Mid-Coast schools prepare for fight against flu
BRUNSWICK — Mid Coast Hospital and Parkview Adventist Medical Center will be storing the H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine for schools in Sagadahoc County, Brunswick and Harpswell, Sagadahoc Emergency Management Agency Director Misty Green said last week.
Meanwhile, Gov. John Baldacci on Tuesday proclaimed a civil emergency to help the state better respond to the potential dangers of H1N1 and to implement a statewide vaccination campaign.
"Maine has been proactive in its response to this new flu," Baldacci said. "But as the school year begins, we must continue our vigilance, which will require a responsible and aggressive vaccination and public education campaign. It's our goal that every person in the state has access to vaccines for the seasonal and H1N1 flu."
Some school districts have reported that a concern about potential liability is compromising their ability to participate in vaccination clinics. The proclamation protects school districts and other vaccination clinic participants from liability.
Forty-five nurses from schools in Sagadahoc County, Brunswick and Harpswell, including Hyde School and St. John's Catholic School, met Aug. 26 at Mid Coast Hospital to form a strategy for limiting the occurrence of the H1N1 virus.
Green said staffing for administering the vaccinations had been a major hurdle, and that the region will be pooling from nurse volunteers at Mid Coast and Parkview hospitals, as well as from CHANS Home Health Care.
"We have a lot of logistical things to work out, but have formed a subcommittee to work on those issues," she said.
Vaccination of students for seasonal flu will take place at all Mid-Coast schools from mid-September into October, Green explained. She said there will be enough H1N1 vaccine in late fall for all Mid-Coast schools, and that the vaccine will have to be administered twice, three weeks apart.
While in a typical year flu vaccinations are aimed more at senior citizens, the flu this year is expected to most significantly impact school-age children and young adults, making it essential that they be offered flu shots, according to Sagadahoc EMA.
In the next couple of weeks families should expect to see a letter and vaccination permission form coming home from school. Other family members are urged to receive flu shots through their primary care physicians or at one of the flu clinics throughout the community.
Along with administering the shots, schools will educate students and staff on proper coughing and hand-washing techniques. Such practices are significant in helping children prevent spread of the flu, along with decreasing the odds that school faculty will catch the virus.
Losing one or two key staff – such as a teacher, bus driver or cafeteria employee – could be significant, but losing more than three will create a problem, Sagadahoc EMA pointed out. The Maine Department of Education has said children exhibiting flu symptoms should be kept at home for 24 hours after fever subsides.
"There is no question that, without preparedness, there is going to be a spike in the number of cases of flu this fall and winter in our area," Green said. "The flu will reach more young adults and children than in the past decade ... To limit the effects of flu, we all must work together."
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.