Health Report: H1N1 hits Maine hard
Dr. Paul Berkner's premonition, as reported in last week's The Echo, that the campus-wide hangover following Loudness weekend may coincide with an outbreak of H1N1 on the Hill did not come true. Maine, however, still remains a highly infected state, percentage-wise.
Maine has been hit particularly hard this summer by the H1N1 virus (commonly referred to as Swine Flu), with 381 identified cases, including 19 hospitalizations and the death of one resident of York County due to complications from a pre-existing medical condition.
Nicknamed "Vacationland," Maine is a popular destination for summer camps. Camps proved to be a perfect breeding ground for the virus and many camps throughout the state had to either quarantine campers or shut down entirely.
Campers, like college students, fall into the highest-risk age group, as 63 percent of all H1N1 cases in Maine have been patients 25 years old or younger.
The Portland Press Herald reported that the state is "holding up the responses of several Maine summer camps to the virus as a model for how those in charge of close-quarter, residential facilities can respond."
One such institution was Camp Winnebago in Fayette. Once it recognized H1N1 as a significant threat to its community, the staff lined up all 160 campers to test for influenza-like-illness (ILI).
Because the virus is so short-lived, the most the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can do is provide about himself and his work information to the population on the state of the disease and tips for prevention and quarantine. The state has also made efforts to meet with as many organizations and businesses that stand a chance of suffering significant outbreaks (including the College) to come up with both prevention and response plans. The state held a preparedness summit at the Augusta Civic Center in mid-August, drawing over 1,400 attendees, to discuss camp Winnebago's response to their H1N1 outbreak.
Although all the campers have gone home by now, college campuses take the stage as perfect breeding grounds for H1N1. While the College has remained outbreak-free thus far, Bowdoin College's struggle with infection remains ongoing. As of September 18, 116 students have been diagnosed with ILI there. Fifty-three students have made a full recovery, while 38 remain in isolation and 25 have returned home to recover.
The seasonal flu vaccination clinic is taking place the week of Monday September 21, but an additional H1N1 vaccination clinic will be held when the vaccine becomes available in late October or early November. As always, the best way to prevent infection is frequent hand washing and to cover coughs and sneezes.