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H1N1 Summit In Augusta 

Nearly 1500 people gathered at the Augusta Civic Center thursday morning to disuss the H1N1 virus. The Maine Center For Disease Control is anticipating an escalation in the number of cases once students return to high school’s in the coming weeks. Dr. Dora Ann Mills was one of the speakers at today’s summit. “We are absolutely stunned we have over 1400 people here today from all over the state,” says Dr, Mills, “and they are here today to help us prepare and help the community prepare for an escalation of H1N1.”The Maine CDC expects that escalation to happen when schools around the state are back in session this fall. “So that’s why our strategies this fall are focused on schools,” says Dr. Mills, “and vaccinating children and pregnant women because they are the ones who are being effected by H1N1.”These vaccinations will be optional for Maine students according to Susan Gendron of the Maine Department of Education. “This is not mandatory,” says Gendron, “parents will have the option to say yes or no, but it is a matter of how do we make sure we get that vaccination to our children.”The goal of this summit is to stay one step ahead of H1N1. “The formula is known,” says Dr. Mills, “we know that through prevention and early detection, isolation of people with symptoms, and treating people appropriately who have symptoms we can address this.” However Dr. Mills did say their concern is the unknown. “What we don’t know is, we don’t know how H1N1 will progress, we don’t know whether this will turn into another 1918 pandemic, which it doesn’t look like it will, but we don’t know, or whether it will be a more milder pandemic.”The folks here say there’s no need to panic, they just want to be prepared. “It’s just like if you go away on a winter weekend,” says Dr. Mills, “you know it’s going to be sunny and beautiful, and you’re going to go skiing, but you also need to make sure you’re prepared for a snowstorm, and so that’s what we’re doing preparing for a snowstorm basically of a pandemic.”Now, says Dr. Mills, it’s just a matter of getting the schools on board. “We’ve been very impressed that the number of school districts that have shown an interest in providing seasonal flu and h1n1 vaccines represents over half of maine’s school children.”