Maine CDC Press Release

June 6, 2019

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Announces Opening of Temporary Biddeford Office

AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced today the opening of a temporary office in Biddeford.

The temporary office, which opened on Monday, is located at Park One Eleven, 407 Alfred Street, Suite A-1, Biddeford. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Services provided include processing of applications and renewals for public assistance programs.

This office will serve clients in the Biddeford area until the Department establishes a permanent location in Biddeford, which is expected next year.

The Department vacated its former office in Biddeford, located at 208 Graham St., over the course of several weeks in April and May out of an abundance of caution and in response to concerns about the condition of the building.

As always, anyone interested in public assistance benefits is encouraged to visit My Maine Connection for information and to apply online. Information is additionally available by calling 855-797-4357.

July 12, 2019

Maine CDC investigates cluster of Legionella cases

AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a cluster of six Legionella cases in the greater Bangor area, which have occurred at a rate higher than average for the region.

Maine CDC is actively investigating to try to identify a common exposure among the cases or determine whether they are coincidental. Health care providers have diagnosed approximately one new case each month since November 2018. All the individuals were hospitalized and one person with the illness died, though Maine CDC has not established the bacteria as the cause of death. Over the last five years, Penobscot County has averaged three Legionella cases per year.

Legionnaires' disease is not spread from person to person. Maine CDC is announcing this investigation to make the public aware, but residents in the area do not need to take any specific actions in response. Maine CDC has alerted area health care providers so they can consider testing for the illness, which could lead to the identification of additional cases. All cases must be reported to Maine CDC.

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments, such as lakes and streams. Legionella can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made building water systems such as cooling towers used in air conditioning systems, hot tubs, fountains, and large plumbing systems. Legionnaires' disease, which is a type of pneumonia, may result when individuals breathe in droplets of water that contain the bacteria. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches.

Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. Those at increased risk of getting sick are people aged 50 years and older; current or former smokers; people with a chronic lung disease, weak immune systems, or cancer; and people with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.

Doctors use chest x-rays or physical exams to check for pneumonia and may also order tests on a sample of urine and sputum (phlegm) to determine if a lung infection is caused by Legionella. Legionnaires' disease is treated with antibiotics. Most people who get sick need care in a hospital but make a full recovery. However, about 1 out of 10 people who get Legionnaires' disease will die from the infection.

There were almost 7,500 cases of Legionnaires' disease in the United States in 2017. Last year, there were 33 cases of Legionnaires' disease in Maine. Because it is underdiagnosed, these numbers may underestimate the true incidence.

Maine CDC will continue to provide updates on this investigation as more information becomes available.

For more information on Legionella visit:

August 27, 2019

Maine CDC Promotes Awareness of Law to Prevent Vaping in Schools

Augusta, ME – Maine schools have reported a significant increase in the number of students using electronic smoking devices, commonly referred to as vaping, over the past year.

To support schools in addressing these emerging products, the Maine Legislature passed a bill to prohibit electronic smoking devices at schools, which will take effect on September 19, 2019. LD 152 - "An Act to Prohibit the Possession and Use of Electronic Smoking Devices on School Grounds" was signed into law on April 30, 2019 by Governor Mills as an important step to protect young Mainers from the emerging threat of these devices. The recently enacted biennial budget, signed by Governor Mills on June 17, also allocates $10 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine for smoking prevention and cessation.

Effective Sept. 19, 2019, Maine law will prohibit use and possession of all tobacco products, including both combustible and electronic products, on school grounds, in school buildings, at school-sponsored events, and on school buses. Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, electronic cigarettes, electronic cigars, electronic pipes, electronic hookahs, other vaping-type products, hookahs, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, snus, as well as filters, rolling papers, and any tobacco or nicotine liquids.

E-cigarettes entered the U.S. marketplace around 2007, and since 2014, they have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth. E-cigarettes typically contain nicotine as well as other chemicals known to damage health. The U.S. Surgeon General reports nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction, harm the developing brain, and damage the respiratory system, including the lungs.

