H1N1 Outbreak at MCI in Pittsfield 

Wayne Harvey

In the summer months, school administrators across our state made plans to deal with an outbreak of the swine flu.At Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, the planning has become reality.In the last two weeks, one case of H1N1 has been confirmed and 41 other students have been treated for symptoms.Those students have been placed in isolation, Beckie Geaghan, the School Nurse at MCI said “We’ve identified three places on campus, we call them sick bays or whatever, and we put in each dorm those that need to be isolated. They’re together in this area and no visitors, just myself of the dorm faculty, meals are taken there, temperatures, meds, you know just really good care if your own kid was home sick with the flu, what you’d do for them.”It started around October 22nd with one international student having a fever of more than 100 degrees, a sore throat and cough. That student tested positive for H1N1. Then it spread, according to Geaghan. “For a while, we could make a connection every time, oh that was the student who was teaching him English, oh that was his room mate, oh that was his best friend, oh they’re on a team together, so for a while we could really jump along until we got to about 8 or 9, then it just BRRRR, somebody totally random who didn’t connect to the cohort and that’s how it’s been since then and then that one started another group that you could identify.”School officials say everyone has remained calm and helped out, said Tom Bertrand, Dean of Student Life at MCI.”No we’ve not had anybody refuse to go and give any kind of care because I think that in this community, everybody cares about what’s best for these kids that are sick and these people that are sick, they put that first so it’s not been a problem.”Geaghan hasn’t seen any widespread fear, “I don’t sense panic on the campus or in the community. I sense a much higher interest in getting a flu shot that’s for sure.”Of the 42 students who have either tested positive or shown signs of H1N1 7 remain in isolation. So is the worst over? Bertrand isn’t sure “It’s impossible to tell. We’re prepared for as few as two kids and we’re prepared for as many as one hundred kids.”Neither is Geaghan, “We’re in a lull and we have our systems under control but we don’t have the fates under control, we don’t know where it’ll go.”