Alabama Department of Public Health

Alabama Women's Center

The only abortion clinic in north Alabama is expected to close by the end of the week.

Officials at the Alabama Women's Center said Tuesday that they'd rather close voluntarily than be faced with a state intervention.

The clinic was faced with a July 1 deadline to bring its facility up to code with a surgical treatment center.

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Alabama public health officials say they're aware of statistics in a report saying Alabama's prescription drug overdose rate has nearly tripled since 1999 and they are working with other agencies to confront the problem.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported Tuesday that a national report by Trust for America's Health says Alabama's fatal prescription drug overdose rate has jumped from 3.9 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 11.8 per 100,000 people.

Pharmacy Director for the Alabama Department of Public Health, Charles Thomas, says state officials are working to address the issue.

Press-Register/Susanica Tam

The state Department of Public Health is temporarily closing shellfish growing waters in Mobile and Baldwin County.

   In a release Monday, Jeff McCool of the Alabama Department of Public Health said waterways will close because recent heavy rainfall may have led to bacterial contamination of oyster beds.

   Impacted waterways include Cedar Point, Portersville Bay, Grand Bay, Heron Bay, Dauphin Island Bay and Bon Secour Bay.

State health officials say a mysterious respiratory illness has left five people hospitalized and two dead in southeast Alabama.

   In a statement, Alabama Department of Public Health spokeswoman Mary McIntyre says seven people have been admitted to hospitals with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Two of the seven have died and McIntyre says the department and the Centers for Disease Control Respiratory Laboratory are analyzing lab tests from all seven.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has announced the state's teen birth rate has reached a historic low.

Officials say the teen birth rate in 2011 fell to a low of 20.9 per 1,000 women ages 10 to 19. State health officials say the figure translates to about 6,700 births to teen mothers.

State health officials say babies born to teenage mothers account for about 11.3 percent of all births in the state. The 2011 rate is a 58 percent decline from the state's peak in teen births in 1973, and a 32 percent decrease since 2000.

State Health Officer Don Williamson says Alabama's flu season started earlier than a year ago and there are more cases. But he said it's not out of line with some of the busiest years during the last decade.

A program designed to help Alabamians lose weight is kicking off its seventh year.

The state Department of Public Health is encouraging four-member teams to start forming for Scale Back Alabama. The teams will weigh in the week of Jan. 19-25 and weigh out the week of April 6-12. The winners will be announced April 26.

There is no charge to enter. Teams where each member sheds at least 10 pounds are eligible for a random drawing where the first prize is $4,000, the second prize $2,000 and the third prize $1,000.

Alabama's public school students are taking part in a new physical fitness assessment this year, replacing a series of tests that had not been updated since their parents were in school.

Citing a need to refocus on the fitness of the state's children, the new Alabama Physical Fitness Assessment rolled out this fall in public schools. The tests are required for all students in grades 2 through 12 and replace the old President's Challenge Fitness Test, which was adopted in 1984.

Alabama's top health officer says state Medicaid is facing a major funding shortfall.

The director of the Alabama Department of Public Health, Dr. Don Williamson, says federal changes will add $30 million to the state's Medicaid funding needs for 2014.

The Anniston Star ( ) reports that state officials didn't know about the additional cost when voters approved using $437 million from a state fund to plug the Medicaid budget in September.

The public now has access to some of the information reported by Alabama hospitals about healthcare-associated infections.

The Legislature passed a law in 2009 requiring hospitals to report infection information to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Now, the department has started putting that information online at:

The online reporting is beginning with a few types of infections, including surgical site infections of the colon and abdomen and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

Alabama health officials have contacted four of the six additional Alabamians who received injections of steroid medicine from a specialty pharmacy linked to a meningitis outbreak. The state's deputy director of medical affairs, Dr. Tom Miller, said Wednesday that two are fine. Two are showing symptoms and will be seen by their physician to see if the symptoms are ordinary or something more serious. The Department of Public Health is trying to reach the other two patients. The six live in Alabama, but were treated in Florida.