Many schools have reached out to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding increased use of electronic smoking devices among students over the past two years. Maine CDC is compiling updated figures on this increase for release in the fall, but data from the 2017 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey show 15.3% of high school youth reported using e-cigarettes and 33.2% reported they had tried them.

"This update to the law will help schools to foster a healthier and safer community for students, staff, and visitors," said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. "Vaping and e-cigarettes pose serious health risks, particularly for kids, teens, and young adults."

The law is intended to support school personnel in their work to maintain and ensure tobacco-free school settings. Maine CDC and its partners have resources to support educators, parents, and communities as the new law takes effect. Additionally, the Maine Tobacco HelpLine can support students, parents, and school personnel who are assisting students interested in quitting.

For more information:

August 29, 2019

Maine CDC Urges Caution Amid Regional Increase in Mosquito-borne Disease

Nearby states report active Eastern Equine Encephalitis season

AUGUSTA, Maine – Northeastern states are reporting a very active season for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes. While Maine has not reported EEE activity since 2015, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) urges residents and visitors to take precautions to minimize risk of exposure to themselves and their animals.

Public health officials in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have seen significant increases in EEE activity this year. Massachusetts is reporting four human cases and one human death, as well as four animal deaths from EEE. Many states also have positive results in humans and mosquitoes for West Nile virus (WNV), which causes similar symptoms to EEE. There have been no confirmed cases of WNV in Maine this year.

"Although no human cases of EEE have been reported in Maine since 2015, it is important for all Mainers to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites," said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. "We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors while taking extra precautions to protect their health."

Maine CDC advises residents and visitors to protect themselves and their children by minimizing outdoor activity from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. If outdoor activity is unavoidable, take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites, including:

  • Use an EPA-approved repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Treat clothing and gear with Permethrin
  • Take steps to control mosquitoes around your property by emptying artificial sources of standing water, fixing holes in screens, and working with a pesticide control applicator.

EEE was first detected in birds in Maine in 2001. It is a serious but rare illness caused by a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes, which acquire the virus by feeding on infected wild birds. In most years, the virus is found first in species of mosquitoes that feed on birds, and occasionally in other mosquito species known to bite people and horses. The virus cannot be passed from person to person or from horses to humans.

The risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases such as EEE and WNV usually increases through the late summer and early fall. Mosquitoes are active until the second heavy frost.

Infection with EEE virus can cause serious illness affecting the brain. Some persons infected with EEE have no obvious symptoms. In those persons who do develop illness, symptoms range from mild flu-like illness to high fever, headache, stiff neck, and decreased consciousness. Approximately one in every three individuals who are infected with EEE die and many of those who recover experience lasting health problems. Individuals with symptoms suggestive of EEE infection should contact their physician immediately. No human vaccine against EEE and WNV infection is available. There is no specific antiviral treatment for EEE or WNV infections.

Maine has many resources regarding mosquito-borne diseases:

August 30, 2019

Eastern Equine Encephalitis confirmed in York County horse

Maine CDC reminds residents and visitors to protect themselves and their animals against mosquito-borne disease

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) was alerted late this afternoon of a positive test for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in a horse in York County. The horse, which was not vaccinated against the disease, was euthanized. This is the first case of a horse contracting EEE in Maine since 2013.

EEE is a virus that is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. "EEE, which is carried by mosquitoes, is a fatal, viral disease in horses. The virus can affect human beings if they are bitten by mosquitoes that carry the virus," said Dr. Michele Walsh, Maine State Veterinarian. "People cannot acquire EEE infection from sick animals, only from the bite of an infected mosquito."

"This positive result confirms that mosquitoes carrying the virus are present in Maine, which is the reason why Maine CDC urges the state's residents and visitors to take precautions to protect themselves and their animals from mosquito bites," said Nirav D. Shah, Director of Maine CDC. "We want everyone to take precautions while enjoying themselves this holiday weekend."

