and when patient medical records will be made available and to ensure that Dr. Kpea fulfills his obligations to his patients.

Patients of Dr. Kpea can call HEALTH’s Emergency Information Line at 222-8022 for recorded updates as they become available.


HEALTH Investigates Prescription Errors at Lifespan Hospitals

11-02-2011

On October 31, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) received a report from Lifespan that there was a problem with the hospitals’ electronic medication discharge information system. Patients who were prescribed sustained-release or enteric-coated medications may have received a prescription for a different form of the medication.

This incident affects some inpatients and observation patients discharged from Newport Hospital since January 2011; from The Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island/ Hasbro Children’s Hospital since February 2011; and from Bradley Hospital since July 2010. Lifespan estimates that 2,000 patients may have been effected.

“This incident is a prime example of the risks involved in care transitions for hospital patients, especially since primary care providers now rarely attend their own patients in the hospital,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “This underscores the need for a more robust team approach for care transitions. HEALTH is working closely with Lifespan to investigate this incident and do a root-cause analysis.”

Lifespan is contacting all patients that may have been effected. Patients who were effected are being told to call their primary care provider and ask for a medication review. Patients who do not have a primary care provider can go to one of the Lifespan hospitals for a medication review at no cost to the patient. Lifespan has agreed to bear the cost of any office visits associated with this incident and for any incorrect medications that a patient purchased.


First Lady, Director of Health to Hold Flu Vaccination Clinic for the Uninsured

11-03-2011

First Lady Stephanie Chafee, a registered nurse, and Director of Health Michael Fine, MD will be vaccinating Rhode Islanders at a no-cost flu vaccination clinic on Saturday, November 12.

Both Chafee and Fine are, in particular, urging Rhode Islanders without health insurance to be vaccinated against the flu at the clinic. The clinic will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of Life Christian Assembly in Providence. No one will be charged for a vaccination at the clinic, whether or not they have health insurance.

“Anyone can get the flu, and the flu will keep you home from work or school for at least a week,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “The flu is a serious illness and can be even more serious for the elderly, the very young, and anyone who has a chronic illness. The lack of health insurance or a fee for vaccine administration should not prevent Rhode Islanders from taking this essential step to protect themselves and their family members. Everyone should be vaccinated against the flu, particularly pregnant women, healthcare workers, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.”

The church is located at 1860 Westminster Street, in the Olneyville section of Providence. Both adults and children are welcome, but children must be older than six months of age to be vaccinated. People who attend the clinic are asked to use the church’s Troy Street entrance. The clinic will be held on the first level of the church (the facilities are wheelchair accessible). People who are insured are asked to bring their insurance cards.

Any child who cannot attend the clinic on November 12 can attend a school-located flu vaccination clinic. (If the date of a child’s school-located flu vaccination clinic has already passed, that child’s parent or guardian should contact the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-5960.) There are no fees or insurance requirements at school-located flu vaccination clinics.

For information about influenza or clinic schedules, contact HEALTH’s Information Line at 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.


Unique Date Not a Reason for a C-Section

11-10-2011

Friday’s date, 11/11/11, is not surprisingly a popular date for special occasions. It is an interesting and unique date to have for a wedding anniversary, but it is, however, not a reason to plan a medically unnecessary C-section.

C-sections pose increased health and safety risks for mother and child and are almost four times as costly as vaginal deliveries. C-sections involve major abdominal surgery, and are associated with higher rates of surgical complications and repeat hospitalizations for the mother. In addition, a newborn delivered by C-Section is more likely to require care in a neonatal intensive care unit.

“A pregnancy is considered full term at 39 weeks,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Medically unnecessary C-sections performed before 39 weeks contribute to the public health problem and long-term consequences of premature birth. C-sections should only be performed when they are absolutely, medically necessary.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rhode Island’s C-section rate jumped from 17.7% in 1996 to 32.2% in 2007, an increase of 82%. In 2010, the C-section rate was approximately 33.5%. According to March of Dimes data, the cost of a pre-term birth is almost $65,000, compared to the cost of just more than $15,000 for a full-term birth.


HEALTH, Providence Public School Department Announce Pertussis Vaccination Clinic

11-18-2011

* Note to Editors: Some media outlets have previously reported an incorrect time for this clinic. Please note the correct time listed below and make corrections accordingly.

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Providence Public School Department will hold a vaccination clinic for pertussis ("whooping cough") at the Gilbert Stuart Middle School (GSMS) from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, November 21 for students, families, staff and faculty of the school. There is no out-of-pocket cost for the vaccine. Those with health insurance are asked to bring their insurance cards to the clinic.

