Maine Government News
One Maine school, one day care in York County closed due to H1N1 flu
April 29, 2009
AUGUSTA – Governor John E. Baldacci, in conjunction with Education Commission Susan A. Gendron, Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine CDC and local education officials, announced Wednesday night the closure of Kennebunk Elementary School and the Crayon Academy day care center in Arundel due to two children with suspected H1N1 influenza (“swine flu”). Both are in York County.
In addition, Governor Baldacci signed an executive order declaring a Civil Emergency that will allow the State to better respond to the emerging threat posed by H1N1 flu.
“This is a serious situation,” Governor Baldacci said. “We are taking these precautions to slow the spread of the flu and to make sure Maine can respond quickly and efficiently.”
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention worked in conjunction with the Maine Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, following guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) and informed the superintendent and the day care provider Wednesday evening after information about the suspected infection became known.
The two children have symptoms consistent with H1N1 and are a household contact with a person identified with H1N1 infection. Earlier on Wednesday, the Maine CDC announced that three adults in Maine had been identified with H1N1 infection.
According to the guidelines, the schools and day care will be closed for seven calendar days. Parents are advised to keep their children home.
If the children exhibit symptoms such as fever and respiratory symptoms, parents should bring their children to a medical professional to be examined. If their children exhibit none of those symptoms and feel well, parents should monitor their children for signs, but do not need to take action.
Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron praised local school officials and the owner of the day care for taking quick action to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. She said the Department of Education continues to take the lead of the Maine CDC on all public health decisions, and that there are no other schools that are being considered for closure at this time, and that those recommendations would be made by Dr. Mills.
Guidance and information are evolving rapidly as the virus and its patterns are studied nationally.
Commissioner Gendron held a conference call with superintendents on Wednesday afternoon to inform them of the US CDC guidance on school closures. According to the guidance, the procedure we will be following in Maine is as follows: • In the event that Maine CDC becomes aware of a confirmed or probable case of swine flu in a public school student, Maine CDC or the Department of Education will contact the superintendent of the school in order to close the school and send students and staff home. If a sibling of the affected student is in another school, that school should also be closed. Where buses have been used to transport students to multiple schools, all affected schools should be closed. • Dr. Mills will provide guidance on how long the school will remain closed and provide other support. Current guidance is for a closure to be for seven calendar days. • All superintendents should have plans in place to quickly arrange for school closure in the event that a case is confirmed, or considered probable, in one of his or her schools. • Schools have activated their pandemic flu plans. Most school systems have plans in place that were created in the past few years. Also, more than 120 school nurses in the State have participated in pandemic flu training over the past two years in conjunction with the Maine Department of Education. More information for school officials and parents on pandemic influenza planning can be found by visiting the Maine Department of Education web site: www.maine.gov/education/swineflu.html. Dr. Mills reminded parents, teachers and others that the best of all defenses continues to be respiratory hygiene and increased education efforts in the school community (and all communities): • Cover your coughs and sneezes. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. • Wash hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing. • Stay home if you are sick, especially with a fever. Industrial hygiene should also be stepped up to include cleaning of surfaces, particularly public water fountains and bathrooms. The Maine Department of Education planned to post guidance on industrial hygiene on its H1N1 web page by Thursday morning.
Governor Baldacci urged school officials, parents and community members to stay informed about developments since this event is rapidly changing and resulting guidance is as well. There are a number of resources available for parents and the community, starting with their local school nurse. More information is available to parents and community members by calling the Maine CDC’s toll-free flu hot line: 1-888-257-0990 during extended business hours.
The Maine Department of Education is maintaining a Web page for school officials, parents and the school community at: www.maine.gov/education. The US CDC’s Web site has updated national information and guidance, and can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ .
Maine CDC’s website has updated Maine-specific information, including daily updates, as well as links to federal information: www.mainepublichealth.gov.