Public health officials in other northeastern states have seen evidence of a very active season for EEE and some evidence of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus (WNV), another mosquito-borne illness. There have been no confirmed cases of EEE or WNV in humans in Maine this year. The last case of EEE involving a human in Maine was in 2015.

Maine CDC advises residents and visitors to protect themselves, their children, and animals by minimizing outdoor activity from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. If outdoor activity is unavoidable, take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites, including:

  • Use an EPA-approved repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Treat clothing and gear with Permethrin
  • Take steps to control mosquitoes around your property by emptying artificial sources of standing water, fixing holes in screens, and working with a pesticide control applicator.

Animal owners should be aware that:

  • An EEE/WNV vaccine for horses is available.
  • Horses that have not been EEE/WNV vaccinated in the past six months should get either an initial vaccine or a booster as soon as possible.
  • The virus cannot be transmitted from horses to humans.
  • The virus can also affect specialty livestock, such as llamas, alpacas, emus, ostriches, and other farm-raised birds, such as pheasants, quail and ducks. Owners should contact their herd or flock veterinarians to discuss available vaccines and should also take precautions to help reduce exposure to mosquitoes for both themselves and their animals.

Signs of EEE in horses include stumbling or poor balance, unusual behavior, and lethargy. Other symptoms include head pressing, circling, tremors, seizures and eventual coma. In some animal species, the first signs of the disease can be bloody diarrhea or sudden death. The fatality rate for infected animals is greater than 90%, and those that recover can have permanent brain damage. When approved for protection of a particular species, vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease.

The risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases such as EEE and WNV usually increases through the late summer and early fall. Mosquitoes are active until the second heavy frost.

Human infection with EEE virus can cause serious illness affecting the brain. Some persons infected with EEE have no obvious symptoms. In those persons who do develop illness, symptoms – which typically appear between three and 10 days after a bite – range from mild flu-like illness to high fever, headache, stiff neck, and decreased consciousness. Approximately one in every three individuals who are infected with EEE die and many of those who recover experience lasting health problems. Individuals with symptoms suggestive of EEE infection should contact their physician immediately. No human vaccine against EEE and WNV infection is available. There is no specific antiviral treatment for EEE or WNV infections.

Maine has many resources regarding mosquito-borne diseases:

September 5, 2019

More than 44,000 Mainers Projected to Lose Food Assistance Under Trump SNAP Proposal

Nearly half at risk are children, older Mainers, and people with disabilities

AUGUSTA – A Trump administration proposal to kick millions of Americans off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would threaten essential food benefits for more than 44,000 Maine people, nearly half of whom are children, older Mainers, and people with disabilities.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) estimates that 44,068 SNAP participants in Maine would lose food benefits under the proposed rule change. Of those, 11,031 are children and 9,598 are over age 60 or have a disability.

In total, nearly 27 percent of all SNAP participants in Maine are at risk of losing benefits under the proposal, DHHS estimates.

The proposal also would jeopardize meals for schoolchildren, by eliminating automatic enrollment of children in SNAP families in free and reduced-cost school meal programs.

"This proposal would take healthy food off the plates of children, older Mainers, and people with disabilities while punishing hard-working families," said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. "We urge the Administration to rescind this misguided proposal, which will hurt Maine people who are just trying to make ends meet."

Last week, Governor Janet Mills joined a coalition of Governors from 16 other states in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to oppose the proposal, which would essentially eliminate Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility from SNAP. Under Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility, states enroll eligible applicants in SNAP if they already qualify for other benefits for low-income people, primarily Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This allows states to tailor the program to their specific populations and to better coordinate SNAP with other public assistance programs. This now-threatened policy has resulted in more low-income families gaining access to critical food assistance, while also making SNAP less costly for states to administer.

The proposal penalizes families with incomes near the eligibility line by taking away their benefits if they experience even a small increase in wages, and similarly harms older people on fixed incomes who accumulate modest savings.