On November 15, one case of pertussis was reported involving a GSMS student. The student and 22 other close contacts of the student were offered antibiotics as a standard precaution.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by coughing. Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes worse over one to two weeks. Symptoms can include a long series of coughs (coughing fits) followed by a whooping noise or a fever. (Older children, adults, and very young infants may not develop the whoop.) People with pertussis may develop a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty breathing. The cough is often worse at night, and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to treat pertussis.

Infants less than one year of age, and particularly under six months, are most likely to experience severe illness if they develop pertussis. All close contacts of infants should be vaccinated with one dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine. Close contacts can include parents, grandparents, siblings, and child care workers. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Infants with any coughing illness should be promptly evaluated by their doctor.

In 2010, a typical year, there were 44 reported cases of pertussis.


First Lady, Lieutenant Governor, Director of Health Celebrate Rhode Island's Status as First "Bag-Free" State in the Nation; Initiative Aimed to Increase Breastfeeding Rates

11-28-2011

An event today at the State House celebrated Rhode Island's status as the first state in the nation to eliminate the distribution of free infant formula that is not medically necessary to postpartum women at hospital discharge. During the month of October, Landmark Medical Center and Memorial Hospital joined Kent, Newport, South County, Westerly, and Women & Infants Hospitals in eliminating the distribution of formula bags.

Today's event featured Rhode Island's First Lady, Stephanie Chafee; Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Roberts; Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD; and Co-chair of Ban the Bags, Marsha Walker.

"As the first 'bag-free' state in the nation, Rhode Island will have healthier children, healthier mothers, and a healthier population as a whole," First Lady Stephanie Chafee said. "This is a tremendous accomplishment, one that should make Rhode Islanders feel very encouraged and proud."

"I want to thank the leadership at the Health Department and at our area hospitals for taking this very important step towards supporting breastfeeding," said Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts. "Although numerous barriers to breastfeeding remain, we are overcoming these challenges by working together to support new mothers in making this decision."

"This is a huge accomplishment for Rhode Island's birthing hospitals," said Director of Health, Michael Fine, MD. "I commend all of them for taking this significant step to increase breastfeeding. We realize that on some occasions, formula may be medically necessary; however, when possible, breastfeeding is the healthiest choice as it has many positive health effects for both mothers and babies. In addition, breastfeeding results in significant cost savings for families, the healthcare system, and for employers."

Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding during infancy protects babies from necrotizing enterocolitis (a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in preterm infants), lower respiratory infections, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and helps to prevent children from becoming overweight or obese during childhood and later in life.

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relased a Vital Signs report focused on hospital support for breastfeeding. The CDC reported that changing maternity care practices at hospitals has the biggest impact on increasing short-term and long-term breastfeeding rates. A primary focus of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition (RIBC) is to work with the state's seven birthing hospitals to better support breastfeeding mothers and infants.

The latest Rhode Island data from 2008 show that 70.4% of women breastfed immediately postpartum, 38% of women breastfed at six months postpartum and 19.3% at 12 months postpartum. The fact that the birthing hospitals have eliminated unnecessary formula giveaways is expected to contribute to increasing the state's breastfeeding rates to reach the Healthy People 2020 goals of 81.9% of women breastfeeding immediately postpartum, 60.6% of women breastfeeding at six months postpartum and 34.1% at 12 months postpartum.

HEALTH and RIBC facilitate a statewide maternity care practices work group. The group includes representatives from all seven birthing hospitals, and has sent members to a regional breastfeeding summit to learn about best practices. Birthing hospitals can also look to HEALTH for guidance on breastfeeding policies and procedures, provider continuing education, and technical assistance in applying to become "baby friendly" through the United Nations Children's Fund/World Health Organization Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.


Report Spotlights First Ever State-Level Data on Youth Suicide

12-01-2011

The Rhode Island Child Death Review Team (CDRT) released its first report featuring state-level data on youth who died by suicide. The Youth Suicide Issue Brief examined suicides by people younger than age 24 from 2005 to 2010. During that period, 77 Rhode Island youths died by suicide and for each and every completed suicide, hospitals responded to more than 100 suicide attempts.

Rhode Island recently received national attention because its residents have high rates of mental illness, suicidal thoughts, and behaviors. The state's suicide rates have been increasing at a steady rate for the last five years, and Rhode Island's suicide rates are now comparable to the national average for the first time in recent history. Youth are particularly vulnerable to suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among Rhode Islanders ages 15-24. In the past three years, Rhode Island has witnessed an increase in suicides among the very young (younger than15).

"We all need to work together so that Rhode Island's youth have an opportunity to reach their potential," said Director of Health Michael Fine. "One completed suicide is too many, and an increase in suicides among our very young is unacceptable. We must start to reverse that trend now."

