LEWISTON — A half dozen cases of the H1N1 flu have been confirmed at Bates College, and school officials plan to continue sending students home — or isolate them — if they exhibit flu-like symptoms.

College officials said Thursday that they have seen 21 students suffering from influenza-like illnesses so far. Of those, two students are isolated in college-owned housing, nine are recovering at their homes and the rest are fully recovered and back in classes, according to a school bulletin prepared by Bates spokesman Bryan McNulty.

Since the start of the year, the school has been working with the Centers for Disease Control to identify the types of illness being seen on the campus.

“After three or more confirmed cases the CDC will no longer test cultures,” McNulty wrote, “so going forward, any student exhibiting (influenza-like illness) will be presumed to have H1N1.”

McNulty said the school will continue to follow its protocol of sending sick students home if they live within reasonable driving distances and isolating those who live far away.

He said the students who have become sick recovered within three to six days. The school was not particularly caught off guard by the spate of illnesses, he said, because of plenty of awareness about the affliction.

“This has been planned for some time,” McNulty said. “We knew it was coming.”

So far, no faculty or staff members have contracted H1N1 at the school, McNulty said Thursday night.

Meanwhile, the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they expect 35,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine by next week. It’s a small number compared to the 700,000 people considered high priority to get the vaccine.

“Our goal remains the same — to vaccinate as many people as possible who are at the highest risk,” Dora Mills, director of the Maine CDC, wrote in a news release. “We anticipate that there will eventually be enough vaccine for everyone. But for now, we need to focus our early efforts on pregnant women, infants, children, young adults, and some health care workers.”

Mills said that along with pregnant women, priority groups for the vaccine these first few weeks include: people who live with or care for infants six months and younger; children and young adults, age 6 to 25; persons age 25 to 65 who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications; and health care and emergency medical services personnel, especially those who work in hospital maternity, pediatric, and intensive care units as well as emergency departments.

According to early estimates, Maine is expected to receive 340,000 doses of vaccine in the next eight weeks, which falls short of the amount needed for the priority groups.

“The first few weeks of vaccine distribution will be rocky and unpredictable,” Mills said. “Vaccinations will require coordination among our staff, health care providers and many other stakeholders. What we are hearing about vaccine delivery may change quickly, so we need to stay informed and be flexible.”

Mills said that as more vaccine arrives, the focus will be on offering the vaccine in schools, because vaccinating children will have the most immediate impact on protecting the students, their families and the communities where they reside.

“The good news is that the schools have been preparing since June — and they are at the ready,” Mills said.

For more information, visit www.maineflu.gov. The site is updated several times daily. A toll-free hotline is also being staffed by the Maine CDC. Those interested may call 1-888-257-0990 during the week if they have questions about H1N1 or the vaccine.

For more information about Bates College and their plans to deal with H1N1, visit www.bates.edu/x214224.xml.

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