AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Shortly after they arrived at Camp Winnebago this summer, each of the 160 boys had his temperature taken and got a quick exam for signs of swine flu.

While several of the campers came down with the flu through the season, none had to be sent home. Now Maine’s public health director is holding the Fayette boys’ camp and Maine’s other summer camps up as examples of the way things should be done.

“They prepared. That is what’s so important,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “They did a phenomenal job.”

With the school year approaching and the swine flu virus, also known as H1N1, expected to return this fall, Maine health officials held a conference Thursday to get educators, emergency management officials, first responders and others and others “on the same page,” Mills said.

There was so much interest in the gathering at the Augusta Civic Center that 1,350 people – a capacity crowd – registered, Mills said.

In his remarks to open the conference, Gov. John Baldacci said no one knows what lies ahead, so the state must be ready for the worst.

“We are going to be prepared. We’re not going to be in a crisis mode,” the governor said. “Erring on the side of safety is where I’m going to side.”

The heads of the state departments that are most directly involved in planning – education, human services, public safety and emergency management – also addressed the packed audience.

Andy Lilienthal, owner and director of Camp Winnebago, and his wife, Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a pediatrician with public health background, also were scheduled to speak.

In addition to the check-in checkups for the Camp Winnebago boys, camp officials kept in close contact with parents, informing them of preparations and the presence of H1N1 at their site. “Our (boys’) parents were really our partners on this,” Lilienthal said.

They also established “concentric circles” from infected campers to see which bunk mates or friends might have come into contact with them.

Health officials found H1N1 in 36 of the state’s 137 residential youth camps from mid-June through late July, but none had to be closed and no campers were hospitalized, Mills said. One camp issued T-shirts to the children who attended that said, “I survived swine in ’09.”

Drawing from the summer camps’ experiences, Mills sent letters to the state’s residential schools stressing the importance of preparation and outlining lessons learned. The lessons include setting up links with emergency management agencies, stressing respiratory etiquette such as covering coughs and sneezes, providing hand sanitizers and setting up places for sick children ahead of time.

Mills said the biggest lesson is the flu’s unpredictability and cautioned that state’s plans could change at any time.

For now, the goal is to offer to inoculate every person in the state, not just the 600,000 – roughly half of Maine’s population – considered at high risk. Roughly a third of those considered at high risk are schoolchildren, Mills said.

Mills said the state is trying to identify as many health care providers as possible who are qualified to give shots, and to provide refresher courses for those who haven’t administered inoculations in a long time.

State health officials anticipate receiving 180,000 doses of swine flu vaccine by mid-October, followed by 80,000 doses per week for several weeks, she said.


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