Maine DHHS is submitting comments to the federal government opposing the rule change. The federal government will accept comments on the proposed rule through September 23.

September 10, 2019

Suicide Prevention: Anyone Can Save A Life

AUGUSTA – To mark National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is sharing the message that suicide prevention is up to all of us, and that anyone can save a life. Maine CDC promotes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's #BeThe1To campaign (www.BeThe1To.com) and encourages individuals to recognize and intervene when someone they know may be at risk of suicide.

Support for Mainers at risk of suicide is critical. Since 1999, suicide death rates have increased in nearly every state, rising more than 30% in half the states. In Maine, suicide death rates increased by 27% from 1999 through 2016, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among Maine youth and adults ages 10-35. Family members, friends, and co-workers can all play a critical role by helping find care and support for those struggling with thoughts of suicide.

"Asking someone if they are thinking about killing themselves does not increase their risk of attempting suicide," said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. "For someone contemplating suicide, knowing that someone cares and can connect them to help may be the thing that saves their life."

"The statistics regarding youth suicide are alarming," said Dr. Todd Landry, Director of Maine's Office of Child and Family Services, which oversees child welfare and children's behavioral health services. "Suicide is more common among vulnerable youth, so I encourage adults to engage with the youth in their lives – talk to them, ask them questions, and connect with them. For a youth who is struggling, that connection to a trusted adult who loves and cares about them can have tremendous importance."

Doctors and counselors have a chance to intervene with those at risk. Sixty-four percent of people who attempt suicide visit their doctor in the month before their attempt and 38% do so in the week before. The Maine CDC is promoting the Suicide Safer Care Training Portal (sweetser.academy.reliaslearning.com/), a resource developed in partnership with the Sweetser Training Institute, to help providers reduce the risk of suicide among people in their care. This resource offers free, evidence-based online training in suicide risk screening, intervention, treatment, and support.

"Screening and high-quality care for suicide risk should be as routine as screening and caring for a person with diabetes," said Director Shah. "People need to know it is a sign of strength to say they are struggling, and that help is available."

If you are thinking about suicide or are aware of someone who is, reach out for help. Contact the Maine Crisis Hotline at 1-888-568-1112 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

September 14, 2019

Maine CDC Announces Possible Exposure to Hepatitis A in Boothbay Harbor

Food service worker treated for virus infection

AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified a case of acute hepatitis A virus infection in a Boothbay Harbor food service worker. The individual prepared food while infectious from August 18, 2019, through September 8, 2019. A public health assessment of the individual's illness determined that Cap'n Fish's Boothbay Harbor Boat Trip patrons may be at risk for hepatitis A infection.

To reduce the likelihood of illness, Maine CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine to anyone who ate, drank, or worked at Cap'n Fish's Boothbay Harbor Boat Trips in Maine on September 2, 4, and 5. Immunocompromised individuals or parents of children younger than 12 months old should consult their health care providers about receiving hepatitis A immune globulin (IG). The vaccine is most effective within 14 days of exposure to the virus.

Individuals who visited the Cap'n Fish's Boothbay Harbor Boat Trips on August 19, 21, 22, 23 24, 26, 28, 29 and 30 could have been exposed but are outside the window for which the vaccine could help prevent illness from this exposure. Those individuals should watch for symptoms and seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms. Health care providers are encouraged to remain vigilant for hepatitis A infection in persons with consistent symptoms.

Maine CDC is working with the business owner and local health care providers to notify affected parties and minimize risk of further exposure.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, contagious liver disease that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms can range from mild illness to a severe sickness that requires hospitalization and can last several months. Most adults with hepatitis A have a sudden onset of symptoms such as tiredness, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Most children younger than 6 years old do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.

Hepatitis A can be spread through contaminated food or water, especially in food prepared by a person who is infected. Symptoms will begin to show 15-50 days after exposure to the virus. An infected person is infectious and can spread the virus to others approximately two weeks before symptoms start until one week after symptoms end.

For more information on hepatitis A, visit: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm.