Health and health care news

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine's number of Lyme disease cases will exceed 1,000 for the fourth straight year.

The Portland Press Herald reports the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention reported 1,231 Lyme infections through November this year. That figure is on track to be the second-highest on record.

State data show the state has exceeded 1,000 cases every year since 2011 and set a record of 1,377 cases in 2013. That figure is more than five times the number reported a decade ago according to the Maine CDC.

Patty Wight / MPBN

An MTV channel targeting college students has named nurse - and Maine resident - Kaci Hickox its 2014 woman of the year. The channel, called mtv-U, made the announcement today.

Hickox defied state-imposed quarantines after returning from West Africa, where she had treated Ebola patients. She said she was acting on behalf of all health care workers who returned from battling Ebola.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Department of Health and Human Services' chief is urging the state's top attorney to allow the state to move forward with drug testing for some welfare recipients.

Commissioner Mary Mayhew's office says that it is still waiting for Attorney General Janet Mills to sign off on a rule that will require drug tests for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients with prior drug-felony convictions. The rule was sent to Mills for her approval in September.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew has named a new director of the Office of Child and Family Services.

Jim Martin, who has been leading the Office of Aging and Disability Services, will become the director of the child and family services office.

A DHHS spokesman said last month that Director Therese Cahill-Low and Guy Cousins, director of the Office of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, were no longer working for the department. He declined to provide further details, saying it is a personnel matter.

According to federal estimates released this week, Mainers who shop on the online insurance marketplace will, on average, see lower premiums this year compared to last.

The federal Centers for Disease Control says this year's flu season could be severe. That's because this year's flu vaccine doesn't match the dominant strain being found.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Sheila Pinette says flu vaccines are prepared the year before.

"Last year in mid-February, when they had come up with the preparation of the vaccine for this coming 2014-2015 season, the World Health Organization did not see a high circulation world-wide, actually, of the strain that we are presently using," Pinette says.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers may consider a bill that would require hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors in all homes and hotel rooms in the state.

An incident at an Ogunquit hotel last winter in which 21 guests were sickened by carbon monoxide provided the impetus for the legislative effort, which was expected to be discussed at a news conference on Thursday.

Under current state law, carbon monoxide detectors are required at rental units, newly-purchased homes and hotels and dormitories built or renovated since Aug. 1 2012.

GARDINER, Maine — A new medical marijuana dispensary is set to begin operations in Gardiner.

The Kennebec Journal reports that the Wellness Connection of Maine will open its doors next week in a 103-year-old former train station. The building has been vacant for more than a decade.

LINCOLN, Maine — Starting next spring, the sound of a newborn baby's first cry will be heard a lot less frequently at Penobscot Valley Hospital.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Medical treatment can cure illnesses and save lives. But too much treatment can cause harm, even death.

A salmonella outbreak linked to bean sprouts has been reported in 10 states, including Maine. New York-based bean sprout supplier Wonton Food Inc is the source of the outbreak. Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Sheila Pinette says bean sprouts are grown in conditions conducive to salmonella.

"They grow in water-generated type of growth underneath, and so you can pick up salmonella in the seed and it can be throughout the sprout," Pinette says.

Patty Wight / MPBN

About seven million people signed up for insurance last year through the Affordable Care Act. But there were two to four million more who were essentially locked out due to something called the "family glitch."

By Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Maine marijuana advocates say their state is in position to become the first state in the Northeast to legalize recreational use of the drug.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Four Maine communities are getting more than $1 million to develop ways to help people who are sick or elderly stay in their homes.

The goal of the grants from the Maine Health Access Foundation is to improve services so that people can receive care in their homes rather than having to go to a hospital or nursing home.

The four grant recipients are: The Aroostook Area Agency on Aging, the Bucksport Bay Healthy Communities Coalition, Charlotte White Center in Dover-Foxcroft and Washington Hancock County Action in Blue Hill.

LEWISTON, Maine - About two weeks ago, St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston closed its Behavioral Intensive Care Unit. Hospital officials say it's a move they've contemplated for years, and recent financial struggles forced them to finally pull the plug. Finances are also driving a change to the hospital's outpatient substance abuse program, which will now require a down payment from those who qualify for free care. While some health advocates criticize the changes, hospital officials say the impact on patients will be minimal.