The CDRT found that mental health problems are the primary risk factor for suicide attempts. One in five children (ages 9-17) in Rhode Island has a diagnosable mental health disorder; however, four out of five with a disorder do not receive treatment. Other risk factors include a previous suicide attempt; talking about suicide in person or on social media; getting a firearm or pills; giving away prized possessions; increased risk taking; preoccupation with death; depression; withdrawing from activities and friends; expressions of hopelessness; and anxiety.

Because more than 75% of youth who died by suicide had told someone they were thinking about suicide or had previously attempted suicide, the CDRT's primary recommendation is to take all warning signs seriously. Other key recommendations that are based on the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention include:

- Increase support for, and access to, mental health and crisis intervention resources

- Improve visibility of existing resources and behavioral health services

- Reduce access to lethal means of suicide

- Develop and implement strategies to reduce the stigma associated with seeking services for mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention.

The CDRT is comprised of a statewide team of experts that meets monthly with the Chief Medical Examiner, Christina Stanley, MD, to review all cases of child deaths and to identify system issues that can be addressed proactively to prevent similar deaths from occurring. The team includes experts from HEALTH, Education (DOE), DCYF, the Office of the Attorney General, Rhode Island Student Assistance Services, Visiting Nurses Association of Rhode Island, pediatricians, and law enforcement representatives.


Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, Dr. Benilda Seballos

12-08-2011

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation and Dr. Benilda Seballos with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

The Gemma Foundation supports HEALTH's Women's Cancer Screening Program (WCSP) by helping to educate Rhode Island women about the importance of breast cancer screening. Through the agency's outreach efforts of the Gloria Gemma Breast Bus, women who meet the eligibility requirements are referred to the WCSP for no-cost breast and cervical cancer services. In addition, the Gemma Foundation provides financial support to expand the services of the WCSP and covers the cost of mammograms for Rhode Island women who are between the ages of 40 and 49.

Dr. Seballos is a primary care physician at Thundermist Health Center and is the Champion for Change there. She organizes motivational, education sessions – in English and in Spanish – for her patients with diabetes. This year, Seballos arranged access to the farmer's market by providing vouchers to her patients so they could purchase healthy, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. She has also organized walking groups for her patients and often joins her patients for the neighborhood walks.

"We rely heavily on the hard work and dedication of our community partners," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "In the absence of local public health departments in this state, our community partners are the front line of public health. I am so pleased to be able to recognize these efforts that complement what we do here at HEALTH."

HEALTH presents Community Partnership Awards on a quarterly basis to individuals and to organizations in the community. To view a list of past recipients, visit


Director of Health Presents Awards to Two Hospitals for Staff Flu Vaccination Efforts

12-08-2011

In celebration of National Flu Vaccination Week, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Director Michael Fine, MD, recognized Lifespan Employee Health and Women & Infants Hospital for their efforts to increase employee influenza vaccination rates in their respective facilities. These are the first Director's Awards that have been presented for support of HEALTH's mission and public health goals to prevent disease and to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of Rhode Island.

Earlier this flu season, Lifespan's approach to encouraging staff to get flu vaccinations was declared a best practice by HEALTH. Lifespan hospitals required staff to choose one of four options: get a flu vaccination at work; provide documentation to employee health of a flu shot from another healthcare provider or public clinic; provide documentation from a healthcare provider that there is a medical reason for not getting a flu shot; or sign a declination form that specifies the reason for refusal. Lifespan's new policy was distributed to other healthcare facilities to use as a model in their own workplace.

At Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, it is a requirement that all eligible new employees must receive a flu vaccination. In addition, the hospital has instituted a friendly competition to see which unit or department can achieve the highest percentage of staff who are vaccinated.

"It is essential that all healthcare workers get vaccinated," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Getting a flu shot every year is the easiest and most effective way to protect yourself, your family, and your patients. There is still plenty of available flu vaccine, and it is not too late to get vaccinated. I commend these hospitals for making the extra effort to protect their staff and their patients."


HEALTH Recruiting for its Professional Licensure Boards:

12-12-2011

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced that the Department is looking for new participants to sit on a number of its boards that license, certify, and discipline a variety of health professionals, facilities, and organizations. Many of these groups (e.g. doctors, nurses, hospitals, and nursing homes) provide direct healthcare services. Others, such as hairdressers, must take certain steps to protect the health of their clients or the environment. The Department wants to expand involvement in the boards that oversee these professionals and entities to more appropriately represent minority populations. Board members represent both licensed healthcare professionals and the general public. All of the boards require participation from public members and most of the boards carry a three-year term.

"The purpose of our boards is to protect the public by establishing standards for training and conduct; reviewing license applications; and investigating and disciplining cases of professional misconduct," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We want the makeup of our boards to look like the makeup of our state. Traditionally, our boards have not been as diverse as we'd like, so we are reaching out widely to engage new members. This is a great opportunity to get involved in our state's public health infrastructure and process."

HEALTH will begin the recruitment process by accepting applications, through the end of the year, for the following Boards:

- Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline

- Board of Physician Assistants

Each board has its own requirements, duties, and meeting schedules. For more information, specific requirements of each board, and to supply a letter of interest and resume, visit HEALTH's website.


From DEM: Rabid Cat Confirmed in Smithfield

12-16-2011

The Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people in the area of Birch Road in Smithfield that an owned pet cat that succumbed while exhibiting signs of rabies has been confirmed positive for rabies. The cat is described as an eight year-old female orange-gray calico or tiger cat. Anyone who may have had contact with this cat should contact HEALTH for evaluation at the following numbers: 222-2577 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 272-5952 if calling after hours or over the weekend.

If you have a domestic animal that may have had contact with this cat, you should contact Smithfield Animal Control at 233-1055 so that an animal control officer can evaluate.

According to RI State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM of DEM's Division of Agriculture, this particular rabies case is unusual for the state in that it occurred in an owned/pet cat that was allowed to go outdoors. There is no verifiable proof that this cat has ever been vaccinated against rabies. As a result of this cat contracting rabies, there have been at least 20 possible human exposures and at least one other household pet (a dog) that has been exposed. Eleven individuals have been treated with rabies vaccine so far, and additional assessments are in

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

Make sure your dogs, cats, and ferrets are properly vaccinated against rabies. It is the law.

Avoid all contact with stray or free-roaming domestic animals.

Avoid all contact with wild animals.

Secure all trash so that animals will not be attracted to it.

Do not feed animals outdoors as this feeding will attract other animals. This is especially dangerous when feeding large numbers of free-roaming cats.

Call HEALTH if you have had any contact with a stray or free roaming domestic animal, or a wild animal.

Call your local animal control officer if an animal you own has had contact with a stray or free roaming domestic animal, or wild animal.


Rhode Island Earns Honor Roll Ranking for School Asthma, Allergy Policies

12-21-2011

For the fourth consecutive year, the State of Rhode Island has been named to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation's (AAFA) State Honor Roll. AAFA scores each state based on its asthma and allergy policies for schools. Overall, Rhode Island meets 16 of 18 core policy standards and 10 of 15 extra credit indicators and is one of only six states named to the honor roll. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) works collaboratively with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to address asthma and allergy policies in the state's schools.

"We are pleased that the joint efforts of HEALTH and RIDE have been recognized," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Allowing students to carry prescribed medication with them at school and use it when they are having an asthma attack or an allergic reaction is important because the faster the medicine is used, the faster the student can get relief. Restrictions on the amount of time school buses may idle their engines results in our kids having cleaner air to breathe."

The State prohibits smoking in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at school-related functions. Each school or school district must provide tobacco cessation funding or activities for school faculty and staff. HEALTH and RIDE works closely with partners in the medical and environmental health communities to inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies and programs to support children with asthma.

"One of our goals as we work together to transform education in Rhode Island is to ensure that all of our schools are healthy and safe learning environments for students and for staff members," said Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist. "We are pleased to be on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation Honor Roll, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners at HEALTH to make sure our schools are great places for teaching and learning."

Future work for asthma prevention includes implementing the requirements for schools to adopt the programs like Tools for Schools to engage parents and school staff in maintaining healthy school environments. For information on Tools for Schools visit http://epa.gov/iaq/schools/. To see the complete list of criteria for which the State received credit, visit http://tinyurl.com/cdzyrna


Landmark, Steward Granted Two-Week Extension to Submit Complete Application

12-22-2011

Today the Department of the Attorney General (AG) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) determined that the hospital conversion application submitted by Steward Health Care System and Landmark Medical Center, and related affiliates, remains incomplete.

In an effort to keep this application moving forward, the AG and HEALTH have given a two-week extension to the transacting parties to produce the requested information and documents to allow the formal review of the application.

"This is a one-time extension that takes into consideration and recognizes the importance of Landmark Hospital to the Woonsocket community and the three years that the hospitals have been in a court-appointed special mastership," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We are providing this opportunity as a continuation of our collaborative efforts to assure that essential healthcare services in northern Rhode Island remain available."

The AG and HEALTH have identified issues that have not been sufficiently addressed by the transacting parties in the initial application. With this extension, the requested information is due by January 11, 2012.