Maine CDC Press Release

December 9, 2003

State Launches Respiratory Etiquette Campaign and Updates Flu Vaccine Efforts

Contacts: Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH Kathleen Gensheimer, MD, MPH
  Director State Epidemiologist
  Bureau of Health Bureau of Health
  Tel:  (207) 287-3270 Tel: (207) 287-5183
  TTY: (207) 287-8066 TTY: (207) 287-8066

Governor John E. Baldacci, joined by public health officials from the Department of Human Services, today announced a ‘Cover Your Cough and Wash Your Hands’ campaign to involve all Maine people in the effort to improve their health during the flu season. In addition to the state’s efforts to distribute the influenza vaccine, the state is asking people to observe better respiratory etiquette in the effort to combat the spread of harmful germs.

“The best gift we can give this winter season to our families and to each other is to stay healthy,” said the Governor. “This year’s flu season is already well-advanced in other parts of the country, so we want to be sure that everyone in Maine is prepared for the flu before the holidays.”

Governor Baldacci was joined by Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, Director of the Department of Human Services’ Bureau of Health, in introducing the new initiative to combat the germs that cause influenza and the common cold.

“‘Cover Your Cough and Wash Your Hands’ is more than simply being polite,” Dr. Mills noted. “By covering our coughs and frequently cleaning our hands, we can prevent the spread of many respiratory diseases we commonly see during winter.”

The Bureau of Health will be disseminating posters and information throughout Maine about the importance of heeding basic measures to reduce the spread of harmful germs. “With this two-pronged approach – respiratory etiquette and flu vaccine– all of us can do our part to help stop the spread of this serious disease,” concluded Dr. Mills.

At the press conference, health officials also provided an update on the efforts to provide influenza vaccine to those most in need of it. Kathleen Gensheimer, MD, MPH, the State’s Epidemiologist, who also joined the Governor for the announcement, noted that while there have been news reports of low national stocks of the vaccine, that is not uniformly the case in Maine.

“We have distributed nearly 80,000 flu doses,” Dr. Gensheimer stated “and we believe that many Mainers have already received their shots.” She noted that a recent survey of health care providers in Maine did not suggest a shortage of the vaccine. “Cases of influenza have already been reported throughout Maine,” Dr. Gensheimer added, “and for this reason we want to redouble our efforts to make sure that anyone who is in a high-risk category is vaccinated.”

State health officials encourage anyone over 50 years of age, anyone over 6 months of age with a chronic disease, pregnant women beyond the first trimester, health care providers, and anyone who lives with someone who has a chronic disease to contact their health care provider and arrange a flu shot. Additionally, parents should consider having children ages 6 to 23 months vaccinated as well as caregivers of children younger than 6 months.

DHS’ Immunization Program Flu Website, http://www.mainepublichealth.gov also provides information including a description of high-risk categories and an outline of this year’s eligibility for state-supplied flu vaccine. Information is also available by calling the Maine Immunization Program at (207) 287-3746 or toll free (800) 867-4775.